MK Review: Dark Souls the Board Game
Having taken the Tabletop realm by storm the newly released Board Game version of the old classic Video Game, Dark Souls by Steam Forged Games is the topic at hand today. I will admit with full truth that I was not a fan of the video game. I prefer to play a game that does not make me want to burn the whole world into ashes due to frustration of the difficulty level of a pack of minions, let alone the Boss that I haven't even seen yet. That being said, I was truly excited to hear about the birth of this Tabletop game. This is another product of the crowdfunding experience known as Kickstarter.
This was the first time that I was excited and so thoroughly sold on the quality of the product that I decided to click that 'Retail Backer' option. The fact that the campaign itself funded before it had been 24 hours, broke every stretch goal they put on the board, and set new records for Kickstarted Tabletop Games in multiple categories made it a safe bet. Having now received it and had some time to play, I am not disappointed.
Staying very true to the source material, the very first thing that happens when you open the box? You Die. That's right. You haven't even started the game and you died already. It is actually a good thing. It is better you get used to it right from the start. This fully cooperative and brutally unforgiving game had killed us four times before we even made it to the mini boss. Granted, this was our first run through, we hadn't picked characters with proper synergy, and we made a couple of big mistakes in soul (XP) expenditure, but none the less, the game continued to batter, beat and destroy us until we adjusted our tactics.
There are large beautiful tiles that make up the rooms you are trying to survive. The miniatures that come with the game are collector quality while using nice durable board game-type plastic, keeping them light (the game weighs enough already), but still paint friendly for those of us who like to take it up a notch. The cards and tokens, even the instruction manual itself shows the utmost attention to detail and visually pleasing art paired with high quality durability to give this game some serious longevity. Toss in the variable treasure, random encounter cards and the changing move set of the creatures you will face, this game has high replay value. It even has a Campaign mode! From one time set up and play through Campaign, it can all be played as a solo run, or up to four players can combine efforts in an attempt an survive.
You begin by choosing your characters, your mini-boss and setting the board according to their individual requirements.You then decide which room you want to enter first. The unique 'node' system mechanic helps bring this game even closer to its predecessor. The way the enemies move, decide who to attack, and what their individual tactics are, are all printed on their card. Once you get comfortable with the symbols, you don't need to keep that rule book handy anymore. This is true of every single aspect of the game. Again, just like a video game, once you know the game you don't need the rules.
This is a very strategic game. It is a seriously mind taxing undertaking. Every single turn you have to be thinking of how to safely keep your groups forward momentum going while trying to take into consideration the next round of moves. After a player takes a turn, the game hits back. So, if you are playing with four people, after you take your turn, there will be four sets of moves and attacks coming from the enemy troops before you get to do anything. You must choose. But choose wisely. One wrong choice can lead to a quick and sudden death. If you love games of high strategy that are mind numbing in how challenging they can be to master, than this is the game for you! The best strategy we could find included a lot of 'grinding'. Basically, you have to clear the rooms, spend the souls collected, rest, and clear the rooms again.
Oh... did I not mention that? Yeah, if anyone dies or if you rest, ALL of the rooms reset. They are no longer cleared. Treasure farming? Nope. That chest is still open and empty, but the beasts have returned. The number of 'Sparks' or resets you have is based on the number of players. Basically, even grinding for souls has to be kept to a minimum to assure you have enough sparks to even get to the big-boss after making through both the mini-boss dungeon, the mini-boss and the main dungeon. Dark Souls the Board Game forces you to carefully calculate every little part of the game. Your resources, your movements, your attacks, the moves and attacks of the opposing force ...each one thought over at least twice before committing to the choice.
The Wrap Up
I am of the kind of person who actually enjoys these types of games. I had a blast playing through it. I am currently setting up a Campaign run with a few friends to get the full gauntlet effect. I will let you know how it goes! This is not a cheap game. The amount of hours that will be enjoyed in a face to face social interaction is actually almost free when divided over time in comparison. Movie and popcorn with a friend? Grab a twenty, divide by two (approximate time spent) and you are paying ten bucks an hour to sit and stare at very large TV. Grab a game that will be played for hundreds of hours over the coming years and divide that... interested in getting yourself a copy? Check out Dark Souls the Board Game on the website. There will be much more content coming for this one extending its replay value tremendously.
Over all I did truly love the game. It has extreme quality components, unique mechanics, solid theme throughout and does some serious justice to the game it emulates. I actually prefer the Board Game. I give this game Four Stars ...and a warning; Prepare to Die.
Until next time... Game On!