Monday, December 14, 2015

The Saga Begins

While I really like to be able to show off things that most people haven't yet seen, sometimes fate (and my own dumbassery (yes, I just made that up (why?  because I was a dumb ass)) conspires against you, and instead of being one of the first to get a copy of the new board game from Mantic, I am one of the last (and I won't have more for a few more months because somehow I managed to not be able to actually complete my pledge manager (has not been a problem for any of the others, but this time I was a dumbass).   Anyway, that is all sorted and it will be coming (though on the NEXT slow boat from china).

However I do hope that I'm able to give a bit of an honest review of the game and components, and do one of the few that isn't a video (while I have no problem with youtube, I don't like it for a lot of things, such as being able to see a product.  I like to be able to go at my own pace - which this is a blog and not a vlog (besides, you have to endure reading my comments - think how much more painful it would be if you actually had to listen to my voice, or even see my ugly face).  I also want to be able to show a lot of the detail in the models - because that is something I would want to see if I were trying to decide if I wanted to purchase this game.

So, I got the retail version of Dungeon Saga: Dwarf Kings Quest.  Beautiful box
Awesome art for the box, it actually wraps around on the left
The back had a good description, and makes it look very interesting.  I don't think the picture accurately conveys just how much STUFF is in the box though.

As a pathfinder, I had seen a prototype of the book-box back at Adepticon, though I was not allowed at the time to mention it.  I really liked the idea - something that would look awesome on the shelf and make you want to pick it up.  So I turned the box to the open end of the sleeve, and saw this
not very impressive
I understand that it was to protect the contents.  In fact mine was still a little banged up in the corner. Keep in mind this was all tightly shrink-wrapped.  It completely loses the effect they were going for. I truly hope that the this was a one-off and that the others actually have the book spine outward.

Removing the cardboard reveals the pages of the book
Nice, but still not what you should see
Just so you can see what I'm talking about, I pulled out the inner box and turned it around.  This is what you should be able to see on the game stores - it has the right look and can make you really curious.
Big heavy book
Pull it out, and it is simple and beautiful.  One interesting thing I noticed is that I had a dinged corner - and the way it was packaged this caused a corner of the book to be dinged as well.  Had it been packed with the spine side out, then the corner of the 'case' may have been even more damaged, but the book inside it would have not been.
I think this really achieves the look of an old book
The cover opens like a book, and has small magnets embedded in it so that it keeps it closed.  I would not trust these to keep it closed if you held it upside down, but they do provide a little protection.  It is nice that the very first thing you see are the quick start instructions.
List of everything you need to get started  I like how it shows exactly what you need for the first scenario ('A').  I did not catch it until later that it indicates that all the tokens and tiles you will need have a red border in the cutout sheets.
Beneath that is the Rulebook.
Book of the Rules
Beneath the rules is the quest book.
Quests of the Dwarf King
I'll be doing another post on the books and rules, so watch for that for more details.

Beneath the quest book is the Overlord panel - a full size card with all the stats and special rules for all the monsters in the game.  This is on thin glossy card stock - and I can see it easily getting banged up from just normal play - but also with sticky fingered kids (though mine are grown, I do remember) I'm thinking that it would be best to laminate it (simple sticky sheet laminates, available in the stationery section of any office supply store).  (and gamers have been known to have food and drinks at the game table, and eventually (not if but when) something WILL get knocked over.  If you do however, you won't want to leave an edge on it as this just fits into the box exactly.

All your minions at a glance
Removing this last paper reveals all the coolest stuff - the bags of minis.  Honestly, this is what we all came for here, admit it.  There are two dividers to keep thing separate, which is a great idea, but I don't think actually works once things are removed, because nothing will ever fit this flat again.  The top section has three zip-lock baggies of doors and terrain.  The middle section is four sealed bags of miniatures, and the bottom is another zip-lock of terrain, dice, connectors and the cards.  A third of the cards (or so) are separate marked as "Open These First" - these are the cards you need for the first two introductory scenarios.

There are also two huge sheet size baggies, and two small baggies included for later storage.  This is a nice feature, as there are so many loose pieces.  Being able to keep them contained is crucial, and having the bags to do that included is just a nice feature.  Now anyone with any experience with games like this will very quickly see that the few bags provided are not enough - and in fact a small plastic divided box will do a much better job.  But for a first game for someone this is perfect.
So much cool stuff
Underneath all the minis and dividers are then the hero cards (spread out in the box here).  These are for the heroes and bosses.  Again I think I will laminate these before they get ruined.  Most of these are two sided, as several of these can advanced to 'heroic' levels, adding abilities.  The base scenarios actually level up your heroes (and the monsters they face) for you, telling you which side to use and what equipment to give them to start each game.

The cards also have a very nice drawing of the character to make it easy to identify it, and it can also provide a color guideline for those who are just getting started and have not painted miniatures before.  More experienced modelers can usually come up with their own palettes.

I find it unfortunate that the back sides of the card did not have these illustrations, just the big blank space where it would go.   The cardstock is the same as the Overlord card
Hero cards.
Beneath the cards is a shrink wrapped pack of 8 punch out cards.  These are thick cardboard, maybe a little thicker than I have seen for other board games, and thicker and better quality than the tokens that have come with other Mantic games such as Mars Attacks!, Deadzone and Dreadball.   When I get a game like with with punch out cards - the first thing I do is pop out all of those and sort them.  Of course some of the tokens are tiny and end up on the floor with me searching for them (but at least I only dropped two).
tile/token pack
When unpacking, I had not yet read any of the books - so missed the part in the quickstart book that says to only punch out the red bordered tiles and tokens for the first couple of games.  I am planning on being able to demo this using the first three scenarios (A, B and 1), so I will have to separate out the components for just those.
The art is very nice on these
I took quick shots of each tile in the order they were packed.  Something trivial, but it would have been nicer if all three of the sheets with red bordered sections were together, instead of scatted in the pack.  Very, very minor issue.

The single biggest tile in the set
The tiles and most of the tokens are double sided.  The back of the tiles are a volcanic area, and can be used to make your own adventures, or possibly with other campaign packs
Some of the grid marks are a little hard to see on a few tiles
I have found in some of the illustrations for the quests that it is hard to match up the tile to the pictures - especially when some are covered by markers for where tokens and models go, or when they end up repeating a tile in the setup for which only a single tile with that artwork exists.  Ok, I may just be picking nits here.
Part of me wonders if there is a layout where all the art flows from one to the next
There are a lot of small corridor pieces, and a few confusing ones (the 4 part circle below) that are scenario specific.
some interesting 'shapes'
Lots of tokens
nice throne room
and the last one, with the range rulers on it.
And that is what was in the box (well, also a flyer for some of their other games, but I don't really include ads as part of the game).

There are a lot of tokens used - I put them into piles so you can get an idea of how many.  It is nice that in the rule book they have a page that identifies each separate type of token, and they do have a couple of zip lock bags to hold them.
All the tokens
I find it better to put them in a small divided box, but that is purely my preference.  I expect to need to be able find a specific token much more than a specific machine screw, so empty them into a bucket, scrape off the label and voila!
Tokens in 8 section divider.  Dice will fit in top right (with room for 4 more)
The dice are a little small, but dice are one of the most replaceable of all game components.  Of course you want a game to come with the dice - but if you don't like them you can use any six sided dice.  They feel a little small to me, but that is my own preference.  I also like each player to have their own, so may want a total of 5 colors of dice (white for the overlord, blue, green, yellow and red for the heroes).
What can you really say about dice?
Honestly, the next part is the only 'failure' I found in the game components.  They include a baggie of tile connectors that easily slip onto the tiles to keep them together.  They did not work well for me.  The fit of the connectors to the tiles was too loose - so they failed to hold anything together when bumped because they just came off.
Hard to see - I did not count them.
Not only do they not hold the tiles, but they also lift up each edge so the tiles are no longer slipping flat.  Because of this, it is actually easier to bump tiles out of position using the connectors than it is not using them - which I have to call a failure.  I saw someone recommend a sheet of felt to help keep these from sliding and that sounds like a good, cheap idea.

Finding a way to connect the tiles such that any two can go together any way is actually a difficult problem.  They remind me a bit of the original Mars Attacks! cardboard standee, where they had small cardboard semi-circles that would fit on the base to hold them up.  Simple idea that didn't work, so they ended up adding plastic holders (which fit tight enough and work quite well).  If these were a bit tighter they would at least accomplish their job, but then they also might damage the tiles going on and off.  It feels a bit like a no win situation (So loose they don't hold, or tight enough to hold but they mark and damage the tiles).
You had one job!
Sometimes you have no idea what will excite people.  One of the biggest items funded by the kickstart was, above all others, doors.  People just went nuts about doors.  So they made doors.

And they are beautiful.  These are full, hard plastic doors.  2 double and 4 designs of single doors (I had three of the round only one of the pointy door - I'm not sure if it is an error (it would make more sense to have two of each kind), but the different designs really don't change the functionality at all.  Molded in hard brown plastic, these almost don't need paint. They make a very satisfying clinking in the bag when you get them out or put them away.
DOORS!

In order to make things cooler, you need furniture.  There are three bags of dungeon furniture in the set - the first has two bookcases, a throne, a tomb, a book and stand, a weapon rack and a well.  These are made from softer plastic than the doors - I'm guess the same as for the rest of the models.  Very clean, with few visible mold lines.  They don't have the satisfying clink that the doors do (did I mention DOORS!) but are not bad at all.  I do have to wonder how long it takes families with children to lose that tiny book?
not doors
The second bag has two tables and four chests, made of the same plastic.  There is a tiny bit of flash around the hinges on the chests, but otherwise these are beautifully molded.
tables and chests
The final bag was four barrels and four lids for the chests.  Again a tiny bit of flash around the hinges.
barrels and chest lids
I kind of wonder why they decided to make separate lids for the chests - it would have been easier to just remove the chest when opened.  But not my call.

This looks to me like it could be a huge hit if Mantic gets the word out on it.  Anyone doing role playing trying to make 3d dungeons could use these (and at only $17.99 MSRP a set quite a bargain). Years ago I picked up a couple of packs of Mage Knight : Dungeons terrain packs for just that reason - and were I still running RPG campaigns I would definitely get one of more of these.  Even if the pack does not include any doors!
chests with lids on
Of course, one of the most interesting (after DOORS of course) parts of the game are the miniatures. These come in four non-resealable bags, which kind of surprised me.  Everything else was meant to be rebagged for storage, but not the miniatures?  Unpainted they will just be loose in the box - I'm not yet sure how I want to deal with them painted.

One very nice thing is each type (hero, boss, minion) of miniature is in a distinct color - so very easy to tell them apart at a glance.  Bone white is undead, grey is a big bad guy, blue is the heroes.  Simple.
the four bags of minis
So start with the heroes, of course.  The blue throws me off a bit, but these seem much more detailed than most board game figures I've had before.  The bases are actually all hard plastic (like the DOORS!, but grey).  Each base has a small indentation where a foot from the figure goes in. These were very clean in the most part - however the figure for Danor, the human mage, had a bit of flash on the staff, the staff  as bent, and the figured felt like it leaned forward. The flash came off easily with an exacto knife.  The next step was to warm the model (via hot water) and re position it.

before and after
I like the fact that on the back of the quick rules is a couple of paragraphs about how to soften and repose the models.  I find this kind of fun, because if you hold it in the hot water and watch, you will actually see the model move and return to its original pose.  For most of the models I did this too I did not have to touch the model after softening it up.

So first up are the heroes of course.  While I liked the concept of the different colored plastic for the various types of figures, the execution wasn't quite as strong.  The blue plastic especially is actually very hard to see.  There is a slight inherent shine to the models, and such a dark blue does not allow you to easily see all the details.
Orlaf and Rordin front
My wife, who is about as non-gamer as you can get, had a very difficult time identifying the models on the table when she attempted the first scenario.  It worked great that you knew the heroes from the monsters, but not so much distinguishing the heroes from each other.  I had some other comments about the blue plastic during some demos as well.
Orlaf and Rordin back
One other minor point on the heros - specifically the elf ranger Madriga.  The sculpt is very nice, but it is a little difficult to identify the facing of the model.  Her body is facing one side, but she has her head turned and is actually looking over her left shoulder, about to shoot something there.  So is the front where her body is (with the blue plastic making it more difficult to identify the details), or where she is actually facing?  For the pictures I put the model where you can see the most of it, but in game play I have her front the way she is looking.
Danor and Madriga front
Also, from the sides these two models are fairly 'thin' (see the reposing pictures above), even more so for the elf.  I understand that the molding process is effectively 2 dimensional, but when the facing of the model is to the side then it becomes a little more obvious.
Danor and Madriga back
After the heros are the bosses - the main villains.   I feel that the grey is much superior for showing off the details.  Some say that this plastic does not hold the details of other mediums, but there is no shortage of detail on these figures.
Elshara and Grund front
Elshara seemed to lean a little too far forward, but was effortlessly fixed in the hot water bath.
Elshara and Grund back
When I look at the rotting flesh of Hoggar, the zombie troll shaman, I am quite impressed.
Mortibris and Hoggar front
I really like that Mortibris has a unique base with him raising a skeleton.
Mortibris and Hoggar back
The final two packs are identical sets of minions - each pack as 2 skeletons, 1 skeleton archer, 2 zombies, 1 armored zombie, 1 ghost, 1 revenant and 1 zombie troll.  9 unique sculpts, and again I did not find the detail lacking at all.  Yes some were bent, but easily adjustable.
Skeleton warrior - in rotted pants and cape
If you don't know what I mean by easily - I don't think it took me five minutes (including heating the water in the microwave) to fix these.  Put them in the water, wait a few seconds, pull them out by the base with large tweezers and run them under cold water to reset.  The plastic has 'memory' - so it returns to its original shape when heated.
Skeleton warrior that was raised so quickly he forgot his pants!
I believe this model may be much sought after for Kings of War - the all plastic skeleton archer - simply because the KoW regiment is hybrid (i.e. metal and plastic) and as such are fairly more expensive than all plastic models.
It is amazing how they can still shoot with their bowstring rotted away.
Skeletons (and revenants) are powerful because you can bring them raise them again.  Zombies on the other hand require a specific spell - but they get more powerful as they mob together.
Classic fantasy 'nekid' zombie with a bone or club
Zombie with clothes.  This could almost be used as a 'modern' zombie 
The armored zombies are very characterful - they are the Kings of War Basilean Men-at-Arms. These sculpts are actually much more detailed than the actual Men-at-Arms (which are a bit 'soft' in the details, and also ended up being a bit out of scale with the rest of the range).  Of course this gives the basileans even more reason to want to destroy the abomination made from their fallen soldiers - they make the living soldiers look bad!
If they only looked as good in life as in death
Ghosts can be tricky - they can end up being anything from the classic citadel 'guy in a sheet' to wailing bits of flying protoplasm.  I like the ball and chain binding the ghost to the mortal plane
boo!
I like the design decision to not the the 'standard' versions of some of the minis.  Instead of the normal human revenants - these are dwarfs - making them both unique, and since this dungeon is an ancient dwarfen hold and crypt - very characterful.
There is even chain mail under the hole in the cape
Finally, of course, is the big guy.  The zombie troll is just a truly spectacular model, from the rotting skin with tendons or intestines underneath to the huge rock in his hand.  Using hot water it is also very easy to re-position the hands so he can hold the rock with both (though it requires glue to stay in place).
This is a great model
For the price it is a pretty good haul of miniatures
All 26 miniatures in the box
Even more so when you look at the total amount of plastic components in the box.
All the plastic crack in the box - a lot of stuff!
While not part of the box set, if you pre-ordered the game before the end of July, you should have received a free Legendary Mortibris figure.  This is a metal version of the evil necromancer.  The metal model comes with a standard mantic base - which is humorous because it doesn't fit on it.  He has the peg from one foot that fits in the notch in the DS base - but would have to be clipped off to put his on a normal Kings of War base.
Legen - wait for it - dery!
Comparing the two, I think I actually prefer the original version with the skeleton coming out of the ground under his control.
Original and Legendary Mortibris
One thing that will help a game to continue to grow is options - the ability to make it different each time you play.  Of course there are dice, but cards are also used for this.  The overlord has a set deck of cards to draw one from each turn, and if there are none left to draw then the adventurers have run out of time and they lose.  The smaller deck is for the first two limited adventurers, which basically teach you how to play.
two sets of cards
One of the cool things Mantic does is reward its customers with special models.  These are redeemable via Mantic Points - for 10, 15 and 25 points you can get models you can't get anywhere else.  Like the Legendary Mortribis (to be added soon).  These are generally only on retail packages, but look for them, collect them and get free stuff just for being loyal to the company.
Mantic points are on the "open these first" card
The initial cards are limited because these are teaching games.  And yes, advetures A & B are designed to be easy for the heroes to win.
cards for initial quests
The full set of cards has four types - abilities, spells, items and the overlord cards.
rest of the cards
And that, my friends, is everything in the box.

But that's not all, there's more.  Well, not component wise.  But how are the books, and how does the game play?  Well I think this is big enough for now, so that my friend will have to wait until next time.

Because it is all fun and games . . .

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