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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Monday, January 16, 2006

First Impression: Dungeon Twister Paladins & Dragons

Next week, I will start my monthly Gaming Group Profile series . If you are interested in participating, please send me an e-mail at ripcitygamer@comcast.net. Please, don't make me start out with the Rip City Gamers.

There were a couple of different things I wanted to write about, but it's been a crazy week, including having to put one of our beloved cats to sleep today. So, I'll instead write a bit about Dungeon Twister (which is getting dogpiled in this BGG article). I picked up the Dungeon Twister Paladins & Dragons expansion yesterday. I am generally satisfied with the mix of characters and items that come with the original set, but I wouldn't mind swapping some tokens for variety's sake, especially if it can increase the overall character mobility. Below is the list of characters from the base set, listed in order from those I am most likely to keep to those I am most likely to replace.
  • Warrior - A great blend of strength and mobility.
  • Wizard - The threat of the insta-kill adds nice tension to the beginning of the game. Plus, after the fireball wand is used up, the wizard becomes an attractive candidate to make a run for it, given his great mobility. The existence of spells and other magic items in future releases will help to keep him in the mix.
  • Thief - Being able to walk over pits and escort others over pits and open and close doors makes the thief's mobility just insane. In my opinion, her combat should be reduced to 1 (see Wall-Walker) to counter this massive advantage. I consider her essential, as there are so many tactics available with her various abilities.
  • Goblin - No special rules for combat or movement, just a bonus VP if you get him off the board. Anything that moves the focus away from combat is a must in my book.
  • Troll - A fun character to play with if you can get it mobilized. However, moving these plodding characters slows down the game and makes it too combat-oriented.
  • Mekanork - Really, he doesn't do anything that no one else can do, he just does it more efficiently. He usually ends up stuck on one tile due to his poor mobility.
  • Cleric - His healing ability should make him a game-breaker, but his lack of mobility prevents him from making a difference as often as he should. What I would really like to see is a one-use healing potion.
  • Wall-Walker - Aside from the "steal the fireball wand and exit the board" gambit, I think the Wall-Walker is a bust. Having to chew up APs to move over walls just makes her too slow. In my opinion, her combat value should be switched with the Thief. Maybe even give her a sneak attack bonus when coming over the wall, and call her Assassin...
Here is a similar list for the objects. In general, I'm only looking to replace Armor.
  • Rope - The most indispensable token in the game.
  • Sword - Simple item with no special rules, but serves as a key strategic objective.
  • Fireball Wand - See "Wizard" above. There shouldn't be too many one-use items in the game, however.
  • Treasure - I like to initially place my Treasure token in one of the rooms closest to my opponent. I typically use another item to get there (Rope or Speed Potion), then I just pick up the Treasure and exit for the bonus VP. I like how it forces the opponent to block a specific exit path to prevent a big score.
  • Speed Potion - On the one hand, it overly complicates the search tree. On the other, it is one of the most interesting tactical elements in the game.
  • Armor - Similar to the sword, but, unlike the sword, doesn't see action, as it requires the wearer to be attacked.

Here is the list of the Paladins & Dragons characters, listed in order from those I am most eager to try to those I am most skeptical about.

  • Weapon Master - Nice, but too powerful? Same stats as the Warrior, but forces the opponent to expose the combat card before selecting her own. Give her a Rope and cause havoc.
  • Paladin - One more movement point than the Weapon Master and Warrior, and can carry two items. This guy must be quite the stud in the endgame. I list him second, but I wouldn't want any more than two of {Warrior, Weapon Master, Paladin} in the game, and maybe even only one of them.
  • Elf Scout - Similar to the Wizard; a bit faster, but with no Fireball Wand. Very basic character that would be fun to add to the original mix. Players who find the original game too chaotic in terms of planning will hate these high movement characters.
  • Golem - Same stats as the Troll, but, whereas the Troll has a self-healing ability, Golem can break down walls. Will this make the game too fast? He may be more essential on the P&D tiles.
  • Illusionist - Less mobile than the Wizard, but can create obstacles to slow down others' movements. I'll stick with the Wizard as the magic user to keep the game moving faster. (Question: if a Thief is wounded when standing over an illusion of a Pit Trap, surely she doesn't die as per the literal reading of the rules, right? Or is this like hitting the ground in a dream?)
  • Pickpocket - Lots of tactical options with this guy, who can steal objects from opposing characters. My fear is that his presence will cause the game to stagnate.
  • Ghost - Low combat, cannot use items, highly mobile yet with low movement. Basically, made to march slowly across the board for a single VP. Boring and weak.
  • Red Dragon - Yuk. No movement, but has an endless Fireball ability. Seriously cuts down mobility, and potentially makes the opening game a race to explore all the rooms as fast as possible (e.g., if your opponent has the dragon in a room with two of your own characters, he can easily kill both if he is the one to reveal the room).

Here is a similar list of the Paladins & Dragons objects.

  • Rope - Well, if nothing else, I plan on replacing the Armor with another Rope and playing the base set as-is.
  • Key - In my experience, being able to cross pits is more important than pass through doors. Also, crossing a pit is part of your action, while you have to break up your movement and spend an action point to open a door. I would be hesitant to select a Key over a Rope.
  • Fire Shield - Blocking fireballs and dragon-breath would be best for the Troll. However, the additional ability which protects the holder from Falling Rocks is intended to give some additional mobility boosts, which is key on some of the P&D tiles. It doesn't make sense to use this without the other P&D elements.
  • Teleportation Ring - If playing with the original set of tiles, I don't see this being much different from the Speed Potion. In the new set, it was made to combo with the Dragon.
  • Charm Scroll - Basically, an insta-kill similar to the Fireball Wand, but more complicated. I see no reason to replace the original.
  • DragonSlayer - Only useful against the Red Dragon. Note that the game has two different set of rules for token selection. In one, players separately choose which tokens to use, only revealing them over the course of the game, adding a layer of rock-paper-scissors (and luck) to the system. In the other, players take turn selecting a token, which both players must use, so they end up with equal forces. I will almost certainly use the latter, or some other similar approach.

Finally, there are new tiles with terrain features. In general, I'm not crazy about these. There is enough problems with luck in the tile layout using the original, more straightforward tiles. Plus, it will make the board even more difficult to parse (I'm reminded of the problem I had with the teleporters in the advanced layout rules of Fearsome Floors).

I will probably give P&D a go with one of my opponents; against most people, I will just stick with the basic set. I am a bit disappointed in the direction the expansion went, but I am still eager to give it a try with an open mind. It will definitely add some replayability to a game that I know will get many, many plays in years to come.


  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    Dave - my condolences on the cat.

    Having put a cat down each of the last two years I know that it's not an easy decision even when it's the only real option.

  • At 11:05 PM, Blogger Matthew Gagan said…

    I'm sorry to hear about your cat too, Dave. One of our cats, Owen, had to have an expensive surgery last week. He's only two - hopefully he'll be with us a long time. I will be so sad when he's gone...

    I got Dungeon Twister a while back, but it's one of those games I think is best learned by having someone teach you - I've gone through the rules once, but retained very little of it. Maybe next time there's a 2 player game day, I'll make it out west...


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