In addition to the card games that I have reviewed recently I have also been playing several board games. Among these is Super Dungeon Explore from Soda Pop Miniatures, which crosses the board game boundaries and heads straight into miniatures territory with a cute chibi anime style.
Super Dungeon Explore is a hack and slash board game that can be played with anywhere from 2-6 players. One player plays the Consul, the evil overlord who spawns and controls the monsters, while the other plays are the Heroes (a player can control 1 or multiple heroes depending on the game size and number of players). The entire game is played on a set of modular tiles and uses a whole lot of miniatures.
The gameplay is fairly simple and easy to pick up for just about anyone. Each round the Consul spawns up to 4 skulls worth of monsters (the monster cards each have a printed skull cost) from each spawning point. Then the Heroes and Consul alternate taking turns, the Consul activating up to 4 skulls of monsters on his turn and the Heroes activating one hero on their turn. Once all models have activated the round ends and starts over again with the Consul spawning more minions. The goal is for the heroes to kill the boss, which is spawned by either destroying all of the spawning points or inflicting enough damage to move the power marker to the final space on the tracker.
When a model is activated they are allowed to move as well as perform a certain number of actions (indicated on that model’s card). There are basic actions such as attacking or looting a treasure chest as well as actions specific to individual characters, with some actions requiring multiple action points. As mentioned above, this game is very much “hack and slash” and as such, most of the time the actions being used are going to be attacks though there are some support skills, such as defense/attack auras.
This brings me to one of my favorite parts of the game, combat! Soda Pop has managed to create a very simple yet effective method of combat that allows characters to power up easy without any complicated formulas. The game comes with 3 types of dice (blue, red, and green). The faces of these dice have either 1-4 stars, potions, hearts, or nothing. The way combat works is that the attacker rolls the dice listed for his attack stat and the defender rolls the dice listed in his defense stat (plus any extra dice from loot, potions, auras, etc). If the attacker rolls more stars than the defender the attack is successful, inflicting a wound (and any status effects in the case of special attacks). The different colored dice range in power from blue (max 2 stars) to red (max 3 stars) to green (max 4 stars). No complicated formulas to remember, no tables to look up, and no complicated math required. In addition to all this, if a Hero successfully completes an attack and also rolls a potion or heart they are obtain a potion or are healed, respectively.
As the Heroes inflict damage they also have a chance to earn loot. This is my other favorite part of the game (who doesn’t love loot?). Loot cards are one of 4 colors with the items being represented on the top, bottom, left or right of the card. These loot cards slide partly under the hero card to be “equipped”. A Hero may have 1 loot card of each color attached. This makes it very easy to keep track of each character’s equipment and which slots are being used. Loot typically modifies one of the character’s stats by adding dice, but they may also occasionally add special skills or status effects.
Soda Pop has put a lot of effort into making the game flow as smooth as possible. This game is, quite simply, about hacking through hordes of monsters and the special combat dice and easy loot mechanics make sure that is what players are spending the majority of their time doing. The entire game is executed very well, and it is just a ton of fun to play!
With that being said, I do have a few minor gripes. My game was missing a loot card when it arrived. After a quick search I found that I was not the only one missing parts. Players reported missing various parts including cards and miniatures parts. Luckily this is being remedied fairly quick and Cool Mini or Not (the publisher for Super Dungeon Explore) is quick to send out new parts. I would say that this is only a minor annoyance since you can usually still play until the replacement parts arrive, but it is worth mentioning.
The other issue that I’ve had is that the game seems to be balanced slightly in favor of the Consul from the games I have played. I felt myself having to hold back a little bit so as not to slaughter the heroes early. However, with 8 heroes able to be used in combinations of 2, 3, or 5 at a time and the 5 double sided tiles this could have simply been luck on my part, or even inexperience on the side of the players (especially when it comes to picking a cohesive group of heroes). In the games I played (all were regular size games with 3 Heroes) the Heroes never managed to destroy more than 1 Spawning Point before the boss spawned from damage.
For some people the assembly required will be a turn off. For any miniatures gamers, however, you will probably love it. It took me several hours to put together the dozens of models. If you are so inclined you could paint these models, and I have seen some nice looking paint jobs already. The chibi anime style is also a nice departure from most miniatures games.
Overall, I am loving this game. I am very excited for the future of this game as well. The game was quite obviously built with future expansions in mind. While the Consul doesn’t have much choice right now, the rules are set up to allow the Consul to pick and choose his boss, mini-boss, and spawning points. Soda Pop can easily create plenty of extra content in the form of new monsters/spawning points, new heroes, new tiles, or new loot cards which can add endless replayability due to the very modular style of the game.
Whether you enjoy board games, miniatures games, or both it is worth taking a look at Super Dungeon Explore. The price may seem high (retail $89.95) but this game is well worth the money with the amount of replayability that is built in.
For more pictures, check out my Super Dungeon Explore gallery over at my user site. Keep an eye out here for more reviews of board games coming soon!