Board Games

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 2, 2013

a-to-z-letters-bIn the last year my home gaming group has played less D&D and more board games. At first it was just something to do when we didn’t have full attendance, but now we alternate every week between board games and role-playing games. When you’re playing board games that frequently you need some variety; after all you can only play so many games of Monopoly and Risk before you need to broaden your board game repertoire.

Over the past year or two my board game collection has increased from about a dozen classic games to over 50 games counting the new additions. I’ve also tried numerous games at my FLGS, gaming conventions, and some of the other guys in my gaming group have brought over their favourites. I’d say I’ve probably played close to a hundred different board games in the past year or so. It’s become such a big part of my social life that I’ve even got my wife and my parents to try new games.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. In today’s article we shift from D&D to Board Games, our “B” topic for day two.

With so many games to choose from it can be difficult to land on something that appeals to everyone. I’ve found that the easiest thing to do is divide my games into two categories: The ones my wife will play and the ones my gaming buddies will play. Games that fall into the first category include the classics like the aforementioned Monopoly, Scrabble, and Yahtzee; simple strategy games like The Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and 10 Days in the USA; party games like Scategories, Apples to Apples, and Cards Against Humanity; and cooperative games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island. Basically nothing too strange or geeky. All other games fall into the second category.

Gaming nerds will play anything once. If it’s good they’ll come back to it again and again. I’d say about 1/3 of my games fall into the incredibly geeky category that my family won’t touch with a 10 foot pole. But that doesn’t mean that the games aren’t great. They just lack a certain appeal to the mainstream. Today we’re going to look at two of our favourites. These are games that the D&D crowd should instantly fall in love with, but outside of that social circle it’s unlikely these will ever be played (which is unfortunate).

Dungeon Fighter

dungeon-fighter-boxThis board game seemed really complicated at first, but once we got the hang of it we haven’t stopped playing. As the title suggests this is a lot like D&D in some respects. The players form an adventuring party, enter a dungeon, slay the monsters they encounter, take their treasure, and try to defeat the final boss to emerge form the other end victorious. But it’s not that simple.

The board is a giant target with numbered rings. In order to attack monsters you have to bounce an attack die off the table and on to the board. If it lands on the board you deal damage equal to the value printed on the ring. If you miss the monster damages you. It’s a lot like quarters which should appeal to anyone who went to college or is currently in college.

But the fun doesn’t end there. Some monsters can only be hit if you attack them in a more complicated manner (as specified on each individual monster card). Sometimes you have to throw the die with you off hand, or throw the dice over your shoulder, or bounce it off the table and then off the box, or jump in the air and spin before throwing the die, or even roll with your eyes closed. Remember that every time you miss the monster hits you. We suffered a lot of TPKs when we were first learning how to play this game but we always had fun.

dungeon-fighter-game-1To make things more interesting each player’s character has three special abilities. If they roll the corresponding coloured attack dice and actually land the die on the target board they trigger their special power or special attack. This adds an additional level of strategy to who rolls which die in what order.

This game usually takes us about an hour to complete. We don’t win very often but we spend most of the hour laughing hysterically at the absurdity of how we have to roll to defeat the next monster. We’ve never cheered as emphatically for dealing 1 point of damage as we did when we finally landed the over the shoulder shot for the first time (after about 30 minutes of trying).

Sample monsters

dungeon-fighter-monster-4 dungeon-fighter-monster-6 dungeon-fighter-monster-3
dungeon-fighter-monster-5 dungeon-fighter-monster-1 dungeon-fighter-monster-2

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre

epic-spell-wars-boxI suppose this isn’t technically a board game since there isn’t a board, but I’m lumping it into this category anyway. In Epic Spell Wars players (Wizards) combine spell cards from their hand into three-piece combos, creating hundreds of unique and devastating attacks. The object of the game is to kill all the other Wizards and earn two Last Wizard Standing tokens. But it’s not that easy. After you earn your first token the other players will conspire to stop your victory.

Players can earn artifact cards during play to make their spells even more powerful. When a Wizard is killed early he draws Dead Wizard cards to improve his chances of winning the next time around (or at least stopping other Wizards from winning).

This game is best when played with 6 Wizards but will work with as few as 2. Each round takes about 5 minutes and a full game usually takes between 15-45 minutes.

Each spell card is interesting and funny, but when played in certain combos the ferocity and hilarity really shine. Here are some examples.


What are some great games you’ve played that mainstream gamers may not have played before? For those who have played Dungeon Fighter or Epic Spell Wards what were your experiences like? What is you all-time favourite board game?

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1 Emanuele Galletto April 2, 2013 at 10:29 am

Even though I never played Epic Spell Wars, I’m quite a veteran when it comes to Dungeon Fighter. I don’t own the game, but a friend of mine does (we take turns buying board games; I currently own Elder Sign, Legend of Drizzt, Seasons, Munchkin and Munchkin Cthulhu) and we always have a blast playing it. I recall once having to roll the die over my shoulder, without looking, after spinning… AND with the hand of a friend. I still don’t know how I did it, but I managed an instant kill. Great times!

2 Brendan Flattery April 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

Non-maintstream is a bit of a difficult concept to grok here. I’m currently in love with Tsuro, though I’ve only played a few times. Citadels (also a card game) is my favourite go-to game since we got tired of Catan.

Epic Spell Wars is fantastic. Winning is difficult and random in my experience, and as important as getting into the zany spirit of the game.

Lords of Waterdeep is also interesting, though I’ve only played once. It’s the type of game where you pick a strategy early on and see how it plays out over the course of trying to take control of the city. I also love the concept of using adventurers as currency to complete quests.

3 Cathy April 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Hi I’m visiting from the A to Z Challenge. I’ve played several of the board games you mentioned. My favorite though is still Scrabble.

4 Timothy Brannan April 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I rather enjoy Settlers of Catan. I have not tried these others at all though.

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5 Misha April 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I’m a definite mainstream boardgame player, but these games sound awesome!

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6 Tarkabarka April 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Love board games. My family is big on Catan, Carcassone, Risk, Tical, and other strategic board games. Fun!
Happy A to Z!

7 Matt April 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I don’t have the manual dexterity to be a real Dungeon Fighter competitor, but it’s hard not to get invested when you play. It’s very active and it’s collaborative, so the sweet victories and crushing defeats are shared. On the opposite end is ESWotBW:DaMS, where There Can Be Only One. I love the latter, due to the amazing art, intuitive and simple rule structure and spell combos that are fun to announce.

8 Svafa April 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Rather than our usual D&D last night, we played a game of Colossal Arena, a card-based game where you place bets on monstrous creatures while attempting to eliminate the creatures other players are betting on.

Another enjoyable dungeon crawl themed game is Cutthroat Caverns. It’s an interesting mix of cooperative and competitive, where players compete for the last hit on monsters while also working to survive through nine encounters. Likely not a good game for highly competitive groups, but fun for those that enjoy casual backstabbing and changing alliances every round.

I think I’ve possibly mentioned it here previously, but we also play Red Dragon Inn (and its expansions) occasionally. The premise being a bunch of adventurers relaxing in the tavern after a long day, gambling away their gold and drinking each other under the table. It has two expansions, but each expansion just adds new characters so you don’t need the original to play and can freely mix the different characters.

Other games we have on hand that I recommend: Dominion, Quarriors, Citadels, Red November, Blue Moon City, Race for the Galaxy, Pandemic, and Small World.

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