Saturday Morning Gaming: Tyrants of the Underdark
I was lucky enough to play a new board game I’d never played before and, goodness gracious, it was fun.
Tyrants of the Underdark is a D&D-themed boardgame but no particular D&D knowledge is necessary to enjoy the game. If you know about Forgotten Realms (or if you enjoyed the Drizzt Do’Urden novels) you might have a hair more context and enjoy some of the potential combos more… but it’s better compared to enjoying a play on words than seeing it as something that will help you win or cause you to lose if you don’t know it.
The basic idea is this: It’s a deck building game. Everybody starts out with the same hand and they use their hands to build their decks and each individual player’s deck quickly becomes unique. And unique is good because there are several different ways to gain “victory points” in this game and each specialized deck will give you bonuses for a particular way to get points (that isn’t necessarily useful with a different way to get victory points).
For example, you can get points by how many different locations on the map you are in control of. You can get points by how many different points are in your deck OR are in the interesting cards from your deck (or from cards from your deck that you’ve promoted). If you want to focus on conquering parts of the map, you can do that. If you want to focus on preventing opponents from controlling parts of the map, you can do that. If you want to make the best deck you can, you can do that. If you want to have an unbeatable and impregnable corner of the map that can withstand an opponent’s onslaught… well, maybe you can’t do that, but you can make the other players on the board more desirable.
The most recent game that I played (and lost) had four players each using four different strategies to get points. I was playing the “rapid expansion at all costs” technique, my bud was playing the “spy master” technique, my other buds were both using variants of the “I don’t know how to play” technique (which manifested as “expand, but slowly/surely”).
My bud who had played this game a half-dozen times won handily and I came in 3rd because I misjudged how points were weighted and tallied and… well, I came in 3rd.
It’s a FUN game. Even if you see yourself losing somewhere in the middle of turn 3.
After the game, I looked at the different expansion decks the game had available and, golly, it would be easy to play this every weekend for a couple of months and not having two games even close to the same. Even if you’re playing with the base set, you’re likely to find it to be a fun game that challenges you to explore and try different techniques as they emerge for you. It’s not a game for people who have only played Candyland to this point. It is definitely okay for people who have demonstrated mastery at games like Risk or Lords of Waterdeep (another favorite) and who you’ve heard say something like “man, I wish that there were more complicated games out there!”.
This game takes fun parts of deck building, fun parts of map dominating, and fun parts of D&D lore and throws it all in a blender and hits purée. If your established and mature gaming group is looking for something new, you should DEFINITELY check this game out.
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is Tyrants of the Underdark box art.)