Saturday, October 1, 2016

RPG Review: DarkFast Dungeons

Disclosure: This review is property of Kenzer and Company, republished here with permission, and may have been modified by the author. Links to product pages include my affiliate identification. I receive token %, if you purchase something from the landing page. It is one way to support this blog. Thank you. The PDF of DarkFast Dungeons was provided by OKUM ART GAMES free of charge for the purpose of this review.

DarkFast Dungeons
By: David Okum
Published By:
Scouted By: J.L. Duncan

Welcome to a review of DarkFast Dungeons Basic Rules Edition, henceforth abbreviated as DFD. Though DFD Basic Rules Edition is a complete game in of itself, the publisher was kind enough to provide four prop set supplements, which I’ll include, a brief mention of within the review. DFD Basic Rules Edition along with a good deal of game and tabletop prop set supplements are currently available at and in full color PDF, formatted for PC as well as Macintosh. DFD is a cooperative dungeon crawl adventure game that features dynamic gameplay and vast amounts of replay ability. First and most important, replay ability is key with this game because DFD is a PDF print and play product. That is, some work is required on the part of the purchaser to get the dungeon and player icons, various tokens, character as well as game cards; printed, cut and set to adequate virtue.

Standee Characters
For the purpose of the review and consideration of my delicate fingers we will assume the labor involving the scissor and Exacto knife has been completed without any loss of hit points. Judge not, lest ye have exacted thyself before. Though I was tempted by the excellent looking character card icons, I will be testing mechanics of DFD dice and pencil style. The game can be played with one to six players (yes, even solo) with the particulars of game mechanics relying on the use of a few handy-dandy D6s.
Before the start of the game each player selects a character card of their choosing and the corresponding character standee icon, to represent them on the yet to be determined-game board. The characters available in DFD are the Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Mage and Thief.

Looking over the stat numbers as a new player would, the characters in DFD seem at first to have very subtle differences in ability. In part, this is the reliance of D6s for mechanics, but these small differences are deceiving as each character has a certain set of Abilities and Powers which carry over significantly in gameplay.

Once characters have been designated, players can either select or randomly draw (most likely depending on player group preference) the number of additional Talent Cards indicated, as well as are required to draw a specific number of Dark Secret cards. In addition to this, clerics by luck of the draw select two Miracle Powers while mages begin the game with three Magic Spells. Each player receives one Hero Point Marker which despite its gracious title is a dice roll mulligan-(or forcing an opponent’s reroll), in Hero’s clothing. Additional Hero Point Markers can be collected by achieving a critical success, which is rolling a 6 on a D6.

Talent Cards give special abilities to characters, such as specific dice roll advantages to attack or defend as well as special healing gifts, extraordinary movement capabilities and knowledge. Characters already have a certain amount of talents to begin the game with and only the Dwarf character does not select an additional Talent Card-though fret not; the dwarf is balanced with more innate advantages.

A Mission is then designated of which, DFD gives the details of five, but another option provided is to run two missions at the same time. For the most part missions determine the number of (dungeon) tiles used and the length of the game, as well as the player group’s overall goal. Missions have relatively familiar themes to those accustomed to Dungeon style games being pretty self-explanatory; they are The Crawl, Stop the Dread Event, Treasure Quest, Clear the Hex & Rescue. The game is ready to begin when the first tile has been randomly selected.
Before we go further, a couple things to mention, first is that DFD is a cooperative game. The game is played without one player being tasked with assuming the role of a typical Dungeon or Game Master. Second is that the game can be won by an individual player, regardless of mission success or failure by accumulating Victory Points. Points are accrued in a variety of ways, defeating monsters collecting treasure-and so on etc. and tallied at the end of the game.

While the Mission determines the player characters group goal, Dark Secret Cards determine individual goals. As you may have guessed Dark Secrets are not shared with your fellow party members. For the most part Dark Secrets give the characters… Well, umm… Some character! What’s my motivation? Consult your dark secrets…  The cards provide some intrigue but also a bit of character depth.

Though DFD is much more of a tactical tabletop game than say an RPG, Dark Secret cards provide a second layer of play as some cards include conditional behaviors which are sometimes counterproductive to the group’s mission, if played properly. Some cards provide bonuses or penalties based on “past” transgressions, while others like the Nemesis Card give a character the task of assassinating a fellow party member. The cards come into play in relation to Victory Points and if not played appropriately the player characters individual points are halved at the conclusion of the game.

The game begins with a tile chosen randomly and placed on the table which is designated the starting tile. This tile also provides as the way out from the spawning point which is required by some missions. Each tile varies in size but the tiles are squared by the inch to gauge character movement.

From beyond the spawning point the next tile is placed when a player steps directly onto the square that is in front of an entry way. A new tile is placed but the room won’t be activated until a player moves (from one room to another) onto the new tile. What occupies the new tile is determined at random (roll) with six possibilities: nothing, gear, treasure, trap, opponent or event.

Nothing is indeed not-a-thing; gear and treasure is provides a chance for players to accumulate something useful. Traps and many of the Event cards are brutal (but not all) and rolling an opponent spawns forth a random opponent, perhaps even a boss opponent-which is typically left to the final tile of the mission.

Character movement is broken into Game Turns (GTs) under the condition that players act first, followed by the allies (those bewitched or being saved), then opponents, with finally traps and events occurring last. The game has no initiative change between players, from the first tile players roll a D6, add their ability score to the total and play commences from the winner in a clockwise motion around the table.

Movement and how it functions is something interesting in this game. A D6 is used to determine how many Action Points (AP) a player has on his Game Turn (GT). The Action Points for movement allow a player to move an equal amount of squares, of the total number rolled. A tile may have 8 to 16 squares (spaces) for movement.

Action Points in regards to combat is balanced by having a higher AP roll awarded with an additional attack or +1 chance at a successful attack, while if the player has only one AP to use (rolled a one) the attack is -1 to strike. Overall combat in DFD is tactically heavy, with character talents (as well as what players selected) being vitally important. The DFD rulebook has a good deal of succinct rules which exemplify how in combat functions.

Ability Checks are used to roll against undesirable effects, such as unfriendly magic, Traps and Event Cards and are rated on a difficulty scale, but also play into many other things including some Dark Secret, Talent, and Ability Cards.

I have to admit when I first contacted the publisher about this product I had it wrong. DFD is a game that is not quite as simple as it at first seems. Though admittedly it took my mind sometime to grasp, there is a bit of a learning curve present with DFD and overall is a good thing.

Character and Talent choices are very important in this game. One aspect of this has to do with Health Points. Characters in DFD don’t naturally recover Health Points. The cleric has two chances (at: 16% and 18%) to draw or select if 12 is rolled, the Miracle Power Heal; while if selected the Medic Talent can only heal a specific wounding once within the game. There is a small chance that an additional talent or miracle power(s) may be acquired, but it is a slim chance.

The enemies that are not bosses are rated a little less comparable than the Characters and encountered one at a time, but with how healing works, the brutality of traps and events and how one collects Hero Point Markers (mulligans), the game is less reliant on encounters being the focus of the game, at least until the boss level is encountered. Survival is the focus of DFD-and with how the mechanics work it rings true that it is indeed, a 1-6 player game and truer than many other games that make such claims.

I like DFD Basic Rules Edition very much. As a product, save a couple of very minor layout errors in the rulebook, this is a quality product-conscience and easy to understand. The game features tons of replay ability. The additional prop set supplements which provide easy to read and understand comic book style instructions are well worth the few extra bucks. The art with every aspect of this product is exceedingly pleasing to the eye-and something not common with many independent products-consistent. If you’re in the market for a tabletop game and don’t mind a bit of extra effort to put it together, DFD is defiantly worth a buy.