Tabletop Review: Dungeon Command: Tyranny of Goblins (Dungeons & Dragons)

Dungeon Command: Tyranny of Goblins
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $39.99 ($25 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 10/2/2012
Get it Here: Amazon.com

In mid-July, Wizards of the Coast released their newest Dungeons & Dragons offshoot: Dungeon Command. This game combined the skirmish miniature combat and figures from the long defunct Dungeons & Dragons Minis collectible game with the deck building and creature tapping aspects of Magic: The Gathering. I reviewed the first two sets, Heart of Cormyr and Sting of Lolth in late August and found both to be a fun experience but with two drawbacks. The first is that you’re paying a lot more for a set of twelve figures compared to their original D&D minis cost. The second was that with only two warbands, the game lacked any customization value, which is a big draw for any skirmish minis game and games would end up feeling all too similar since you only had the two options. Well, we’ve now got a third option with Tyranny of Goblins, and the eventual Undead and Orc sets coming out in the next few months (Personally, I think the Undead should have been in October instead of Goblins as it’s more fitting, but hey…). So does Tyranny of Goblins breathe any new life into the game? Let’s take a look.

Like all Dungeon Command sets, you get twelve figures, four tiles, a deck of cards, and two leader cards. The figures include two Goblin Cutters, a Goblin Wolf Rider, a Goblin Archer, a Goblin Champion, a Wolf, a Hobgoblin Sorcerer (actually the old Orc Sorcerer figure from D&D Minis), a Bugbear Berserker, two Hobgoblin Sorcerers, a Horned Devil, and a Feral Troll. What’s here is a pretty good mix although with less than half the box being actual goblins, the name Tyranny of Goblins doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure why there’s a Horned Devil and/or a Troll in the set other than to give the team some large sized minis. They don’t seem to work thematically and I’d have preferred two other goblinoid related choices. Maybe the Vampire Dire Wolf if a large was truly needed or some more goblinoids like the Silent Wolf Goblin, Hobgoblin Impaler, Doom Fist Monk, Goblin Underboss, and so on. I’d have rather had, say, four more small but Goblin minis than two big ones that don’t fit the theme. I also have to say that the paint jobs are nowhere as good as the original D&D Minis versions of these guys. The different colour scheme doesn’t bother me at all, but the quality of the paint job does. All the goblins look especially bad and are easily the worst of the Dungeon Command paint jobs so far. The Feral Troll, Horned Devil, and Wolf look especially good though, so it’s not all bad. Give the paint job a push.

Like the previous Dungeon Command sets, there are twelve cards to allow you to use these figures with the Co-Operative D&D Board Games like Castle Ravenloft and The Legend of Drizzt. However a lot of these guys already appear in some of the board games, albeit unpainted. The Wolf is in Castle Ravenloft, whole the Feral Troll, Goblin Cutter, and Goblin Archer are already in The Legend of Drizzt. So we get six new enemies for the co-operative board game and that’s enough to make me happy. The Hobgoblin Sorcerer and Bugbear Berserker are sheer damage machines while the Horned Devil is kind of a wall of hit points. All should add a new dimension to the cooperative board games, and anything new we get for those puts a smile on my face.

The two leader cards in this set are Snig the Axe and Tarkon Draal. I actually have a Snig the Axe figure and use it in one of my D&D Minis Warbands so I was happy to see him here, even if it’s only in card form. Tarkon Drall is obviously a bugbear from the artwork, but he’s not an actual minis from the original game. Both leaders are pretty interesting. Snig, for example, has the highest Creature hand out of any leader yet, but also the lowest Leadership rating by far. This means Snig has more options as to what he can play at the start of the game, but his starting force will always be weaker than any other commanders. The good news is that he can deploy creatures in his Refresh Phase as well as his Deploy Phase so he’s definitely the choice if you want a lot of options or board control. Tarkon Drall is another interesting leader. He has the lowest Morale out of any leader but he is tied for the highest Leadership in the game with the Drow Sellsword. If you’re looking for a straight up nothing but offense strategy to work with, Tarkon is the definite choice. Coupled with his ability to cause opposing warbands to lose two Morale Points instead of one every time an opponent’s figures cowers, Tarkon becomes quite a threat. I’d definitely recommend him for people new to the game as he requires the least strategy and doubly so for people new to skirmish wargames. Tarkon makes things simple and yet effective.

The deck is probably the weakest aspect of the set. The previous two decks focused on one to, at most three, attributes. This deck has FOUR. It uses Charisma, Intelligence, Dexterity and Constitution. The actual break down is: 3 INT cards, 9 CON cards, 9 CHA, 8 DEX cards, and 7 ANY. It’s a decent spread save for the INT cards, but only a single character can use those (Hoggoblin Sorcerer), so it’s not a big deal. Personally since the Sorcerer can use CHA cards as well, I’d have just jettisoned the INT cards and put in more CON and ANY cards. Why? Because of the creature breakdown. Four creatures (a full THIRD of the army) can only has a DEX attribute, meaning a full twenty-one cards (58%!) are useless to them. The Hobgoblin Sorcerer has INT and CHA giving it slightly more use out of the deck. Three creatures, the Hobgoblin Soldiers and Feral troll can only use CON cards, meaning they suffer from the same problem. The deck is just too spread out and unbalanced to get any real use out of it, meaning you’ll have to go with regular tactics instead of playing cards. That’s fine I guess, but this does make it the weakest warband so far. The good thing is that the Goblin Wolf Rider and Goblin Champion can both use DEX and CHA cards, making them quite useful. The Horned Devil can use CON and CHA while the Bugbear Berserker can use DEX and CON. Your best bet is to focus on these four cards and uses the other eight creatures as cannon fodder or to protect your big guns. The Feral Troll is especially good at being a meat shield.

All in all, what’s here is…okay. It’s my least favorite of the warbands so far, but with a price tag of $25 on Amazon, it’s not a bad purchase and it’s definitely something people already playing Dungeon Command should invest in. I’d have definitely fine tuned the deck before releasing this though and I’d have also tweaked the warband itself for a better thematic continuity, but that’s just me. In terms of pure skirmish gaming without worrying about the deck aspect, Tyranny of Goblins is definitely the easiest to get into and figure out. However, if you really want a warband that’s more optimized for winning, you should probably look at the Cormyr or Lolth ones. What’s here is certainly fun, but it’s too all over the place to be competitive. Unfortunately without the concept of boosters or customization, there’s not much that can be done about it.

Tags: ,