The Average Gamer

Friday Night Unplugged #6: Super Dungeon Explore

Hello and welcome again to another instalment of Friday Night Unplugged. After last week’s Christmas Game Guide, we’re back to our usual methods and madness. This week we dove head-first into our second Miniatures-heavy game this season, Super Dungeon Explore. Super Dungeon Explore (or SDE) is an anime-themed, video game-styled dungeon crawl which pits players against players as the Heroes and the evil Consul clash. It’s created by Soda Pop Miniatures and published by Cool Mini or Not, the same guys who published Zombicide.

The Basics:

SDE is a semi co-operative game for 2-6 people. Most of the players control powerful heroes while one player takes charge of the Consul and its horde of minions. The heroes’ job is simple; destroy all the monster spawners and kill the big boss, collecting treasure and buffs along the way. The consul is simpler to understand. These heroes have wandered into your dungeon, killing your minions. Your job is to kill them all and put their trespassing to an end.

Combat is done with competing dice rolls, simple and elegant.

Every round goes as follows.

  • The consul spawns up to 4 skulls worth of monsters from each spawner.
  • All players roll for initiative and the highest roll goes first.
  • The consul and heroes take it in turns to activate heroes and monsters.
  • Activated characters can move, attack, use special abilities until they have no action points left.
  • Once all characters have been activated a new round starts.

Sounds simple, but not quite. There are also the power gauge and loot track to worry about. Every time a monster is killed, the power gauge and loot trackers go up by one. The loot tracker isn’t so much of a problem – every so many kills the player who killed the last mob gets some loot that more often then not improves a hero’s stats.

The power gauge is a little different. It starts at 8-bit. Here, the most basic of enemies can be fielded by the consul. 16-bit allows the mini-boss to be thrown into battle at the next spawning phase. ‘Super’ is bad. Really, really bad, for the heroes at least. Super heralds the coming of the dungeon boss, whether the spawning points have been destroyed and the boss is trouble incarnate.

Time to play:

Josh picks his 2 heroes first, taking the Hearthsworn Fighter (dwarf warrior) and Deeproot Druid (shapeshifting warrior) for the aggro base of the team. Fi prefers to deal damage from a distance so she chooses the powerful Ember Mage (self explanatory) and the Glimmerdusk Ranger (elven ranger) to provide the backup. We’re playing a 4-hero game so as the consul I get to field 4 spawners on 4 dungeon tiles with 4 treasure chests. Sadly, due to the basic kobold warrens coming in pairs I can only use the small number of basic foes each Warren allows as listed on its card. I do have strength in numbers however.

A spawner surrounded by ranged specialist Kobold Flingers.

We lay out the tiles in a semi + shape and the adventurous heroes choose to start from the entrance in the centre of the map. The first round goes quickly. Fi comes out tops with the initiative roll and sends her mage straight after the closest chest, ripping it open for some loot. Rather than waste creatures defending a spawn point mere blocks from the heroes’ starting position, I spend my next few activations reinforcing positions around the points further away. The others split into 2 groups, with Josh sending the ranger and druid for one spawner and the Fi’s fighter with mage support heading to the other.

The Fire Mage and the Warrior take on a Spawner

The second round saw the druid using his transform special ability to turn into the bigger and more powerful Angry Bear, powering through the first line of creatures I had created. Thanks to a group of ranged flinger kobolds I inflicted several wounds of damage to the ranger and even set her on fire. Josh and his warrior set to destroying the first spawner with ease while the Ember Mage held off the oncoming horde.

The Angry Bear just wants a hug. Seriously.

Another round, another spawning phase, except this time I’m a spawner down. The bear is big and the best I can do is surround the closest spawner with cheap but irritating Kobold Knuckleheads. Easy to kill but their sacrifice will drive the power gauge up, meaning I can bring the big guns out early. Failing another initiative roll I had to wait until Fi and her Glimmerdusk Ranger had made mush out of my cannon fodder with her special Sparkle Shot attack. 3 mobs taken out with a single shot. Ouch.

Left with nothing to stop the bear I switched my focus to the warrior. With walls in the way I couldn’t get close enough to get a hit on the little blighter with any of my nearby kobolds. The rest of the round went by quickly. Josh used the bear to obliterate a second spawner and then had his warrior use his special attack to pull the remaining kobolds towards him before unleashing a killing blow. Even the Ember Mage under Fi’s control got a few ranged hits in on the third spawner. With nothing left there to defend it, I concentrated on forming a defence around the fourth and final remaining spawner.

Moving my reinforcements into position.

Then it happened. In the mess of dead kobolds and dice rolls we had hit 16-bit and were racing towards Super. This meant only one thing. The mini boss.

Faster than you can fire an arrow I placed Rex in the dungeon during the spawning phase. The clunking ogre was bigger than anything already on the board. Even the Angry Bear didn’t stand up to him. Failing another initiative roll I was helpless as the Ember Mage brutalised my third spawner with deadly precision. Rex moved into position and attempted to smash the Angry Bear with his massive club. Sadly the dice were not in my favour and the bear stood firm as he blocked all my attacks. Before the round was over Rex had been killed by a mix of ranged attacks from the Ranger and a few pounding attacks from Angry Bear himself.

This is what crushing defeat looks like.

The next round was spent mainly manoeuvring. The death of Rex left the heroes without much to do, the last Spawner being at least a full tile away. The following round was a little busier. Fi’s Glimmerdusk Ranger did the majority of the legwork. Taking on the few mobs I was able to spawn from a distance, she cleaned up the path towards the last spawner. Thankfully for me (maybe not for them) this meant that in the next round I was in Super mode and ready to spawn Starfire.

Starfire makes bear chow out of the Angry Bear.

Starfire is a dragon. A big flipping dragon. A big flipping dragon with big fiery breath. That may be so but I was outnumbered and unable to spawn any more creatures for support now Starfire and his big dragon face watched the field.

Thanks to my unlucky streak of defence rolls Starfire only managed to burn Angry Bear to a crisp before being battered into submission by the Ember Mage and Glimmerdusk Ranger. I had failed in my job as the keeper and the heroes had won.

The Ember Mage stands triumphant on a defeated Starfire.

The Stats:

Super Dungeon Explore is a miniatures game. It’s for 1-6 players and features tiles, tokens, custom dice and big rulebook. It also features 50 miniatures that, while gorgeous, did increase the prep time for the first run through by about 2 days. Why? Because you have to put them together yourself.

These are larger than Warhammer scaler miniatures, thank god, but there are 50 of them and some of those 50 have little shields, and swords that all need putting on separately. Bases that need attaching. Helmets that need to be positioned. While therapeutic, this will put some people off. Other than that it’s simple, elegant and tons of fun.

All those bags!

What we thought.

Well maybe it’s not that simple. Of course it’s simple to play; the movement rules make sense on the squared boards and the combat’s dice-rolling mechanism is easy to learn and track without overcomplicated maths. The chests grant nice bonuses and only one of each type of bonus can be held. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the rulebook. The 2nd edition has made some large improvements over the 1st edition from what I hear on BoardGameGeek but the fact I had to use the BGG forums in the first place to clear up the rules is a rare occasion and not one I savoured. Thankfully this was one of the few issues we encountered. Once players were familiar with the rules play went fast, smooth and altogether fun. The anime theme is gorgeous and the art on the cards was a big hit for Fi who doesn’t usually go for dungeon crawl-style games.

Playing the heroes is always fun. Playing the Consul is fun once you learn how best to field the minions to make the most of their abilities. The only issue here is that there isn’t much variety for the consul to field when challenging the Heroes. Thankfully Soda Pop Miniatures are clearing this up with a whole horde of planned and already released expansions. The best part? These all come pre-assembled so no gluing needed.

So if you’re looking for a light hearted dungeon romp and don’t mind shelling out on some glue then putting a few hours into gluing minis together, you can do worse than invest in SDE. Especially as it’s currently on sale for £57 over on Amazon at time of writing.

 Next Week:

Next week is the last FNU before Christmas and we’ll be taking a closer look at one of our favourite games in last weeks Christmas Guide, Ticket to Ride. Not just that, it’s a double special next week and we’ll also be looking at risk-light Smallworld.