One of the most intriguing releases of the last year was the great dungeon crawler, Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising and it doesn’t disappoint.
This is the first in the series of three from Mantic Games - Dead Rising, Green Menace and Ancient Grudge, and it is very well done.
Before I even opened it, long treasured memories of Hero Quest, Warhammer Quest and even Space Crusade came flooding back, the first genre of table top war game I played religiously.
So what do you get? The price of £34.99 RRP is well balanced in the market with twenty nine miniatures in the game. These include a full sprue of ten Revenants, twelve Skeletons, five Ironclad Dwarfs and two Shieldbreakers.
Now, these are the same models used for Kings of War so if you are a fan of the Undead or Dwarfs then you will know the miniatures well. If you are not so familiar with the Mantic range
then you will see that they are easily put together and have been accepted by the wargaming world with high regard.
Some of the undead sprues are even bone coloured (in the first print run) and makes them a softer compound than the usual grey sprues. This makes them easier to clean up when removed from the main sprues ready for assembly.
Seven dice and the usual Mantic range pamphlet are standard issue, the rules book written by Jake Thornton of Game Workshop fame and the superb dungeon tiles.
Finally Mantic have included a couple of Mantic Points (their equivalent of a reward scheme) and a five pound discount voucher to use at Mantic retailers and their online store.
So with box emptied, rule book well thumbed and everything opened and assembled…how does it play?
The Dwarfs are basically trying to drive the Undead from their underground hold and six differing scenarios are included. As you can imagine they start off pretty
basic and then as you progress extra elements are added to the game.
Don’t be fooled to think that earlier missions are a pushover, they may look simple on the map but every ‘episode’ is challenging for both parties. The rules emphasise trying each of the
scenarios as the Necromancer controlling the undead and also the dwarfs trying to take back their ground.The rules have some nice twists; these include the rules for using the undead dogs and the dwarven pit mastiffs that you get on the sprues.
The mechanic of the game is very tidy, you use a pool of objective tokens that allow your models to perform actions, and this pool can vary from scenario to scenario. You are even limited in some missions and if you run out of action tokens then you lose that scenario.
Each side has a differing amount and type of actions. The dwarfs have ‘follow on’ actions that can give their individual models an edge on completing missions, but the necromancer can use what is known as his ‘Baleful Gaze’.
This is a far more limited (you may only use it a predetermined amount of times in a scenario) but very powerful form of follow on action that if used at the right time can really break the dwarf lines. Wounds, facing arcs and outnumbering are all tried and tested concepts in wargaming but sit well in the D6 mechanic of the games combat system that is very quick and slick but still leave enough to be challenging to all levels of gaming experience.
There are even rules for hidden dwarf setups and secret passageways that make dungeon quest games the enjoyable games they are.
So getting over the initial excitement of the new shiny box set, and after putting everything together, play testing the first couple of scenarios what did I miss or what can
I pick holes in.
In general I cannot fault the game at all. It is no secret that I am a huge Mantic fan, as members of our local gaming club can confirm, and as a game there is nothing I can gripe about. Objectively the rules are well written and offer a balanced and very challenging game for both players.
I can imagine some gamers will not feel they are getting the ‘big box feel’ they may get with some other wargames from manufacturers like Fantasy Flight games, but the value for money reflects this.
Dwarf King’s Hold has a lot of counters and tokens used in the game play, including the afore mentioned action tokens, but it also uses wound markers, piles of bones markers that can be resurrected to bolster the necromantic horde and scenery markers such as barrels etc. so there is a lot to keep games interesting.
The rules are well designed and easily translated into your own written scenarios when you have played through the ones provided. Mantic has also hinted at downloadable expansions for the main game so it will develop over time.
Newcomers to Mantic’s range may find the difference between the skeletons and revenants a bit confusing to start with, but that is not a huge practical issue, and you need
to assemble the models before you start playing as they are unassembled.
This allows for more personalisation for the models in the set, and when playing the game it does look superb. The tiles are beautifully rendered and very adaptable to give you the option of creating your own dungeon with ease.
The only things I have done for ease of storage is to dig out a couple of small sealable plastic bags to keep all the tokens and smaller playing pieces together, and used a spare Mantic troop box from my Kings of War army to keep the models safe and contained rather than have them rattling round the box when not in use.
A quick download and print of a suitable sleeve for the troop box and you are ready to go. I am yet to paint the models but if like me you have a ridiculous amount of projects all vying for pole position on your painting table, then a quick ink wash on the undead models will bring out the details nicely, it is a lot quicker than fully painting them and can give you an easy way to differentiate between the skeletons and revenants.
The game is a winner in my humble opinion and should appeal to fans of board games as well as wargamers alike. There is a lot of nice little touches, even a quip to make you chuckle
in the disclaimer on the back of the box.
For me it is the little touches like this that finishes Mantic’s products off nicely and long may it continue. So even if you are a wronged dwaven hero looking to reclaim his ancestral home, or a devious practitioner of the dark arts looking to claims some beards as trophies then give this game a go……it may just make you nostalgic, just like me….