Board Games Review: Part One (Dungeon Saga, Betrayal at House on the Hill, The Goonies Adventure Card Game)

There’s nothing I like more over the Xmas holidays than sitting around a table with my family and a board game. I was lucky enough to play quite a few this time round, including a number that were new to me. I thought that a review would make a good first post of the year, while my memory is fresh.


Dungeon Saga

This was a new one, though comes from a tradition of D&D inspired board games. In particular, this was bought as an alternative to Heroquest, a classic fantasy board game once owned by my family back in the mists of time, but now lost. I’m not going to go there, suffice to say old copies of Heroquest are currently changing hands for well over £100.

Dungeon Saga requires a Dungeon Master to be in charge of the campaign, and to control the bad guys. The other players control the 4 heroes: standard fantasy characters of a dwarf, barbarian, elf & wizard. Therefore doesn’t work so well with any more than 5 players, though I believe there are expansion sets which might address that. Unlike Heroquest, rather than one board, there are pieces which can be placed together in many ways to create different shaped maps.

We played the 2 introductory games, which involved learning the rules, and took at least 3 hours. The DM didn’t have to do much setting up. All the heroes did was walk along a corridor and smite a few puny skeletons! Even for seasoned players, it’s a game that requires a lot of learning, and we felt that it didn’t really get going as a game, but has a lot of potential once the more involved campaigns are introduced. Of course, it also allows for a keen player to make up their own campaigns. My son liked that idea, but was put off by the complexity.

We will definitely be playing this one again and look forward to a longer campaign.

Pros: Co-op play for heroes; DM gets to control lots of bad guys and can win by crippling a hero; tactical combat; a linked campaign with a quest book full of campaigns; easy to design own campaigns

Cons: complex rules; lengthy, with the potential for lots of fiddly decisions about movement/range/line-of-sight which will put off the more casual gamer


Betrayal at House on the Hill

This was another new game bought for my son, who loves Horror. We turned the lights out, and put on some scary music for this one.

Everyone selects a character (max 6), with differing attributes: might, speed, sanity and knowledge. They begin to explore the House by picking up tiles and placing them down, either on the basement, ground or top floor. In this way, each game has a different shaped house. Once the players do a certain amount of exploring, the ‘haunting’ phase of the game begins. Depending on what exactly has happened, the players are faced with a challenge that must be defeated, such as a monster out to kill them. It seems that one of the players will often become the enemy at this point, and try to kill the other players.

There seem to be a large number of hauntings that can happen, keeping the game fresh. In our game, one of the players became invisible and began hunting down and killing the other players, who had to work together to stop them. Unfortunately, our youngest member became the bad guy and struggled a bit with the responsibility, so bear in mind the 12+ age guidance.

This game was a hit with everyone, and is likely to get played quite a lot.

Pros: easy to pick up the rules; each game has a different twist, adding to replayability; medium setting in terms of difficulty and length, making it a good choice for family play

Cons: Limited strategy and decision making for seasoned gamers; at the same time too complex for younger kids; ‘evil’ player is determined randomly, which might not be appropriate for some groups


The Goonies Adventure Card Game

The Goonies is a film loved by all, so what about the card game based on the film?

This is a co-op game, where each player takes the role of a Goonie from the film, who has certain skills to offer, and work together to find the treasures, before the Fratellis get them! For some reason, the game is only for 1-4 players, though we managed to adjust this to 5 players and enjoyed a good game.

There’s no board, but various cards are played on a table. It’s a complicated business, and has a 14+ age guidance, which is a bit strange for a game based on this film. In fact, my kids are both younger than this and enjoy the game, contributing well to collective decisions. But you need to think about the group who is playing, and make sure that no-one dominates.

Each turn, you are given 4 actions, such as searching for the treasures and mapping a path. You have to be very careful about what you choose to do. If not, you will lose. This game is not easy.

We enjoyed this one, though I’m not sure it was a favourite, and if it wasn’t about The Goonies it might be less popular.

Pros: Relatively short, so a good choice when time is limited or as a warm-up game; a fully co-op game, which promotes teamwork and can make a nice change from trying to kill each other

Cons: Challenging, which perhaps doesn’t suit a Goonies audience; individual contributions are limited which can be unsatisfying


Board Games Review: Part Two (Small World, Talisman, Adventure Time Card Wars, Ticket to Ride)