Back in 2009, I got really excited about the newest release from Vlaada Chvátil, Dungeon Lords. This year, the game got an expansion:
Festival Season expands the base game of Dungeon Lords (from Vlaada and Czech Games Edition) by adding a fifth round to a year, as well as new monsters, traps, rooms, adventurers, and paladins. It also incorporates Dungeon Petz.
First, a quick word on how the base game of Dungeon Lords works. There are two years, and each year has four seasons – winter, spring, summer, and fall. During the year, you’ll be building up your dungeon using a programmed worker placement – you choose the three actions you want to do, then reveal one at a time to see what you actually can do. Through this, you’ll be collecting food, hiring imps, setting those imps to work on expanding your dungeon or digging for gold, attempting to improve your reputation, buying special rooms and traps, and hiring monsters. Meanwhile, adventurers are lining up to come into your dungeon and wreak havoc. After the fourth season, you have to fight them off, hopefully before they destroy everything. In the second year, everything gets a little more powerful. After the second year’s combat, scoring happens to determine the winner.
Festival Season brings in unique opportunities, a set of eight boards that will change the choices on the board. There are also new paladins to use, powerful heroes that come after you if you get too evil. There’s a progress board extension to accommodate for the new season. There’s a Far Distant Lands board to hold the Pet cards, improved tunnel tiles, and expertise tiles for your monsters and ghosts. You also get new monster, adventurer, and room tiles, as well as new traps, combat, and event cards. A player board extension includes a fourth adventurer slot, a bard step, and a pet box. You also get four bonus tiles that are part of a bonus expansion.
First, pets. The pet phase happens in the first season, right after the first production phase. This is not indicated on the progress board, but the snowman illustration is used as a marker (it’s also on the back of the pet cards). You’ll be dealt two of these cards, one of which you’ll keep and the other you’ll pass to the left. From the two you now have, choose one and discard the other. In the second year, if you still have your pet, you’ll be dealt two, and you choose one to pass from the three – it could even be the one you kept the first time.
The pets basically give you special abilities that are printed on the cards. You keep the pet face down until you use it. Some get used during the game, others don’t get used until scoring.
The unique opportunities are revealed when new adventurers and events are revealed for the next round. This way, you know what’s coming up in the next season, and can plan accordingly. When used, the board will cover up one of the eight placement areas on the board and will provide new choices. Each board will be used only once.
- Harvest Food: Rather than simply collecting food, you’ll need to use imps, much like with mining or tunneling. Spaces I and II require a foreimp and 2-3 imps to collect 2-3 food, while space III requires two foreimps and three imps to collect three food (you also move down a space on the evilometer).
- Masquerade: This is a good opportunity to mess with others. The first minion gets a gold while the other players all gain an evil. The second minion can look at a combat card and return it to any position, while everyone else gains an evil. The third minion can pay one gold to lose one evil, look at a combat card, and make everyone else gain an evil.
- Improve Tunnels: The order is different here – II goes first, then I, then III. II can either use two imps to improve an unconquered tunnel, or use two imps to deconquer one conquered tile, or three imps to deconquer one conquered room. I can improve a tunnel or deconquer a tunnel. III can improve up to two tunnels, or deconquer up to two tunnels or one room. Improved tunnels can either reduce the imp cost of production rooms, score you extra points, double the fatigue value of a combat card, be immune to taxes, or be mined without counting towards your imp limit.
- Invest Gold: You can pay gold (1 in I, 1 and an evil in II, and 2 in III) to make gold at the end of the season (3 in I, 5 in II and III).
- Acquire Pet: Pay the indicated cost (nothing in I, a food in II, a food and a gold in III) to aquire new pet cards (1 in I, 1 and an imp in II, 2 and an imp in III).
- Install Traps: This one goes in reverse order. Three traps are dealt face up, and you will pay 1 gold in III and II (nothing in I) to choose one and install it in a tunnel. The tunnel you are installing it in is marked with a gold token from the bank. It springs on adventurers when they enter, but does not count as your trap for the round.
- Hire Expert Monster (or Ghost): Again, a reverse order of selection. III pays an evil (plus the monster or ghost cost), while II and I pay nothing extra to hire a ghost with an expertise tile. You’ll have to pay a little extra (food, evil, or money), but you get to add two to its first attack in a year.
- Rent Rooms: Again, choose III-II-I. III pays a gold to rent a room, II pays nothing, I can choose to take the gold III paid instead of getting a room. These rooms are in town. They don’t count as rooms in your dungeon, though they can be used in combat (if defeated, it will cost you -2 points in the end).
The Festival Season takes place after the fall season. In addition to the standard phases, a Festival phase takes place after the orders phase. The four unique opportunities boards each show a prize. Each player takes a number of available imps in their hand and the player with the most gets first choice, and players who sent none get nothing. You could get a food, lose an evil, dig a tunnel, gain a gold, gain an imp, draw a trap, pay a food for a monster (or ghost) from the discard pile, or pay a gold for a room from the discard pile.
Four new paladins are included in Festival Season. Paladins go after a dungeon lord who has gotten too high on the evilometer. Two are used in each year, going after the first two players to reach the cutoff point on the evilometer. You can throw in the paladin from the base game to make things really nasty.
A new adventurer class was introduced – the bard. They always go last in line (the opposite of warriors, who always go first), and give the party courage. Begin of the front of the line, and give each adventurer a gold coin to represent courage based on the number of lutes on the bard. Each bard in line is resolved separately. It’s essentially an extra hit point for the adventurer who has the courage. Remaining courage will be removed after the battle, and heroes will receive fatigue on their regular hit points. Then bards will award courage again – however, the number of lutes will be reduced by one for each adventurer in the party that has been captured.
Three new monsters are added to the ranks. The Cockatrice only requires a fee of one food or one evil when buying or paying him. He can attack anyone for one, but his bite is poisonous and gives one more damage to the attacked adventurer at the end of the round. The Evil Eye costs a gold and an evil, and can hypnotize any adventurer, moving them to the front of the party and attacking them for three damage. The Elderbeast costs a food, an available imp, and an evil. It’s worth it, as you’re able to skip the fast spell step of combat, attack the first adventurer for three damage, and then everyone for one.
New rooms include a bakery (four imps produce a food or improve your reputation by one), a training room (trains available imps to add extra fatigue to the adventuring party), a violet lounge (points for the new monsters), and a hall of chaos (an adventuring party in the room has one less trap disarming abilitiy, one less hit point, one less fast spell total, and gain an extra fatigue at the end of the combat round).
Dungeon Lords is a game I really like, but it is not a game I play very often. In fact, looking at my play log, it’s been two and a half years since I played with anyone else. I did try a solo variant since then, and I also participated in a play-by-forum game that I lost badly, but I haven’t played otherwise. There are some people in my game group that play this a lot, and I keep meaning to get in a game with them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t find its way to the table since it’s fairly complex and there’s a very steep learning curve. For that reason, I doubt I’m going to be getting this expansion. I think it all looks very good, though I’m not sure it changes the game as drastically as, say, the Galaxy Trucker expansions. More like more of the same, just more. DL is a pretty brutal game, and the expansion doesn’t look like it makes anything easier. I like the idea of changing up the orders phase every round, and I still like the way the game warns you about what is coming. The addition of pets is a nice crossover to Dungeon Petz, and the new monsters look like they’ll fit well with the previous monsters. Bards add some extra annoyance to the adventuring party, and more paladins means it’s going to be tougher to stay out of their way.
To sum up: Festival Season looks like a good expansion to a good game. I’d like to play sometime, but I think I need to play the base game more first. Thanks for reading!