Dungeon Saga Origins – The Goonhammer Review

This week we’re gathering a party of brave adventures to check out Mantic’s latest co-operative dungeon crawler, Dungeon Saga Origins.

We would like to thank Mantic Games for supplying this copy for review.

Dungeon Saga Origins. Credit: Mantic Games

Some of you might remember setting out for adventure in the original Dungeon Saga, and you’ll find lots of fond memories and familiarities to that in Dungeon Saga Origins. For me, the box immediately evoked memories of my teenage years playing Dungeons & Dragons, with the box art depicting the adventuring party you’ll be taking control of. It’s a surprisingly dense box, with sheets of heavy weight cardboard tokens, double sided dungeon tiles, dice, cards, and miniatures. Everything feels substantial and of a high quality. Revisiting my original Dungeon Saga box, the contrast between the miniatures is sharp. You’ll also find a set of quick start rules and the full rulebook.

Dungeon Saga Origin. Orlaf has definitely hit the gym since his last outing. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Before I took the game along to my regular gaming evening, I wanted to get a feel for the basic mechanics, so, grabbing Orlaf the Barbarian and Madriga the Ranger. I set the board out for the quick start rules scenario. I was immediately struck by how nice the miniatures are for pre-assembled board game miniatures. These are genuinely great sculpts, with crisp detail and I struggled to find mould lines on any of the included models. This makes a huge difference for board game miniatures and they’re a welcome addition to my backlog. A little treat and change of pace within a well-bounded project of four heroes and 18 monsters. The quick start scenario itself gives you everything you need to understand and get going with the basics of positioning, movement, and combat. It provides a reasonable grounding for getting started with a bigger adventure. Once I’d arrived at our evening gaming session I finished reading through the main rules and my players took the opportunity to review the quick start rules for themselves.

Dungeon Saga Origina. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

I’d like to thank Alex, Gavin, and Matthew from my local play group for sitting down with me to go on an adventure, and share their thoughts at the end. The first quest keeps things light and with four heroes should be simple enough, even with a cruel Overlord. The group had a great time romping through the dungeon, and the clean mechanics gave space for people to get in to character and have some fun with their adventure in to the crypt. Following the advice of the rulebook, while we only had three players and an Overlord, we gathered our party of four to venture forth. You’ll find a study dwarven fighter, hulking human barbarian, nimble elven ranger, and a somewhat fragile human wizard. The wizard is the most mechanically complex of the characters, selecting from two of four magic schools for a given adventure. Every hero gets a chance to activate, and there’s no predefined order for them so they can plan to make the most of their actions.

The movement rules are very straight forward, making getting around to explore the dungeon easy. The combat is fast and impactful, with simple stat checks and opposed rolls to resolve clashes for players and monsters alike. The armour value of your target determines the number you need to beat with attack dice, which are determined by your combat value. When attacking monsters, you simply count the number of opposed successes to see if you’ve defeated your foe. Players and bosses are made of stronger stuff, and any number of successes means their damage track is moved by one position. There are a few ways to swing things in your favour, or end up at a disadvantage, but even our resident barbarian could follow the combat rules and the crypt frequently rang out with cries of “ORLAF SMASH!”

Dungeon Saga Origina. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Playing as the Overlord provided it’s own kind of fun, giving me an opportunity to scheme against my friends. The Overlords role will be familiar to any dungeon master, reading out the flavour text, setting up the map, and placing furniture and monsters as they’re revealed. During a regular turn, the Overlord activates their monsters once all players have had a chance to act, however you come equipped with a pair of interrupt tokens. These allow you to stop the players during their turn to activate one of your monsters out of sequence. Perhaps you want to ambush a lonely wizard, or strike before that damned barbarian can turn another one of your skeletons to dust.

After our first adventure, I asked my players what they thought.

“This felt like playing Heroscape, in a really good way.” – Alex

“Lack of weight to the set dressing and first mission left me looking for more.” – Matthew (after this, we spent some time looking at the later adventures and there’s plenty of complexity layered in as you progress).

“Nice change of pace from Euro games, with a good blend of mechanics and space for fun.” – Gavin

Overall Dungeon Saga Origins makes for a great introduction to the dungeon crawler genre and it’s one that more casual board gamers, or a family sit down and enjoy easily. The gently increasing challenge as you venture further in to the crypt means you’re never left feeling overwhelmed with new mechanics, and less experienced or younger players have a chance to build skill and knowledge as the story progresses. If you’d like to buy a copy of Dungeon Saga Origins for yourself, you can find it on the Mantic Games webstore.

If you’ve set forth in to crush the tyrant in the crypt, tell us how your adventurers fared!