Super Dungeon Explore from Soda Pop Miniatures is a game that has been sitting unused in our game room for more time than I really want to think about. The problem was twofold: First, in the first edition of the game, the miniatures weren’t put together or painted. Second, the first edition rules seemed less like the type of game we enjoy.
The thing is, SDE is a really cute game, emphasis on the cute. These are chibi-style miniatures with a sort of old school video game theme going on, to the point that monsters are divided into 4-bit, 8-bit and 16-bit and winning requires beating the sub-boss and boss of the scenario. But until all our miniatures were assembled and painted, they were just big hunks of red plastic.
We found a phenomenal painter to paint the set for us, but he’s not very fast and he’s in Great Britain, so we had to wait for him to finish the minis and then ship them back to us.
Honestly though, the second problem was even bigger. We like cooperative games best, but we also play a fair number of competitive games. This one is a console-type game. That is, one of the players makes the decisions of the game as though it were the brain of an old video game system.
Each scenario sets forth some basic rules, like how many points worth of monsters start in the dungeon, but after that, someone has to make the game’s decisions. It’s not a game dynamic that we’re particularly fond of, though there are a fair number of games that use it.
Recently, Soda Pop kickstarted the second edition of the game which will re-release those original miniatures in single molds and that offers a rules revision allowing the game to be truly cooperative. While we wait on that to arrive, and our painter to finish up the last expansion sent to him, we decided to give the old rules one more try.
Super Dungeon Explore Game Play
Thor agreed to act as the console, so it was just me against the game board. He chose a scenario that ends with fighting the fire dragon Starfire, so we started with three game tiles and three heroes. Each game tile has a spawning point where new monsters appear, so the goal of the heroes it to eliminate the monsters AND the spawning points while becoming stronger and acquiring gear to make it easier to defeat Starfire. Sounds easy right?
Each round is set up so that all the miniatures in play get a chance to move and attack. I chose the paladin, the ranger and a mage for my characters. They started in one corner of the board near some kobolds and a kobold spawning point.
They also moved so that they could pick up a treasure chest during the first round. One of my characters would move and then one group of the monsters, taking turns until everyone had moved. The first round went pretty well with the mage destroying the spawning point and inflicting some damage on the monsters, but I didn’t press forward toward the next spawning point, thinking I should hold back and clean up the lingering monsters.
That was a mistake. The console gets to spawn reinforcements between rounds based on a set point allocation and the number of times I damaged something it controlled. With one spawn spot gone, the points were split just two ways, meaning the things coming at me from the second spawning location were bigger and nastier.
Along the way, heroes gather treasure for every third hit done on the bad guys and have a chance to generate health and potions during their attack rolls. My dice also didn’t seem to want to give me the potions I needed for my extra abilities, like the paladin’s healing, and I found myself losing ground.
Eventually all my heroes made it to the second tile, but by that time Starfire was already on the board. Since I hadn‘t rushed forward and killed the spawning spots, Starfire was even more powerful than usual getting three actions every round. It only took the dragon one round to finish off all my adventurers.
Why did we wait so long to break this game out? Even though the console kicked my butt and was kind of quick about it, the game play itself was fun and challenging. Having a beautiful board with miniatures that remind you of all your favorite old video games is a great start, but game play is simple to learn and fun.
Even though it was our first play through, there was no confusing spots in the rules and nothing that bogged down game play. Soda Pop’s original rules work just fine if you don’t mind the one player running the game mechanic. I’ll let you know about the rules revision sometime soon. In the meantime, this is an excellent game and will be hitting the table again soon.