How did I not know there is going to be a Dark Souls Board Game? My obsession with this series of games has reached the point where I no longer watch TV, instead I watch Dark Souls streamers. So imagine my reaction bumbling around the UK Games Expo on Sunday when I saw this…
The Steamforged Games stand had a key location in Hall 1 of the NEC and was crowded as soon as the doors were opened. I may have annoyed a few attendees getting demos by peering over their shoulders and squeaking whenever I saw something awesome (which was a lot). As with most convention demos the exhibitors had brought just a few bits to demonstrate the basic mechanics of the game. It’s understandable that they didn’t have more to show just yet seeing as though the game doesn’t come out until April next year. The kickstarter however is already over, having exceeded all expectations by raising a whopping £3,771,474 (they were hoping for £50,000). The hype is real. For those of us who have been living under rocks we can still back the project with a special latecomer’s tier of £80. Now before you run away at that price point let me talk a bit more about the game.
The first impression I had at the mere concept of a Dark Souls Board Game was that this was a gimmick. Some other games company trying to jump on the popularity bandwagon by making a Dark Souls skin for a game we were already familiar with.
This is not the case.
The game focusses on the part of Dark Souls we all love the most, the boss fights. The boss they demoed was our beloved favourite from Dark Souls 3, the Dancer of the Boreal Valley. The board is a small square depicting a typical desolate Dark Souls scene. The beauty of this game is the simplicity. You tend to have no more than 3 miniatures on the board (unless the boss comes with a partner or some grunts). You play with a generic Dark Souls starting character and a free summon to back you up. The player and the summon have only a single card each on which you can mark stamina and health. And of course, you have a 5 use Estus flask to regain that health.
Now we get to the Dancer. As you well know she is fast, moving around the room with deadly grace. So how on earth does a board game fully capture her style? Again, it’s simple, and damn effective. You have a very small deck of approximately 5 cards, each depicting an attack. The attack card shows the direction, movement, range and damage of an attack. For example she might grab to her right and crush anything in her side arc, leaving her left vulnerable to attack. Then after you have moved in to exploit this weakness, she might trigger an AOE flame burst, blasting anyone in range; you don’t know what she might do next because it is randomly drawn from the deck. That is, until she has used all 5 attacks. Were you paying attention? Because those attacks don’t get shuffled, she’s going to do the same moves again, so you better be ready. Before you think that repeating her attack sets will get boring after a while, think about what game we are playing here. At some point (again you don’t know when and it’s different for each boss) you will hit a trigger point. This adds a new devastating attack to the deck and when you add the new card you also shuffle the existing deck. Everything you thought you knew about this boss no longer matters and you’ll need to relearn her moves before she tears you in half. I’m not going to give away her final form attack; it’s much more hilarious and deadly if you don’t know. The exhibitor claimed that only 10% of players who demo this simple form of the game manage to defeat the boss. Sounds about right IMO.
By this point I was sold. If the game had been available then and there I’d have thrown all my money at them and spent the rest of the day playing it, belligerently ignoring all the other games at Expo. And then the exhibitor sweetened the pot. He showed me all the other bosses that are going to be included in the full game. The Gargoyles, Smough & Ornstein, Titanite Demon, Frost Knight, Winged Knight and an unnamed Invader. There are additional miniatures included in the late pledge that were added as stretch goals earlier in the kickstarter The sculptor has done an exquisite job on the miniatures. You can get different armour sets and equipment with corresponding miniatures! This means you can stat your character for the particular boss you are going to fight just like you have done countless times in Dark Souls.
Visit http://steamforged.com/dark-souls/ to see more of the miniatures and to get the late pledge. I understand that this might be slightly out of the price range of some of you. All I ask is that you get just as excited for this insane little game as I am, and I’ll let you come over and play with my set in April.
Praise the Sun!