I think an early sign that a game is going to be fun is when you open the box for the first time and gaze in wonder at all you behold before you. Is it a vast box that when opened reveals a small deck of cards huddling in the corner? Maybe you need a caravan of camels just to transport all of the components because against all logic it will clearly longer fit back in the box it came in? Or perhaps it is just a very well designed box with every component nestled in its own little space. Add in to the above the randomness of buying board games from a car boot sale or charity shop, and you also have the joy of opening a game and not knowing if you will find all of it in the box.
What does any of this have to do with Dark World? Well, recently our regular gaming friends brought over a box that had been purchased a few years before in a field somewhere in the south of England...
We started to set up the game which is a fun endeavour itself. Little doors that open need to be attached to the walls and hinges, then once attached to the walls all slot together and clip to the board and form a pretty sturdy gaming area. It took three of us a while to get this bit right as there is only one way the board fits together! Meanwhile at the other end of the table our friend who for this evening had taken on the guise of KORAK THE COBRAN, was building the castle and placing himself upon the throne. The next few hours we would spend trying to remove him from this lofty seat and claim the legendary MACE OF CHAOS (sadly missing from this copy of the game) thus winning the game.
We all chose the heroes that we would use to attempt this mighty quest, and we were given our starting weapons. Myself - the dwarf (attracted to fine, large helmets and jewelled weapons) - received an axe, the ranger was given a sword, and finally the Barbarian was given a small bit of card found in the box earlier along with some bent pipe cleaner as the cudgel was lost to the same fickle fates as the Mace.
Once the playing field had been assembled and most of the rules had been gone through we set about playing. Since the missing Mace was the randomiser that determined which order the players go in (none of this left of dealer then proceed counter clockwise business here) we used a D6. This interesting touch means that each turn is different, and ensures people are paying attention!
Each turn goes in a fairly traditional manner, each player can make 3 actions (which include combat, moving etc) fighting your way towards the amusingly named DOOMSTEP and onwards up the castle itself. During this time Korak is constantly fighting back with hoards of monsters, assigning magic items to them when they die and directing their movements around the board, even unleashing the terrifying HAUNTER, that we dubbed “Mr Woo” because of the noise we all made when he randomly went across the board, killing everything he touched.
When travelling around you can pick up ever popular Healing potion which can bring you back into the fight again in no time, also there are speed boots which give you a free turn when used, and the fireball grenade, and for the dedicated explorer there are special upgraded golden weapons which give you an extra die in combat. These golden weapons are worthy of note, they are actual physical golden coloured weapons you find in tiny chests that you have to pick up to look inside and replace the weapon in your characters hands. Very rewarding!
Obviously with all these evil minions roaming about the place even the mightiest hero gets knocked out from time to time and sure enough one by one , we all fell. This meant that our character when back to the starting space, and spend a turn healing up at the Fountain of Healing, and you were on your way again. This might sound like a rather minor inconvenience, but as the game progressed we had to travel further and further from the starting area to fight the monsters and to get to the castle, dying became more and more perilous. The Dwarf was hit by the terrifying “Mr Woo” on numerous occasions, and spent a lot of time travelling, and considering you can only move three spaces it took a while. There were secret doors, but I could not roll high enough to use them which resulted in the dwarf mindlessly staring at the wall for a good number of turns, all the while the other characters were shooting past me getting back into the fight. It turns out later that on the starting square there is a teleport, which instantly transports you too the last opened door, which if we knew about sooner would have made the game a bit quicker!
Eventually we made it to the throne room and fought the vile Korak, and were victorious! The Barbarian as the first to claim the space where the Mace of Chaos should have been thus ended the game, but alas the noble helmet loving dwarf had the most points overall and won the game. This is in no small part down to the fact that I spent a good portion of the end game staring at a wall, trying to find a secret door, while the Ranger and the Barbarian burnt through their accumulated points fighting the final defensive hoard. After we got it back in the box, it struck me. This game was like a B-Movie, it was a really good evening of playing, and we all had a lot of fun playing it, but it was missing the polish and the flare of other games of its type. Not as flamboyant as the Dark Tower, or as well rounded as Hero Quest, but if you happen across this little gem out in the wild you can do a lot worse than spending a couple of hours playing this!
El_Gringo (aka MrGiantwoman)