Mad monks and bonkers Cultist I can cope with. I’ve rubbed shoulders with a few when popping back to the US in 1920’s and I’m even OK with the idea of the sleeping malevolent evil they try to awake. But what on Earth…or to be more accurate…deep inside the Earth is this lot of nutters on?
Press PLAY for an ambient Cultist background to set the scene for your read
I like to watch dragonflies and butterflies wazzing about the shop just as much as the next wildlife enthusiast, but this bunch of heavily robed, pipe blowers are on some other track altogether. Worshipers of insects..bugs…six legged critters and worse, they all are. Trying to resurrect some demonic cockroach or some such….. gives me the heebie-jeebies, I can tell you.
Now there is not enough tea in China (as the age old saying over here goes) to get me to shin sown that rickety ladder into the dark depths of any Abyssal rift crammed full of long legged critters binning about left, right and center.
If accompanied by two versatile, reliable comrades…well, that’s a completely different proposition. A trio of us sharing skills and resources…now critters and their worshipers need tremble their multitudinous knee joints.
Open your gob Perdition, we’re going in!!
What’s All The Fuss About?
Indeed! What is all the fuss? Isn’t this just another dungeon crawler with a multitude of plastic figures bunging up the works?
At first glance one could be excused for thinking the very same. Dragon Dawn’s Perdition’s Mouth has a Dungeon board, heroes, tokens, beasties and the like…but it is not until a slightly closer look is taken that we spot some of those more subtle differences… and, of course, some of the quite obvious huge differences.
The dark, unforgiving road through perdition leads to the Abyssal Rift, where a secretive cult of Change is summoning a long dormant demon. Should they succeed, the demon aims to end the reign of men…and women, I suppose. And it is this way forwards that we must travel. No meager task, I must point out. It is a cooperative dungeon crawl game that requires no dungeon master due to one or two cunning mechanics the game has up its ragged sleeves but I shall allude to these later.
The claim here is that there is a strong emphasis on cooperation in a fast and immersive gameplay with heroes that exhibit “multifaceted” talents… and flaws.
Immersion or Subversion?
Thematically this is undeniably immersive. There has been significant attention to detail in story line, scenarios, adventure background and makeup of each hero. But fancy pants graphics and dark brooding illustrations maketh not a game.
Ah, but what does stamp its authoritative boot heavily upon the thematic immersion category is the way the game actually plays out. There is an interesting use of the rondel system to facilitate and dictate hero actions, there is a similar and equally clever rondel to govern movement/actions of all the Cultists and Insectoids (which really lends itself to a hassle free solo game where we can focus on our role whilst the game takes care of its own)
The mechanics governing players boards, their actions and the way wounds are acquired….and stay with a character for the entirety of a campaign is another excellent touch, breathing a fresh breath of life into the game genre.
I pick but just a small smattering of game elements, because there are so many subtle mechanics built into this game breeding a clever life-force into gameplay. There is a feel of old-school D&D rolplay but without the mither of character score sheets or tracking wounds (as each hero’s unique action deck quickly becomes cluttered with wound and ailment cards from something as trivial as a snuffly nose to, terminal piles, to broken legs and worse, a mild shaving rash…(*I made these up for humorous effect, I have to add, before some astute hardcore Perdition player points out I am a total buffoon) But I would imagine completing a level battered and bruised, that even if my broken leg healed, it would still hamper me in the future. There is such a need for all characters, whether played by a soloist or coop players, to constantly support and pool resources. These subtle touches of realism are qualities that pull together to make this an incredible, immersive game experience. It is so much more than merely scurrying from room to room, killing beasties and pinching all their hard-earned loot.
I ought really, to go to great lengths in this section, discussing the many, many ideas employed within, to facilitate our gaming experience but there are so many intricate points that firstly I could be here all day, and secondly It would make for many thousands of meandering words more than you could tolerate.
My favourite points are, however…..
The rondel. As action slots for heroes are limited, and that each hero must advance on the rondel, working out who will do what, how many action points we need to sacrifice on their behalf to achieve their action and how many action cards we wish to use from our hand to carry out an action/improve our likelihood for success.
The Cultist rondel is a nice feature too. Drawing a number card dictates how many spokes around the rondel the AI marker moves. The game will complete all actions in between last action space and the new one…it could be a simple move for everything (each figure having its own hierarchy of move needs) or move, spawn, fight and move again….very bad for us!
When receiving wounds from combat or game effects, not only does our hero lose hit-points, which in turn reduces stats (fewer action points/defence etc) which would be expected…and not always represented in other games but the hero also has to draw a wound card. Some, we will be sure to experience, are very minor, some less so. Some have immediate effect others simply clutter up the hero action deck further encumbering their progress…but these cards stay in a hero action deck from adventure to adventure/level to level adding a true realism in my opinion.
Combat system is interesting. Characters all have base stats but draw from the “fate” deck for +/- modifiers (heroes can also expend cards from their hand to improve their chance of success) Simple but effective
The adventures are set out in sets of sequential campaigns or merely stand alone cards, each of these having a choice of difficulty, each with scenario backstory, setup details and ways to further increase difficulty. Story is strong in the game and it is a simple process to build the narrative through gameplay and, if need be, in the mind!…be careful doing the latter!
Unique action decks for each character make for a varied gameplay feel, and not only does each character have their own strengths, abilities and stats but also flaws or weaknesses which make each more interdependent on the others.
WoodChits and Cardboard Bits:
All cardboard elements are sturdy and well printed…as are the cards…but the game is a miniature game. These are actually very nicely sculpted and have a variety of scales, dependant on the meanness of the detestable Cultist insect thingamajig. Sadly the set I had for review was made up of components from demonstration copies and as such, I was missing several important figures including a couple of hero characters, one hero board and some of the larger insect enemy figures. My photographs may show proxy models that I used in their stead, but I have used photos I took at the UKGE which should include the range of available figures.
I will say that a trick has been missed here by the design team in reference to the reserve/draw pool for the Cultists/Insectoids. There are not enough models to represent characters on the board and in those needed to fill the ranks of the reserves (and there doesn’t need to be as not all would ever be present at one single time on a map board) but tokens for each type of figure would have been a nice addition to allow uncluttered representation off the board. I was also missing the trait deck, a set of character specific abilities or hindrances further increasing the difference between each hero and offering a player a greater choice of playing style when constructing a team to enter the Mouth…so I printed these out from the Dragons Dawn website…but they are not necessary to enjoy the game.
I have employed a simple system to assist with this…photocopying the Cultist/Insect sheets and stacking generic tokens on each figure to represent those available/ready to be used.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Timo Multamäki, Thomas Klausner & Kevin Wilson
- Game Publisher: Dragon Dawn Productions
- Playtime (or recess for the US) : 60-120 mins
- Gangs of One: 1-6
- Age of Consent: 12+ but there are horror themes present
- DOB: 2016
The game has been designed for a minimum of three heroes to be active at one time. This path to the Abyssal Rift is not a safe, nor easy one. There is security in numbers and, as such, whether playing solo or as a cooperative team, there will always be a requirement to operate three heroes. This is not a major chore as the wound chart, as it decreases, simply identifies a character’s statistics…and their actions are a deck of cards, which can easily be managed. What is less than tricky is keeping track of action points to be spent for each character when planning.
I pulled into use the tiny trait tokens so I could keep track of action points each character would spend on the rondel, to which I could then add any action cards that would further increase their actions or movement or combat. My memory is not sufficient (like my shitty iPad) to cope with all three characters action point distribution when planning out my group’s manouvres. Obviously coops can be solo games but it must be made clear that although there is not a huge amount of book-keeping with regards statistics, it can get a bit confusing when planning…especially as characters can take their actions in any order.Looking beyond this, it is an immensely satisfying, different take on the genre and fo players who seek depth and story in a solo game, this will not disappoint.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: My goodness this is tricky. Not the game, but staying alive, using the skills our heroes have to their optimum effect. The game, admitted by the designers, is set to “punish” us right from the onset. There are variations in difficulty for each of the many scenarios and within each scenario card additional ways to add/reduce difficulty. But even on what can be laughably refered to as “easy” mode, the game is designed to make life rather challenging for us. This really does force us to draw upon the strengths of each and every character to negotiate every twist and turn in the dark underground world…I have only played through four levels so far (on cowardly easy mode) but have already lost brave heroes along the way. I have a long way to go and no idea if my team will prove to be worthy of success, but part of the adventure is that unknowing factor. I assume it is possible to win but that is a mere dot…the slightest glimmering of hope in the far distance.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rules are clear and, on reflection, simple to understand. First reading and applying these rules to the game before playing can be a daunting task. A good read to familiarise one’s self then playing through the first couple of scenarios with rule book in hand for frequent reference is likely the order of the day. Things are logical and make sense so applying the rules to a game is not a chore. It doesn’t take too long to know the basics, only referencing the occasional pointer as one progresses through a scenario. Some of the Icons are not traditional and can take a little getting used to but the referencing is consistent from rule book, to cards, to hero boards and throughout the game, so concepts are going to be easy to follow.
- Lucky Buggers: There are no die rolling experiences here. A deck of euro sized cards do the job for us. Drawing from this deck reveals +/- number modifiers used for both Heroes and Cultists/Insectoids. But unlike a die, often more than one card can be drawn (dependent on circumstances) and additional icons on the cards make them multifaceted. There is the randomness of the draw but with knowledge of the quantity of numerically high cards, it is possible to guesstimate potential outcomes from a card draw. If, say there are only three +4 cards in the deck and we pull one of them, we know there is much less likelihood the next card drawn for an enemy will be a +4. Random variation is still present, making for an unpredictable tension to the game, but thought, planning and use of hero skills can greatly reduce undesired outcomes.
- Highs and Lows: The setting is dark, with the illustrations further adding to that feeling of the occult…well, Cultist worshiping multi-legged beasties and the actual gameplay has a certain realism with-out being unnecessarily gore filled. Play can be very tense and every mistake we, the player make, can play out dire circumstances. Tension is high as is player involvement and the loss of a character can be mourned…but as the game allows new members to join between levels we are a little less caring about an individual but more for the team as a whole and their progress during a campaign. There is a ridiculous high feeling of relief and elation once a level has been completed…heroes limping out by the skin of their teeth. What ever the events, we are left feeling drained but wanting to come back for more on the next level…although intrepidation sneaks in as we know the deeper we travel, the darker and more challenging it will become.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The individual map boards are not huge but as there needs to be space for a minimum of three hero boards, the various decks of cards, miniatures, the Cultist supply/spawn pool areas and all manner of tokens, a playing space of at least a metre by a metre is going to be needed…more if you don’t like cramped conditions….I only have digital rules so those players using physical copies will need to take that in to consideration…especially for the first game or two where frequent referencing will inevitably occur.
- Building It Up Just To Knock It All Down: I think we should all be prepared for a lengthy set up with this game…initially, until components are more familiar. There are a lot of counters, figures and numerous decks of cards. Now obviously the more sensible would bag up decks of cards and counters to speed up the laying out process. It is, after all is said and don, a campaign game so if you are able to leave it set up over several scenarios, it is not a lengthy, wasted time exercise. Perhaps I undersell it a little. Once a scenario has been selected, decks of cards and the numerous miniatures are the same. The time stretcher comes from scenario specific populating of the board and the spawning/reserve pools. I made a sheet (photo below) where spare counters were used to indicate the quantity of each enemy the game required…this saved time during set up as I didn’t need to root through the miniatures and select the ones required. Character dashboards are simple as they only require one token and the board its self, the dungeon is a gameboard…simple and the tracker for hero actions and the enemy monk actions need setting up. I would say it is going to be a good fifteen minutes to set up (obviously dependent on how well things were bagged up on a previous play) and a little less to take down….but I guess familiarity will speed this up as will a tidy game box. There are not millions of tokens as in a heavy euro game so it wont be as laborious a set up as one might find with that genre so don’t be put off…it is time well spent as the adventure to follow will prove.
Me, Myself and I:
I was supremely impressed with some of the many small mechanical elements of this game when I had it explained at UKGE by Timo. So many things that ought to but usually don’t appear in this nature of game and I was also won over by Timo’s enthusiasm for his game. Asked to review it, I was supremely honoured and was excited all the way home after the con.
When it came down to playing the game I felt a little unsure. Was it going to play as well as I hoped. Would I like the gameplay, would I understand what was trying to be achieved?
During the first scenario.. the easy introduction to the game, I felt there was a lot to remember and things were not as straight forward as I first imagined. I struggled on to the end and things did speed up a little but I started to doubt the game.
…but after clarifying a couple of rules I was unsure of, game two started much better, more game mechanics were introduced and then…all of a sudden things started to click into place…it became apparent why teamwork was so important, why planning potential moves in advance was important (not just next move but where we would be on the rondel several turns ahead). The game, even on easy, is set to punish us dreadfully, but looking at how we utilise our character’s best assets to their full potential, how we use aid and when we decide to tackle an enemy or just lure them in to block their line of sight to our heroes. Suddenly all those small elements fell nicely in to place. This really is not about slash and bash dungeon crawling. It is more akin to an old-school dungeons and dragons experience in a boardgame format. Working together, planning, puzzle solving and drawing upon our strengths all made perfect sense. This is what Persition’s Mouth is actually about. Ok we can acquire some snazzy gear to help us and we do develop some nice combinations but it is still about teamwork.
I will harp back to my favourite elements again. Injuries immediately cause us inconvenience. We become less strong, slower and, if poisoned by those blowpipe guards, we lose action points for being poisoned. A realism reflected in game play that is brilliant…but the brilliance doesn’t stop there….oh, no. As this is a campaign style of game, allowing us to navigate our heroes from one level to the next, it is amazing to discover our illness, wounds and ailments follow us from level to level. Each card drawn for wounding gets added to our hero deck. This clutters up our hand (not unlike Mage Knight) but the cards have negative effects either in our hand or once played. I really like this element of the game. If we were at death’s door in an adventure, why would we be miraculous recovery for our next adventure? We wouldn’t! And this is accurately reflected as we take our hero deck from game to game, slowly swelling with many a hurty hurty!
This is not a quick dungeon crawl fix game. There will be no instant ratification. This is a long, extended affair (weather in one gigantic setting or over several saved sessions) which demands our full attention from start to finish. If we take our eye off the game for one minute a certain substance is likely to hit the fan! It is rather heavy as a game but my goodness its a bloody brilliant one.
As we progress from level to level, it is at this point the game really start to shine. After game two…I just wanted to get on to game three (sadness filled the camp as Ollie died…it was expected as I had not performed well as her guardian…her wounds were two plentiful… curse you, you Gloom of Kilforth cross over wound card!) but it is possible to bring new heroes into the group between levels so all was not a total loss.
Yay or Nay?
I think a player has to be prepared for some hard slog from the outset of the learning curve, as there are many small, intricate details to understand and remember, but they soon fall into place (the couple of introductory levels gradually introduce many newer concepts, rather than being thrown in at the deep end) So once we find ourselves in the thick of the action it really is a holistic game experience. Incapacitated, wounded or charging in for its attack, Perdition’s Mouth beats a steady path to a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (7.8) what a multifaceted die it is indeed to produce such detailed rolls with a mere eight sides. Perdition’s Mouth is not a light, quick fix hack and slash dungeon crawl. If that is what you look for, this will prove to be too much to chew. But, if you like progressive campaigns with a rich narrative of gameplay, the need for deep thought, cooperation and planning in a dungeonesque setting, where the principal characters (and game mechanics that affect them) offer a realistic dark dungeon exploration experience then this is definitely the one for you.
Now you have distracted me and a bloody bone-worm thing has slithered up on me and is gnawing away at my booted foot. …oh, blast! All I have points for is to rest and defend…chomp away my disgusting little friend…next turn I can Bash and then we’re looking at some serious insect swatting…little toothy git!
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
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How to play Perditionks Mouth with Dragon Dawn: