We recently picked up a copy of Massive Darkness by CMON (that is, Cool Mini or Not- the people who gave us Zombicide and other super awesome miniatures games). Massive is not an understatement. When I hefted this out of the shipping container, I was mildly concerned that it was over my Orthopedic Surgeon mandated ten pound lifting limit. It's not-by the by- coming in at eight pounds. Eight. We did an unboxing video for you to peruse if you like. First impressions? Holy canoli is there a lot of stuff in this box! There was even a box within the box! We didn't keep the box, I thought I did-but I didn't. If you are going to be traveling with this thing, I'd recommend using it just to keep everyone where they are supposed to be because on good jostle- or heaven forbid a drop-and you may cry. I had trouble getting all those trays to get back in that brown box by myself so, I axed it. It also helped make some room for the tokens.
Yeah, the tokens... why do games conveniently forget about tokens when they design their packaging? I mean, I realize that they come in punch sheets and all but we do have to store them once we punch them out. Now, I like punching them out, I have no issue with that but could we please just design a few spots to hold them once we do? Take a lesson from Lords of Waterdeep, the game that- I kid you not- comes with instructions on where all the pieces go in the box. The next somewhat annoying thing we found with the game is the paper pads, as seen above. The game comes with these awesome peg boards to keep track of health and XP and hold your character card and items which is such an exciting step over the little sliders on cardboard cards that you hope fit well enough they don't slide off every time you so much as glance at it (Betrayal at House on the Hill, I'm looking at you!). I see no reason why that skill chart couldn't have been incorporated into the peg board. Yes, I imagine it's easier to just package whatever generic number you need, but, how much cooler would it have been? This is seriously a case of 'if you make them, please take my money.'
The art and design of this game is rather lovely, in my opinion. The card designs are colorful and well thought out but also very easy to understand with minimal explanation required. Once you understand the keywords, there's little need to keep going back to the extensive rule book. Talking about the rule book, this one is really comprehensive. There's always that one run through of a game where inevitable someone asks something that needs to be sought out on an internet forum. We didn't have a single question for this game that could not be found in the rule book (and honestly, just as quickly as someone googling it). My only issue with the cards is that I hate tiny cards. Yes, I see the point of them, but they are so troublesome to shuffle (sideways glancing at Ticket to Ride and those ridiculous train cards that you HAVE to keep shuffling).
And now we come to the miniatures. They are pretty cool little dudes, and a few dudettes. The sculpts are pretty awesome and the amount of details nowadays is always impressive. The material they used feels slightly brittle to me, and I have some concern over breaking them. I'm a little flabbergasted by the choice of color for the heroes. I mean, I'm a fan of potty humor and all... but really? Our other issue was in attempting to determine which models were meant by the cards. They aren't all in the same pose as they are on their respective cards and the numbers on the bottom of each model doesn't coincide with the card either. I imagine that as we play more, we will learn and it won't take us nearly as long to figure out who we need.
We are really glad that there will be some monster expansions soon because we faced a lot of the same bad guys over and over... part of which, I can imagine is just luck of the draw. Replayability seems like it will be fairly eventful and besides tile layouts, I can't imagine that any two matches will really be all that alike. Each door you open determines what you face, and I do like flipping over the door token to show it's open- simple things for simple minds. Not only does the door tell you what sort of thing you face, you then have to draw the monster card as well so it's really a crapshoot as to what you're going to wind up facing. Once the expansions come out (which I fully intend to pick up as I can) then the issue we faced where we kept drawing the same monsters over and over should, theoretically, work itself out.
The wandering monsters are really sweet. There's Medusa as shown above, a giant spider that I'm a little nervous I will inadvertently de-fang as well as others you can see in the video, or be surprised by. They are all really cool sculpts. We thought these guys would end up being the big bads and were only mildly disappointed when they turned out not to be. Game play goes very smoothly... at least in our little one and done game. In campaign mode, we can already see where health potions will be a necessary evil. When not in campaign mode, you gain XP much faster probably as if you wanted to do a campaign and reached high level skills before making it out of your first quest the rest of the game would be super boring. However, gaining skills slowly is going to slow us down and really make us wonder how much we actually want to open that new door.
Once you get the hang of the game play, this game feels very easy to pick up. The dice are easy to read and the color coding for attacks and defense rolls is ingenious. Your ability to roll, well that's on you. I seemed to roll better for the bad guys than I did for myself for while. Leveling up your items requires some real thought and as you go on, you can really start to see the patterns of what works and stacks. We traded quite a bit in our party and found as we went on, certain people fell into certain rolls naturally and you just went for the weapons that best suited your play style. Tanks go up front, spell casters in the back. No one runs off alone. The other cool thing here is that whether you are in the light or the dark really matters. Your hero has certain abilities that they can only do in the darkness. If there is a light source in your square, you can't use skills or abilities that require darkness. This game really wants you to think ahead. As a ranger, I spent a lot of time making sure that I was in a dark square where I had a little more protection and a really cool ability. I won't say what it was, I'll let it be a surprise. I like surprises.
Overall I think our test group really enjoyed this game and we are excited to try the campaign mode run. Our run through ran us about four hours long but that included going through the rules, and selecting characters. The box estimates a game as two hours long... it's going to take a few more run throughs to see if I believe that. We played with four people, but it goes up to six. I don't know if the hero expansions slated for release later this year will up the number of players or just give you more options. Retail on this game is rather pricey at $120 but, man you get a lot of stuff for that price tag. So if you're looking for the feel of DnD without the hassle of someone DMing, I would very much recommend this game to you! Until next time, game on!