Dungeon Command Review

Dungeon Command game in play
One of the prettiest games that I've had the opportunity to play recently is Dungeon Command.

Dungeon Command is a two-player skirmish game that uses Dungeons and Dragons minis.  Each player builds their army (or uses a faction pack) and attempts to reduce their opponent's morale to zero.  To start the game, each player takes a leader - which gives them a certain number of character cards and order cards in their hand; as well as a starting leadership value, morale, and a special ability.  Using your starting character cards, you will play forces - with a total value up to your leader's leadership value.  Now, you are ready to play.  Each turn, you can activate each of your units once.  This includes moving and attacking, playing an order, or activating an ability.  You can also play any number of "minor" orders on a minion each turn.  When attacking, damage is simply dealt to the targeted creature - there is no die rolling to determine success (and, if you destroy them, then their controller loses morale).  However, the defending character has the option of playing orders from his hand, or he can "cower."  If he chooses to cower, then he loses morale equal to the amount of damage that the minion would have taken (divided by ten - for example, 20 damage loses two morale).  Once you are done activating all of your characters, your leadership value goes up by one and you have the option of playing more forces - again, up to your (new) leadership value.  Play continues until either only one player has troops on the board, or until one player has run out of morale.  The last leader standing is the winner!

My first pro for Dungeon Command has absolutely nothing to do with Dungeon Command.  When Wizards made this game, they decided to make all of the characters valid to use in their Dungeons and Dragons adventure games (like Legend of Drizzt and Castle Ravenloft).  That is absolutely amazing!  Plus, my biggest complaint with the D&D adventure games was that it felt like you were playing the same game each time - there were only so many monsters, and you encountered them repeatedly.  Buying all of the different adventures helped a little bit, but not terribly much.  However, now with Dungeon Command, you have the ability to play those games with a lot of different monsters!  I applaud Wizards of the Coast for doing this - I think that it is a brilliant business model, and it also is something that is great for their customers.  I am also hoping that they decide to make all of the enemies in Drizzt and the other adventure games playable in Dungeon Command, but I haven't heard anything about that yet.

Dungeon Command player setup
A formidable army
The second pro that I have for Dungeon Command is that I enjoy the combat system that doesn't include dice.  Honestly, I'm not opposed to dice, and the skirmish game that most reminds me of Dungeon Command (Summoner Wars) uses dice.  However, if you play games with me, you will realize something - I am horrible at rolling dice.  I'm inevitably the guy that needs to roll a 3 or higher on 15 dice to win the game, and I will roll straight 1's and 2's.  That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do occasionally get frustrated with dice.  Now, just because there are no dice in Dungeon Command doesn't mean that there's no randomness involved.  Between drawing the creature cards and the order cards, there will still be a random factor.  If you draw all low level characters to start the game, for example, then your attack strategy will have to be much different than if you had drawn all dragons and amazing wizards.  Either way, I think that the combat system is actually pretty intuitive because of the lack of dice.  It also helps you plan out your strategy more during your opponent's turn - you can see exactly how much damage you need to deal to a creature to kill it, and you can plan accordingly (and assume that your opponent will not cower - though them cowering can be very good for you).

Speaking of cowering, I think that it is another positive element to Dungeon Command.  I don't know that I've ever played a game where you can just flat-out ignore damage.  Granted, it hurts you considerably to do this, but it is still an option.  If I have a gigantic dragon that is about to unleash a massive attack on my opponent, but he gets attacked for just enough to kill him, I can choose to just take the damage as morale hits and then proceed with my attack.  Now, it is very important to choose wisely about when you want to do this, as you can end up losing far more morale by keeping a unit alive than by letting him die (and so, often isn't worth it with one of your wimpy little guys).  But, if that character is going to be dealing the deathblow to one of your opponent's better minions on the next turn, it might even be worth it to allow him to cower (after all, it's more fitting for little twerps to cower than for your Umber Hulk, but sometimes even the big guys have to live to fight another day).

Dungeon Command epic battle
The minis are definitely pretty
Now, with all of the things that I do like about Dungeon Command, the biggest negative is definitely the price.  A faction pack comes with 12 figures and 36 order cards for an MSRP of $40.  That's somewhat pricey, but not totally out of line for a miniatures game.  However, you really need to have two faction packs to play the "full" game - which means you already have an $80 investment in the game without any customization (yes, I realize that you can buy this on Amazon for a bit cheaper, and I even provided you the link above).  However, another neat element of the game is that you can customize your forces - putting extra copies of some orders and creatures in your deck, and removing others (and, in fact, I think that you'll probably get bored playing with just the basic factions).  But, to do this, you are going to be buying even more faction packs.  So, I think, to really play Dungeon Command and to get the most for your money, you're going to need friends that also enjoy the game enough that you are each providing your own figures.  For example, if I enjoy the Drow, then I may get two copies of the Sting of Lolth set, and expect my friend that I'm going to play against to buy a copy or two of the Heart of Cormyr faction pack.

Overall, I give Dungeon Command an 8.5/10.  If you enjoy the Dungeons and Dragons adventure games (and own them), then you should buy this game!  If you are just looking for a two-player skirmish game, then this is definitely one to consider; essentially, you just have to decide how much you're willing to pay for your skirmish game.

If you want a second opinion, check out Play Board Games' Dungeon Command Review. Or, if you want to read about games similar to Dungeon Command, then you should definitely check out Summoner Wars, Legend of Drizzt, and BattleLore.

I would like to thank Wizards of the Coast for providing me with a review copy of Dungeon Command.


  1. Thanks for the review, I've been checking this game out recently. From the way you describe it, the cards and combat sound very similar to Hero Academy. I'm always looking to draw my family into skirmish games. I have Heroscape and Summoner Wars already. Would this one have too much overlap with those? Could I use my Heroscape figs (esp the D&D ones) with this game?

  2. I think that there is definitely a different feel between Dungeon Command, Heroscape and Summoner Wars (I currently own all 3). The strategies are a bit different - in Heroscape, there are no orders, and a lot of your plans depend on rolling well. In Summoner Wars, you have spells and characters and everything, but you have to balance the cost to play things, whereas in Dungeon Command, you can play creatures up to a given level with no need to decide whether to discard them to be able to play more stuff.

    Plus, cowering isn't really like anything in Heroscape or Summoner Wars.

    You could probably use your Heroscape figures in this if you're willing to make cards for them. I found that the Order cards actually seemed to vary the game (or add strategy) a bit more than the actual characters did.