Dark Souls: The Board Game

Posted: December 3, 2017 in Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Gaming, horror
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Dark Souls is a fantastic series of videogame action RPGs that rewards patience and skill in the face of overwhelming odds and a crushing difficulty.  The series is universally praised and has led to other games trying to imitate its magic, but they have never been able to truly better it.  So can the board game of Dark Souls match the games brilliance?  Well in short, yes and no:

In terms of the look and feel of the game and its mechanics, it captures the feel of the game to a tee.  Firstly, the quality of the models and models are superb, the card quality is nice and thick, the stat cards work brilliantly and the artwork captures the dark and gothic ambience, whilst not intruding too much on keeping the cards and counters clear and concise.  The Boss and Mini Boss monsters absolutely tower over your heroes and whilst some may argue more detail could have gone into them, I personally feel they are great as they capture the look of the iconic monsters without making them too messy.

In terms of gameplay, you and your team of heroes have to travel through a randomly generated area using tiles (your choice) until you fight your way to a fog gate where you will then either fight a mini boss, or if you have already defeated the mini boss, you fight the main boss (and the mini boss at the same time if you so choose).  On your journey to the boss, you have to face different encounters in each of the room which can contain monsters, traps, treasure and the like.  The monsters are controlled by a simple yet affective AI on their card so you know how a monster will react.  Like the game, this encourages to learn the pattern of attack of the monsters in each room, as you progress.  If you wish to level up you have to return to the Bonfire space at the beginning to increase your stats, buy new cards and replenish your health and Estus Flask (Healing Potion for those who haven’t played the games).  However doing so resets the board and you have to fight through the same area again (just like the games).

This, for the game, is both a blessing and a curse.  For the pros, it captures the feel of the game, teaches you and your team to cooperate well to get through the dungeon and deal with the monsters by mastering how to effectively deal with the AI and also assists with grinding areas to get the best gear and experience to deal with the more difficult later rooms and the boss fights.  The boss fights are also excellent as you have a bigger area to fight in, and the mastering of a bosses attack pattern and weak spots adds a lot more strategy and depth to the game that is sadly absent in the main part of the game.  The boss fights are definitely the highlight of the game by far.

However the downsides are heavily dependent on the type of gamer you are.  If you love grinding and farming gear to become so powerful your mere minty breath kills monsters, then you will have no problem with the main part of the game.  However, as the encounters do not change this can lead to repetition setting in, and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my play through of the game, I am worried that multiple play throughs will lead to this repetition being the games’ undoing after extended play.  On the other side of it, whilst the videogame rewards the player with patience, skill and finesse, the fact combat is heavily based on dice rolls and your gear can lead to some encounters either being a breeze and too easy, or being too hard as bad luck can still defeat your strategy.  Whilst I personally love me some chaos in games and a little luck, this may deter some people from returning to the game if they found it either too easy or too hard, and the fact that if one member of your party dies you all have to return to the bonfire, that bad luck can feel very frustrating.

As I said though, these downsides very much depend on the type of gamer you are, and as they are thematic to the source material, it is not something I can really hate on aside from that it is more noticeable in a board game format.  Aside from this, the only gripes I have with the board game otherwise is that the campaign at the back of the manual feels tacked on. I didn’t see how the game differed massively from you choosing your own bosses and encounters to the suggested campaigns, aside from that it covered individual games. Also,the manual could have been laid out better with a more convenient reference card as there were a few times I had to trawl through the manual to check a rule that was hiding in a paragraph somewhere.  If the information was in a handy reference or summary I feel I would not have to have done this as often.  However, these are minor gripes and do not detract from the main enjoyment of the game.

So does Dark Souls: The Board Game capture the feel of the videogames?  The game plays and feels like Dark Souls and cleverly transfers the majority of the games mechanics to the board, and if you are a fan of the series and don’t mind the gripes I mentioned, then crack it open and Prepare to Die.  Just don’t expect a perfect experience.


Blake Harmer is a regular contributor to The Crazy Train and The Gamescast at emotionally14.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @fucksakeblake, but there’s no real point in doing so.


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