Dungeon Saga Playtest Day

dungeon-saga-boxLast Saturday we had a group of brave volunteers round to the Mantic Manse to help us test out the core scenarios for Dungeon Saga. From my point of view it was a very useful day as well as an entertaining one, and I think our testers had a good time too. Certainly, they were very complementary – at least when I was in earshot 🙂

We started out with the training scenarios so that everyone had the core rules clear in their head. This, of course, is the whole point of the training scenarios. Then we went through some of the adventures from the campaign in the core Dungeon Saga set: the fight against Mortibris.

As there are so many adventures for the game we had decided in advance to just focus on the core set rather than scatter our efforts across that plus 4 expansions’ worth of extra scenarios. I think this was the right decision. By doing this it meant that each of those adventures had several runs through by different groups, which gave us a better aggregate view of the balance and any issues.

Speaking of issues, there were gratifyingly few. With the exception of one scenario that left the necromancer with a bit of a lull in the middle (all fixed now), they ran pretty smoothly, and many were very close. A couple of groups told me of scenarios coming down to the last action by the last Hero on the last turn, which can’t really be improved for tension and drama.

Undead 1At the end of the afternoon we changed tack, and had a couple of larger games. All the morning and early afternoon games had been 2 player because this gave us the most runs through with the most efficient Heroes (co-op games are rarely as efficient a group of heroes as when a single player is in control). Still, multi-player games would be fun for us as well as the testers, so I took the part of Mortibris in one and on we went. The rotating rooms were as entertaining as usual 🙂


Naturally, I forgot to take any pictures, but I’m sure others managed to snap something. Luke, who writes Mantic’s blog, was wandering about with his phone camera, so you might want to have a look there.

I also did an interview for… someone I can’t remember the name of. I think it’s the senility again. Anyway, someone will remember and hopefully they’ll be kind enough to add a link below. We were, obviously, discussing DS, so it’s me answering questions and burbling on about that. Not having seen the result myself, I can only guess how coherent I was being. This was during one of the rounds of the day so I may have been a touch distracted 😛

So, today I’ve been writing updates and tweaks to fix any of the points raised by our intrepid testers. All relatively painless, which is nice. Several people commented on the rules as being clear and easily understood. The issues were almost all ones of layout: where’s the best place to put this. People also wanted a QR sheet which we’d planned for the back of the book, but hadn’t finished yet. We’ll also be picking out important rules in each section and putting Important! boxes as reminders to help you find important or easily lost rules more easily. A few paragraphs will also be reorganised to make the key rule in them more apparent. Overall though, no major changes, and the book will benefit greatly from this level of picking through. I’ll be doing this again, repeatedly, before it goes to print.

Zombie frontAs well as my rules, we also had all the models on show, and these went down very well. It’s hard to pick out a personal favourite model, though the main contender has to be the skeleton jester, which I think is a KS special. Sylvain’s Orcs are also rather splendid, though I’ve only seen them in the green so far. Actually, now I think about it, my other, other contender for favourite might actually be one of the core box armoured zombies (shown half-finished, on the left). Hmmm… Sylvain seems to have a worrying affinity for the undead.

All of which only leaves me to thank once again the kind folk who came to help us test the game out. They travelled from quite far afield (I think Norway won the distance record), and happily gave their time for a rather strange cause. Very much appreciated though. Playtesting is an odd and sometimes gruelling process, and it was great to see so many happy faces during the day.

We might even have time for one more of these days before everything disappears off to print.

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31 Responses to Dungeon Saga Playtest Day

  1. crimsonsun says:

    Sounds great, any idea when the public beta playtest rules are getting posted, Mantic said it would be at the end of last week but its all quiet on the front currently.

    I do have a question that’s been burning in my mind since I reread all the dungeon saga posts you’ve made recently and that is what process will Necromancer Heroes develop by, will they have a racial and class based levelling system? Do they even have Classes? etc etc..

    Thanks again and its good you’ve returned. 😀

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Ronnie mentioned the rules as fairly imminent at the weekend. I don’t have an exact date though.

      Experience for a Boss (Overlord – “bad guy” – Hero) works exactly the same way as “good guy” Heroes. They have a particular selection of options based on their race/profession choices and their level. Obviously bad guys are more likely to pick sorcery than healing magic, but all of them are happy to learn the same ways to click up their foes 🙂

  2. Bookawar says:

    Welcome back, Jake, and thanks for the update. Looking forward to the beta testing, so we can give it a try on this side of the pond.

  3. TinyExplosions says:

    I was one of those intrepid play testers and have to say that this is shaping up to be a fantastic game -there’s so many nuances and subtlties and stuff built in you tend not to play the same scenario twice (indeed on the first mission, which seems like a straight run up a corridor, I saw every group approach it in a different way with different outcomes).

    Even with that depth it’s easy to pick up and get into, and there were very few complaints really, all of which it seems will get fixed from what Jake says above!

    The only downside was getting to see some of the minis, cos now I’ve tripled my pledge to get more of em -they are flipping fantastic!

    Looking forward to the next play test day -well worth the hour on the motorway, and *can’t wait* till the games released!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Tiny. Just to clarify, I assume you mean that you don’t play a given adventure the same way twice.

      I think I’ve already fixed all the things that were raised. There were a couple of suggestions that I don’t think we will be adopting, but many more we will (and have). A very useful session.

  4. Really looking forwArd to seeing the he rules, have a 3d testing board, token, and a possible opponent all set and ready.
    I keep getting hint just need the real deal 🙂
    Good to have you back.

  5. Mi7 says:

    Hi Jake

    Had lots of fun on saturday. The freind who came with me also enjoyed it loads, he was not really bothered about DS in general but by the time he had finished playing the tutorials he was totally comfortable with the rules, and after he saw the minis he was wanting to get the game through my pledge as an addon!

    I played as the overlord for the 3 scenarios we were able to stay for. I really enjoyed how the necromancer played I have some fun moments interrupting the heroes strategy and controlling the varied monsters in scenario 2.

    Looking forward to playing the beta when it comes out and having a go with the heroes.

    On our drive home we did discuss how the elf seemed a little flat in regards to abilities, does the elf gain a lot of useful equipment through the campaign?

    Want to also say that magic works very nicely in this game too. I bet the zombie shaman troll boss is a fun addition to the bad guys team.

    Cant wait for another playtest day and it was awesome that we got a load of free minis too.

    I’m already looking up the old DKH games to scratch the itch until the DS release next year.

    Great work so far!



    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hey Mal,

      all the Heroes get a load of boosts throughout the campaign. For example, in the final scenario the Elf has some potions, but her core values are Marksman (5), Sure Shot (2) and the Spidersilk Armour. Sure Shot (2) means she can re-roll up to 2 dice that fail to beat the target’s armour in each shot. She’s a bit dangerous at a distance. Her second feat (Trick Shot) allows her to take a shot at up to twice normal maximum distance and without needing line of sight.


      Like the others, the Elf is focussed in her abilities and does one thing really well to the exclusion of most others – in her case she’s an excellent sniper. This is a deliberate style to encourage the Hero players to work as a team, each covering the other Heroes’ weaker areas with their own strengths.

  6. Teskal says:

    You have a working game system for Deadzone and Mars Attacks. Ok, the movement is not with square zones and must be modified. I wonder why you made a completely new system (or Mantic wanted a new).

  7. I could be wrong but doesn’t the original dwarf king hold games predate Mars attacks and dead zone?

  8. eriochrome says:

    I was just complaining to Chris and Luke today in an email about the lack of anything posted about the Playtest day. I saw tons of stuff online about the Forgeworld open day this past weekened but pretty much nothing (even from Mantic) about this.

    Now it makes perfect sense to go through the rules to take the playtest info and update the rules before the general beta release to backers, they should have made that clear as they said they were going to be out last week,

    The pledge manager period is about half over and no real new information is out. This is like the second selling window where the margins are probably better (no amazon payment taking a cut) and they are not taking good advantage of it with great info which could upsell people to more expansions and such.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m gathering some pictures and suchlike so I can post some articles about the game and show off some of the models. Today’s post is also specifically about the pledge manager.

      • eriochrome says:

        Thanks for that. Not sure if thatbshould be your job as opposed to mantic who have essentially ignored the kickstarter comments area since the close of the drive.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I just know that it needs doing, and the easiest way to get it done it to go ahead and do it 🙂

          There are many different aspects to a project this large and complex, so it may be that they’ve been working on other areas. I’m not in the office all the time so I tend to get wrapped up in my little bit and not look too hard at the other things going on. I just noted that there were a few questions recently and thought I had an easy fix, so here I am. Actually, I’m there: https://quirkworthy.com/2015/02/10/ds-pledge-manager-questions/

  9. Glenn says:

    Hi. Everything is sounding great. One question I have is regarding the bestiary (I know this may be a ways off). I read there’s plans for the whole KoW range to be included, but for me, I don’t see all the range being suitable. Take the Undead, a Balefire Catapult would seem out of place in a dungeon, although oddities from the world of Mantica like the Skeleton Hounds on the infantry troop sprue or the Dark Pegasus (for those outdoor tiles) i could imagine being more fitting.

    Are these kind of things going to be included, or is it what’s in the KoW army list is what we’ll be seeing in DS?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The bestiary sections are selected from the KOW ranges (rather than army lists), but don’t include every last model because they aren’t all appropriate, as you say. War engines are a good example of what doesn’t really work in a dungeon setting.

      • Tyr says:

        Hm, thats a bit of a shame… really limits the usefulness of the abyssal rules update… I mean, wed pretty much just get rules for salamanders and the new champion… and maybe a fiend, dunno if they reached that one.
        Too bad we didnt get a forces of nature rules pack, that couldve been a bit more interesting (less crossover with existing DS minis). Forest shamblers, elementals, salamanders, naiads, druids… couldve been pretty cool as a “bad guy” (though ofc the heroes would be the actual bad guys here. :P)

        Still, it does mean less work for you, so yeah. 🙂

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Limits the usefulness? The Overlord card in the Abyssal expansion currently has stats for the following creatures (not counting the Abyssal Boss or the Heroes):

          Lower Abyssal
          Armoured Lower Abyssal
          Lower Abyssal Magi
          Tainted Soul

          I’d have thought that was plenty to be going on with 🙂

        • Tyr says:

          Mightve chosen the wrong word, english isnt my native language. What I meant was that the stretchgoal that added rules for abyssals didnt really add much we didnt get already, particularly if were only getting rules for the models mantic produce anyway. Which is currently none. If their KoW kickstarter counts, we get rules for lesser abyssals (magi and normal), salamanders, gargoyles, champion, succubi, abyssal fiend, molochs. Gargoyles are already in the abyssal dwarf list, so they dont really count. Succubi and lesser abyssals are already in the expansion, so they dont count. Molochs are in the expansion, also doesnt count. Salamanders are already in the basic rules (albeit as heroes), so they might not count. Which leaves the stretchgoal basically saying “Youll get rules for abyssal champions and fiends”.
          See what I mean?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I can see what you mean, though that does seem a particularly “glass half empty” view of things.

          As it stands, I’ve written a full bestiary for Abyssals, including designing (and running in a campaign with) Abyssal Bosses too. IIRC there was a location or two as well. And some spells. And items. The whole combined effect of this is to allow you to explore the world of the Abyss in far more detail than any of the previous bits and bobs would have allowed. You have to decide for yourself if that’s worth having or not.

      • eriochrome says:

        So does that mean the bestairy section lacks entries for more generic fantasy creatures that are not in the kow model ranges. Seems like a bait and switch as the kow model rules were listrd as seperate items during the pledge drive.

  10. Shane says:

    With regards to the Necromancers 4 skeleton limit. I posed the question of being able to opt to turn an active skeleton into a pile of bones to be able to summon a skeleton in a better position. (Specifically in relation to a situation where you have 2 skeletons active and use a raise 3 skeletons card)

    At the time I suggested it was unlikely to be something that came up very often, but could make for interesting strategy decisions. You were kind enough to reply that you would give it some thought.

    Any chance a situation came up during the play test day?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You do get this happening every now and again. However, I’ve simply said that you lose the extra raising if you cannot find the POBs to use as a basis.

      Partly this is because it makes the rules simpler, partly because I wanted a different feel to the game. Your suggestion is an interesting approach, and does work. After having tried it I’ve just chosen to focus on a slightly larger scale. Dropping and raising individual skeletons in that way encourages a rather micro-managing approach, whereas I wanted to encourage the Mortibris player to take a larger, more strategic view of the whole adventure/map/battle.

      Having said all that, it does add to Mortibris power, and I still need to do some more playtesting on the Return of Valandor, so it may yet be used as a way of giving him another string to his bow. By that point in the process a seasoned Mortibris should have go the overall view anyway 🙂

  11. KjelKen says:

    I really enjoyed the play through of Dungeon Saga, and even as a non-native english speaker (being the holder of the above mentioned distance record 😀 ), the rules were easy to pick up. I don’t think we actually flipped through the rules more than once or twice after having had a go at the basics.
    And playing Mortibris was real fun, I think playing the Overlord will be my preferred role. I got to play two scenarios, and in both it came down to the last round (and last few dicerolls) before victory or defeat could be declared 🙂 Can’t wait to get the finished games, and lead my players through dungeons full of undead, orc and abyssal terrors 😀
    Cheers Jake! 😀

  12. Pingback: A Second DS Playtest Day |

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