Sunday 8 October 2023

Re-exploring Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King

 I bought Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King on the recommendation of a guy in a comics/games shop in Cork back in 2016 or so. I've played a few games of it, but not as many as I would have liked. So, it was good to dig it out again this weekend.

The game is a boardgame that is designed to give you the arcade feel. Monsters spawn regularly and attack your heroes, and it feels a bit like games like Gauntlet, but you don't get a voiceover saying "Elf shot the food!" every so often. Also, you can't shoot the food. That is probably a blessing.

Against the Forgotten King Part 1

The heroes are the grey figures on the left of the board. The monsters are all green

I took three characters to face off against the baddies from the base game: The Chevalier, the Warden and the Alchemist. The Silver Chevalier is a melee specialist. The Royal Warden is a missile specialist with a crossbow. The Fae Alchemist is a mage type with special abilities related to potions. I figured this would be a balanced party. It probably was but I played them all wrong. I did read the rules again beforehand, because it is so long since I played, but I now need to read them another time.

"Hey, can I keep this chicken please? I think it likes me!"

So, my heroes entered the first section of the playing area. They took out the spawning point, whittled down the monsters and the first boss came, a mini-boss called Trent, who is a treant. The Chevalier went down quickly, but I had a Princess Coin to spend on a new life for her, so I brought her back. The Alchemist found The Colonel, a chicken whose special ability is to give her an extra attack action. The Warden just did a lot of shooting to no great effect. The Warden charged the second board and took out the spawn point there. A second mini-boss, a bear-serker called Boris, appeared. I should probably have waited, but I am impatient! With two mini-bosses to face and hordes of monsters, my party was easily defeated. This was in part because of lack of familiarity with the rules and misreading the boards (literally!), and in part because of poor tactics. On the plus side, at least I became more familiar with the rules once more.

Against the Forgotten King Part 2

Time to try again. This time I took the Silver Chevalier, a Questing Knight and Princess Emerald. That's two melee types and a princess with a rifle on my side. I had read the rules again quickly, and also realised that I had not noticed the walls on some of the dungeon boards. This was BIG news to me. It also made a difference to my tactics. Funnily enough, despite the realisation about the walls, I also realised towards the end of this game that I had not noticed a wall on one of the boards. It did not make a huge difference, but would have slowed some of the baddies down a bit.

So, the Chevalier was bent on revenge and was going to show that rotten Forgotten King what was what. With her new friends, she approached the Forgotten King's lair afresh. Using the newly discovered walls as cover, she and her friends were able to whittle down the enemy and take out the first spawn point. Trent the Treant emerged from hiding, annoyed at having his Sunday disturbed. Princess Emerald, in particular used the long range of her rifle to pick off the hordes from a distance and draw them away from the Chevalier, who was focused on destroying the second spawn point. She did this and Bashful Boris the Bear-serker also came out to see what the ruckus was all about. Hearing Princess Emerald's rifle shots, he hastened towards her, but not before taking a few swipes and the Chevalier.

A logjam of monsters begins to form

Pretty soon there was a logjam of monsters trying to get past the walls and brambles to Princess Emerald. The others took this opportunity to wade in and pretty soon all of the enemy were dead. The party regrouped and headed out to the last spawn point. Destroying that would entice the Forgotten King out. On the way, they waded into traps and fought giant rabbits with even bigger axes and frog knights on terror birds. Well, something like that anyway. The story seems to change with each can of Irn Bru that the Chevalier drinks.

The Silver Chevalier tells the Forgotten King what she really thinks of him.

Eventually, the Forgotten King was enticed out. The party hurt him but the Chevalier was soon knocked out and the Princess followed. Fortunately, I had enough Princess Coins to respawn them and they returned to the fray where the sheer number of attacks the Forgotten King faced put him down and forced him to retreat to the Underworld again. Phew! It felt tight, but I got there.

Some Thoughts: The Good

Super Dungeon Explore is a pretty good game to play solo. The aggro mechanic (Wrath) that the game uses to decide whom the enemy will focus on works well and is exploitable by the players with a little thought.

The game does have the arcade action feel, and might look amazing if I ever got around to painting the figures, although there is a distinct possibility that my workmanlike style might not achieve the image I have in my head!

Each of the heroes is different and offers different alternatives for play. Some of them require a bit more thought than others though. This is a positive thing, in my view.

The AI for the enemy force is great. You have a deck of options that you draw from each turn. The options range from going turbo on the heroes' posteriors with multiple moves and attacks to griefing the figure with the least Wrath. There are options for stopping to heal, spawning more enemies, if there are any in the spawn pool, and so on. Unlike games like Five Leagues from the Borderlands, you never know quite what the enemy will do. You can expect them to go after the character that has done the most to annoy them, but they don't simply move and fight each turn. It builds a certain extra tension into the game.

The Exploration Cards add some random events, like traps or minor annoyances (Rabid Squirrels that get inside your trousers and slow you down in Forgotten King).

And, being a dungeon crawler, of course there is treasure. When you kill monsters you draw loot cards that you can equip or discard to remove wounds and negative effects. Treasure is good and is important.

There are also quite a lot of different actions that players can take. These lead to meaningful decisions about when to pause and bandage your wounds, what type of attack to make on the enemy, and how to move so that you maximise the damage you do while minimising the damage you receive. It is also important deciding when and how to attack the spawn points. You want to limit the emergence of the enemy, and especially control the emergence of the bosses.

Some Thoughts: The Bad

On the negative side, the rule book is structured according to the turn sequence, but I still spend far too much time flipping through it trying to find the information I need. Some things seem to be scattered in different places under different headings. It makes the game a bit tiring to play. A good quick reference sheet could solve a lot of this, but I do not have one yet. Also, if you play regularly, this will be made less of an issue.

The second negative thing is that the game takes up a lot of table space and would take up even more if I played with the maximum number of heroes. This is not too much of an issue for me at the moment, but it could be at some point.

Thirdly, Super Dungeon Explore takes a while to play. You need to be able to leave it set up or to have several hours free to finish a session. That means it won't work for the typical mid-week gaming night that I am used to. I imagine that playing multi-player would extend that playing time even more to the kind of epic sessions of Talisman that we used to play back when I was young and full of energy.

Finally, the basic game without expansions could get quite samey if you play it a lot. You get four spawn points, two of which are paired, in the base game. A paired spawn point is two spawn points that must always be fielded together and you split the enemies that they spawn between them. This means that a game with three heroes will always have the paired spawn point and one other, and the only difference will be in the order you encounter them. The variety in the game will then come from which heroes you choose and what treasure you find.


Overall, I like this game. It works well as a solo game, despite being quite heavy work when running multiple heroes, which you have to do. It looks great and it gives the right feel during play. It will certainly see my table every so often. However, that is also the issue. I see it as an occasional game, but the rules are such that you need to play more regularly to keep on top of them.

I would also love to try it with multiple players. I can foresee issues with downtime, because not every hero activates every turn, and I do wonder if that might not kill the game as a group activity, but I guess  that depends on how social your gaming sessions are too.

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