My oh my, this is a game that capture my interest for quite some time. And i will tell you the reason in this review. Well, once i was a video gamer (PC gamer to be exactly) and one of my lovely games genre is RPG (Role Playing Games), mostly euro RPG, like Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, Ice Wind Dale Series, Arcanum, Neverwinter Night series, Mass Effect series and Dragon Age series. These games were the best in their era and til now i still idolize them. Well, since i changed the course of my life to board gaming, i was completely out of the grid from RPG. I didn’t even have the lust about Dragon Age sequel in store right now. I’m so into board gaming and i forget the RPG life. But to be honest, RPG is still my best choice of the genre, and haven’t found the best game represent it in board games.
Well, it’s not like there is no RPG game in board games, but there’s nothing peculiar interest me. For instance, Castle Ravenloft from Wizards of The Coast, which was supposed to be a great game, well the promotion and the media spot made us think so. But the real brutal truth was, i did not enjoy my first game and don’t want to play another game of it. Please, do not intimidated by my opinion, after all it’s only my opinion, whence i truly understand why some of you like the game.
Then Dorn came into my vision, first viewed it on Board Game Geek, caught by the cool cover artwork (so dark and menacing) but all of a sudden the components and mainly because of the board, i lost interest. And then later, one of my friends brought the game into our gaming session and we played it. And yes i did complain to him about the game board and components quality and artworks, many times to his agreement.
Published under the czech game publisher which unknown to almost anyone, Altar Games, Dorn had emerge from the heart of Europe into the world of board gaming unnoticed. With the lineup designers Jan Danek, Jiri Danek, Jan Drevikovsky, Filip Kozak, Krystof Kozak and Jan Kozak, Dorn had become a board game that deserves serious consideration and appreciation. Here’s the overview of the game:
1. The Theme
As like any other RPG, which the story usually based on the fantasy fiction of good and evil forces that will determine the fate of the world, Dorn also has the same theme like that. In Dorn, players take the roles of heroes and Dornkeeper, which must confront each others to ensure their victory. The heroes must enter the Dorn (the castle or dungeon where The Dornkeeper resides and casts his plan to rule the world by performing a cursed ritual to destroy the hamlet of Argos. While the heroes team up to fight the minions of The Dornkeeper and ruin his treacherous plan inside his dark and dangerous castle. This co-operative game of dungeon crawling let players work their way as heroes and help each other to fight a player as The Dornkeeper.
2. The Artworks
As i have said before, that the cover really stole my attention, so yes the artworks are compelling. This is so my kind of style. When looking at the characters illustrations, i could say that it’s nice with clssic feelings of medieval time style, but somehow it also looks out of style and less drawn (for it looks like a rough sketch feeling illustrations) from the monotone color (black and beech as the white). But i like the style of the drawing, so the artworks are quite nice, good job from the game artists.
3. The Game Components
Now this is most of my concerns resided. The game components are below average and yes i would give not even a star for this aspect. The game components, starting from the board and the tokens really dissappointed me. Even the board is thick (not just a piece of paper) and the artwork is not so bad, but the press quality is so low, it really looks like a cheap print with lacks of polish of finishing (no finish, doff or glossy), and the tokens are awful. I don’t mind the material used (plastic tokens) but the stickers (where the illustrations drawn) is so lame (black and white) and it’s hard to figure what monsters it is. Not to mention the small icons of skull in the stickers that represent the 2 hit points for the monster really hard to see. Well i supposed it should be printed in different color (red maybe or any contrast color), so it can stand out to be seen. The blood drops and level markers from marble stones which the reason why this game box so heavy.
4. The Game Play
Actually the game is supposed to be simple and the rule should have been better translated. But, the fact is it’s kinda impose lots of questions about the game. The game can be played from 2 up to 6 player (while in 2 players mode, 1 player as the dornkeeper and 1 player control the heroes), there are a lot of characters to choose to but i wonder why it’s limited to 5 players as heroes? Maybe if it’s more than 5 heroes the dornkeeper would find it hard to deal with them. But as far as my experiences from the plays, the dornkeeper really hard to beat. but anyway, let’s talk about the game play. Dorn is a simple game of semi co-operative play with combined game mechanics like variable player powers, area movement and role playing. So, simple right? Yeah you might say otherwise after you play it. Each players (heroes) choose his / her characters from available options (this can be done randomly or choose what suits them best) and take his corresponding stat based on the character sheet (like blood drops and level marker), receive randomly a blessing and 1 side quest (the quests came from the expansion) an put his player marker in the hamlet of Argos. Meanwhile the dornkeeper (he can choose 2 characters, 1 addition from the expansion, Koschei) and take the random ritual cards, monster supply tokens (weak and stong monster) and place his marker on his chamber. Inside Dorn, is a labyrinth like maze that need to be solved (the heroes need to collect at least 3 artifacts to open the gate of doom and defeat the dornkeeper). The dornkeeper and the heroes take turns starting from the dornkeeper (first turn always start at day and after the dorkeeper finish his turn, it turned into night).
Each side has several phases in 1 turn, and it is impossible to change the order of the phase.
The Dornkeeper phases :
- One ritual can be played (with the cost of blood drops). The dornkeeper aqcuire blood drops every time each hero lose his hit points.
- Summoning of monsters (the number varies depending on day or night.
- Movement of all monsters.
- Attack of all monsters.
- Turn the token symbolizing day and night upside down.
The Heroes phases :
- Blessing card can be played
- Movement of heroes (in any order) also the use of potion, take and drop treasure tokens and artifacts.
- Attack and casting spells (also in any order).
The board contains lots of hexagonal spaces like chess (but it’s hexagonal) with different locations and spaces for summoning monsters. The Dornkeeper can pooling up monsters in the center of the ritual chamber to finish his objective. Once the ritual chamber is full (even occupied by heroes), the dornkeeper win. Unlike any other games, the fights in this game are resolved automatically based on the monster and heroes stats and skills. So no luck (dice) is involved in the game. So, it’s hack and slash in board games, what’s more fun and crazy than this? The great about rhe RPG essence is the characters can level up, yup level up to level 3 maximum (yeah man, even the dornkeeper, i know it’s awesome). Heroes can collect xp by killing monster and the dornkeeper can level up with blood drops. Each level unlock lots of new abilities and skills and also upgrade stats. But it’s not as easy as you think, the dornkeeper wouldn’t let the heroes level up that easy. So, who’s gonna win the battle of the century? Does Argos stand still or the dornkeeper finally claim his evil fruit?
5. The Replay Value
Oh come on, don’t be silly, after all of that you still ask the replay value? Well, i’ll tell you this, that this game takes RPG genre games into a new level, yeah, a player interaction aspect that drastically change the game. You won’t find this kind of fun in any video games RPG. Even if you in a losing streak (as heroes, since it’s kinda difficult to win as heroes) you always have the interest to play again. Well as i mentioned it before, the rules seemed complicated because of the translations but i believe it supposed to be simple. And many players believe the rules are broken (imbalance in the dornkeeper side). Well though despite all the broken thing, it still a great game and it’s fun to interact between players and to smash (the intention) the dornkeeper to smithering bits with axes. Oh yes, one more thing the game is using player elimination, and don’t be surprise if you ended up dead and out of the game all of a sudden. If you like RPG games and chaos element along the way, and player interaction, this would be the perfect game for you. And i would say the expansion adds a lot to the base game (since you will have side quests element, new heroes, new dornkeeper) and ad variants to the game.
My Thought of The Game
The game is great, the experience really worth it, worth your time and hell worth your pennies. But, one thing that i had to mention, why i reconsider this game. The only thing that kept me away to buy a copy is the quality. With that kind of quality, i guess my pennies would better stay in my pocket or go to other games instead (so to speak it’s quite pricey with the expansion and must order through the publisher’s online store). But i surely consider if there is any reprint or republished by different publisher, cause this game is so outstanding!
You can also view this review on boardgamegeek.com here.