If you follow any boardgame groups, the name Massive Darkness is probably familiar to you. It’s from CMON (Cool Mini or Not) and was hugely popular on Kickstarter. They raised over $3.5 million! I backed it and it’s a lot of fun.
In short, it’s a mini-based, tile dungeon crawler. And, boy, does it have minis! I backed it on Kickstarter for what was called the Lightbringer pledge. Which means I got the base game and the Lightbringer expansion, both of which came with several Kickstarter exclusives. Then I added on some extra monster/hero packs: Troglodytes, Bloodmoon Assassins vs. the Hellephant (because the hellephant looked hella good [sorry, I couldn’t resist] and who doesn’t want an elephant-based monster), and Chests and Pillars.
I was a little overwhelmed when the massive (heh) box showed up on the front porch.A little more overwhelmed when I unpacked it and saw a bunch of boxes. I think that’s when I realized I needed to buy more shelves to hold our game collection.
One of the reasons I backed the game was because of the minis. I’d recently gotten into painting minis and had started with some D&D figures and the minis from Mice & Mystics. Boy, does Massive Darkness have minis! So many that I don’t even know where to begin. The game arrived at before Christmas 2017 and I haven’t done more than wash one set of monsters. I have 248 minis to paint for the game and its expansions!
Maybe once the dog won’t eat the minis or the paint and I don’t have to worry about him bumping the table or my arm, I can dive into what’s sure to be at least a year-long undertaking.
More important than the minis though is how does the game play? I’ve only played it as a 2-player game so bear that in mind. And we made a bunch of mistakes in our early games that led to the game being extremely easy to beat or the game beating us up over and over.
Once we figured out how to follow the rules (at least I think we have), the game settled down and became a lot of fun. How hard it is depends on how many characters are used and what level those characters get to. So YMMV if you’re playing with more than 2 characters and if you’re not following story mode. We thought it’d be fun to grow out characters over the course of the chapters in the manual.
Each new game is a different chapter. The chapter’s rules and the overall game rules serve as your DM so one player doesn’t have to run the game against other players. Monster attacks and movements are laid out in the rules and pretty much apply to every type of monster. From your average goblin archer mob to the dreaded roaming monsters that pop up on event cards.
You choose a hero who gets some special abilities and match it up with a class that details more special abilities. The class sheet is where you spend XP to buy new skills and level your character.
Some characters have ranged attacks while others have melee attacks. Magic attacks are their own category. What weapons you loot along the way give you different attacks.
What do I like about the gameplay? It lets us run D&D style combat without a DM. We add in a slight bit of roleplaying in that one of us will say “my character wouldn’t hide in shadows and wait for the attack; I’m rushing in.” One of us tends to play more strategically regardless of what hero or class he’s playing. It makes for interesting discussions.
To be honest, the game has a nice mix of strategy and dumb luck. Attack and defense are determined by rolling a bunch of dice and subtracting defenses from hits plus adding any special rolls and modifiers. It can be tough sometimes to keep track of everything your special abilities and skills let you do plus whatever your weapons do for you. We’ve gotten into the habit of counting everything up out loud to keep us on track.
The game does fall into a pattern of explore-kill-loot-repeat, but we’ve found the different monster combinations — they get special weapons just like you that affect how they attack — keep things interesting. Sometimes the loot is a bit much, but there’s no encumbrance so just keep piling it in your backpack.
The game has good replay value to me. Each chapter brings a different set of conditions, but, beyond that, the monsters and event cards lend a random element. Plus you can choose a different set of characters for a game. The rules recommend a class for each hero, but you can mix that up, too. Want your burly-looking hero to be a wizard instead of the recommended barbarian class? Go for it. It’ll be fun.