Do you have any appetite left for another dungeon crawl game? Yeah, I know. It's – yeah. I know. But wait – this one is called SUPER FANTASY: NIGHT OF THE BADLY DEAD. And that suggests a little bit of humour at least, right? It might be something a little bit different at least, huh? We should probably take a look, I suppose. I mean, that's why we're here. I don't mean “that's why we're here” in any true existential sense, I suppose. Do board games even matter at all? Does anything really matter?
SUPER FANTASY: NIGHT OF THE BADLY DEAD
With its cartoonish looks and its little cardboard standees instead of mass-produced plastic minis, Super Fantasy lands on your table with a big thunderclap of charm. It's a lovely looking thing, all colour and heart, and it's one of the less expensive games you can find on your local board game shop's shelves. There was a previous game in this series called SUPER FANTASY: UGLY SNOUTS ASSAULT, and while that one dealt with goblins and such, this one has an undead theme and finds the players bashing their way through a series of cemeteries. There are little wooden coffins and little wooden tombstones to set off that graveyard theme just nicely – and that's about as fancy as the components really get.
It's a scenario-based game, and comes with a mission book that lets 1-6 players co-operate on each quest. There are additional rules for an overlord-type game, where one player takes control of the bad guys, and other little variants that really add to the old-school fling-everything-into-the-box feel of Super Fantasy. It feels brilliantly home-brewed, and the rough edges (the rulebook is quirky as all hell, and some of the little chits are so tiny and crappy you could lose them all with one sneeze) are very easy to live with.
So – the game itself. There are a set of weird and wonderful characters, each with their own style of play, their own weapons and their own special abilities. There's a princess with a big sword, a guy with a gun and nunchucks and a rock star/bard with an electric guitar. Oh, and a dwarf inside a mech/pair of robot trousers. Oh, and a very sulky elf crossbowperson. The special abilities on each sheet – such as Axl Slasher's “Deafening Riff” - operate on a cooldown system. There are four charge slots on each ability, and every time a star is rolled on a die, a player can move the charge on one ability up a slot. Once the ability is fully charged it can be used, and then it completely empties. Axl lets rip his deafening riff and stuns some enemies, then has to wait a while to do it again.
Let's talk about those dice, because the dice mechanic is what gives this game its X-factor. On a player's turn she has six dice in her pool. These dice show either one sword, two swords or a star. Any swords you roll are totalled, and any stars you roll give you a bonus from your character's attributes. If your character has a strength of 3, a star is worth that much. If your character has a speed of 1, the star is worth that much. It's all dependent on which type of roll you make.
Let's say you want to move – you choose how many dice from the pool you use. If you need to make a quick exit from some enemies, you might want to roll a lot of dice to ensure you can sprint. However, if you're a fast character, you can probably afford to roll less dice because your attribute bonus might pop on a star. Or let's say you're attacking, and it's an important attack – you can stack a lot of dice into it, to make damn sure you clear away that enemy. But if you're a character with good strength, are you being over-cautious? Or just careful? What if you don't roll any stars?
These decisions make up the meat of the game. That pool of six dice are your everything and they make you really think about what your turns are going to consist of. With each mission set against the clock, you have to find a solid way to progress at pace and dispense with enemies as they pop up around you. And man, they really pop up.
Each map layout has spots where enemies can spawn. Usually they're popping out of coffins and gravestones, and you find out which by rolling a special fate die. Anywhere on the map that you can see a symbol matching the result of the fate die roll is where a new monster will rise. You can deal with this by toppling tombstones and smashing coffins. This is also how you gain loot, drawn from a pile of tokens that fit straight onto your character sheet – new weapons, armours, potions, lightsabers. I love that the loot tokens go straight onto your sheet, covering your starting gear. It's so tidy. And I love that if you lay your small items into the little knapsack slot on your sheet, only two can fit there. You can only carry two, and so only two fit. It's so tidy and clean.
After players have had their turns, killing monsters and performing attribute tests that might advance the mission, the monsters get to take a swing right back. An active monster moves towards the nearest character and makes an attack. Here's an interesting thing – characters don't defend by default. Remember those dice from the player's pool? If you want to be able to defend you need to hold some dice back to make a saving roll. That's tasty, isn't it? And you won't believe how often you foolishly decide not to save anything for defence. Or how often you simply forget to defend.
So that's the game. Cool little missions, cool characters, great enemies. Hack and slash, and level up your abilities as your XP rises. Customise the game by increasing the difficulty or giving the bosses random abilities. There's a lot in this box, and it's all quite lovely.
Super Fantasy is a great, light dungeon crawl with a surprising amount of interesting decisions. It's light only in that it's very easy to learn – the missions themselves pose quite a challenge, and can easily be made more hostile. The characters are well-defined and fun to play, and as you grow familiar with them you'll experience many moments of cool teamwork.
Hey, you know what? This one surprised me. This is a great little game.