I backed Ravage: Dungeons of Plunder, because I liked the price point (30 GBP), the art looked pretty good, and I liked the idea that we're playing orcs fighting characters that would normally be assigned as heroes. It's a light dungeon crawler, with a nice universe, and some intriguing board game RPG mechanics. Is it worth checking out?
Unique XP/Energy System: Whenever your character rolls the dice for an attack, the "misses" are energy symbols which in turn can be used to activate special skills. These skills dramatically improve your base attack, and it's ideal to attack with one whenever you have energy available.
Most powers let you roll more dice, which in turn means more energy, so once the game gets going you can usually spend a bit of energy with each attack. Interestingly, you earn XP by spending energy on these special abilities. The XP cap is low (only four), so you level up constantly while playing. Leveling up makes your skills even stronger, you flip over the skill card, and it reveals an upgraded version (or in rare cases activates a particularly powerful power.)
A large variety of Player Skills: It's clear a lot of time went into coming up with all of the player skills that each of the four base game's characters have. The only skill that is shared character-to-character is a base weapon, but even the base weapon upgrades and is transformed in a unique way.
You get access to five skills per character, which means right off the bat you have access to very powerful abilities. Each ability improves when you level up. While each character has a base weapon skill, there are extra skills so narrowing your character's abilities down to five can be a challenge.
Interesting Dungeon Exploration Mechanism: The game has a mechanism where you deal dungeon cards from the deck to reveal new areas at the start of each player's turn. If your character is within two spaces of an open doorway, the card comes out and a monster (or trap) is spawned in that room. This is a really neat idea and gets rid of the monotonous "peering" mechanism that other tile dungeon games like Shadows of Brimstone utilize.
What We Liked
The game has a good playtime for a dungeon crawl, a short rulebook, and simple gameplay. This is pretty refreshing because most of these types of games have obtuse rules that can take a few hours to decipher and get your head fully around.
Particularly noteworthy is the simplified leveling system. Although there are no skill trees or actual leveling occurring, your heroes feel stronger and you make meaningful choices as they gain experience in the dungeon.
Ravage comes with a concise campaign that introduces you to the universe, and sets up some interesting challenges as you work through it. The campaign is short on story, but it has everything that's needed to feel like there's a goal you are focusing on, and it provides for a skeleton of the fantasy world Ravage is set in.
One thing we really liked in the combat is the way skills synergize together. For instance, there are several skills that work with the Scout's ranged attack, and enhance the base attack further. Additionally, the skills make the hero, and all four play very differently. The Cultist is able to summon controllable Undead, while the Berserker is trying to charge into combat and get surrounded by enemies.
The game has fantastic components that we've come to expect from Kickstarters. It has beautifully colored custom dice, a ton of crazy quest-based tokens, and nice linen cards (thanks to some stretch goals.)
What Could Be Improved
The game is definitely lacking a final coat of polish. There are still some rough edges throughout the gameplay. Probably the biggest one for me is the lack of a timer on your missions. This takes pressure and excitement off completing the quest, and I found it feel like I'm "cheating" when I take turns to grab a health potion, cure poison, or carefully reveal new sections of the dungeon (rather than rushing through the deck.)
The game appears to be much easier with four players because it means a lot more player actions, and it's not unusual for a monster to miss a spawn on a player's turn (particularly once you're past the first "wave" of enemies at the top of the dungeon). There's also an awkward phase where you can buy something from the treasure goblin at the end of each player's turn. We just skipped this step until we thought we might be interested in buying something after collecting a few teeth. The Goblin phase could definitely be better-implemented.
Despite the neat Skill/XP system, very little went into the actual combat. It essentially is just rolling series of dice to determine combat outcomes, and is particularly tedious when there is a long series of attacks met with blocks. It would have been nice to have some layer of strategy added to the way combat works and resolves. Additionally, rolling attack dice for enemies is always unsatisfying, and I would have preferred a different method for enemy attack.
There are a lot of neat ideas and experiments in Ravage which sets it apart from other, heavier dungeon crawlers. However, I do think some more time should have gone into making the gameplay more enticing. I don't think I'll play through the campaign because I have so many other games that give me a bit more strategy meat to chew on.
While the game is light, there are a lot of fiddly tokens and cards that can make it just as difficult to manage as other four player co-op games. To this end, I'd recommend playing the game two player. There will be fewer lulls in the action and each scenario will play much shorter.
In the end, this is definitely a game worth trying if you are looking for a lighter dungeon crawl, or the standout mechanics appeal to you.
Original Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1746130610/ravage-dungeons-of-plunder-aint-no-heroes-here/description
Backed at: 30 GBP
Anticipated Delivery: December 2017, received May 2018
Final Rating: 7 - Good - usually willing to play.
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