An Unforgiving Gaming Experience – Dark Souls: The Board Game

The Dark Souls franchise is one that has accrued a reputation amongst the gaming community for being a franchise with an unforgiving difficulty level. While the majority of the titles in the Dark Souls franchise are video games, a new title was recently released after being funded on Kickstarter: Dark Souls – The Board Game.

The Box:
The most striking aspect of Dark Souls: The Board Game when seeing it for the first time, is the size of the box it comes in. Easily twice the size of the average board game box, its size and weight are impressive. Once the box is opened, it greets you with a phrase familiar to fans of the series, the omnipresent ‘YOU DIED’. Digging deeper you will find two smaller boxes, full of beautifully detailed miniatures of player characters, enemies, and most importantly, bosses. These miniatures include several variations enemies familiar to fans of the Dark Souls franchise, Hollow Soldiers, Silver Knights, even the massive Sentinels. The boss miniatures are significantly larger than any of the other miniatures, and include iconic bosses from the series, such as the Gargoyle, Ornstein and Smough and the Dancer of the Boreal Valley. Deeper in the box are a series of character boards, with representations of statistics, equipment and health levels that belie the complexity of the game rules. At the bottom of the box lay a series of several tiles gorgeously detailed to appear as locations from the franchise.

The Game:
Dark Souls – The Board Game has a ruleset that causes it to play in a way that will feel familiar to players of the video game franchise. Each character has a unique set of starting equipment that causes them to play differently from each other right from the beginning. Each character also has a series of statistics, Strength, Dexterity, Faith and Intelligence, that can be increased as the game progresses to allow the character to utilize the new equipment that they will come across throughout the game. Fighting the enemies in the game is done through an intuitive ‘Behaviour System’ wherein the enemies will always enact certain behaviours, such as moving in a certain way or attacking a certain player. Though the specifics of these behaviours can change based upon numerous factors, such as where each player character is positioned, who entered the room first, and other such factors. This, coupled with the simple dice based combat resolution system make Dark Souls – The Board Game near infinitely replayable, as enemies will not behave precisely the same from game to game.

The Verdict:
Dark Souls – The Board Game is one that stands easily on its own merits, and while drawing heavily from the video game franchise to appeal to fans of the series, does enough differently to entertain those who have no experience with other games in the franchise. This, together with its intuitive, deep ruleset and enemy behaviour system cause Dark Souls – The Board Game to be a masterfully designed game that any fan of the series, or fan of cooperative board games, should check out.

– Alex