Welcome back, Chosen Undead, to another exciting article in our series exploring the new core sets of DARK SOULS: The Board Game — the mysterious Tomb of Giants and the enigmatic Painted World of Ariamis.
I’m thrilled to see how much you enjoyed my previous article, diving into the revamped rules for encounters. It seems many of you have burning questions, so I’m here to address them and provide some much-needed answers. If you missed the previous article, don’t fret! You can find it here.
In our previous discussion, I introduced the Last Rites card to shed light on the structure of individual encounters. I also touched on the campaign dashboard, giving you a glimpse of what’s to come. Today, let’s delve deeper into the dashboard and explore the campaign system.
First Impressions: From Combat to Exploration
The original DARK SOULS: The Board Game aimed to recreate the intricacies of combat and the awe-inspiring boss battles. The game centered around a dungeon setting with a handful of rooms leading up to a climactic boss fight. Once you vanquished the boss, you would reset the area and set up a new one, repeating the process. While exploration was somewhat abstracted, it ensured smoother gameplay.
Our initial vision was to create an experience that could be completed in one session. Although the game included a campaign section, it mainly consisted of a list of bosses found in specific locations, with the reset mechanic employed between each encounter.
Community Input: A Deeper Dive
When I began working on this project, I wanted to understand how the community, the true players of the game, felt about the approach described earlier. For those unfamiliar with my previous works, I have a penchant for designing games with campaign systems at their core.
The feedback I received revealed a desire for a more immersive dungeon delving experience, reminiscent of the video game. Players also craved a series of interconnected games, finding the existing system lacked flavor. Furthermore, I had personally heard from gamers at various shows that the game was simply too long to complete in a single sitting.
The optimal strategy involved farming souls and treasure, using each available spark before facing the boss. While this mirrored the video game, it resulted in repetitive encounters against the same enemies. By the time groups reached the main boss, fatigue had set in, and some players no longer cared about the outcome.
While our goal was not to invalidate previous purchases, we realized there was an opportunity to address the lack of campaign play and enhance the overall gaming experience.
Campaign Structure: Expanding the Journey
Let me start by stating that the new DARK SOULS: The Board Game core sets are immersive campaign experiences. Both sets are set in specific locations from the video game, offering a journey through those locales as you overcome various challenges and foes, culminating in an epic final boss battle.
At the beginning of the campaign, you’ll lay out the dashboard, featuring the soul cache, bonfire, blacksmith, firekeeper, and slots for various card decks. It also tracks the NPCs encountered and includes ten encounter slots along its bottom edge, progressing from left to right.
When you’re ready to embark, start at the first encounter slot on the far left and draw from the corresponding encounter deck. As the campaign unfolds, you’ll repeat this process as you advance through each slot, gradually building your path through the campaign with increasingly difficult encounters.
Campaign Dashboard: Embracing Thematic Resonance
As we discussed in the previous article, encounters have undergone significant changes. Each encounter card now includes a brief description of the location, immersing you in the atmosphere and preventing encounters from feeling like anonymous rooms filled with enemies. The objectives of the encounters are varied, adding depth to the flavor of the area and ensuring that each mission feels unique.
Moreover, shortcuts and an extra bonfire starting position have been introduced. Once you’ve defeated the campaign’s mini-boss, these shortcuts and the bonfire allow your party to bypass early encounters, sparing you from repeating the same battles.
Most importantly, the new encounter system is designed to be played over several sessions. You can pause when it suits you and resume when you’re ready. At the end of each encounter, the tiles are packed away, eliminating any need to leave the playing area set up.
Of course, the game wouldn’t capture the essence of Dark Souls without the ever-present tension between life and death. To honor the original rules, if your party falls in combat or wishes to level up, you’ll return to the bonfire and reset the encounters. For those who relish the grind, fear not, for it remains an option. The choice is yours!
Enjoying Your Existing Collection
Many of you asked how you can enjoy your existing content alongside the new core sets. Rest assured, we heard your concerns and would like to address them.
Our primary objective when revising the core rules was to ensure that any existing DARK SOULS: The Board Game cards you may already possess, or plan to acquire, remain valid. The new rules subtly refine and streamline existing mechanics, allowing you to enjoy your current game without the need for new cards.
Furthermore, your existing characters and treasure can seamlessly be integrated into the new core sets. Simply add them to your campaign. This won’t disrupt the balance or break anything; in fact, I encourage you to do so. Make the campaign truly your own!
The same applies to boss miniatures. You can replace the mini-boss and boss encounters in either campaign with your own mega-bosses. If you have a formidable foe you’d like to face at the end of the Tomb of Giants instead of Gravelord Nito, go ahead and initiate their existing boss fight when you reach the final encounter of the campaign.
I hope this clears up any concerns you may have had. If you still have questions, fear not! We’ll be hosting a Q&A session in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. Additionally, we’re excited to showcase gameplay in action soon.
Until next time, Chosen Undead.
DARK SOULS: The Board Game Tomb of Giants and/or Painted World of Ariamis will be available on November 8, 2022. Pre-order your sets here.
The Dark Souls Range
Dark Souls™& ©Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. / ©FromSoftware, Inc.