Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Filip Kozak,
Jan Drevikovsky,
Krystof Kozak


No. of Players:
2 - 6



Most of you will have stumbled upon my huge Talisman section over the past years, and thus you can understand my interest whenever I see a new fantasy adventure boardgame being presented. Passing the booth of CZECH BOARD GAMES at the SPIEL 08 convention, I decided to give the nicely looking Dorn a try in order to see whether this once again could be a reason to dare some voyages within dark dungeons.

Like in traditional Heroquest, the game Dorn sees a band of five Heroes (controlled by one or more players) take on a quest against the evil Dornkeeper Zorkal who plans to destroy the peaceful hamlet of Argos. The map of Dorn shows a huge dungeon in the centre of which the sealed Throne-room of Zorkal can be found, but also some additional areas like the Black Moor or the Sewers exist. The gameboard is set up by placing several dozens of treasure tokens, some weaker monsters and six artefacts on prescribed positions, while the figures of the Heroes are placed in Argos and Zorkal in his Throne-room.

The playing sheet of each of the Heroes lists the basic attributes of Hit-points, his movement allowance and the number of attacks he can deal in a turn, and also several special attributes are described which allow each Hero to perform some special actions. The characteristics part of each character sheet is split into three parts, and as the game progresses the Heroes may rise to second and third level, and at each level increased characteristics and new additional special skills will apply. As Zorkal is present on the gameboard as a character, he possesses a playing sheet as well and has attributes similar to those of the Heroes.

During his turn, Zorkal will move his monsters on the gameboard and he will try to get them into position to fight the the Heroes in the different areas of the gameboard. Unlike many other adventure games, Dorn does not use any dice to determine the outcome of a combat, but instead each attack dealt by a Hero or a monster normally deals one point of damage. A Hero can parry the first attack directed against him each turn, whereas the weaker monsters will be killed just after they have received one hit. The stronger monsters on the other hand can withstand one hit and will be turned on their backside when they have been wounded.

Killed monsters are kept by the Heroes as a sign of gathering experience, and once a certain amount of experience has been gained they will be allowed to rise a level, giving them access to more attacks, a higher Hit points maximum and additional skills. Zorkal on the other hand will collect blood tokens the Heroes had to discard because they have been wounded, and these blood tokens will be used by Zorkal to play Dark Ritual cards which will increase the abilities of his monsters or cause some other dark effects. Likewise, Zorkal can keep and collect these blood tokens instead of performing a ritual, and then he can use them for rising a level of his own.

On their quest through the dungeon the Heroes will come upon a number of treasure tokens which were placed at the beginning the game, and the finding of such a token enabled a player to draw a treasure card which in most cases will bring him some kind of benefit. However, of more crucial importance for the Heroes' quest are the artifact tokens which were also distributed, since the Heroes must succeed to get three of these tokens and take them to the Ritual Chamber in front of Zorkal's Throne-room. Only if three artifacts are present in this room the seal to the Gate of Doom will be broken and the Throne-room may be entered. This effectively frees Zorkal, and if his Minions should succeed in driving the Heroes back before they can finish their task by killing the Necromancer, he will now be free to roam through the Dungeon and try to get the Heroes into single combat.

However, of even more importance for Zorkal is the performance of the Ultimate Ritual. This ritual is performed by filling all the spaces in the Ritual Chamber with a total of 19 monsters for three consecutive turns, and if the Heroes cannot prevent this sacrifice the village of Argos will be doomed and the Heroes have lost the game.

The game is spiced up by a manageable number of additional rules like ranged weapons, or Pikes, monster abilities and special healing places, but despite the familiar sound all these elements might have there exists a number of rules which set the game apart from many other Dungeon-games I have played. As said above, one of the major differences between Dorn and games like Heroquest or Talisman is the total absence of dice in combat, and this actually adds a nice strategic dimension to the game because the players need to think how to position themselves when facing Zorkal's hordes. Getting into an advantageous position becomes vitally important, because otherwise a group of monsters has a good chance to defeat a Hero.

What I like even more is the fact that the Dungeonkeeper actually is present as a character and not just a dark force controlling everything bad and ugly. This increases the playing fun of the player who has to impersonate the bad guy, since it takes the whole matter of the final battle between himself and the Heroes to a much more personal level. That's a much more interesting ending than just by defeating a bunch of monsters by rolling the dice.

The gameboard features inside and outside areas, and this actually adds to the playing fun as well because the Heroes are not just restricted to some dark cellars, and so they have an interesting world to explore. Some parts of this world may be lost if Zorkal's hordes get too strong, and this will force the players to think about other ways how to acquire the needed three artefacts.

Just four pages of rules, a colourful gameboard and slender pencilled character artwork make up the basis for a rather interesting adventure game, and to me this game is another splendid example for the hoard of creativity which can be found with the freshly awakened game designers from Eastern Europe.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany