Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday, 26 April 2019

Friday Filler: The Fighting Fantasy Co-op III

Escape the Dark Castle: The Game of Atmospheric Adventure brought the brutality of the Fighting Fantasy solo adventure books of the eighties to co-operative game play for up to four players in which their characters begin imprisoned in a tyrant’s castle and must work together to win their freedom. Published by Themeborne, with its multiple encounters, traps, monsters, objects, and more as well as a different end of game boss every time, Escape the Dark Castle offered a high replay value, especially as a game never lasted longer than thirty minutes. That replay value was enhanced with the release of Escape the Dark Castle: Adventure Pack 1 – Cult of the Death Knight, the game’s first expansion. It added new threats, new potential escapees, and more. 

The replay value of Escape the Dark Castle is further enhanced with the completion of the Escape the Dark Castle: The Legend Grows… Kickstarter campaign. This produced two new expansions, Adventure Pack 2 – Scourge of the Undead Queen and Adventure Pack 3 – Blight of the Plague Lord as well as a big box into which to store them along with the core game. The first of these introduces a whole a new Boss, fifteen new chapters which the escapees must face before they successfully flee the Dark Castle, two items to find and use in the process, and a new mechanic. The new Boss is the Undead Queen, a foul necromancer who wants to enslave the escapees’ souls and who is capable of spawning a horde of undead against them in order to prevent them from exiting the castle. The fifteen-chapter deck will see the escapees facing skeletal hordes, grasping zombies, listless spirits, and more, culminating of course, in a final encounter with the Undead Queen herself who can spawn spirit after spirit… A nice touch is that this fifteen-chapter deck can be played straight out of the box with the chapter cards in order as they come packed. After that, this new deck can be replayed by shuffling the fifteen cards in random order and the players having their attempt to escape again. Then, after that, these new cards can be shuffled in with the chapter cards from the Dark Castle: The Game of Atmospheric Adventure, Adventure Pack 1 – Cult of the Death Knight, and Adventure Pack 3 – Blight of the Plague Lord, and the game played as normal.

The new mechanic which Adventure Pack 2 – Scourge of the Undead Queen adds to Escape the Dark Castle is that of Companions. There are three of these—the ‘Spirit of the First Prisoner’, ‘The Defecting Guard’, and ‘The Witch Hunter’—each of which joins the escapees when their associated Event card is drawn. Each Companion is treated like a player character and so fight and face challenges like ordinary player characters  and so each has their own die to roll. On their dice, there is an ‘explosion’ like symbol which counts a double the rolling player’s choice of symbols when rolled out of combat, but triggers each Companion’s Special Abilities in combat. So the ‘Spirit of the First Prisoner’ has a limited number of actions she can do before she disappears, but her event card is then reshuffled back into the Event deck to enable her to reappear again and again in the course of the players’ escape attempt. Her Special Ability is ‘My Spirit Joins With Yours’ which grants each player a Hit Point or item when triggered. Her card is then discarded and cannot return to the game.  ‘The Defecting Guard’ is a Spearman who can prevent an enemy attack and in combat open a ‘Secret Passage’ to both end the combat and end the chapter as well as avoiding the next chapter too! . ‘The Witch Hunter’ can carry items for the players in his pack, but in combat can shout ‘Leave This To Me’ and launch himself at the enemy, enabling the players to escape the to the next chapter. Again, both ‘The Defecting Guard’ and ‘The Witch Hunter’ are discarded from the play once their Special Abilities are triggered and used.

These Companion rules are a nice addition, adding depth and mood to the grim fantasy of Escape the Dark and giving more dice for the players to roll from chapter to chapter. The act of ‘The Witch Hunter’ sacrificing himself is pleasingly cinematic, whilst ‘The Defecting Guard’ gives a little more character to the castle, no longer are the players faced with a series of monolithic foes, chapter after chapter… Hopefully the publisher will add more, perhaps with something like Escape the Dark Castle: Expansion Pack 1 – The Companion Pack?*

* Note: This does not exist.

Lastly, Adventure Pack 2 – Scourge of the Undead Queen comes with two new Item cards. The ‘Ritual Chalice’ enables the use of the blood ritual where the players can donate their blood—or Hit points—to give another player Hit Points it needs. The ‘Spell Book’ grants three spells—Obliterate, Revive, and Manipulate—which anyone can cast. Unfortunately, none of the players have true spellcasting ability and so the spells have as much chance of failing and inflicting damage as much as they do of being successfully cast. To that end, an item die is included in the pack.

Physically, Escape the Dark Castle: Adventure Pack 2 – Scourge of the Undead Queen is as well produced as the core game. The Chapter, Boss, and Companion Cards are large and really easy to read and understand. Each one is illustrated in Black and White, in a style which echoes that of the Fighting Fantasy series and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay last seen in the nineteen eighties.

At its most basic, Adventure Pack 2 – Scourge of the Undead Queen adds a whole new story and more challenges which extends the life of Escape the Dark Castle and means that players will bring back to the table on a regular basis. The Companions rules though, add more mechanics yes, but also bring character to the game and give someone for the players and their characters to care about and interact with and even tell the story of their escape about. Adventure Pack 2 – Scourge of the Undead Queen gives you good companions and is a good companion to Escape the Dark Castle: The Game of Atmospheric Adventure.


Thenborne will be at UK Games Expo which will take place between May 31st and June 2nd, 2019 at Birmingham NEC. This is the world’s fourth largest gaming convention and the biggest in the United Kingdom.

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