Four Against Dark is a new title from Ganesha Games, probably best know for their skirmish rule set A Song of Blade and Heroes. Four Against Darkness has nothing to do with SoBH though they share the simplicity in the rules making it very easy to pick up. So what is Four Against Darkness? It is not a wargame, nor is it a RPG, but rather something in between or completely different. It is a solo dungeon crawler that will take you back to the very old days. If you feel the urge it can also be played cooperatively, but will probably be taking some more time due to discussions on what to do.
So what do you need to play? The rules (of course), pen and paper (graph paper is a good thing) and two D6. In the latest of update of the rules you will get small pocketmod books that has all the tables you need plus a log book for your adventures, perfect for 1 hour train travels etc.
It has your favorite RPG classes, warrior, wizard, rouge, cleric etc (8 to choose from in the basic rules). Weapons and armor fall in light, normal or heavy/two handed and weapons can be crushing or slashing (yep - crushing works like a charm against skeletons). Your most important stat is your level as this will often be used as modifier for various rolls.
You have to pick for characters (hence the title) and then enter a dungeon. Both the starting place and subsequent layouts of the dungeon is handled by dice rolls. Your ultimate goal is to get to the "end" of the dungeon and overcome the final boss. But that won't cut it alone though - you have to get out as well. And every time you revisit a room there is a change that you will get attacked by wandering monsters. Your characters can level up during the game and you can level up to level 5 in total, although some classes have lower max levels.
The rules them selves are very easy to get and you will be on the ground running to (or from) your first monsters in no time. The hardest parts are to figure out which bonues/penalties you have on your rolls but that will come natural to you in just a few rooms. You will be flipping a bit through the rules between the tables for monsters and treasure as well as the different pages with the dungeon layout. Unfortunately I also found that a few things regarding combat were scattered in different places rather then be explained in one place.
A few examples:
- How to divide the attack roll by the minions level is not described in "How to attack monsters", but under "Encounters". Would be a good place to have it under attack.
- I felt my self flipping through the rules many times, finding small exceptions or rule explanations here and there. For example - leveling, it would be nice to have everything regarding this in one place. Vermins does NOT add to the minions tally, only minions does. But vermin is first described as minions - took some time to figure out. Also that minions xp roll are at -1, would be nice to have written in the leveling up section.
Also I found that the dungeon layouts were drawn on graph paper, but the lines are rather difficult to see at times when reading on electronic devices. If you print it out the lines are easier to see. I also think an index would help in finding rules etc during play as some of the headlines in the contents section isn't descriptive enough.
But these ARE minor things and nothing that should stop you from getting into the game at all.
Over all the rules have a nice layout and is a very easy read. The drawings help with the old school feel of everything and if you don't get the flashbacks to old days of roleplaying and dungeon bashing I don't know what will.
Recap of my first adventure
Just a short description of my first game, a full report will go up as well. In short I picked a wizard, a cleric, a rouge and a warrior and headed in to the dungeon. I should have read the rules just a tad better, especially the part about using a "play area" of 20 by 28 squares, give and take a few. But I just went on to fill about half an A4 page worth of dungeon (thats ruoughly 41 by 58 squares). As you may remember you need to get out of the dungeon as well ánd you have to check for wandering monsters each time you back track a room so going to 40+ rooms make a LOT of rooms to go through on your way out. I managed to survive only because I found an alternate exit near where I was at the end of my game. Even with most of the part leveled up to 3 the way back would have been a hard walk.
I managed to meet the final boss, but the quest I took was what kept me going further. In the end I had to abandon the quest. The game took far longer than it should have, but I have been playing on and off and during television watching and I could probably have done it an hour or a bit more had I stayed at 20 by 28 squares.
I will definately build on the characters and have them enter another dungeon or two.
I had a blast playing this game even if I goofed up the space I needed. Once this review and the write up of the first game is done I am diving back into the next (smaller) dungeon. If you have to spend $8 somewhere put them on this. I can't wait for more expansions coming out with more spells and stuff, but the current rules will give me lots of games of fun. I haven't had so much fun playing a solo game for a long time and I love the way the stories weave them selves when you play. So go get them and give a shot, you won't regret it!
So, what are you waiting for? Go get them here : http://www.ganeshagames.net/product_info.php?cPath=1_55&products_id=295
Extra - Competition
Also if you write up a detailed review or post a batrep you can participate in the competion here :
"4AD Competition! Win LIFETIME products.
To enter, you must purchase a copy of 4AD through Ganeshagames.net and write up one or more playthrough reports of the game, and publish them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc) or on your gaming-related blog. The more reports you write, the more chances you get to win. Unleash your purple prose and tell us about the glorious victories or the rotten luck of your heroes. Post photos of your completed dungeons on Instagram! Use the #4AgainstDarkness hashtag and always add a link to the product page.
Make sure that each report includes a link to the product on Ganeshagames.net and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know of it. The competition ends on May 24th (2016), Andrea's birthday. On the 25th, Andrea will put all names in a hat and draw a winner who will get a LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION to all 4AD products (or a minimum value of $50 in other products should 4AD be discontinued). That's it: the winner will receive for free every new adventure or supplement we publish for 4AD. "