Updated: Dec 26, 2019
You’ve seen one dungeon crawler, you’ve seen ‘em all, right? It’s true that most dungeon crawlers all look like variations on a theme. Not so with Dragon Dawn Production’s Perdition’s Mouth! This is a game that really breaks the dungeon crawler mould.
For starters, there's not a dice to be found in this fully co-operative horror-themed game. Instead, the designers Timo Multamaki, Thomas Klausner and Kevin Wilson have cleverly adapted mechanics more usually found in euro games to control the enemies (there's no dungeon master in this game) and to allocate action points to each hero. Heroes in this game spend action points to move their character’s peg around a 'Stone of Destiny' rondel, so players have to think ahead and plan the actions they intend to take. This system also encourages very active co-operation among the players. They need to ensure that their positions on the rondel do not block each other and they need to do the same when moving their figures on the map: characters cannot simply move through each other in this game.
Combat pits a character’s attack strength against the enemy’s defence. Characters have an individual unique deck of cards (initially 12) from which they draw a hand at the start of the game. They don’t routinely draw a card each turn; they only pick up when their character’s peg is in the relevant segment of the Stone of Destiny rondel. So, players can play cards for their effect – typically to modify an attack – but they may need to use their cards sparingly. In any event, a quite separate ‘response’ card is drawn to modify the enemy’s defence. Response cards are also drawn to determine how far the enemy move along their ‘watchstone’ rondel. All enemies on the board take all the actions of each rondel segment passed, and enemies have reserves that will be activated and brought onto the board when the enemy marker hits the spawn segments of the watchstone rondel.
The imaginative use of rondels in Perdition’s Mouth brings a whole new dimension to adventure gaming. It also makes for some very tough-to-beat enemies, especially as the game also utilises what is, in effect, a reverse deck builder mechanic. When heroes take damage, they don’t just lose health but they also add a wound card to the top of your draw deck. At the minimum, wounds clog up your hand but most also have a further negative effect. If, for example, you ever have two wound cards in your hand with an ‘infestation’ symbol on them, then your character dies. This makes for a system that again turns the conventions of a dungeon crawler on their head. You will be used to games where ‘experience’ levels you up to make you ever more powerful no matter how much damage you have taken. In this game, you can expect damage to weaken you as the game progresses. This can be a punishing lesson in realism!
Perdition’s Mouth comes packed with a host of maps and scenarios. There are four double-sided full-size map boards in the core game and the various scenarios can be replayed with different objectives. Scenarios can each be played individually or they can be linked together to run as a campaign. If you do decide to run a full campaign, you’ll need to make sure you have the facility in your party to heal wounds (remove wound cards) because, like a legacy game, injuries carry forward from one scenario to the next. In this sense, Perdition’s Mouth offers a nod to Flying Frog’s Shadows of Brimstone but without all the dice chucking.
In appearance, the map boards in Perdition’s Mouth are reminiscent of those in Milton Bradley’s fondly remembered HeroQuest. The set up may also remind you of that classic game, as players know at the start exactly where enemies are on the map and where new enemies are due to spawn. The minis are excellent, with vivid detail. The game incorporates rules that make it scaleable so it can be played solo or with any number up to six. You will probably only need to raise the game's difficulty levels if you play with a full party of six, but the components are included for upscaling the enemy and/or the response decks to make an already hard game even tougher. At the back of the rulebook, there are also some variants offered for making the game easier (for example, counting tied combat results as a win for the heroes) but the designers clearly expect only wimps to use these 'easy' variants beyond an initial learning game.
Publishers Dragon Dawn have done a great job here. Perdition’s Mouth is a game you’re going to want to play time and again. It’s good to see therefore that there are already extra maps and scenarios available. If, at Board's Eye View, we ever manage to survive the core game, we will look forward to tackling them!