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Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Wow! We see quite a lot of preview prototypes at Board's Eye View but it's rare indeed to see a prototype that approaches this quality. The game is Beneath from Dark Hand Games, and it launched yesterday on Kickstarter.

Designed by Ross Bennett, with art by Jerry Padilla, Beneath offers some novel twists on the dungeon crawler genre. Each of the 2-4 players controls a dwarf with a special area of expertise (hero, thief, miner and bombardier). Play is on a board of indented hexagons that, on first sight, looks like it belongs in an abstract game. Beneath, however, is far from abstract. The board represents an underground chamber to be explored. Each round, a map card is drawn that shows the layout of the chamber and what treasures and monsters your dwarves may encounter. Stackable plastic terrain is placed out as indicated on the map card, and tokens representing the treasures and monsters are tossed into a bag. As your dwarf explores what has been transformed into a three-dimensional cavern and excavates the rocky terrain, so you get to draw tokens from bag. You'll hope to secure gold and gemstones that will help you to better equip yourself but you might also draw an encounter with a monster.

Just as Beneath comes with great terrain and dwarf character sculpts, so it also incorporates a plethora of monsters, each with their own mini and a character board that mirrors that of the dwarves. One of the many custom dice helps determine which monster you encounter but the level and difficulty of the monster will be affected by the progress your dwarves have made over previous rounds. In this way, the monsters become increasingly challenging - forcing players to upgrade their weaponry, armour and skills.

Our preview copy of Beneath only arrived this week so we've so far only managed to get in a couple of rounds. We're loving it, and we're itching to play more. Dark Hand describe Beneath as 'semi co-operative'. Hmm. We've particularly enjoyed the fact that this dungeon crawler is rather more competitive than co-operative: it's every dwarf for themselves, so players are going to be interacting with each other but rarely on friendly terms. Treasures are placed on player boards face down, so there's an opportunity for intrigue and bluff. Dwarves can steal from each other and they can go head-to-head in an attack; so, formidable as they are, monsters can sometimes be the least of your worries... In fact, the co-operative and solo player options offer alternative ways of playing: so Beneath is a game that promises plenty of bang for your bucks - literally so if you play as the bombardier!

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