Updated: Apr 12
SFG's Dark Souls board game came in for some stick when it was first released. When you opened the box, a message proclaimed that 'You died' because this is a game where spiritual avatars are combating evil minions and big bosses to collect souls that can be used to better equip and upgrade your characters.
For some, the premise was clunky but it wasn't that that attracted criticism. Players faced tough opponents from the outset, all of whom activate after every hero, so you could easily find yourselves overwhelmed and this fully cooperative game involved almost inevitable failure on players' first attempt at a scenario. Then the scenario would reset so players could take what they learned on their first run to help them to succeed the second time around. Some disliked the repetition but this was actually a rather effective mechanic, mirroring the core approach taken in TIME Stories (Space Cowboys). The Boss battles involved 'programmed' attacks as the Boss followed the sequence in their special deck of cards. Again, this meant players needed to learn from the cards that had been played so they could anticipate and avoid the Boss' powerful strikes. Again, this was effective - forcing players to 'learn' the Boss' moves to have any chance of success.
For sure, Dark Souls could be a hard game to beat but what caused most frustration and gave rise to the harshest criticism was the way in which equipment cards came up. Characters start off with very basic equipment and you'll need to upgrade that to have any chance of success. Items and equipment cards all specify their minimum requirements. The problem is that, in a random draw, often really good equipment cards come up that are way beyond what players can use. It can be a painfully slow slog earning the souls needed for each level up but, even accepting that grind, many players found it frustrating only to have access to equipment cards that none could use. There were fixes for this - for example, by seeding the item deck - but sadly many players had already given up on the game.
But even those who were most critical of the Dark Souls board game were wowed by the game's minis and its Boss figures that weren't quite so 'mini'. The minis were fantastic quality, so the great news is that SFG have produced new packs of minis, some of which we're showing here on Board's Eye View. We'll want to see them used in a reprise of the board game, and we're looking forward to the promise on the horizon of new expansions for Dark Souls, but these minis are being produced in conjunction with a new Dark Souls role-playing game. Either way, as we said in our very brief review of the original game five years ago, these are minis to die for.