The Undercity is a board game with miniature figures for two to four players. It takes an hour or two to play, depending on the scenario.
It’s set in Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms universe, and the miniatures can also be used in the Iron Kingdoms role-playing games. It has a suggested price of $94.99 but can be found online for about $65.
In The Undercity, you play characters in The Black River Irregulars, who go under the city of Corvis trying to apprehend bosses and their thugs. The game has seven scenarios, each of which play a bit differently.
How it works:
While each scenario has different villains and board setup, there are common elements.
You and your friends will have an objective, and you must finish it to win the scenario. Each character has its own statistics and starting weapons that will allow him or her to battle the bad guys by adding their stats to dice rolls.
Villains appear each turn or round, depending on the scenario. The story builds from scene to scene, and if the heroes win, they can use their experience points to buy equipment or skills that will carry over to the next scenario.
Why you might buy The Undercity:
Unlike some dungeon crawler games, no one has to play the bad guys. Dice determine where they will appear, and they move according to a deck of cards.
The game is also family friendly. While there are a few blood stains on the board, there’s no gory art. In some scenarios, you’re apprehending the villains rather than killing them.
The story that goes along with the game is engaging, and it makes the gameplay more interesting, since you know a bit about the character — or characters, in a two-player game — that you’re playing.
While the game’s scenarios aren’t very difficult to beat, especially the earlier scenarios, the manual gives you ways to make the villains tougher and introduces side quests that can add more challenge.
Fans of the Iron Kingdoms now have another way to play and a simpler introduction to the world than a full-fledged role-playing game.
The battle system is fairly straightforward. There’s lots of dice rolling, and you have a few cards to alter your outcomes, but you won’t spend several minutes combining cards and trying to figure out which character won.
Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses, so the players have to work together. Because each character is unique, you’re unlikely to have one person take over and tell everyone what to do.
Why you might not buy The Undercity:
Like other dungeon crawls, this is a game about fighting bad guys. And then fighting more bad guys. It’s done well, but it can feel repetitive.
If you’re not familiar with role-playing games — and I’m not — you may not feel like you’re actually in the world because you’re too busy looking at the numbers on your player board and checking your options.
The two-player game forces each player to play two characters. And one of those characters is actually two characters that are always combined because they work together. So one person will be controlling three characters.
The rulebook is sometimes ambiguous. It assumes that people are familiar with common role-playing game terms. Sometimes the information is included but is difficult to find. Figuring out what a smoke grenade does, for example, requires looking under the glossary entry for “Cloud.”
You’ll need to be comfortable making some assumptions and house rules.
Because each game you’ll be playing a new scenario, you’ll also have new rules to learn each game. That gives lots of replay, but can be frustrating since not all of the rules are intuitive.
This is the first dungeon crawl I’ve played. I understand the appeal. The miniatures are fun to play with (and these are done very well and are easy to distinguish) and it’s cool to beat the bad guys. The world is interesting, too.
But I learned that dungeon crawls aren’t for me. I don’t enjoy fighting that much. I expected that there would be more to do, and while the scenarios give you different villains that fight different ways, you’re still fighting on nearly every turn. Lots of people love that, and if you’re one of them, you’ll probably love The Undercity.
I discovered I’m not in that crowd.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of The Undercity from Privateer Press. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.