When I first happened across Dungeon Command old prejudices immediately surfaced and I rolled my eyes at the thought of another Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game. The more closely I read the secondhand descriptions of gameplay mechanics the more my fear and anger were kindled toward the yet unreleased product. However, one aspect of the game piqued my interest enough to keep the game on my radar and that was the nonrandom faction packs. Randomized miniatures, I felt, was the bane of previous editions and it had almost alienated me due to my financial conscience. My fear of buying blind packs only to discover I had wasted yet more money on another Tri-Horn Behemoth miniature is enough to cause unrestful nights to this day. Nevertheless, it was with a bit of fear and trepidation I ordered the initial Dungeon Command sets.
My initial thought upon pulling Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr from the shipping box was that the game boxes themselves are nowhere near as cheap as they've been made out to be. While the quality of the storage box isn't as high as say Castle Ravenloft, it's still of a very sturdy make and will not be as easily destroyed as I had feared. Not only is the box good, but so is the actual storage system which holds the game components. Everything has its place, and once sorted and closed everything remains where it's placed.
Anyone who's played or collected D&D miniatures before will see some familiar faces, albeit with new makeovers. If you happen to own the D&D Adventure System Games you'll definitely see some old friends return in the Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr, but boy howdy they've never looked better. While some of the miniatures I received with the D&D Adventure System Games are slightly bent or warped, the Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr miniatures are in perfect form thanks to the storage tray. Not one miniature has a bent sword, staff, or arching base. I'm saddened that new sculpts aren't a part of Dungeon Command, but I'm willing to give the recycled miniatures a pass simply because they look good and are of nice quality. Veterans and newcomers alike should be pleased.
The rulebook included is attractive but not on a par with the quality found in the D&D Adventure System Game entries, this one being made of a thick non glossy stock. It is, however, simple to follow and proved more than easy to read through while playing our family's first game. Setup is a simple matter of connecting the dungeon tiles, picking out a commander card, shuffling two decks of cards (Creature deck and Order deck), and deploying starting creatures. From there, every turn, players go through the same four sequences (remeber: untap your characters before ending your turn!) until one player runs out of morale or ends a turn with no characters on the board. After getting through our first game and becoming more familiar with the various cards of the two factions, our playtime *averages* about 35 minutes.
The one thing you'll hear again and again is that the gameplay mechanics are the offspring of a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and Magic: The Gathering union. This is without question the one aspect of the game that will cast you as either a supporter or a dissenter. While, yes, they've abandoned the d20 in favor of cards, the game's spirit has remained true to the original. Removing dice rolls from a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS product might seem sacrilegious to the Church of Gygax (hallowed be thy name), but it appears that the decision to rely on the use of cards instead of dice has shaken up the gameplay as it has drastically changed its nature by putting more focus on skill rather than luck. True, there is fortune involved with the draw of cards but having the `best card' is pointless if your execution is flawed -- dice can no longer serve as your scapegoat for a failed game!
In an attempt to rejuvenate the D&D Miniatures Game Wizards of the Coast shows a willingness to be innovative by removing or drastically altering basic foundations of previous entries. This may alienate veterans, though it may also prove refreshing. My fears of seeing a new D&D Miniatures Game may have been founded in the ghost of gaming past, but I would have to admit that Dungeon Command isn't the monster I feared.