Looking at Tyrants of the Underdark

Sorry for the recent radio silence on Games For All. Christmas is a very busy time for me at work, and who would have thought having a baby was so time consuming?! But have no fear I’m back now so you’ll be able to get your (mostly) weekly dosage of board game enabled theology again!

This week I’m continuing my ‘looking at’ series where I’m going through all the games in my collection and analysing them for your use with the children/youth/gamers you know. I’ve chosen one of my favourite games this time Tyrants of the Underdark, which I finally got my hands on as a birthday present from my parents this year. (Thanks mum and dad!)

Part way through a 4 player game

This game is a hybrid one combining deck building with area control. You start with a deck of 10 cards, 7 with spider webs and 3 with swords. The board has multiple areas you are vying for control of and a separate ‘market board’ which always has 5 cards on for you to buy and add to your deck. When one is bought (or destroyed using the devour mechanic) it is replaced with a new one from the main deck. There’s also some cards which are always available if none of the market ones can be afforded at the time. The spider webs are currency you can use to buy these cards. This is the deck building part of the game. As you buy and use cards they go in your discard pile. Once you can no longer take 5 cards from your personal deck you shuffle the discard pile and that becomes you deck. So you are building up the cards that are in it to allow you to do more actions as the game progresses.

The sword symbol is what you use for the area control part of the game. They allow you to place troops on the map to defeat troops that already exist there, but you can only do so if you have an adjacent piece. You are trying to control the main named areas for points, but particularly the cities as these will give you bonuses each round. To control a place you need more troops there than any other colour, and if you have completely filled a place with your troops you have total control which gives you more points at the end of the game.

Some example cards from the Drow half deck

Most of the cards you get give you either spider webs or swords though there are other abilities as well, you can place a spy which lets you place troops away from your current area you’re in, you can devour cards to remove them from the game, supplant troops to swap other colours for your own, assassinate troops without paying the sword cost, promote cards to the inner circle so you can’t use them again but they give you more points at the end of the game…all manner of abilities are available with some of the decks having their own special abilities.

The game goes on until someone places their final troop or the market deck is exhausted. At that point you add up all the points you have from controlling zones, the cards in your deck and the cards you e promoted, plus any points you may have accrued throughout the game.

The game is themed around a place from Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms called the Underdark. The evil dark elves (drow) live there in caverns underneath the world and as evil creature often do they are constantly killing and tricking each other to try and take control of as much land as possible. My main criticism of the game stems from this theme as the designers decided that the player colours should be dark, which when combined with the dark board can make it very difficult to spot some troops and spies. Particularly the dark blue and black ones.

Questions to explore character

1) How would you feel if you lived somewhere that was always dark and miserable? Do you think this explains why the Drow are evil or is there something more?

2) Which card art did you like the most? Why?

3) What would it be like to live in a world where your friends could be wanting to literally stab you in the back to get what you have?

4) How do you think the Drow would act towards someone who was good and kind?

5) Do you know of anything or anyone in the real world that acts like the Drow do?

Links to Faith

The world of Tyrants of the Underdark is twisted, full of pain suffering and darkness. It’s the opposite of what we have through the saving Grace of God.

The Gospel refers to Jesus as the light of the world multiple times, most famously in John 8.

Jesus spoke to the people again. He said, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in darkness. They will have that light. They will have life.” – John 8:12 NIRV

People who don’t know Him are in darkness, then once you get to know and believe in Him you gain the light of eternal life. You understand that whilst we are sinners, and human nature means we’re always tempted to sin God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice means that sin can be forgiven and we can be made clean again.

Here is the message we have heard from him and announce to you. God is light. There is no darkness in him at all.Suppose we say that we share life with God but still walk in the darkness. Then we are lying. We are not living out the truth.But suppose we walk in the light, just as he is in the light. Then we share life with one another. And the blood of Jesus, his Son, makes us pure from all sin.Suppose we claim we are without sin. Then we are fooling ourselves. The truth is not in us.But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar. His word is not in us. – 1 John 1:5-10 NIRV

It’s really important that we don’t use this as justification for sinning, if you do that then you are not asking forgiveness as you intend to do it again. We will always sin, it is true, but we should try our hardest not to.

We can be thankful that unlike the Drow in Tyrants of the Underdark we have our saviour Jesus Christ and His forgiving light to cleanse our sins and stop us from descending into deep darkness like they have.

Links to buy

Reminder, all Amazon links from this point on (including pictures) are Amazon Affiliate links and will provide me with a slight commission. For more information check the Disclosure page.