Big Bad Overlord - Preview

Big Bad Overlord – Preview

Face off against angry Dukes, troops and do-gooders in a quest for powerful artifacts and world domination.

Title Publisher Genre
Big Bad Overlord Daniel DeCillis Card Game

In The Box

Nothing makes us happier than a box full of cards and dice. The pre-Kickstarter prototype of Big Bad Overlord already looks promising, with 80 cards you’ll circulate during play and six “Duke” cards that represent opposing forces you can control. The rules don’t specify, but it looks like one might be able to add additional Dukes at a later time to allow for more seats around the gaming table. As it stands we’re always happy to have a game with some depth that supports more than four players right out of the box.

The illustration style (which obviously may change based on funding goals) reminded us of the Munchkin series. Simple and colorful with plenty of whimsy, the cards were easy for our younger players to read and understand. There’s no flavor text yet–a shame, because we’re dying to know the story behind cards like “Killer Wolf Frogs” and “Forest Force.” The cards are packaged with a set of four white d6 and two blue d6 that come into play regularly during battle. The best part of Big Bad Overlord for us turned out to be the interplay between cards and dice during battles, where rolling and counting up modifiers is a core mechanic.

There is already a well-written and illustrated instruction manual, the piece most often missing in an early prototype. Reading up more on the game’s backstory, it’s clear that the creator of Big Bad Overlord has been developing and testing this game since long before launching on Kickstarter. This time spent shows in how well things are explained, which helped shave a lot of time off the early learning curve one always experiences with games, especially those that don’t just follow a standard formula.

How It Plays

Some comparison to the battle style of Munchkin is also fair in describing how Big Bad Overlord plays. Each Duke is amassing an army represented by a lineup of cards you keep in front of you and use to battle opposing Dukes. You draw a new card each turn that ideally bolsters your army or adds one of the game’s much-coveted artifacts to your arsenal. Unique to the game is a reserve of cards that remain “secret” in contrast to your face-up army, that is always visible to other players. Reserve cards come on strong if another player happens to overwhelm your entire army, doing double-damage to protect your Duke. Lose the Duke, lose the game.

With up to six cards in your army it may seem like you won’t often tap into the reserve, but Big Bad Overlord isn’t just about 1:1 combat. When one player launches an attack she can recruit others around the table to join in, and the defender can also draft a nearby Duke to come to his aid. This part of the game may be divisive for some gaming groups as it can make things feel much more hectic, but we preferred it. Let’s face it, most “party games” sacrifice smarts for social interaction, but more complex games can leave players a bit bored outside their turns. Teaming up to attack and defend means nobody around the table feels left out, which we loved.

Unlike a deck-building game there’s no personal set of cards you draw from in Big Bad Overlord. Cards can circulate between your army and reserve, but each battle is otherwise determined by the luck of your draw and roll. You can occasionally capture cards from other players based on the mind-control portion of the game’s Mind/Magic/Melee battle system. Occasionally you’ll draw a Do-Gooder card, one of several inside the deck that aren’t aligned with any Duke. These pose an immediate threat and will gallivant around the game wreaking havoc, even capturing cards until defeated. Once all cards are drawn the game goes into a final-elimination mode where players lucky or canny enough to capture the game’s two powerful artifacts square off. A wild ride from start to finish, we’re hoping to see this one come to fruition, so put your wallets behind it!

Big Bad Overlord is funding now on Kickstarter from Daniel DeCillis. Read more details here about the campaign, including how-to-play videos from the game’s creator.