Quickly the two thieves rushed into the shadows as a patrol approached with heavy and dull steps. The last fight is still in their bones. Shortly before, the two thieves were surprised by Dark Dwarves. It happened when they opened a heavy treasure chest and were happy about their new loot. Thanks to the Lightbringer, the dwarves were just as surprised and so the two thieves could use this as an advantage. The captured Dark Dwarves’ Flaming Sword should still prove useful in the dark depths of the dungeon. Now, however, they must first hope that the great ogre doesn’t pay them any attention.
Into the dungeon with Massive Darkness
Massive Darkness is the latest game from CoolMiniOrNot or from Guillotine Games. If you think the names look familiar, you are right. CoolMini – or CMON as they are now officially called – and Guilloitine Games were also responsible for the successful Zombicide games. In Massive Darkness, the parallels to the Zombicide universe cannot be denied. You again have a modular game plan, numerous miniatures populating the plan and the game principle is cooperative again. Also the theme seems to have been there before. Also the last Zombicide game Black Plague was played in a fantasy setting like now Massive Darkness.
So the similarities already end. Massive Darkness plays differently, it plays more exciting, it plays fresher. Opponents do not always enter the game board at the same places. And the well-known formula “A lot of damage helps a lot” does not always work. A new tactical component has been added that allows you to dodge an enemy group instead of fighting them.
The play with light and shadow
This time the game plan is not a city, but you are in the dark underground vaults of a distant land. The vault consists of rooms and corridors. These are not always brightly lit, and so there are dark areas: The shadows. To stay in such areas brings your hero advantages. Every hero has a so-called shadow skill, which makes him special. So you might get an extra defense cube or you might do a little more damage. In normally illuminated areas, your Heroes are only as good as their equipment and skills.
A small talent tree already existed in Zombicide, Massive Darkness has a skill system as well, but does it differently. In Zombicide the current level of the game was determined by the talents of the character. In Massive Darkness it’s the other way around. The gameplay is divided into different levels and only when you have entered a new level you can use the higher level talents. This way there is not too much imbalance between the different player characters. Nevertheless, players with more experience are allowed to buy higher level talents. However, they can only use them when the game level has progressed further.
Custom Dices in Massive Darkness
The most obvious difference to Zombicide, however, is in the dices. In Massive Darkness, the challenge is – similar to Fantasy Flight Games – to generate achievements by rolling the dice. You have four different coloured dice. Red and yellow dice are for the attack roll. Blue and green dice are used for defense, which can negate results on attack dice. You roll attack and defence dice together and count the achievements. This way, it can happen that a monster attacks with a handful of dice, but cannot generate a single hit.
A battle can be done in the following way: A monster attacks you with two yellow dice and one red die. Only 3 swords are rolled in total, which equals three hits. Our little hero only has one blue die for defense. With a bit of luck he manages to throw the maximum of 3 shields. The shields and the swords cancel each other out. The hero can breathe again, he has no wounds. In addition to the attack and defense symbols, there are also magic symbols on the dice. These can trigger special abilities of the heroes or weapons. This way the fight can still be steered in the right or wrong direction. Our opponents can also use these symbols. This kind of fight is more complex compared to Zombicide and therefore simply more fun. Players of Imperial Assault, X-Wing and Star Wars RPG know what is being meant.
Pick a card or two or three or…
If you don’t like dice, Massive Darkness makes you happy with cards. In total there are 280 !!! cards included. In the beginning you have to shuffle the cards. The cards have different categories. There are the equipment and treasure cards of our heroes. Another category contains the enemy cards. The higher the level of the dungeon, the more damage the enemies can take and deal. The event cards are the last big category. They describe what happens in the dungeon in each round. Is there a bonus for the heroes? Will a new patrol come into play? Or even worse: Is a roaming monster coming into the dungeon? You don’t want to meet these mini-bosses unprepared.
This is where Massive Darkness attacks another cornerstone of Zombicide. While the zombies were just about creating enemies at the spawn points, Massive Darkness can have two rounds in a row with nothing happening and no new enemies appearing. This takes some of the pressure out of the game and doesn’t cause immediate despair when a new abomination appears, as in Zombicide, and you still don’t know how to kill the first one.
Minis, minis and giant minis
In CMON games, the miniatures are almost standard. So no one is surprised that Massive Darkness contains a lot of detailed miniatures. Thereby the production quality seems to have made another leap forward. The miniatures have even finer details and that “only” in a board game. Even if you don’t want to play the game and only want to paint the miniatures, you will be busy here for a long time. But do you really need these miniatures? No of course not! I can hear them, the people who will say: “It’s just a detailed life point display for an enemy group. It does make a difference in terms of feel and fun. I’d rather look at a miniature with maybe 12 life points tokens or a four-man strong, bloodthirsty orc troop that gets in your way.
Of course the minis raise the price. Producing something like that is a bit more expensive than just carving a few wooden tokens. And if you add the one or the other extension, it can be a burden on your wallet. The people who are into CMON games know that this is not a cheap undertaking.
May it be something more
Additionally the game fun is enriched by a story mode. Here you level up your character more slowly and can face more and more powerful enemies. Newly captured equipment can also be used in the next quest. Something I missed a lot in previous Guillotine games. Like in Zombicide, it won’t be long before the community will develop quests of their own, which you can then plunge into.
Final thoughts on Massive Darkness
I am a Zombicide fan from the very first hour and call all games and their expansions my own. If you had asked me before the release of Massive Darkness which Zombicide I would recommend, I would have suggested Black Plague. With the new game from CMON I have to revise my opinion: The best Zombicide game is not a Zombicide – it’s Massive Darkness! Many elements are similar, but just as Black Plague went through a good evolution to its previous games, the new game adds two more gears. The use of the dice system alone would justify a purchase. It is simply fun to throw the dice and resolve the result. In addition, the game is controlled with the help of the cards – a small and well done improvement.
Of course you have to be a bit enthusiastic about miniature games. If you don’t like them, even a Massive Darkness won’t make you change your mind.
The real highlight is the story mode. In my opinion, you should only play the game in this mode. Once you’ve started and then return to a single quest, it seems like something is missing. But you should also take the story mode for what it is. A beginner-friendly mode that slowly guides you through the 10 quests. At no time in the story mode do you need to start gathering equipment together. So-called Grinding, as you know it from computer games like Diablo or similar, is not necessary. You don’t have to force the level increase. On the contrary: If you stay longer in the quest to gather more equipment or experience, you will only ruin the story mode.
In addition there are miniatures without end. Looking at the quality and appearance and comparing it to the first Zombicide games, it seems like there are decades in between and not just a few years.
For me, Massive Darkness is a clear recommendation to buy.