Location: Tony’s Boardgaming Bungalow
Players: Tony, Awesome Brian (author of this review), and Old Brian (BGQ editor)
Game to be Played: Undecided
Tony: “What do you guys want to play?”
Old Brian: “I don’t know… it’s past my nap time… ”
Awesome Brian: “I am in the mood for a hybrid deck building, area control game, set in a historic fantasy setting, but I will only play if it is a second edition reprint so all of the content is in one package.”
Tony reaches below the table and pulls out Tyrants of the Underdark, still in shrink.
AB: “Sweet! I was hoping you had that! But why haven’t you opened it yet?”
T: “Because I was saving it for you, my favorite reviewer and, more importantly, favorite Brian! Besides, I think this evening is over.”
Tony motioned with his hands towards Old Brian, who was fast asleep, drooling on Tony’s gaming table.
Tyrants of the Underdark is a hybrid deck building and area control game for two to four potential tyrants. It plays in about 30 minutes per player. It takes place in the Underdark, a giant underground realm set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting in the D&D roleplaying game. Players are the leaders of rival Drow houses (think Dark Elves with a mean streak). The object of the game, like most deck building games, is to collect the most victory points (VPs) by the end of the game through board control, spy networks, assassination, and manipulation.
Players take turns performing the following actions, as many times as desired and in any order they want:
- Play a card from their hand
- Spend resources to perform an action
The game ends when either a player places their last troop or the market deck is empty. Points are then tallied and the player with the most victory points is crowned “Most Successful Tyrant of the Underdark,” or simply “The Winner.”
Although marketing materials from Gale Force 9 called this a “second edition reprint,” the only changes are component-based and there are no gameplay modifications. In fact, my thoughts from my original review (which you can read here) still stand on the game. Five years later, this game still holds up and remains one of my favorite deck building games in my collection.
I want to focus this review on the differences between the original and the reprint so that a) owners of the original game can decide if the reprint is worth it and b) potential new owners can determine which version would be better for them.
There are two significant changes from the original release: the removal of miniatures and the inclusion of an expansion.
The new version uses cardboard tokens instead of miniatures for the troops and spies. While the miniatures have a better board presence, the tradeoff is a more affordable game, especially with where 2021 board game prices are at. I’ll be honest, while I definitely prefer the miniatures, the tokens in no way make the game more difficult to play or less fun. In fact, I would not recommend chasing the original release for the miniatures simply because of the price difference. Personally, I would not find it worth it.
On the plus side, the reprint includes the Tyrants of the Underdark Expansion pack, which was previously sold separately. The expansion includes two forty card decks, Aberrations and Undead. The base game included four decks, of which two are used each game. The additional two decks increase the replay value of the game significantly. In addition, the original expansion had color and material issues that required you to sleeve the cards. The color and material issues have been addressed in the reprint.
If you own the original and are looking to get the expansions, you have to balance the cost of the reprint versus the cost of finding the expansion and sleeves for all of your cards. You cannot mix the reprint cards with the original as there are material differences between the two sets of cards. If you do not own the original, this is a huge positive for purchasing the reprint.
The remainder of the changes are minor. The material for the board and playmats is different (no better or worse). The inner circle boards have been removed. Players now place promoted cards to the left of their player board. Finally, the rulebook has been shortened. Some art was removed and unfortunately, the lore section explaining the locations was eliminated.
Two of my complaints from the original printing were not addressed. The board art remains the same and the card stock, while slightly better, is still nothing to write home about.
If you do not own Tyrants of the Underdark, I can easily recommend this reprint. Sure, it does not have the miniatures. But I honestly do not believe it is worth chasing on the secondary market. The same solid gameplay is still there.
As an owner of the original, I cannot see a reason to buy this reprint unless you do not have the expansion and do not want to sleeve your cards. You could buy this reprint and use the miniatures from your original game.
My final thoughts from five years ago still apply. I love Tyrants of the Underdark. It is still in my collection today. This is my type of game, especially because it plays well for two and in under an hour. That, combined with the interesting decisions, made this game a winner!
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – Five years later this is still one of my favorite deck builders
• No miniatures