Something evil..terrible…is stirring at the heart of a dungeon in a thick forest near the edge of your town. It’s up to your party of heroes to brave the beast’s lair and strike the Monstrous Terror within down before it can escape and wreak havoc on the land. It won’t be easy, though. The dungeon is filled with monsters and traps laying in wait for those foolish enough to enter.
Wakening Lair is Rather Dashing Games’ latest release, a streamlined cooperative dungeon crawl for 2-6 players where players choose from 18 heroes from 9 different classes. The goal? Explore the dungeon, loot it for powerful treasures, and take out the Monstrous Terror before it can escape.
Wakening Lair starts with a fairly straightforward setup. Shuffle the Dungeon Cards and line up, face-down. Shuffle the Monstrous Terror boards and select one, again face-down, at random and place it on the 12th Dungeon Card. Shuffle the Monsters (placing the Monstrous Terror Awakens card within the last 8 cards of the pile) and Treasures and place them to the side along with the white and red wooden cubes. Each player then chooses one of 18 Hero Cards (9 cards, each with a male and female side) and play is ready to begin.
On each player’s turn they’ll:
- Awaken a Room: Roll 2 dice and flip the Dungeon Card in that position of the line, populating it with the number of Monsters shown. If the room has already been Awakened, an extra Monster is added up to a max of 3.
- Take Actions: The player has 3 actions to do the following:
- Move: Move to any Awakened Dungeon Card as long as all the cards leading to that card have also been Awakened. Traps and Monsters will stop a player from moving further, but an additional Action can be taken to continue movement.
- Attack: Roll the dice to attack a Monster on the same Dungeon Card as the Hero. Additional bonuses are given for weapons, Monster weaknesses, and Room Advantage.
- Use a Hero Ability or Magic Item: Use a Hero’s innate ability or the ability given by a Magic Artifact.
- Claim Treasure: For each monster killed, draw a Treasure Card. A Hero may attach 2 Weapons and 2 Magic Artifacts or may hold a Treasure in reserve to give to another Hero when they’re in the same space.
- Get Attacked: If any Monsters are in the same space as the Hero at the end of the turn they attack with a number of dice equal to their undamaged hitboxes.
This changes a bit when the Monstrous Terror awakens either by drawing the Monstrous Terror Awakens card or rolling a 12 on the Awaken a Room phase. At this point, any Dungeon Cards that haven’t been Awakened are flipped over, though not populated, and the Monstrous Terror is flipped over. From this point on player’s skip the Awaken a Room phase of each round and the Monstrous Terror moves 1 card towards the entrance at the end of players’ turns. On top of this any Monsters, it comes across will follow it down and the Monstrous Terror cannot attack or be attacked until ever Monster on the same space as it has been defeated. Combine that with the fact that each Monstrous Terror has several areas to destroy and its own special abilities and you’ve got a tough fight on your hands.
There are several ways for the game to end. First is if any player dies and cannot be resurrected. Second is if the Monsterous Terror makes its way out of the dungeon. Third, the only victory condition is if the players defeat the Monstrous Terror.
There’s a bunch of details I’ve left out, like how combat and treasures are handled, but you can find all that info in Wakening Lair’s full rules.
I’ve come to expect high production values from Rather Dashing Games, but Wakening Lair may be their best yet. The box is shaped like, and opens like, a book and is held shut with a magnetic flap. The inside of the lid is printed with pictures and summaries of each of the game’s heroes.
Inside the insert has enough room for all the cards, boards tokens, etc… with a little bit left over, hopefully for an expansion. As far as the components go, the Monsterous Terror boards are thick and sturdy, each with indents for the wooden damage cubes to fit into when they take damage. The Monster, Treasure, and Hero cards are all oversized, wonderfully illustrated, and easy to comprehend. Each player token is a wooden disc painted in the character’s color with their symbol on top. The dice are….dice.
Wakening Lair provides a satisfying, cooperative dungeon crawl experience in less than an hour and doesn’t even need a player to take control of the Monstrous Terror and Monsters. It takes the dungeon crawl experience and streamlines it into a timeline of Dungeon Cards that players move up and down, defeating Monsters, disarming Traps, and bulking up on Treasures to help them defeat the final boss. Each character class has its own unique strengths and weaknesses as does each Monstrous Terror. The amount of different combinations of characters, Treasures, Monsters, and bosses is staggering.
While the entire game is fun, the endgame is where Wakening Lair really shines. The choices the players make once the Monstrous Terror awakens are tough. It’s a struggle to stay alive, defeat all the leftover monsters, and keep the boss from exiting the dungeon. Unless you’ve got a way to stall the Monstrous Terror it’s hightailing it out of dodge in 12 short turns. It’s difficult but not impossible, and that’s what makes the game a success in my mind. That, combined with a simple set of rules, short playtime, and a $35 price tag, makes it a game that fans of the genre should at least give a shot.
A copy of Wakening Lair was provided free by Rather Dashing Games for review
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.