The Tyrants of the Underdark, the review

The Tyrants of the Underdark, the review

The Tyrants of the Underdark

The Tyrants of the Underdark is a board game from the Gale Force Nine publishing house, published in our country by Asmodee Italia, set in the Underdark, the Underground of the Forgotten Realms setting of the most famous fantasy role-playing game in the world: Dungeons & Dragons .

In Tyrants of the Underdark, two to four players aged fourteen and up must take the reins of a drow house, the dark elves who rule the Underdark, and fight for control of the Underdark in competitive matches lasting about ninety minutes. Thanks to two perfectly integrated mechanics, those of area control and deck building, in The Tyrants of the Underdark players will have to build their own deck during the course of the game, recruiting drow, dragons, cultists and demonic minions. These minions can be used to assassinate enemy units or to infiltrate and control opposing strongholds.

The Tyrants of the Underdark, the setting

As mentioned in the introduction, The Tyrants of Underdark is set in one of the most famous locations of the fantasy RPG Dungeons & Dragons, that of the Forgotten Realms. In this setting, the Underdark is described as a huge underground tangle of tunnels and caverns that extends beneath the continents, forming a real underground world where sunlight never enters.

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In this dark and violent setting, players will be at the head of a drow house and must, through devious attacks, betrayals and deceit, defeat rival houses and seize power and control of the Underdark.

Tyrants of the Underdark, setting up a game

The setup phase of a game of The Tyrants of 'Underdark is really blazing fast. After having prepared the game map by placing on it the markers of the neutral units and places (the map is divided into three sectors, depending on the number of players you will use them all, two or only one), the players will have to choose each one. one drow house among the four available and take the relative boards and the relative tokens. In fact this is simply a matter of color preferences as there are no differences between one house or the other.

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Finally, each player must create his own deck consisting of ten Basic cards (seven nobles and three soldiers). , shuffle it and draw your hand of five cards. The game can then begin.

Tyrants of the Underdark, the game flow

In a game of Tyrants of the Underdark there is no fixed number of game rounds, but this will only end when one of the two end-of-game conditions is met: a player deploys his last troop or the eighty-card deck of the market is finished. At this point the Victory Points will be counted and whoever has the highest total will be the winner.

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Play a card from your hand: the cards provide the resources power, influence and / or other abilities. The cards are placed on the table in front of you, the resources are added to your supply, and then any action or game effect on the card is applied. Spending resources from your own reserve: power and influence come from the cards that are played from your hand, but they can also be provided by the partial or total control markers of a place, gained by taking control of it. You can spend power from your resource pool to place your troops on the board, assassinate enemy troops, or withdraw enemy spies from the board. You can spend influence to buy cards from the market. Purchased cards go directly to your discard pile. Resources are acquired turn by turn and cannot be stored, any unspent ones will be lost at the end of their turn.

Once a player declares that his turn is over, if a card he has played contains a promotion effect, chooses one of the played cards, removes it from their deck and places it in their inner circle. This will increase the Victory Point value of the card at the end of the game, at the cost of removing that card from your deck during the game. If the player controls a location with a control marker, he will earn those Victory Points. Finally, he must put all played cards and all unplayed cards from his hand into the discard pile and draw a new hand of five cards. Should the deck run out, shuffle the discard pile and reform it.

At the end of these steps, another player's turn will begin. When all players have taken their turn, the round will end and a new one will begin, unless one of the two end-of-game conditions has been met. Note that the round must be completed even if one of the above conditions is met during a player's turn, in this way all participants will perform the same number of turns.

In The Tyrants of the Underdark the Victory Points they will be awarded for the control of the locations on the map, for the opposing units eliminated during the game, for the cards in your deck, for the cards placed in your inner circle and from the Victory Point tokens collected during the game. Obviously, the winner will be the player with the most Victory Points.

Tyrants of the Underdark, let's explore the game

As we said earlier, Tyrants of the Underdark is characterized by two main mechanics, those of deck building and area control.

Cards provide two resources and each belongs to one of the five aspects of drow society (Ambition, Conquest, Evil, Deception and Obedience), potentially have special abilities and provide two different values ​​at the end of the game, depending on whether or not the card is promoted to the inner circle during the game. The decision of when and whether to promote a card is a constant pressure that can severely affect the game.

The decision of which card to buy from the market can also be challenging. Each of the cards in the market deck, in fact, has a rarity indicated by one to four points, which translates into the number of copies of that card in that deck. Six of these cards are placed face up in the market and you will be able to buy as many cards as you can afford. A purchased card is immediately replaced by a new card drawn from the deck. It will therefore be essential to choose which cards to acquire, thinking both according to your deck and to hinder your opponents by taking away from them a potentially excellent card for their strategy.

In The Tyrants of the Underdark, as we mentioned earlier, they are including six market “half decks” of forty cards each and two must be chosen to create the market deck. This involves a good amount of possible combinations and gives the product a high value in terms of replayability and longevity.

But this The Tyrants of the Underdark goes beyond just building the deck. Deciding how to spend your power and populate the map with your units or depopulate it from enemy units or spies is another challenging decision. The players, in fact, will be able to place their units only in those places where there is at least one free space and which already contain their own unit or if one of their units is on a path that connects two places and is adjacent to that place. It will therefore be essential to both take a seat on the map, and assassinate enemy units, to create space for your own and to prevent an opponent from placing an additional unit in a given location.

And this is where they come in. I play the spies. These can only be placed through certain card actions and can be deployed anywhere on the map, even if you don't already have units there. In addition, they guarantee the presence to be able to place other units. This is a great way to sneak behind enemy lines and establish a foothold. Deciding which locations to control and which are not important to your strategy will be crucial.

The combination of deploying your own units and spies and assassinating enemy units and spies makes control of the Tyrants of the Underdark area definitely fun, but also a bit chaotic. You are never safe, spies can pop up anywhere, and some cards can assassinate units without expending power.

From an editorial standpoint

Editorially speaking, Tyrants of the Underdark is be a more than discreet game. The materials, in fact, are quite good, with map, boards, board and tokens made of sturdy cardboard and of good weight.

The only definitely negative aspect of The Tyrants of the Underdark is the relative one. to the quality of the cards. These, in fact, are not only absolutely not canvas, but they are even too thin and light, with the result of bending at the mere glance and becoming irremediably marked and ruined only after a couple of shuffles. If we normally recommend the use of protective sleeves, in this case we would like to affirm that it is practically an obligation.

From an artistic point of view, however, it is precisely the cards that are the strong point of I Tiranni dell 'Underdark. The illustrations on the cards, in fact, are striking and evocative and really manage to bring the Drow and what they represent to life, as well as the other inhabitants of the Underdark. They will only have the approval of all Dungeons & Dragons fans. The same goes for the market board and the various house boards, which are visually pleasing and functional to the game.

The map deserves a separate discussion. The layout of the first is certainly excellently functional for the mechanics of controlling the area, but from an artistic point of view it is extremely disappointing and anonymous, especially when compared to the beauty of the cards. The chromatic choice is good, with dark colors that well reflect the impression of being in the gloomy Underdark, but the detail is decidedly lacking, with most of the places reduced to being a simple box and with only the tactically important ones to be rewarded with an illustration.

The regulation, finally, is written quite clearly and does not contain any particular typos or errors. However, we felt the lack of a few more examples that could meet novice players, who at first might feel a little confused.


In light of what emerged from our field tests and what is expressed in the reviews, we can say that The Tyrants of the Underdark is overall a good board game, capable of entertaining and entertaining thanks to the optimal fusion of the two main mechanics that compose it.

The high level of replayability of Tyrants of the Underdark is another great added value. The decks that make up the market are a great way to make the game always new, as the different skills of the cards will force players to change their style of play according to the type of cards present. As a result, the way in which participants act and react on the map to control locations and infiltrate spies will also change from game to game.

However, the combination of the randomness of deck construction coupled with the lack of ability to counter an opponent's action during his turn may be frustrating for some players. No place is ever safe, a player can place a spy, supplant or assassinate one of the remaining opposing units in a place, even if all the paths adjacent to that place are filled to the brim with other units. And the unfortunate person can only stand by.

The materials used are generally good, although the cards are really insufficient for a title of this caliber, and the artistic sector, especially the illustrations of the cards. The graphics of the map underline.

A product aimed at…

The Tyrants of the Underdark is a board game that may very well be enjoyed even by those who are not a fan of Dungeons & Dragons and the Forgotten Realms. Obviously, for the latter, the game takes on even greater value, thanks to the remarkable illustrations of the cards and the setting that is excellently rendered in terms of the game. However, it is a title that is aimed more at those who are already used to moving between fairly demanding board games and, at least at the beginning, it could be a bit difficult and frustrating for those approaching this kind of products for the first time.

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