Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault
Designers: Marco Valtriani
Illustrator: Guido Favaro
Graphics: Frederico Dumas
Publisher: Red Glove
Time: 90-150 minutes
Ages: 8+ (8 year olds might need some initial coaching, but then should be fine)
Reviewer: Jonathan Franklin
Played 4 times with a varying number of players (review copy provided by Red Glove)
What is it about cooperative dungeon crawls? They seem powerfully transporting to another world that is both more exciting than paying the electric bill and more challenging that going to get some milk at the store.
Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Attack is worth your consideration for several reasons, but first, a bit about me. I played D&D in grade school, I have not played Descent, I don’t have the patience for discussions about line of sight or interrupts with different stacking powers. Therefore, take the rest of this review with that in mind.
What is Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault? It is a cartoonish dungeon crawl with real meat on its bones. Each player starts with one of six premade characters with equipment, stats, and special powers. The equipment and abilities can be upgraded through the course of the game. The game is really a set of missions, but each mission can take a while, so it might take 5-7 evenings to run through all the missions once. The game seems made for expansions and additional missions, so I doubt this is the end.
This is not a game for miniature painters. The pieces are thick cardboard standees, tiles, traps, portals, powers, monsters, tokens, etc. There are cool wooden columns, treasure chests, barrels, dice, and markers. It looks great to me and has a light artistic style, which is in keeping with its play style.
Photo by ultreia
The instructions are 20 pages and each mission is two pages long. The core of the game is the dice – wait – don’t run away. Each turn each player gets six dice and they get to choose one of 8 tasks, such as move, open a door, bash a barrel, etc. They then have to allocate how many of their six dice they are going to use to try that task. Are you a risk taker? You might allocate only 2 dice to lock picking a chest. Are you risk averse? You might spend all your dice to disarm a trap. This allocation process is great fun because it is always shoulda woulda coulda. Either you spend way too many dice on something or one too few.
The dice are non-standard. Two sides have a single sword, two sides have a double sword, and two sides have a star. A single sword = 1. A double sword = 2. A star = something different every time, depending on the character, mission, etc. This is a great way to build variety into a system with lots of theme. Each task keys off an attribute, so moving uses the speed attribute. If I roll three dice and get a sword, a double sword, and a star, it is 1+2+my character’s speed attribute. The weakling likely won’t be able to bash the barrel, because if they roll a star, the star = 1. If the tank rolls a star for the same task, the star will be a 4.
Other than the dice allocation system it is a pretty classic dungeon crawl, as far as I can tell. It has melee, ranged, and magic attacks. It has a simple zone of attack based on facing. It has goodies that you can find and put in your backpack. It has statuses like frozen, poisoned, and stunned. If you care, it has a solo mode, a harder (overlord) mode, and a pvp mode.
For me, the strength of this game is in its dice allocation method and its missions. The missions are preset tile/door/column/chest configurations. Interestingly, monsters do not have fixed stats. They vary between missions, so an ugly snout in the starting mission has an attack of 2, but later in the game, it has an attack of 4. Ouch! In addition, the monsters have different special powers from mission to mission.
I’m betting you get the basic idea, but are not sure how you win or lose. Well, there is a time track, called the turns board. You start at the 1. The bad guys start at a different number depending on the mission and the number of players. For example, in Mission 3: The Lair of Zur’ill, if there are two players, the monsters start on 18, but if there are five players, the monsters start on 15. During the game. players can move up the time track and monsters can move down the time track. You must complete the mission objective before the monsters meet the adventurers on the time track.
Win or lose, it is good fun. The game plays smoothly and with some variability within missions, so there is replayability. The art and iconography are both fun and easy to understand. The game length really varies because having more players seems to extend the discussions between turns which makes the game longer, even if the turns themselves don’t take that much longer.
Want a challenging but family-friendly dungeon crawl for a Saturday night? Get a copy of Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault. Just be sure to punch it all out and run through a solo mission before trying to teach it, as it will make the process of learning much smoother.
Other Opinionated Gamers Opinions:
A great minis dungeon crawl, and one of two recent standouts (Omega Protocol is the other) which breaks the move/fight or fight/move mold that has long dominated the genre. This one has mostly simple and clear cut rules with very few exceptions.
The downsides (and these are minor):
1. The rulebook layout is a little baffling with important rules tucked away in sidebars. The trickiest rules to learn are that the game uses a wargamey Zones Of Control rule. Any wargamer can blaze through that bit, but is has been a bit daunting to explain. It is also awesome to have ZOC in a game this light.
2. That # of players <-> number of turns mapping for how you win is pretty dodgy when you get outside the 4-5 for which the game seems playtested. You get 15 turns in a 5 player game and 16 turns in a 3 player game for Mission #2. The only other thing in the missions which scale for players is the some portal respawn values. Those produce the basic, easy critters who are barely a speed bump after halfway through the mission.
One other adorable thing about the game is how it is drenched in JRPG sensibilities. The power ups and charging and breaking barrels for loot (FINALLY!) are present. The character and backstories could have been ripped whole and bleeding from an SNES game manual. My wife for once in her life abandoned her standard thief/ranger choice for the creepy 7 year-old necromancer.
Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I have already wrote a lot about this game. I really like the rhythm, the dice allocation mechanics and how the different characters develop. Valtriani’s intent was to transpose in a game some of the “hack and slash” elements and I think he succeeded! So far I have played the game more than 15 times and also playing the same missions again and again is fun. The game is easy to teach (not so quick to set-up) and can be also played by kids, has a lot of replayability. To win the mission you need to plan your strategy, and wisely combine the powers of the different characters. There is luck in this game but not too much: just the randomness needed to make you feel not sure of the outcoming of your actions and that is great! A really outstanding game in the dungeon-crawl genre.
Opinionated Gamers Ratings:
I love it – Frank Branham. Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
I like it – Jonathan Franklin (strong like)
Not for me –