Hi there! We are Nick and Argy, the designers of Darkest Dungeon: The Board Game.
Since the pledge manager is coming up, we decided to step in and give you a thorough explanation of how the campaign works in this game and how the expansions add to it and affect it.
As you can read in the rulebook, a campaign is made of 11 quests that are grouped in 4 Acts. In the first 3 acts you’ll have to deal with the imminent threats (that are the bosses). Once you’ve sent them to the abyss, you are ready to storm the Darkest Dungeon and its final 2 quests. In this article, we will focus on the first 3 acts, since this is the part of the campaign that changes the most each time you play and is affected by the expansions.
Bosses play a major role. They are not just big enemies with unique fighting abilities (although they are that too!), they can affect the course of the campaign in different ways. Each boss has 3 versions of itself; one for each level. Each level of each boss has different threats: passive abilities that affect the Hamlet and the dungeons alike.
When you start the campaign, you will take the cards of all level 1 bosses, shuffle them and draw one at random. This is your imminent threat for the moment, and you will face the boss itself on your third quest. You need to be adequately prepared however before you get to that boss and confront it. You will therefore need to complete some other quests beforehand. Let’s take a look at those.
Since this is the first act of the campaign, you will shuffle all 6 act I Quest cards and you will draw 2 at random. As a group, you’ll decide which Quest you want to pursue. The other one is discarded permanently for this campaign. Quests have a push-your-luck element; what this means is that you don’t have a strict goal, rather you can push for as many objectives you think you can handle, and you will be rewarded equally in XP. All quests have 3 objectives and can give you between 0 and 3 XP.
After you decide that your quest is over, you return instantly to the Hamlet with all the valuables you’ve collected and spend them on you or the hamlet itself, to recover, level up and upgrade the buildings and their services.
Now, as you do all that, the boss you have picked as the Threat for the first act has some passive abilities. For example, let’s say you picked the Prophet. He will force the heroes to suffer 2 Stress each time they enter a new dungeon, and the Tavern will have you recover fewer Stress when in the Hamlet. These effects will persist until you reach the third quest and defeat the Prophet. Other bosses will have other Threats that affect your campaign. The Necromancer, for example, focuses on reanimating dead monsters, and the Collector on emptying the valuables of the dungeon before you reach them. So, as you see, each boss has a different focus and affects the campaign differently. These Threats are not the same in all the forms of a boss. So, the higher the level of the boss, the more powerful its Threat will be (though it will always focus on the boss’ theme).
Once you’ve defeated the Prophet, on our hypothetical scenario, the campaign will advance to act II. You will shuffle all level 2 monsters together with the level 1 (so stronger monsters will start to appear), you will use instead the act II quests and start drawing from them (so quests will become more challenging) and you’ll also start using the level 2 Trinkets (so the Trinkets you find in the dungeon will be stronger – something for the heroes too!). The next thing you’ll do, is take the level 2 form of the remaining bosses and draw one at random as your imminent Threat for this act. Maybe this time, it is the Necromancer with his reanimation abilities, that brings back dead monsters in the Ruins and forces heroes to guard the Cemetery in the Hamlet – who knows!
We hope this explains the course of the campaign and you have a better understanding of what this entails. In our next designer diary, we will explain how the expansions add to the campaign and present a different experience!
Until then, keep light in your path, Torchbearers!