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The Undercity – First Impressions

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I’m usually not one to post these sort of articles, but after seeing the hype that this game’s getting as well as the long discussions on the BoardGameGeek forums, I figured there’s a first time for everything. Of course I’m talking about The Undercity, the brand new board game from Privateer Press set in the world of the Iron Kingdoms RPG. There’s been a lot of talk about this game – and it’s for good reason. Some of the hype has been anticipation of its arrival while some of it has been about the game’s presentation. After busting out our copy and getting it to the table last night I wanted to post my first impressions of what it had to offer.

Now keep in mind, this is no official review – that will come later. I just merely wanted to post about the apprehensions I had toward the game as well as the hope I had in playing it. When we got the game to the table I first noticed just how heavy the box was. There’s a lot of stuff packed inside, what with a giant bag of models and all. Speaking of models, there’s something I noticed with the sculpts of the models in The Undercity. Specifically, I noticed that they’re vastly similar to those in the LEVEL 7 games when it comes to material and sculpt. I’m in the middle of my LEVEL 7 [OMEGA PROTOCOL] review and I couldn’t help but notice that the models from that game were all bent in some manner. Some of the models were skewed on their stands while others had their stands warped. With The Undercity this was the same case. Some of the Villains and Heroes were leaning, bent on their stands. Now this can be fixed by bending the models the opposite way and holding it for a bit, but it’s something to take notice of. I feel like Privateer Press – a company that specializes in a hit miniature wargame – should have more attention paid to the detail of these models.

That being said, the sculpts are fantastic. The detail on the faces, clothing, and weaponry are all the same quality you’d expect from a Privateer Press model. I’m actually excited to paint these models once the appropriate time comes around. A final mention about the models, I don’t think anyone else has had this issue, but I actually did not receive a model in my bag for Gurdek. We instead received two Doorstop models. I’m currently waiting to hear back from Privateer Press on getting this issue fixed.

Perhaps the biggest topic taking the BGG forums by storm is the issue with the game’s board. You see, The Undercity is played on a giant board on which you’ll place different tiles to create the play area. The tiles can be anything from stairs and passage ways to entrances and control modules. The main complaint with this is that the game’s board is simply too bland. Here’s a look at the board without tiles or anything on it:

It’s made of different cobblestone sections that are roughly 3″x3″. Tiles are placed over the board sections to create a different gaming space with each chapter play through. Now you can see what the board looks like, and it’s nothing grand. In the beginning I was severely worried about the board and was even in talks with a buddy of mine to work on some Hirst Arts creations to make a brand new board to play on. Other gamers felt the same apprehension I did, and many of them even skipped on buying the game just because the board looks the way it does. After busting the game out and having a play under my belt, I can say that this apprehension was all for nothing.

Honestly, while I was playing the game I paid very little attention to the board. There was so much going on that I completely forgot about how the board looked. I was too busy focusing on which Villains I wanted to squash, and with the flow of gameplay there wasn’t time for me to complain. In fact, the only issue that arose while playing was that I noticed in the campaign book the chapter stated there were makeshift buildings blocking off sections of the “streets” in Corvis, though the tiles that you place on the board to block off gaming sections showed no such artwork. Still, the board looking the way it does has become the least of my worries. For those on the fence, I urge you to play a demo game before shutting down the possibility of buying this for yourselves.

The last bit of apprehension I had came with actually playing the characters. For some reason I felt that playing Pog & Doorstop just wouldn’t be any fun. I figured they’d be too complicated and require too much strategy to enjoy. Boy, was I ever wrong! After playing the game now I’d say that they’re easily my favorite characters to play. Pog has a strategy about him that really lets you play the way you want with Doorstop. You can send him in to annihilate enemies, or you can use him as a bodyguard to protect yourself – and allies – from incoming enemy advances. Doorstop can maneuver about the board on his own, but when he’s close to Pog he really shines. Essentially you’re playing two characters in one, but there’s a synergy that wraps the two together in a single force to be reckoned with.

Now that I’ve got a play of The Undercity in all I can say is that I can’t wait for more. The game’s mechanics are fun, there’s plenty going on to keep players in the loop, the artwork is fantastic, and the game is just plain enjoyable. I’m glad that my apprehensions so far have been dismissed by the gameplay, and I’m looking forward to digging into the rest of The Undercity’s chapters to see what unfolds. Keep an eye out for a full review soon!