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Dark Souls board game’s third attempt at tabletop adaptation isn’t for established players

NG+, this is not.

Image credit: Steamforged Games/FromSoftware

You’d be hard pressed to find a board game story studded with as much disappointment, hope and a redux of disappointment as Steamforged Games’ Dark Souls: The Board Game. First released in 2017, the adaptation of Fromsoft’s famous video game series announced a new core box set called The Sunless City. Unfortunately, it might only be worth purchasing for new players or the obsessive collector.

Dark Souls: The Board Game - The Sunless City will use the revised rules borne out of a collaboration between Steamforged and members of the community tapped to fix the bevy of balancing issues, bugs and sluggish guff attached to the experience the studio Kickstarted in 2017 to the then-record-breaking tune of $5.4 million.

Two boxed sets heralded the revised edition of Dark Souls’ tabletop adaptation, based on Gravelord Nito’s realm and the Painted World of Ariamis. Unfortunately, Steamforged pared back the components and gameplay content included in each box while selling each at a price just £20 shy of the original’s £160 RRP (adjusted for inflation). The quality of miniatures, map tiles and cards took a baffling hit, and production issues plagued nearly every facet of Matt’s copy of the board game.

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Into that dubious environment enters The Sunless City, keeping the cooperative dungeon crawling model but updating every aspect of the game into the 2.0 rules version. Each box comes with 15 miniatures, including three bosses - Orenstein and Smough chief among them. Three character boards let players portray the Pyromancer, Warrior or Herald as they refine their personal decks and dungeon decks, learn enemy behavior and trudge their way through The Sunless City on a warpath to Lordran’s keepers.

If you own the original copy of the board game, there’s little here to justify the £109/$109 sticker price. As players have noted on social media and Reddit, the only new addition are conversion cards that Steamforged Games has made available on their website - along with the updated rules - although only as printable files. In fact, both previously released versions of Dark Souls: The Board Game offer more components, experience and options than The Sunless City. One problem - stock of the older models are increasingly rare and expensive to find.

If you’re new to Dark Souls: The Board Game, The Sunless City is certainly your cheapest and easiest entry point into what is genuinely a compelling tabletop translation of Dark Souls’ white-knuckle boss fights and the process of untangling enemy behavior, eventually mastering the dance that leaves you with a pile of souls and some tasty loot. If you’ve holidayed in the Kingdom of Lordran before, though, The Sunless City will be another disappointing entry in a perplexing series.

Dark Souls: The Board Game - The Sunless City is now available to pre-order from Steamforged’s website through January 31st, 2024. Retail launch in hobby shops and online stores is expected to open February 14th.

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