Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fun Against Darkness

I've been feeling guilty about eschewing miniatures for my virtual battles so I planned on reviving my Aetheria campaign (with a game like this). An injured cat waylaid those plans, but I also got distracted by a new game - Four Against Darkness by Ganesha Games.

Four Against Darkness (4AD) is a fast-play, random dungeon-crawl game that is excellent for solo play. The player (or players) form a party of 4 characters (hence the Four part of the title) that delve into the dark of a dungeon. Character classes are basic (warrior, cleric, rogue, wizard, barbarian, elf, dwarf, or halfing).

What, no paladin?! Heresy I say!
Once you begin adventuring, random rolls determine the rooms, enemies, treasures, etc. Of course, random dungeon crawls aren't necessarily novel, but one thing I found unique was the method of mapping the dungeon. There are several pages of room drawings (like the one below) with the rooms given a numeric key.

A quick roll of two D6s will give you a new room. You map it and then roll to determine its contents. Another interesting facet is the quick-play combat system. Roll D6 + mods greater than the monster's level to get a hit. Minions (weaker monsters) can only take 1 hit so a battle against a horde of them will only take a couple of minutes. Boss monsters have a life pool but even then the fight should go quick. The simple system will allow you to finish a dungeon lickety-split. Another neat feature is that it requires very few supplies. Graph paper and some dice are all you need (although you could use miniatures). Thus, it is quick and easy to play.

This morning, I created a party consisting of a warrior, cleric, rogue, and wizard and began exploring the dungeon.

My party's dungeon
So far, they have chased off some vampire bats and goblins, defeated a troll, found a clue (2 more will reveal a secret of the dungeon), solved a puzzle, a killed a giant spider. There's still plenty more in store. I'll post a complete game report when I finish the dungeon.

According to the rules, one's first game should take a little over an hour and experienced players should take around 45 minutes. In one gaming session, one should finish an entire dungeon. I'm going at a much slower pace. For one thing, I set up an Excel file to handle recording the dungeon; setting up the file delayed me a bit. Also, I am referring to a PDF version of the rules. There are quite a few tables and I find myself jumping back and forth throughout the book. It would be nice if there were an appendix with all the tables in one location.

Another potential flaw is the table-driven enemies. I could see adventures getting a little stale as you keep fighting the same enemies. Ganesha Games have promised expansions, which I imagine will alleviate repetitiveness. Perhaps they'll also add a paladin class.

Nevertheless, this game is great fun. You get the feeling of a dungeon crawl in a fraction of the time (and with the fraction of the effort). I will definitely keep playing, and am looking forward to the expansions.

One blogger mentions a game report contest. I can't find a reference to it on the Ganesha Games site but I'm going to try to enter.


  1. Hi , please dowmload the game again. I updated the rules. Now the tables are all repeated at the end of the book and the pdf is indexed so you could be faster. Also with this review you entered the competition. You will find the competition rules in a Txt file in the zip file for the game.

  2. Actually i realized that on the version on my site there is no txt. Well rules are as follows: post a review or play report within may 24th, including a link to buy the game, and ket me know. On may 25th I will draw one lucky winner who will receive a lifetime supply of all supplements produced for 4AD.

  3. Thanks, I'll download it. Looking forward to the supplements. This game is a blast