Panda Cult Games is a dynamic, charismatic, and enthusiastic small company with obviously passionate team members. With their successful board game, Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay, it’s not a wonder why Yacht Club Games entrusted the crew to create a tabletop adventure based on their beloved franchise, Shovel Knight. Recently, I was given the chance to get hands-on time with Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels at Gen Con in Indianapolis and had an absolute blast!
I started this hands-on session with Logan, the Community Manager for Panda Cult Games, and two fans of Shovel Knight from Kentucky. The two Kentuckians were reluctant at first to try the game, though both boasted their love of the Shovel Knight video game. I was also cautious about the board game; “How are they gonna make this board game capture what’s awesome about the video game?”
The board itself is comprised of several rectangular cardboard pieces randomly sorted to create the base level. After each turn, a new piece is pushed to the right and the left piece is pushed out – which represents the scrolling of the video game. On these boards are also hazards that hurt the players as well as various enemy symbols which randomly sets up rivals for the players to defeat.
The figures themselves are about 1-1.5 inches tall (sorry didn’t bring a rule) and are wonderfully designed to mirror, nearly identically, a 3D rendering of the characters in the original game. Though the figures aren’t in final design, I adore the attention to detail that Panda Cult Games put in.
The attention to detail isn’t just with the boards and figures. Each card, whether it’s for enemies, upgrades, or boss fights, are all skillfully crafted. My new Kentuckian friends after a few minutes were shouting with excitement and awe as their favorite items showed themselves through the gameplay.
Now, the actual gameplay: The 1-4 player competitive game challenges players to collect the most treasure, gain valuable items, and eventually defeat the dynamic bosses. Actions occur based on given allocation points (a player card that lists base original health, movement, attack, etc.) as well as rolled dice for various successes and failures. Throughout our demo, we kept “accidentally” pushing our fellow knights away from treasures or into spiked pits – further adding to the calamity, craziness, and genuine fun from the chaos.
Once we clumsily (in a good way!) pushed through the base level, we faced a much larger threat – the boss stage against King Knight. Similar to the original game, each boss has a set number of attacks and patterns. Elevating this notion into a board game, each boss has an 8-card deck of moves that are inspired by the original game. Players can haphazardly move around the board to avoid attacks and inflict their own damage to the boss. However, to the astute if the battle lasts several rotations of the deck, players can anticipate and adjust their movements from the boss’s predictive order – another fantastic cornerstone from the franchise. To our unlikely success, we opted for an “all out” approach due to the nature of our demo, so we were NOT the astute group that memorized patterns…
Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels is exactly what I hoped a side-scrolling board game could be. The team at Panda Cult Games has a passion for the franchise, shown constantly through their wonderful attention to detail. I’m confident with their continued efforts, not only will Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels reach fans of Shovel Knight, but a whole cluster of board game fans who will fall in love with the scooping hero.
The Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels Kickstarter has raised over $50,000 in three days since launch. If you are interested in supporting this endeavor, follow the link here. The Kickstarter is expected to conclude on September 7, 2019 at 1:59pm EST.