Back to my 12 Days of Holiday Game Recommendations! One of my favorite types of board games are ones that fully and competently embrace the visual aesthetics of the medium. (Mind you, there are phenomenal games that take a minimalist approach in their presentation. Don’t take this as a sly condemnation of that approach.) I also really like games that give you components that can be easily repurposed. So for Day 7 I’m enthusiastically propping up Massive Darkness, by CMON.

Massive Darkness is a fantasy board game by several of the creators of Zombicide. At the start of each play session players will pick a scenario that will tell them how to build the map, what their objectives are, and any additional rules they should keep in mind. Then players will choose their character, and their class. The characters get a few abilities unique to them, while their class determines how they can progress over the course of play. Mixing and matching the character and classes is one of the fun parts of multiple playthroughs!

Enemies and treasure in Massive Darkness are determined by card draw. As players progress through a scenario, they’ll reach more difficult parts of the dungeon that will spawn stronger enemies and better loot. Enemies are represented by miniatures (more on those below), and will either come as a horde, a mini-boss, or a boss monster. No matter the type, they will also spawn with a random magic item that the player who strikes the final blow gets to keep.

Combat in Massive Darkness is very basic at its core. The game comes with unique six-sided dice that are either for attacks or defense. Fights are simple matter of gathering the dice pools for the attacker and defender, and having a roll-off. Outcomes can be modified by a creature’s special abilities, a character’s traits, or an item’s powers. But combat is still meant to be a faced-paced affair.

The gameplay experience of Massive Darkness reminds me of the old Gauntlet video games, but with more customization. Players are going face swarms of baddies, trade loot with amongst the team, and have to choose on the fly which ability to unlock. It’s a casual “beer-and-pretzels” experience for as many as six, or for solo play. It’s easy to teach, and has great replay value out of the box that can be tweaked with expansions and crossover packs that integrate Zombicide.

Now enough about the gameplay, let’s talk about the visuals! The artwork embraces that sweet spot between “simple” and “unique”. The wizard has a staff and pointy hat. The thief has a cowl and two daggers. The barbarian’s muscles are as comically oversized as his ax. Meanwhile it’s easy to tell which monsters are the orcs, goblins, or dwarves with a simple glace. But everything is depicted in such a unique style that they couldn’t come from anywhere but the world of Massive Darkness (or Zombicide). Just as it’s easy to tell a Warhammer Ork from any other orc, the various pieces from Massive Darkness couldn’t be from anywhere else.

This absolutely translates to the miniatures, of which there are over seventy! Massive Darkness is a fantastic purchase just for the miniatures alone. It’s a great supply of monsters for any game of D&D/Pathfinder/13 Age/etc. And at less than $2 a mini, they’re cheaper the various Bones or WizKids options. (And of much higher quality, in my opinion.) It’s a great gift for the GM or painter on your list, and they get a cool game in addition to all of the plastic toys.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.