The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition
From: APE Games
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck
One of the more prominent gaming webcomics out there is Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick. Part of its longevity can be attributed to its successful transition from a basic gag comic poking fun at the tropes and mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons to a tale with an elaborate storyline, while never abandoning its humorous roots. The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition revisits the dungeon crawling antics from which it originated.
From the rulebook:
“The members of the Order of the Stick are a band of deeply incompetent and dysfunctional fools who are more interested in proving who is the best than in working together as a team.”
The game is a modular board dungeon crawler of the semi-cooperative variety where the objective is to explore the Dungeon of Dorukan and defeat the evil lich Xykon. As the above quote implies, everyone is out for themselves in spite of their common goal. One turn you could be helping another player lay a smackdown on some goblins, and the next you could be bushwhacking that player and taking their stuff.
Players interact with the game through their Shticks. Each of the six characters has their own Shtick deck providing a wide range of abilities themed for the character in question. For instance, Elan’s Shticks lean towards aiding other players while Haley’s are geared towards Loot acquisition and Belkar’s encourage him to attack other players. Some Shticks are flipped when you use them, leaving them unavailable until you get an opportunity to unflip. New Shticks are gained primarily by cashing in either Loot cards or XP gained from killing monsters. If you draw a duplicate of a Shtick you have in play, it provides a Boost. A Boost grants an additional bonus for the Shtick, which are cumulative if multiple Boosts come into play.
A player’s turn begins by taking any number of non-combat actions desired, such as looking for stairs or collecting Loot cards in the room. The player may then choose to move up to three spaces, though movement must end if a newly discovered room is entered. If there are no other characters or monsters in the room, players take turns playing monsters from their Battle hands, starting with the one to the left of the active player. The number of monsters that get played are based on factors such as how deep the player is in the dungeon as well as relevant monster abilities. If there are any monsters in the room the player must engage in combat. Once combat is over, any available non-combat actions may be performed.
As is appropriate for a dungeon crawler, slaughtering monsters is a key element. The player starts by selecting a Battle Shtick. If a valid Shtick isn’t available (typically due to a monster being immune to certain Shtick types), the battle must be done Shtickless. For the first battle, the player must use Defense if he moved earlier in the turn and Attack if he didn’t. If desired, you can request aid from another player on the same floor. This is done by offering Loot cards with Drool icons matching the character used by the player being petitioned. If accepted, a +2 is gained for each Drool icon. Unused characters hang around in the lowest floor revealed, where they’re always willing to provide aid. The modifiers from the Shtick and any aid are then applied to a die roll and compared to the monster’s Attack or Defense rating as appropriate. If the result is higher, the Shtick’s listed effect is applied. If the result is lower, the player takes a Wound (counter-intuitively called losing a Wound in the rules and game materials), moving the Wound token one space down the track and ending combat. A tie results in a draw, as does getting a higher result without a Shtick, which also ends combat. If a Shtick’s result inflicts a Wound on the monster, it gets removed from the room and saved for its XP while placing the indicated number of Loot cards in the room. If there are still monsters in the room, you can choose whether or not to continue fighting. However, you can’t collect any Loot until all the monsters in the room have been defeated. Another advantage to continuing combat is that you can choose to Attack or Defend, whichever is more advantageous.
You don’t necessarily have to be in the same room to fight a monster. If a Battle Shtick is listed as having a Range of 1 or greater, you can use it to Attack a monster in another room on the same floor. The only requirement is that there are no monsters in your current room and you haven’t moved. The main advantage to using a ranged Attack is that if the die result is lower than the monster’s Defense, it counts as a draw so long as the monster’s Range stat is lower than the distance between the two. However, unless you have a Shtick that allows otherwise, you can’t collect any Loot cards that get dropped on the same turn.
There’s more to managing your Battle hand than just slapping down the toughest monster you have available. Several monsters will have one or more special abilities which can prove more troublesome than a high Attack or Defense. The most powerful of these are those that make the monster immune to a specific type of Battle Shtick. Monsters can also have Support abilities, which function similarly to a Shtick’s Boost. In this case, the Support’s effect is applied for each monster of the indicated type that’s on the same floor. In addition to the monsters, the Battle deck contains several “Screw This” cards. These are one shot abilities which allow you to bend the rules in your favor. However, it doesn’t pay to hoard them, as you must discard your Battle hand and draw a fresh one if you’re called on to play a monster and don’t have one.
Monsters aren’t the only things that can hurt you. Some of the Loot cards are actually traps to ensnare unwary adventurers. When a trap is revealed, the player must roll higher than the trap’s listed Evade or suffer its effects. Players can also fight each other so long as the player initiating the combat isn’t in a room with monsters. The procedure is much like that of monster combat except that both sides roll a die and add on the relevant modifiers, with the higher result applying its Shtick effect. Should the attacker win, he also gets to take one of the defender’s Loot cards.
With all the ways you can get hurt, your Wound track can easily drop to the bottom before you know it. Should this occur, on your turn you must flee in a cowardly manner by using your full movement to head towards the Dungeon Entrance. What’s more, before moving, you drop one of your Loot cards in your current room. Once at the Dungeon Entrance, your Wound track resets and any flipped Shticks become unflipped. However, there are ways to avoid this ignominious fate. One of the best is to ask that Durkon’s player use his Healing Shtick on you, healing a number of Wounds based on the amount of Boosts it has. This requires that both be on the same floor and you pay Durkon’s player with a Loot card. Should this not be an option, you can always choose to Rest as the sole action for your turn, so long as there are no monsters at your location. This allows you to move your Wound tracker up one space and unflip all your flipped Shticks. But it does entail a risk. Until the beginning of your next turn, you suffer a -4 penalty on your Defense rolls should any players choose to attack you.
From the side of the box:
“Banjo the Clown commands you: Play this game!! Obey the will of Banjo!”
There are two ways to play the game. The default method has the dungeon generated on the fly. The number of floors that can be generated depends on the game length the players agreed upon at the beginning of the game. In this version, the lowest floor uses a special deck of room cards to represent Xykon’s lair. In addition, each room gets a draw from the Xykon deck. These can either stick the room with an additional feature or provide a unique monster (one of which is Xykon himself). But before the lair can be entered, a player must possess a minimum number of Shticks and Loot cards. The second variant has three floors worth of room cards dealt out face down at the beginning of the game. But instead of the dungeon crawlers coming to Xykon, Xykon comes to the dungeon crawlers. Every turn a die is rolled to see if Xykon comes out of his lair based on the number of Shticks in play. Once put in play, Xykon’s turn will occur after that of the player who made the offending roll. On his turn, Xykon will move two spaces towards the closest player so long as he hasn’t just successfully wounded him. The Wandering Xykon has a Wound track like the players, so he won’t be going down with a single hit. Once he’s one wound away from being taken down, Xykon will flee like the dastardly coward he is back to his lair. Should the players fail to score the final hit on Xykon before he makes it back, his Wound track will reset. Of these two, I find the Wandering Xykon more enjoyable. In the base game, Xykon goes down with one wound like any other monster. As mentioned above, the Wandering Xykon can take multiple wounds, making for a more dynamic boss fight. And since there is no Shtick and Loot card minimum like in the base game, it’s less likely to drag on for hours on end. The one negative is that an unlucky roll can result in Xykon coming out before the players are ready. This can be especially brutal in a two player game, with Xykon bouncing back and forth between them.
Once Xykon has been slain, some idiot will activate the self-destruct and the dungeon starts collapsing. At this point, all monsters are removed and have their listed Loot left behind (which can be collected by players on their way out). At the end of each turn, a Room card from the lowest floor that hasn’t completely collapsed is removed, saving a room connected to a stairs card for last. Once everyone has cleared out, it’s time to total up Bragging Points, with the highest total winning the game. These are based on the number of Shtick cards you have in play, possessing Loot cards with Drool icons matching your character, the order in which you exit the dungeon, and if you killed Xykon (as well as wounding him in the Wandering Xykon variant). An optional source of Bragging Points comes from the Backstory cards. At the beginning of the game, three of these are dealt to each player. While some will score by meeting a specified condition, the bulk of them will give points for the number of monsters you’ve slain that are of a particular type or possess a specific ability.
In conclusion, despite a couple of niggling quirks (particularly the troublesome Wound phrasing issue), the mechanics employed stand out from other modular board exploration games while being fairly easy to grasp. The way the Shticks decks encourage players to act like the web comic characters they selected also helps establish the theme.
The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition
From: APE Games
Type of Game: Board Game
Game Design by: Kevin Brusky and Rich Burlew
Cover Art by: Rich Burlew
Additional Art by: Rich Burlew
Game Components Included: Rulebook, Quick Start rules, 54 Dungeon Room cards, 7 Xykon’s Lair cards, 6 Character cards, 6 Quick Reference cards, 1 Xykon Character card, 156 Shtick cards, 210 Battle cards, 10 Xykon cards, 136 Loot cards, 48 Backstory cards, 5 Wandering Xykon cards, 8 Stairs cards, 1 Dungeon Entrance card, 7 Movement tokens, 7 Wound Tracker tokens, 2 twelve-sided dice
Retail Price: $54.95
Number of Players: 2-6
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 90 minutes+
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck
About the author
Sitting Duck was first introduced to tabletop gaming back in the seventh grade, when a friend brought his copy of the AD&D Monster Manual 2 to school. Since then, he has dabbled in a wide range of games. His current go-to RPG system is Savage Worlds, and he has a particular fondness for Lovecraft themed games, both serious and silly. You can also find him hanging around the Pinnacle Entertainment Group forum