Ten years ago, the Lightbringers thwarted the evil threats of the Massive Darkness. And while peace and prosperity ruled the day, something dark and vile twisted and grew in the corrupted netherworld. Little did you know, the very gates of hell were bursting with malicious potential, ready to explode and pour legions of evil onto an unsuspecting world. So now it's up to you and your fellow heroes... do you have what it takes to enter hell and vanquish the evil that resides there? This is the central question at the heart of Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape, a cooperative dungeon crawling board game from CMON games.
What Is Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape?
Massive Darkness 2 Hellscape is a cooperative tabletop dungeon crawler where one to six players take on the role of Lightbringers - heroes dedicated to protecting the world from the (massive) darkness that threatens to overwhelm the realm. Each game of the core set is its own dedicated gaming session, where the players use their heroes to defeat spawning enemies on the game board.
As they fight toward their goals, they'll gain valuable loot and level up as they work through the scenario. Without an overarching campaign-style game (which you can tap into with the campaign expansion Massive Darkness 2: Heavenfall sold separately), each session is its own self-contained adventure, and players will have to work in concert to achieve the various goals of a given scenario.
As its title suggests, the game is a sequel to the board game Massive Darkness released by CMON back in 2017, but you don't need to own (or have even ever played) the original to fully enjoy this new entry.
How Do You Play Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape?
As mentioned above, Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is a cooperative dungeon-delving game where players take turns traversing modular map tiles. Each game round of Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is divided into four phases: The Hero Phase, The Enemy Phase, The Level Up Phase, and the Darkness Phase. Let's dive into the Hero Phase first, as that's where the bulk of the gameplay lies.
Each player's Hero can take a total of three actions which include moving around the map (and opening doors and interacting with objects), attacking their enemies with melee, magic, or ranged attacks, trading items with other players, recovering lost health or mana, and various special actions. The attack action in Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is where a lot of the fun of the game comes from, as each Hero can use their different weapons and special abilities (which we'll cover in greater detail in the next section) to fight against mobs of enemies.
Each time you attack (or are attacked in the Enemy Phase), you build a single pool of dice for both your hero and the enemies surrounding you, and you roll all the dice. Hits will be cancelled out by blocks, special abilities may allow re-rolls, and you can even get hurt on your own attacking turn. All in all, it's an incredibly satisfying combat system that keeps you in the middle of the action with every die roll.
In the Enemy Phase, enemies now attack heroes if they're able based on a pre-determined (and very simple to follow) set of rules, or move toward the heroes if they can't attack. Next up is the Level Up phase, where every hero has to spend the experience points they've earned (through killing enemies) to level up if they're able to. When you level, you gain new abilities, new special powers, more health, and better loot. And finally there's the darkness phase, where the evil seeping into the land means new roaming monsters will begin entering the game (as well as better treasure). If the players can accomplish their objectives before they use up all their lives, they win!
There's a cool mechanic in play here with character health: when a player's character drops to zero hit points, you activate and flip over a Lifebringer token which brings you back with some HP. If you run out of Lifebringer tokens but would need to flip one when a character is downed, you lose!
How Do The Heroes Play In Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape?
One of the most exciting features of Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is the introduction of Heroes who each play with very different styles, powers, and even components! The six included heroes not only attack and use special abilities differently, but they even have completely different gaming elements that go along with them. Let's break them down hero by hero.
First, there's the Wizard. He uses his magic to attack nearby enemies and help nearby heroes. His custom component is an amulet with space to slot in his different power cards. The amulet rotates each time you use a power, and it costs mana to get the amulet to rotate back to the spot you want. So while he's very powerful, he constantly drains mana, cycling through his awesome abilities. Then there's the Paladin, who lays auras on the board which he can power up with additional abilities from a deck of power cards. This allows him to set up areas of the board where heroes automatically heal, get to re-roll attack dice, or gain extra movement during their movement phase.
Next up is the Berserker, who uses her Rage to help power her attacks. This Rage is spent with Rage Tokens, which are actually lost health tokens placed on her Berserker board. In other words, for her to access the resources she needs to do her special powers, she needs to take damage in combat!
The Rogue comes with a literal bag of tricks full of tokens, some of which grant them bonuses while others are blank. Each time the Rogue takes an action, they flip one of their tokens, adding its effect (if applicable) to the action taken. Finally, there's the Shaman, who communes with the elements by spending Mana to move element tokens along a track on a separate board. Once an element is maxed out, they gain a standing bonus for the rest of the mission, and can summon Flame and Frost spirit tokens to help them on battle enemies.
As you can see from these descriptions, each of the six heroes has a unique playstyle, and brings their own specific expertise to each adventure. Finding fun synergies, and maximizing the specific abilities of your chosen hero, adds an incredible layer of depth to the game.
What Are The Quests Like In Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape?
Though this is not a campaign game, the Quests in Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape do tell a story from adventure to adventure. The heroes are trying to stop the flood of evil coming from hell, and venture deep into the bowels of this forsaken realm to battle the demons that lurk within. The first quest sees our heroes attempting to open the portal to nether world, and they succeed in this quest when they've successfully stepped into hell.
Once they've entered hell, quests will have them gathering shards to forge an evil sword, survive and complete objectives without the sword corrupting them, fight against the Archangel Michael who's been corrupted by hell, and so on. While many of these quests revolve around the collection or destruction of items and enemies, the flavor and varied layout of each board keeps things feeling fresh with every game.
What Are Our Final Thoughts On Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape?
Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is a new triumph in the world of dungeon crawlers. The asymmetric player powers (and their corresponding special components) left us wanting to re-play quests with different heroes, and the gameplay loop of leveling up in the middle of a quest and gaining loot is extremely satisfying (even if it doesn't carry over from session to session).
I really enjoy the way battles play out in Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape as well, where dice for both heroes and monsters are all rolled together. This truly adds to the dynamic nature of the game, and keeps the action moving at a brisk pace. The components, as we've come to expect from CMON produced games, are top notch. The plastic miniatures used for the heroes and monsters are big, bold, brashly designed, and evocative, and all the other game components are sturdy and solid. All in all, Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is the total package, delivering fast-paced dice rolling action with a splash of tactical thinking.
Should I Buy Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape?
If you're looking for a new dungeon crawler board game to play with friends, are intrigued by the game systems presented above, or enjoyed some of the core mechanics of the original Massive Darkness, then Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape is absolutely worth your time.
If, however, you're looking for a more deeply strategic gaming experience, the hack and slash nature of Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape might not be right for you. And if you're looking for a campaign or legacy style game, what comes in the base box won't fit the bill (but as mentioned above, the game's big box expansion Massive Darkness 2: Heavenfall creates a thrilling campaign-style experience out of the game).
To learn more about Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape (including a free PDF of the rules), head over to CMON's official page and take your first steps into hell!
The copy of Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape used in the creation of this review was provided by Asmodee.