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Wakening Lair Review

Quick Look:

Designers: Mike Richie
Artist: Grant Wilson
Publisher: Rather Dashing Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 30-40 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Wakening Lair is a cooperative dungeon delve in which players must progress from room to room, defeat monsters, acquire weapons and magical items, and ultimately defeat the dungeon’s dreadfully evil monster. With dice rolling, luck mitigation, and an ever-changing experience, Wakening Lair is an exciting dungeon crawl without the complicated rule set.

Rules and Setup:

Wakening Lair Rather Dashing Games Setup
Setup will look something like this. (Excuse the wavy cards; the set up was so wide I had to take a panorama.)

Shuffle all the room cards and lay them out on the table vertically (or horizontally if that suits your table better). Randomly select one of the large Monstrous Terror boards and place it face down on the 12th room. Shuffle the monster cards and separate 8 of the cards. Place the single Monstrous Terror Awakens card in with those 8 cards and shuffle them up. Then place the remaining 16 cards on top of those 9 (the 8 monsters plus the Monstrous Terror Awakens). This makes up the monster deck. 

Wakening Lair Monstrous Terror Awakens Card

Flip over the first room and populate it with 1 or 2 monsters (as indicated on the room card) from the monster deck. Everyone picks a character and places the matching colored token on the first room card. Now it’s time to dive into the dungeon!

The rules are pretty simple, which was a pleasant surprise. After one turn, most players should have the hang of things. Basically, each player takes three actions: move, attack, and/or a hero item ability. These actions can be taken in any order, and may be repeated if desired.

Without getting too detailed, here’s how the game plays out. At the start of each turn, players roll two dice (2D6) and add the values. These values represent the rooms in the dungeon. Then, awaken the room that corresponds with that value and then populate it with monsters from the monster deck. (Example: If I rolled a 2 and a 6, I would flip over room 8 and give it 1 or 2 monsters.) Place the monsters to the right of the room they’re populating. If, by chance, you roll a room number that has already been activated, place one additional monster in that room (to a maximum of 3).

Next, the player takes three actions in any order and combination. When moving, players can move through as many rooms as are awakened (i.e. face up). If they continue to a room that is still face down, their movement action immediately ends, the room awakens, and is populated with monsters. Another action may then be taken (if there are any left to take).

Wakening Layer Rooms and Monster Cards Rather Dashing Games
The Poison and Ice rooms have both been awakened, but the room above the Ice room has yet to be revealed...

Attacking is done by rolling dice (one, two, or three D6). Every player starts with just one attack die, but can increase the amount they roll by collecting weapons. To attack, a player announces which monster in their room they are attacking and rolls their die or dice. If one of the dice results is equal to or greater than the first (i.e. left-most) number on the monster card, the monster takes 1 damage, and the player places a red damage marker over that number on the monster card. Now, if the player rolled more than one die, the next highest die result can be used on the next left-most number on the monster card, dealing damage in the same manner. If your attack type (on your player card) matches the monster’s weakness (the big symbol underneath the monster’s damage numbers) and you deal at least one damage, you may Press the Attack, meaning you can attack again without using another attack action (once the monster is defeated, however, you must use another attack action to attack a different monster). If no damage is dealt, you must use another attack action to attack again.

Wakening Lair Monster Card Examples
When attacking the Golem, the active player must roll a 4 or higher (for the first damage box) to do damage. After this, the next highest die result of 4 or higher (for the middle damage box) will likewise deal damage. The third die result must be a 3 or higher to finish the Golem off. The Golem's weakness is Precision (the target icon).

Whenever a monster is defeated, the victorious player immediately draws a treasure card and equips either the weapon or magic item. Alternately, the player may opt to keep the card in reserve (to equip later), or gift to another player (you're too kind). These cards sometimes allow the equipped player to use a special action during their turn.

Wakening Lair Treasure Card Rather Dashing Games Hallowsmite and Dragon's Breath Elixir
An example of a treasure card. The player who received this card may equip either the weapon (Hallowsmite) or magic item (Dragon's Breath Elixir), but not both.

Once a player has taken their three actions, if there are any monsters left in their room, the monsters attack (monsters only attack the active player). Each monster rolls separately, and damage is applied for each monster, starting with the one closest to the room. A monster rolls as many attack dice as they have open damage boxes. So, if a monster originally has three damage boxes, but the monster is already damaged (i.e. its left-most damage box is covered by a damage marker), then it would roll 2D6 for its attack. Players take damage the same way monsters do, only heroes cover their damage boxes from top to bottom.

Wakening Lair Hero Card Lars Tuneweaver Bardsong Rather Dashing Games
The hero Lars starts with a damage box of 5 and ends with a 2. If the 2 ever gets covered, Lars dies and the game is over (unless a player has a Scroll of Resurrection).

When the Monstrous Terror Awakens card is drawn from the monster deck, awaken all remaining face-down rooms (including room number 12), but do not populate them. Reveal the Monstrous Terror tile and place it to the left of room number 12. From here on out, at the end of each player’s turn, if there are no more monsters in the room with the monstrous terror, then the big bad boss attacks the active player. To do this, follow the instructions on the Monstrous Terror tile. At the end of each turn, after attacking (if applicable), the Monstrous Terror moves down one room, bringing along any monsters and heroes in its current room.

The players win if they defeat the Monstrous Terror before it escapes the dungeon (i.e. moves past room number one.). The players lose if the Monstrous Terror escapes, or one of the players dies before a victory can be achieved.

Theme and Mechanics:
Wakening Lair is a fantasy-themed dungeon crawl that has a familiar feel to an RPG. Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of luck-based combat, however the dice-rolling combat mechanic of Wakening Lair worked nicely for me. Throughout the game, players are able to acquire Effect Markers, which can be spent to add or subtract 1 from a result. With the ability to mitigate the luck, the combat actually felt pretty streamlined. At the beginning of the game, players roll only one die for combat, but by the end are rolling two or three. This plays into the theme of “leveling up” as you might expect characters to in other RPG-style games.

The enemy AI is pretty solid, too. A simple roll—much like what a player would do—and then see if the attack hit. With the Monstrous Terror, its abilities make it difficult, but not impossible, as any good co-op should be. Rolling dice, exploring the dungeon, and using the various abilities all fit (and add to) the overlying theme of the game.

Artwork and Components:
The art is perfect for the game style. Not too creepy as to put off younger players, but not too cartoony that it starts feeling like a comedy. It’s a good balance.

The components are the same high quality I’ve come to expect from Rather Dashing Games, with sturdy cards, thick stock for the tiles, and solid wooden tokens. No complaints here.

The Good:

Wakening Layer by Rather Dashing Games Box Closed Mike RIchie and Grant Wilson

One of my favorite things about Wakening Lair is the easy-to-learn rules, while the gameplay itself provides a fun challenge.

I like not knowing what the final Monstrous Terror will be going into the game. This makes for a surprise reveal, and could make things a bit more difficult if your uber powerful weapon turns out to be the Monstrous Terror's immunity.

Also, the box. It's amazing. It's made to look like a book, And it even opens up like one. When closed, it holds fast through savvy use of magnets. As a book aficionado, I love it a lot.

Rather Dashing Games Wakening Lair Tuck Box Open

The Bad:
As far as dungeon crawler’s go, Wakening Lair is pretty basic, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (after all, I really enjoy this game as it is). I understand that some players might desire more decisions in their quest, but the way this game is designed simply isn’t meant to be like that. If you’re looking for a deeper dungeon delve, other games pull that off better, but Wakening Lair is a good time for the time allotted. 

If you don’t like dice, you can’t get very far in this game without it. That being said, there are ways to assuage bad rolls, which methods I found to work quite effectively.

Final Thoughts:
I really enjoyed Wakening Lair. Going into it my first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. By the end of that first game, though, I was hooked. I found the difficulty to be right on target, and even when my character began to power up, I found things still weren’t too easy. In all, Wakening Lair is a solid game, and with multiple bosses and ever-changing rooms and monsters, I can’t see this game getting old any time soon.

Players Who Like:

If you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers or cooperative games, Wakening Lair will be one you’ll probably want to consider. If you need a good filler game, Wakening Lair is also a solid choice.

Wakening Lair gameplay image courtesy of Rather Dashing Games

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About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and budding game designer. As an avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Wakening Lair Review Wakening Lair Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on February 23, 2018 Rating: 5

1 comment

  1. question ... when you equip your hero with different weapons and magic can you change which one you are using with each action during your one play?