Fantastic job here. The player boards and central boards have spaces for all the cards and tokens you use during the game - everything is easy to find when you need it. The food and gold tokens are nice wooden pieces. And the imp figures are so good I was tempted to steal them. Good thick card tiles for the monsters and adventurers, good quality cards.
The game does suffer from the usual language-neutral issues of being covered in symbols to represent the powers of the different monsters and rooms. There was plenty of referring to the book during the game to double-check what everything did. However there aren't really that many, so it's unlikely to be a problem after the first game. The only cards you keep hidden, and therefore wouldn't want to be looking up, are the trap cards - but these are printed in English text anyway.
There are a LOT of rules. It took me quite some time to read through them all, certainly not for the faint hearted. However they are presented in a humourous fashion and everything is laid out nicely with lots of examples. So at no point did I read anything and think "what does that mean?". A strange approach is to start with examples and exercises to explain combat, and actually suggests you sit down and work through them all before the game. Whilst that seemed like overkill, it was helpful to have read this section before the rules proper.
How It Plays
The game consists of two years, at the end of which the players have thier dungeons rated by the Ministry of Dungeons and the player with the best dungeon wins. Each year had 4 rounds of "doing stuff", a few events and other housekeeping activities, followed by an attack round in which some random wandering adventurers invade the dungeons and try to ruin all your hard work.
During the action rounds you will be secretly choosing three of your action cards, simultaneously revealing them, then sending your minions onto the general board accordingly to take the actions. If the spaces are full, you don't get to take the action, however it generally pays to be the last person to take an action since the results are better. Two of the three action cards you play will then be unavailable during the next set of actions.
Three of the actions are to do with gathering food, coins or imps - which are the three resources you'll be attempting to manage through the game.
Four of the actions allow you to use those resources in improving your dungeon - digging new tunnels, turning tunnels into rooms, setting traps and hiring monsters.
The final action available allows you to reduce your evil level - used to determine who the more powerful adventurers will attack - and scout out the spell cards that are coming up during the attack.
After the four action rounds you'll then have to fend off the attack. Each round of combat sees you setting traps and monsters, resolving them along with the spell the wizards may have cast and dealing attrition to the party. If the party survives the round, the room or corridor they are in is conquered.
After the second year you score points for various things - having unconquered rooms, the adventurers you've captured, etc. You also lose points for every space in your dungeon that the adventurers have wrecked for you.
Obviously I've missed out a lot of the twiddly bits - paladins who turn up if you're too evil, event cards (taxes need paying, monsters need feeding, etc), how various things get allocated - but hopefully that's enough of a flavour. If you want to know more, go read the rules. They are a lot of fun so you won't regret it.
So What Is It?
Dungeon Lords is a medium-heavy resource management game, with worker placement, limited player interaction, but with a very complex event system in the form of the attacks by the adventurers.
Key to the game are the three resources. Food allows you to pay for imps and feed your monsters. Gold allows you to pay for traps and food, as well as being required for taxes each year. Imps allow you to activate your rooms (for various resources), mine for gold, and dig tunnels. You will never have quite enough of any of these.
The worker placement is somewhat hidden - sometimes you really won't get to do what you want to do - either because the action was filled up by the other players or the space within that action you've ended up on has a different cost to what you expected.
Player interaction is limited to this fighting for spaces on the board (like most worker placement games), as well as the relative positions on the evilometer determining who gets which adventurer.
The attacks by the adventurers present many options, and are essentially a mini solitare logic puzzle. There is enormous potential for analysis paralysis here as you try to work out the right combination of traps and monsters to destroy the adventurers, whilst also considering the effects of the spell card about to be turned up.
What I Thought
As it happens I'm a big fan of medium-heavy resource management games, so I enjoyed this. The action selection mechanism presents lots of choices - not just which actions you should take, but more crucially which order you take them in.
I like the evilometer. The jostling for position to get the adventurer you want is great fun - if you think your dungeon will cope best with the 2nd adventurer in line then you want to be 2nd on the evilometer track.
You never have the resources you need, leading to tough choices about which penalty you're going to deal with.
A couple of things fell flat for me however...
Beneath the fun theme there is a generic euro-style resource management game. Try as the theme does, it never quite covers it up.
This in turn makes the large swings of luck caused by the spells (which you can mitigate against a little, but never entirely) a little jarring.
All in all however I had fun playing it. It'll never be one of my favourite games, but I can certainly see me playing it plenty of times.