Posted on June 25, 2009 by Billzilla
Aye Dark Overlord! defies precise description. It is at once a board game, card game and has elements of a party game and role-playing games as well. The players take on roles of sniveling servants of the Dark Overlord, a vengeful chap whose patience with his inept followers grows thin…
Players begin by randomly drawing a hand of six cards – three hint and three action cards. One player is selected to play the role of Rigor Mortis; the Dark Overlord of the title. Once the players have their cards in hand, the Dark Overlord addresses one of them by saying something like “So my faithful minions; I ordered you to kidnap the princess. Has this task been accomplished?” The player indicated must then fabricate a brief story – using the elements illustrated on the cards in the player’s hand — explaining why the task was not completed, and in so doing shifting the blame for the failure to one of the other players. The player must also play an Action card – indicating the direction in which the blame shift will move – along with the Hint card. If the effort to pass the buck has been successful, the player ends her turn by drawing a replacement hint card. The new servant under the Dark Overlord’s glaring eye must now come up with a tale of his own, or suffer the Dark Overlord’s wrath!
If at any time the Dark Overlord is unimpressed with the story, or the player is not able to deflect blame, the DO hands the player a Withering Look card. The upside to the Withering Look is that the receiving player discards her hand and draws three new hint and three new action cards. Players can only survive receiving two Withering Look cards; the third means the DO’s patience has run out, and the player’s character has been turned to ash or destroyed in some other painful and unpleasant fashion. The doomed player may beg for mercy at this point by playing an Action card with any symbol except a skull icon in the upper left corner; if the DO feels generous and grants mercy, the doomed player may draw a new action card, and play continues. If not, the player’s character is eliminated and the game ends. Players now count up the Hint cards they’ve played, and the winner is the player who has the most AND did not die at the hands of the Dark Overlord.
Aye, Dark Overlord tends to be a pretty free-form game; it works well with a group that is either familiar with each other, or is comprised of total strangers. There is much opportunity for humor and amateur theatrics here, but group newcomers might feel uncomfortable throwing themselves completely into this game. The game tends to be quick – half an hour or less seems standard. At four to six players, Aye, Dark Overlord! isn’t a tremendously versatile game, and the downside is that one person completely loses due to their character being killed, while the others only mostly lose by not having the most played cards in front of them. This could be a real bummer of an outcome of that one person…
Aye Dark Overlord! has been produced by no less than nine different publishers, including the Italian firm Stratelibri and, most recently, by Fantasy Flight Games. Its lack of overwhelming popularity might be due to the free-form nature of the game, which some die-hard gamers might find difficult to master. At the same time, it’s been in print for a number of years and stubbornly refuses to die, suggesting it’s worth a second look. Aye Dark Overlord! is an amusing game, and for the right crowd it could help foster a memorable evening’s entertainment.
Review by Bill Bodden
Tags | fantasy flight games