Beneath The City Unsleeping


I've been following Ill Gotten Games for more than four years. When I first started 3D printing with my Ender 3 in 2019, DutchMogul's designs were among the first that I found and certainly remain some of the most accessible for anyone to print regardless of what kind of printer they are using.

Some of my favorite miniatures are prints of IGG sculpts, and when I saw the initial prototype photos for the latest version of Pocket Dungeon (re-envisioned as "Pocket-Tactics: Beneath The City Unsleeping") I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. The tiles caught my attention most of all, probably because I'm such a sucker for procedurally-generated dungeon crawlers, and the addition of columnar die-roll marked rooms introduces a really exciting enemy deployment mechanic that I didn't realize was so well implemented until I actually played my first game. 

So, I have something I have to get off my conscience. For four years, I've been on the IGG patreon, and in all of that time, I've never played Pocket-Tactics. I love the miniatures. I've printed the tiles and painted them and built up a prodigious collection, but always with the intention of using them with other games or to supplement other projects. Beneath The City Unsleeping (hereafter abbreviated to BTCU,) is powered by Pocket-Tactics as an engine, and as soon as I realized that, I had to gird myself for a learning curve. Not only would I be learning BTCU, I'd be learning the engine just to be able to play it.

Fortunately, the learning curve just wasn't there. Pocket-Tactics, as a ruleset, is precise and tight. It's simple to learn and yet open enough that you can plug in a ton of diversity when you're ready if you want to make things more interesting. Downloading the Pocket-Tactics rules (They're free on IGG's website) I was stunned by how short they are and how easy they are to learn, yet there's nothing lacking in them. Everything is compartmentalized, meaning you can bolt on expansions to broaden your experience as you get more and more into the game, but all you need to remember are some basic mechanics and you're ready to go.

Running on the Pocket-Tactics engine, I have to say that the most difficult part of getting into my first game was building up the set of 3D printed assets. As far as a barrier to entry goes, it's not too bad. I think I have less than fifty hours of print time invested in the tiles, monsters, tokens and heroes, with another twenty or so invested in painting them. Of course, once you print and paint the assets, you've got them handy for not only future games of BTCU, but also for any other regular old games of Pocket-Tactics you want to use them with. Technically, I should have painted the city itself, but I was too eager to start playing the game, so I left it black. 

Teaching myself to play the game took less than ten minutes (just the way I like it) and playing my first delve took about fifteen minutes (also just the way I like it.) It's technically billed as a solo or coop or coop v. referee kind of game, but I found the solo aspect to be better for learning the system (so you can teach others) rather than being a preferable way to play. With one hero, the monster options with the basic setup are really limited, but as you add heroes, the dungeon population will get a lot more diverse and dangerous to work around. The monster deployment mechanic is probably one of my favorite mechanics in the whole game, as it ramps up the pressure as turns unfold but doesn't outright overwhelm you with enemies.

I think when I play again (and I will play again) I'll try using all of the tiles to create a much larger dungeon and really test myself by placing the last event token a lot further away from the start. Also, now that I've learned how to play, it'll be a cinch to break this set out at the next game night and really see what BTCU is capable of by bringing all four premade heroes (and all of the monsters) into the mix. My first game was pretty short and pretty simple, just Silverclaw popping into the dungeon real quick to pick up a dagger and a copper coin (slaying one of the Graven on the way) then popping out again, but it was still satisfying. 

Keep an eye out for my next battle report when I break out the game again!


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