Ignacy Trzewiczek


No. of Players:

G@mebox Star



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

The siege of the castle goes into a second round. After having successfully defeated the Trolls, Orcs and Goblins, the Human army barricaded in the Stronghold now confronts an army of Undead. A once powerful necromancer challenges the Humans, but his power is decreasing by the minute. He will only be able to recover his former strength if he breaks into the castle and retrieves an artefact which had been taken from him by the Humans long ago…

So much for the story underlying the game - those who have already played Stronghold will find that the task the players have to fulfil in Stronghold - Undead is exactly the same as in the basic game. Hence the question arises: What is innovative about Stronghold - Undead? Let us have a closer look!

In addition to the game board, various other elements from the basic game are needed to play Stronghold - Undead. Thus, before the players can start the game, a lot of preparatory work has to be finished - which means scrabbling around for units, pieces and cards. New types of buildings for use by the defending player must be placed on the board of the basic game, on top of the old buildings. Initially, these structures' appearance is rather wobbly, but they are suitable enough for the needs of the game. The new buildings provide the defending player with a great variety of weapons - some based on the mechanisms already known from the basic game, some completely new. All in all, this new assembly of buildings for the defending player's use seems to be more powerful than that available in the basic game, without question it is very well-matched. The set-up for the defending player is identical to that in Stronghold with the exception that the heroes are replaced by priests. This new unit of priests is much more powerful than the heroes and is extremely important for the defending player. Besides the well-known bonuses at the wall sections, the priests can cast two different sorts of spells - an ability which is essential for the defender's survival in certain circumstances. Thus, it comes in handy that any other defending unit can be retrained as priests so that there are always enough replenishments.


The alterations for the part of the attacking player are much more profound. The supply phase in particular has been remodelled. In the basic game, the attacking player takes 25 new units at the beginning of each turn. The rules of the basic game stipulate that the attacking player may use these units as a supply during the moving out phase or to acquire new machines in the earlier phases of the game. By contrast, the Undead rules allow the attacking player only to draw 14 units which can exclusively be used as supplies during the moving out phase. As compensation for the fewer total of units, the attacking player receives mana points during the supply phase which can be used for casting spells during the following phase. At all times, the attacking player has seven spells at his or her command. Those spells are displayed in front of the attacking player according to a specific sequence which regulates when a specific spell may be cast. Since each of the spells can only be cast once during a turn, this order of the spells is very important. Spells which lie at the far right may only be cast if all other spells have been cast before and the attacking player still disposes of enough mana. At the beginning of each turn, the attacking player may rearrange his or her display of spells as well as bring new spells into the game. The spells yield various effects. For example, with the help of some spells, the attacking player can build machines; other spells beef up the attacking player's units and still others create powerful venues where the necromancer can wield his powers. For example, one of the spells can be cast to unearth a cemetery which will spew a skeleton each time the defending player loses a unit.


The Dragon Phantom spell supports the assault on the castle gate. On this occasion, the Panic Level - another new and exciting element of the Undead game - comes into play. The Panic Level is registered on the Panic Board, a scale ranging from -6 to 6. The attacking player can increase his or her opponent's Panic Level by casting certain spells. On the other hand, the defending player can decrease the Panic Level with help of the priests - provided they are situated in the Statue Building and give a speech there which costs one hourglass. During the assault phase, the Dragon Phantom spell weakens the castle gate not only according to the Phantom's strength; moreover, the defending player's current Panic Level is added to the total damage. Consequently, the fight at the castle gate is much more exciting than in the basic game and the attacking player can succeed rather quickly in case the defending player does not pay sufficient attention to his or her Panic Level.

But the defending player can also count on a number of new capabilities which help him or her drive back the powerful forces at the castle walls. For example, there is the Commander's Council which consists of six randomly drawn cards. During the supply phase, the defending player receives Council markers and may place those onto the cards. The Council can be summoned any time during the game. On this occasion, each Council marker on the corresponding card can be used for performing the specific effect of this card. Thereby, the defending player can deal a quite heavy blow to the attacking player. But, on the other hand, it is not easy to choose the right moment since each of the Council cards may only be used once during the game.

Stronghold - Undead abandons the Glory Board. Though the Glory Board constitutes a quite interesting feature of the basic game, I am of the opinion that the game is better without it, since a major inconsistency was triggered by the use of the board. Thus, with the Glory board it was possible for the defender to let the attacker break trough the walls in order to end the game at a point which seemed suitable for the defender, and so the pillaging of the castle actually could be turned into a victory for the defender. With the Glory board gone, this is not possible any more. The mechanism we now find in Undead works slightly different. As I have already mentioned, the necromancer's power decreases over the course of the game. As a consequence, the attacking player's supply of mana also dwindles at the beginning of each new turn: While the attacking player receives six mana points at the beginning of his or her first turn, the number of mana points is reduced stepwise until he or she receives no more mana points at the beginning of turn five. From turn six forward, he or she even has to dispense mana points. There is only one possibility for the attacking player to reactivate the mana supply, namely by resurrecting the Altar of Death where all the skeletons defeated by the defending player can be exchanged for mana points.


In my eyes, there are only two points of critique: The first one concerns the English translation of the rule book. Although the English rules have been improved a great deal compared to the first edition of Stronghold (a revised rulebook for the basic game is available at boardgamegeek), the Undead rules in particular are still plagued by a number of inaccuracies that more often than not mystify the reader. Moreover, the English rules are rather cursory which means that players have to refer to the rules of the basic game in case they are not completely familiar with them. My second critique aims at the game's rather high price. Although the box is a large one, it contains only limited supplies of new gaming material which means that the 30 Euros charged for Stronghold - Undead are too expensive by about 30 percent.

Now a last comment: Stronghold - Undead is not to be considered an extension for the basic game but rather an independent game that makes use of many of the basic game's components. This means, players can have a hard time gathering all the stuff they need together from two boxes. Thus, in my eyes Stronghold would be a perfect game if it came with all the necessary components in one box.


However, after giving these two points of criticism concerning more or less technical issues and the game's price, let me now move towards the game itself. To my mind, Stronghold - Undead poses a great new challenge for seasoned Stronghold players, and once you have mastered your way through the substandard rules you will discover a highly entertaining game. All the new elements work rather well and harmoniously, and so - despite my criticism on the technical issues - I would like to award a Gamebox Star to Stronghold - Undead!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany