Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: Dante's Inferno Boardgame

If you think Dante's Inferno might be a difficult text to turn into a game, well, you're right. The Dante's Inferno boardgame makes a bold try, but the very nature of the subject matter means that the metaphor of the game becomes confused in order to make it playable.
When I played this game with a small group of folks, we found the board itself rather interesting. The game doesn't exactly have a board; rather, it's like a puzzle that you set up. Unlike some other moving-clicklets-around-a-table style games, in this game, you assemble the puzzle as you go. Placing more pieces allows access inward (toward the center of Hell), but in our game we never reached a point where all the pieces were placed, replicating the broken bridges you find in Dante's work.
The goal of the game is to manuever one of your men (we called them pilgrims in my group, but the game just calls them "player figures") down to the center of Hell to defeat Satan. In order to do so, players have to avoid the occasional wandering demon and the sabotage of competing players. To progress, players acquire four different resources that they can spend to do various things -- place a tile, pick of a tile, put an additional player figure into play, or descend to a lower circle of Hell.
In terms of play, our first game didn't go well, but I think the consensus was that it wasn't the fault of the game, it was simply that we didn't understand it well enough to place pilgrims and player resources strategically at the beginning. The first few circles of Hell were a grind, but eventually we started acquiring resources to progress, and the game picked up steam. I would suggest to anyone buying this game to expect the first session to be less than fun, rather tedious, though I think subsequent game sessions would be much more fun as players figure out strategy.
The metaphor of the game is a bit messed up. For example, the four resources players collect are each sins (lust, violence, gluttony, and hypocrisy). This led to some bizarre statements, such as, "I can't get anywhere without more hypocrisy" or "I'll trade anyone some of my lust for some gluttony" (thus was prostitution born, I would guess). This all made sense in game play, but why would it be useful to collect sin as a resource in Hell? Wouldn't that be a bad thing? If you're a pilgrim, you don't want sin to keep you there, and if you're one of the damned, you don't want to end up in an inner-more circle, do you?
Finally, the object of the game was odd: To get to the center of Hell and defeat Lucifer. Defeat Lucifer? He's already frozen at the center of Hell -- what more exactly could you do to him? At first I thought the object was to be some sort of Messiah figure and lead four kinds of sinners out of Hell past Lucifer, but that's not the way the game works.
So, Dante's Inferno boardgame -- fun once you figure out the strategy, a little iffy on translating the book to game medium.


  1. Anonymous6:05 PM

    The game would have been better had it been called "The Harrowing." The only thing it had in common with The Inferno was that it shared the same name.

    The puzzle board bugged the hell out of me (pun intended). Because the pieces slid around so much it made moving the pilgrims difficult.

    I still had fun, but the game had it's faults. =/

  2. *snerk* reading this along with Cranky's posts ...

  3. This made me laugh: "The first few circles of Hell were a grind." I imagine God saying, "Yeah? Well, you should have thought of that before you got into all that mortal sin stuff I warned you about."
    The other night, I spent 3 hours playing a game of Ludo to a stalemate, so Dante's Inferno is sounding pretty good right about now.

  4. I so love the cover on the box --very cool indeed.

  5. Anonymous10:32 PM

    I actually liked it -- wouldn't mind playing it again, to tell the truth.

    Though, we can change the rules -- the objective is actually to collect more sin to "free" Lucifer. Rolls of 10 or more work.