Middara: Unintentional Malum Review, a Fantastic JRPG in a Box

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Middara is a dungeon crawler board game from Succubus Publishing that transports players to an alternate universe named, you guessed it, Middara. It was designer by the team consisting of Clayton Helme, Brooklynn Lundberg, Brenna Moncur, and Ian Tate. A group of gamers takes turns controlling various characters as they explore this strange reality.

The massive box of board game goodness that is Middara: Unintentional Malum Act 1

In Middara, players must travel to different locations in a parallel universe and complete various quests in order to progress through the campaign. As players travel, they encounter challenges and obstacles, collect items, obtain weapons, and fight a ludicrous number of enemies. What’s everyone got against me?

The game features stunning art, highly detailed and beautifully rendered, that looks like anime/manga. The miniatures are of the highest quality (way better than publishers like CMON, in my opinion). It’s simply a pleasure to look at while you play.

Look how beautiful the miniatures are in Middara. Gorgeous.

In addition to the game’s art, Middara also resembles JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games; think Final Fantasy) in it’s gameplay as it incorporates many of the same mechanisms and features throughout the experience. To advance in the game, players must maneuver through various landscapes, fight off adversaries, and make optimal tactical choices.

The combat system in the board game Middara is dynamic and strategic, allowing players to approach battles in various ways. Each character has unique abilities and attacks, which can be further enhanced by equipping items and using special cards. During combat, players take turns using their available actions to move, attack, and use abilities. The game uses a combination of dice rolls, and card draws to determine the success of each action. Depending on the situation, players can focus on dealing damage, mitigating damage, or using special abilities to gain an advantage. The enemies in Middara can be pretty difficult to defeat, and it often feels like you’re getting pummeled with your fate being controlled by luck. It’s imperative that your design build your characters so that you can successfully mitigate this luck and have an easier time defeating combatants.

One unique aspect of Middara is its use of hidden text to tell the story. As players progress through the game, they will uncover hidden text that provides additional information and context for the game’s story. This hidden text adds an extra layer of depth and intrigue to the game and helps to immerse players in the world of Middara.

The massive 482-page adventure book is included in Middara Act 1. The red blocks represents how Middara manages the hidden text in the game.

The game also includes an app that narrates the story, but there is a lot of text to read, making it a game best suited for players who enjoy reading. I personally love the story of the game, so that’s more of a positive aspect of the game than it is negative.

However, if the story mode isn’t your cup of tea, Middara does offer a crawl mode, a game mode that highlights the dungeon crawl and combat aspect of the game without forcing you to read through a whole book of text. It’s also a good way to get a feel for the game mechanically or a tool to be used if you cannot commit to a full campaign mode of Middara. Personally, I’ve stuck to the campaign game mode because that’s where the game best shines.

Middara is best played with more than one player (even though it claims to be a 1-4 player game), as controlling multiple characters is essential for an optimal experience. There is a 2-player variant that you can leverage for solo play that makes character management a little easier, but I also find it a little less enjoyable.

Middara is one of my more expensive board games ($200 MSRP just for the base game box), but it is packed with so much content that it actually provides good value for its price. It’s a massive game—easily the largest and heaviest board game on my shelf, surpassing the physical size and weight of other games such as Gloomhaven. Because of the sheer amount of content inside the box, including intricate miniatures, detailed board tiles, and numerous cards and tokens, it offers hours upon hours of gameplay and replayability. Although it may be a financial investment, the sheer amount of content and the immersive gameplay experience make it well worth the cost.

Overall, Succubus Publishing’s Middara is a beautifully designed board game that offers a rich, immersive story, stunning art and miniatures, and engaging gameplay mechanics. Its connection to JRPGs and use of hidden text make it a unique and enjoyable game for fans of both board games and role-playing games. There’s an incredible amount of gameplay to encounter. And if you’re eager for even more content, there are still Acts 2 and 3 on their way from their most recent Kickstarter.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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