Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review

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Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Unboxing 1

Dungeon masters everywhere: breathe a sigh of release. That session you didn’t have time to prep? Those encounters you didn’t figure out ahead of time? That epic fight your group are expecting at the start of the next session that you completely forgot about? Worry not, for Steamforged Games have your back with Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde.

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support FauxHammer.com – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Summary

Steamforged Game smash it out of the park with their Epic Encounters. Constructed with a real dedication to care and attention to detail, Arena of the Undead Horde is a simple yet spectacular adventure. DMs of all level will be able to master this robust but malleable encounter, and players will come away from the session feeling as if they’ve been on a real quest.

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Introduction

It’s Thursday afternoon. You’re up to your eyes in work. You’ve barely had a moment to yourself all week, and it still seems like nothing is getting done. Then, your messenger app of choice goes off.

“I can’t wait for Dungeons and Dragons tonight!”

The colour drains from your face. You’re DMing tonight. You’ve prepared nothing. That thing called life got in the way, as it so often does. Your group are expecting a suitably legendary encounter to round off your months-long D&D campaign. And you forgot about it.

But it’s okay. Why? Because you’ve got Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde at home.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Box SFG Photo
Source: Steamforged Games

Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters series exist to take the “dung” and the “drag” out of prepping your next Dungeons and Dragons session. Designed by the creators oft he wildly popular Dark Souls Board Game, Epic Encounters are intended for use by both new and experienced players. Fully compatible with Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, and filled with everything you need for your session, including both maps and high-quality miniatures, these boxes can be either an entire one-shot campaign, or a supplementary part to any ongoing adventure.

In this review, we’re going to have an up-close and personal look at one game in the range. The folks at Steamforged Games were kind enough to send us a copy of Arena of the Undead Horde so we could do this review.

I hope you like skeletons!

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Unboxing

Let’s get a closer look at what lies within this surprisingly small box.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Unboxing 1 Alt

The cover art is suitably epic, and depicts several of the characters players will meet in their adventure. This box will look great even when stacked up with all your other board games and other kits.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Unboxing 2

Inside, the plastic tray is carefully designed in order to ensure everything is packed safely. The plastic lid covering the miniatures is shaped so there’s a slot for the folding playing mat and the campaign booklet.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Unboxing 3

Beneath, you have all the miniatures you’ll need for the adventure. There are 20 in total, just to save you counting.

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Contents

In all, Arena of the Undead Horde contains the following:

  • 1 x A2-sized double-sided gaming mat
  • 1 x Campaign booklet
  • 20 x Miniatures

Now, regular readers of FauxHammer.com might be thinking that doesn’t seem like much, but I’d like to refer you back to the number of miniatures in this box. 20. Yes, 20.

Twenty.

Rocking in at £54.99GBP, $54.9USD, and €54.95 (yes, US and EU friends, you read that right!), the value of this box is nigh unparalleled.

And it only gets better the closer we look at it.

Books

I imagine a lot of mini-obsessed FauxHammerites will probably want to keep scrolling past this section as books aren’t figures and glossy paper doesn’t take acrylic paint as well as resin, but I implore you not to.

A great deal of the absolute genius of this box is contained within the 35 pages of this little booklet. Let me explain.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 1

First off, the Arena of the Undead Horde encounter comes in three difficulty levels. The first, Lower, is designed for parties of level 1-4. The second, Middle, is for players of levels 5-10. Finally, Higher, is for players of 10th level and above. This means that all the resources in this box can be used by literally any party at any level, which is excellent.

Next up, the book very neatly and succinctly surmises Difficulty Checks and Damage incurred via standard DC checks by way of a small table. For non D&Ders, a DC check, or Difficulty Class check, is any test that requires a player to roll a dice against one of their attributes. For example, a player may be asked by their Dungeon Master (DM) to roll a Strength check to break down a locked door. The door may be big and heavy, and thus require a DC of 18+, so the player trying to open the door would need to roll an 18 or above by rolling a D20 and adding their Strength bonus to it.

Figuring out DCs can be a real headache for some DMs. It can be a contentious subject for some players who gripe about what they feel is and isn’t fair, and can put a lot of pressure on the person running the encounter. That the Epic Encounters book shrugs its shoulders and says “it’s this, tough,” on the first page will come as a relief to many DMs.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 2
Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 3

There is, of course, plenty of narrative in the book too. Whilst I won’t go into this in any detail here so as to avoid spoilers, there’s more than enough in the booklet to establish a fully-fledged one-shot campaign. The narrative that there is is also nonspecific enough to allow it to be seamlessly slotted in to any existing campaign arc.

This is another great touch, as it makes the narrative elements extremely versatile. DMs will be able to placate their party’s desire for a one-and-done campaign, and slot the entire Arena of the Undead Horde encounter into a much larger campaign with very little effort.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 5

And then, there’s, well, everything else.

I am genuinely at a loss for words with the amount of detail that Steamforged Games have managed to ram into this neat, handy little booklet. Their writers have thought of almost everything.

What are the undead onlookers doing whilst the players are trapped in the arena? Sorted. What enemies will be attacking the party, and how are they reinforced? Got it. What does the portcullis that traps the players in the area look like, and how does it work? Thought of it – and no, Barbarian, you can’t just ‘eadbutt your way out of it. Find a new cliché.

Traps? Got ’em. Exploitable environment? Yup. Weapons, doors, training dummies, the list goes on. There’s an answer to almost everything in here, and a hundred ways to make your encounter truly gripping and very exciting.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 4
Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 6

The book provides a firm, authoritative, and pretty bomb-proof framework for DMs to their groups to bounce around in. It keeps its users on a long but firm leash, allowing them the kind of freedom they need to really get into the encounter, whilst simultaneously being strict enough to ensure that the DM can keep things under control.

Oh, and there are plenty of stats, too.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Book 7

There are some simple but interesting rules attached to the enemies included, too. This will ensure that combat remains exciting and engaging. The Ironskull Leonite, for example, has advantage on all attacks as long as it has a friend close by. The Ironskull Andabata also won’t be so quick to turn tail and run when your Paladin or Cleric casts Turn Undead.

This is a singularly excellent resource- and I really mean that. Things are clean, concise, and easy to understand. Everything is well-written and clearly signposted, which will delight DMs. No more shall you have to break everyone’s immersion looking for that page and that critical moment. No, a quick flick with a thumb and, boom, there it is.

Seriously, TTRPG and D&D writers take serious note. This is how you should structure your work.

Wargear

As far as Wargear (the name we at FauxHammer.com give to tokens, dice, range rules and other bits and pieces designed to get people playing their games) is concerned, there’s only one thing in the Arena of the Undead Horde box: the A2-sized, double-sided gaming mat.

The mat is, perhaps, the only crack in the Arena of the Undead Horde’s otherwise near-faultless armour. And even then, it’s only one small part of the mat that lets it down – and that’s what it’s made of.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Play Mat Side 1

The mat is double-sided, depicting the two areas of the Arena of the Undead Horde where the adventure takes place. The first side, the one pictured above, shows The Arena. The one shown below is the Training Pit. Each side is clearly marked with a grid, so measuring distance is a non-issue.

On each side of the mat are features that players can interact with. These are labelled clearly in the Campaign Booklet for the benefit of the DM, and can also do stuff. There’s a spike pit, some fire nozzles and a tar pit in the arena, and columns and some weapon racks on the Training Pit, amongst some other things. Players can choose to interact with these areas – or may have these areas enacted upon them, depending on what does what and how merciful the DM feels. Al the deets are in the Booklet.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Play Mat Side 2

The print is of excellent quality; it’s clear to see what everything is. DMs could easily supplement the map with any suitable bits of scenery they may have, though this wouldn’t be necessary to ensure your players could see all the map features. They are obvious thanks to the quality of the print.

That all sounds great – and it is. The mat’s issue is that it’s made of paper.

Paper mats mean two things: fold lines and tears. Happily, though, effort has been made to subvert this with the Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde mat.

You can make out some of the folds in the images above, but the mat isn’t made from the sort of low-grade paper that flakes, cracks and peels easily. This means that the print will remain good for a long time before wear starts to show along the fold lines.

As far as tears are concerned, it will take either a lot of use or a deliberate attempt to wreck it before damage starts to show. If someone at your table is prepared to do that, you don’t want them in your group.

So, in all, the mat is another excellent inclusion.

Miniatures

In the Arena of the Undead Horde box, players get 20 Ironskull Skeleton miniatures as follows:

  • 6 x Skeleton Archers
  • 4 x Duellists
  • 2 x Knights
  • 2 x Executioners
  • 2 x Leonites
  • 2 x Andabatas

The Campaign Book and the double-sided mat set something of a tough act to follow. So much care and thought have gone into both the book and the mat that the task lying before the miniatures is quite a daunting one.

But, boy, they deliver.

Before we dive into the miniatures themselves, we must take a moment to appreciate the care that’s gone into the packaging them.

There is nothing worse than having to let your minis roll loose around inside a box. Having them entombed within a tight-fighting plastic container is almost as bad, as you’re just as likely to break them prying them out of their plastic prisons.

But, once again, Steamforged Games have thought of everything.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Boxed

The miniatures that accompany Arena of the Undead Horde are stored within a shaped plastic container that fits neatly into the box. The moulded areas into which each miniature is placed is not so tight that the figures will be damaged when you remove them. In fact, they can be picked out with ease. Once the lid is on, however, the figures aren’t going anywhere.

Again, others take note: this is how miniatures games should be packaged.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking: they’re all the same. But these are some nice figures and have lots of lovely details that painters will be able to get really stuck into. Each figure is also sculpted with loads of great texture, which means painting these up using techniques such as drybrushing, or by using Army Painter’s Speedpaints or Citadel’s Contrast Paints, will be a real breeze.

Plus, as I discuss in our playtest of this product, these monopose miniatures are actually a boon for players. With multiple types of unit on the battlefield at any one time, it’s easy for players (who, bear in mind, don’t have access to the resources of the DM) to tell them apart at a glance.

In a moment, we will have a proper look at each miniature in turn. Before we do so, though, here’s a scale reference for you all, using something 95% of all of FauxHammer.com’s readership will be familiar with.

Yup, a Space Marine.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Size Comparison

These aren’t small miniatures, oh no, and each comes mounted on a cool scenic base. You can put your glue and plastic cutters away, too, as there’s no assembly required either.

Ironskull Skeleton Archers

We’ll kick things off with a good look at the Skeleton Archers.

There are six of these sneaky little so-and-sos in the Arena of the Undead Horde box. Their sculpts are excellent. Aside from being wonderfully detailed, with little touches like damage to their armour, ringmail poking through, and so on.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Skeleton Archer v2

There’s also a lot of character in the sculpt of this model. The slightly hunched pose is suggestive of their sneaky archetype, and the raised, rubble-covered sculpted base helps create the impression that they’re creeping around the periphery of the map, lining up their shots.

Ironskull Duellists

The four Duellists follow the Archers nicely. Dressed in different armour and posed differently, they’re easy to tell apart from the similarly-sized Archers at a glance.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Duellist v2

In spite of the fact the fact they’re without expression, there’s a lot of character in their pose. There’s something uniquely Glaurio ven Alten III about them. That foppish energy in the way they stand, cocksure atop the rubble of the Arena.

Ironskull Knights

There’s a real sense of departure from the riff-raff of the Duellists and Archers with the pair of Ironskull Knights. Even though the armour they’re sculpted as wearing is battered and broken, there are plenty of intricate details that hint at their proud origins.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Knight v2

There are details on the helmets, tattered bits of cloak about their chests, and they wear chains as necklaces around their necks. Their posing is excellent, too: are they ready to strike with their great mace, or are they standing atop rubble, commanding their minions forwards? It’s hard to tell, but that sense of pride so synonymous with fantastical knightly orders still oozes from these figures.

Ironskull Executioners

The pair of grim Ironskull Executioners stand in stark contrast with the Knights before them. Towering, in spite of their hunched and twisted stature, they’re a grim and imposing foe for the party that comes up against them.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Executioner v2

There’s something really menacing about the looming Executioners. In keeping with the traditional idea that executioners’ faces should be covered, the only facial feature visible on the Ironskull Executioners is a mouth leering out from beneath a tattered headpiece.

Ironskull Leonites

The two Leonites are where the miniatures in the Arena of the Undead Horde begin to get really interesting.

An Ossiarch Bonereaper-style amalgam of all sorts of other beings bones, the Ironskull Leonites are the terrifying animal(ish) companions of the monsters that beset the players in Arena of the Undead Horde.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Leonite v2

These are excellent models. Really unique and dripping in macabre detail, these figures will look great painted up. Whether you’re the sort of person who spends hours getting their bone tone (…don’t know if I liked that) looking just right, or you only own a tin of Zandri Dust and a pot of Agrax Earthshade, these will look magnificent when painted.

Ironskull Deathriders

Next up we have the two Deathriders. Horiffying dusions of scythe-wielding man and horse, these centaur-like creatures are capable of closing across the Arena of the Undead Horde in a single turn and making the lives of your party truly miserable.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Deathrider v2

But, damn, these are some nice models. Covered in all sorts of details – from extra skulls to patterns on armour – these are, once again, some really lovely figures that will delight painters the world over.

Ironskull Andabatas

Last, and by no means least, we arrive at the two Ironskull Andabatas. If you don’t have a History degree (or have briefly forgotten Google exists), you might be interested to know that an “andabata” or “andabatae” was a professional gladiator in Ancient Rome. In one source, they’re credited as fighting “blind”, so that these sculpts have their eyes covered is a delightful detail.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde Minis Ironskull Andabata v2

And it doesn’t stop there. From the multitude of bones making up their maces to the lovely sculpting of their cloaks, these figures are, again, absolutely excellent. The details on the sculpted bases are also really nice and in-keeping with the theme.

Miniatures Summary

What a delightfully horrendous bunch of macabre monsters. I can’t wait to have them crush my friends’ carefully-made characters into pulp.

These detailed figures are brilliant. Whilst there is something a little cartoonish about the sculpts of the figures, it doesn’t detract from their overall prowess. These are really nice models and will look the part on the tabletop. There’s also plenty of details on them which will keep painters happy.

Covered in little flourishes that will excite all skill level of painters, much like the rest of the Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde box, these figures strike the balance between simplicity and satisfaction perfectly. They aren’t so detailed as to be impractical to paint, yet aren’t so plain as to be dull. They’re just right, and excellently fit-for-purpose.

Some naysayers will criticise the lack of variation between figures: why are they all posed the same? Yes, perhaps it’s a bit of a shame they are all monopose – simply because the sculpts are so excellent, it’d be a joy to see these miniatures in other positions. It’s important to remember, though, that these figures serve a purpose more like chess figures on a chessboard than miniatures on, say, a Warhammer battlefield.

As a DM, you don’t want to be having to constantly remind your players that “Yes, that’s a Skeleton Archer,” and “No, that’s another Skeleton Archer. They’re the same unit.” Having the figures as monopose heads off questions like this from players, it makes things far easier to track on what is already likely to be quite a hectic gaming board. Combat in D&D (and many similar TTRPGs) can take a very long time, especially with new or unconfident players, so having monopose, easy-to-identify figures is actually a blessing in disguise.

These miniatures are excellent, and that there are 20 of them (yes, still 20!) of them in a box priced so low is, frankly, stunning. These are a truly fantastic inclusion, and really help ensure the Arena of the Undead Horde comes to life.

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Playtesting

Here at FauxHammer.com, we’re trying to shake up how we do our playtestings, walkthroughs, and how-to-plays. Before, we’ve done these in the confines of our own homes, but we’ve noticed that empty tea cups, whatever’s on the telly, and in my case, cat toys, have a habit of sneaking into our photos.

We’ve recently decided to try something new with our playtesting of products. Getting hands-on with boxed games is a crucial part of their experience, and one we don’t feel should be limited to being stuck part-way down a general review-style article.

When it comes to an item like Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde, which is such an expansive and clever product, giving it a quick once-over isn’t really going to cut it. It needs to be experienced, not only by a DM, but also by a group of players.

Epic Encounters Arena of the Undead Horde FauxHammer Plays 6

As such, you can read our full playtest of Arena of the Undead Horde here. Swing by to get a close-up look at all the action, as well as a peek inside Norwich’s phenomenal The Games Table.

Ultimately, the TL;DR of the playtest is that Arena of the Undead Horde is a phenomenal resource that can be enjoyed by both DMs and players.

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Price and Availability

Clocking in at £54.99GBP, $54.9USD, and €54.95EUR straight from Steamforged Games’ webstore, Arena of the Undead Horde is, without a shadow of a doubt, an absolute steal.

Just to remind you, for that price you get a completely (and very well) written D&D encounter that can either be played as its own one-shot campaign or slotted seamlessly into an ongoing adventure. You get a double-sided A2-sized map printed on decent paper, which you can use again and again and again in any other campaign you run.

There was something else too. What was it…?

Oh yeah. 20 freakin’ miniatures!

Damn, that’s value. It is available elsewhere, so always check your friendly local gaming store before you buy in case they can save you a few bob.

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Where to Next?

One thing I haven’t mentioned so far – deliberately so, in fact – is that there are actually two sections to Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters product range. First, there are the “Warband” boxes, the section of the range to which which Arena of the Undead Horde belongs.

There is also the “Boss” range.

Epic Encounters Tower of the Lich Empress Box SFG Photo
Source: Steamforged Games

Tower of the Lich Empress (which you’ll be able to view soon in a review and another playtest) can be used as an add-on or an expansion to Arena of the Undead Horde. In fact, the the two boxes work together so well that getting one without the other is almost criminal.

If you want to take your Epic Encounter and really turn it up to 11, you can swipe one of these Boss boxes to add a truly stupendous finale to your gaming session. Each Warband box has a supplementary (though that feels somewhat reductive) Boss box that can be used alongside it to further develop the game.

Of course, you don’t have to. You do not need a Warband box to play a Boss box, and vice-versa. Each box functions as its own standalone encounter and can be used independently of the other if you so wish

Aside from that, Steamforged Games are a veritable powerhouse of projects. During the time we were writing this review, they announced another addition to their Epic Encounters series. Check out the announcement here.

The Epic Encounters range is already burgeoning with products. No matter where you and your D&D party are heading in your next session, there’s a good chance that Steamforged Games will have a box that will help you on your way.

Steamforged Games also have a ton of other IPs. They recently announced their RuneScape Kingdoms: Shadows of Elvarg Kickstarter, the Horizon Zero Dawn board game (which we might have a sneaky copy of for a future review…), and the Monster Hunter: World game. Of course, there’s also the Dark Souls board, card and role-playing game. They also have their own IPs, the popular Bardsung and Godtear are chief amongst which.

Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
Really nice miniatures
Robust, easy to pick up campaign
Beautifully versatile
Everything you could possibly need for your session has been thought of
Good value for money
Beginner friendly
The paper maps are prone to some beefy fold lines
Monopose miniatures may turn a few painters off

I haven’t really tried to hide my adoration of the Epic Encounters: Arena of the Undead Horde box at any point in this interview. As a (long-suffering) DM myself, I genuinely cannot express just how excellent a resource this is.

There isn’t a single part of this box that doesn’t show just how much care Steamforged Games have put into this Epic Encounters box. From the beautiful miniatures and awesome Campaign Booklet to the carefully-designed packaging and the choice of paper for the game mat. Steamforged Games have really outdone themselves.

But I still think that real magic of this box lies with the Campaign Booklet. The encounter is wonderfully simple, yet so well-made that it will delight D&Ders of all experience levels. Whether you’re a beginner DM who needs to keep things simple, or a TTRPG veteran, the encounter is so easy to manage that you will be able to slot the Arena of the Undead Horde encounter into any existing campaign without any stress – or not, such is your choice.

Even though the encounter isn’t too complex, there’s some real meat to it. Thanks to the excellent mechanics, the thoughtful touches, and the clever design of the encounter, players will feel like they’re going on a really meaningful adventure.

This entertaining box will be a lifeline to any struggling DM. Whatever part of your campaign it is you’re struggling to prepare – whether you need a spooky undead encounter or just something to fill a few hours – this box has your back.

A triumph.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Don’t forget to check out our full playtest of Arena of the Undead Horde, available here!

Like what you’ve seen in this review? Check out Steamforged Games’ brand-new Epic Encounters: Local Legends Kickstarter for more awesome D&D-compatible content!

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support FauxHammer.com – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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Author

  • Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

About VoltorRWH 103 Articles
Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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