Note: Some people have an issue with reading material that may seem self-evident, and there's going to be a lot of that. The point is to examine the underlying game systems of Dungeon Command, and sometimes it may seem like a simple restatement of the rulebook. However, in my experience, examining the basic principles of a game means looking at some relationships that may seem self-evident but only in retrospect. "Card advantage theory" in Magic the Gathering, for instance, is pretty much a simple examination of the fact that the basic economy of M:TG is limited by the factor that, barring any card effects, "you draw only 1 card per turn" (and tempo, as nebulous a concept as it is, is directly tied to "you can only play 1 land per turn").
Dungeon Command is an intriguing game because at its core it is really about the interplay between two interdependant subgames (or what I would call sub economies): one linked to Creatures and one linked to Orders. Let's examine and define each of them.
First, there is one subeconomy that revolves around your Creature hand. In this economy, you have three main resources involved: Creature cards, Leadership and Morale. Your Creature hand size is fixed at the beginning. You never draw new Creatures unless you deploy them (Reinforcements Order card being the only exception to that rule). You 'spend' Leadership to deploy a Creature, based on its level. Each Creature in play gives you one move (based on its Speed) and one Standard action per turn, plus one Immediate action per opponent turn. A Standard action is often (not always) converted into Damage, which can either be applied directly to Morale (cowering) or indirectly, through killing a creature (in which case the owner of the creature loses Morale, but 'gains' back Leadership). Interestingly, here you have everything you need for a simpler version of the game, a 'Dungeon Command Lite' if you will. You could theoretically play Dungeon Command Lite and just never bring your Order cards, and IMO it would already be a somewhat intricate game.
More importantly, with no dice roll randomness, the game becomes very close to a Euro 'engine building' game with just a tad more player interaction. In principle, the game of Dungeon Command Lite (and DC itself, I would argue) is basically about creating the most efficient engine to reduce an opponent's Morale to 0. Barring the rare win condition consisting of wiping the board of opposing creatures (either from a large single turn impulse of damage or the opponent running out of Creature cards), killing creatures does not reduce the opponent's long term ability to pursue his game plan. In the short term, of course, having to respawn creatures at the Start area will limit your ability to function, but you continue to have access to your full Leadership for the entirety of the game, which means (again, barring rare conditions) that you will keep the same total 'value' of creatures in play even after some die.
The board provides a chess-like quality to the game, just like every miniatures game out there. Positionning becomes relevant because it limits exactly what actions you can take on a given turn, possibly barring the more efficient methods of reducing your opponent's Morale in the short term (tactical limitations) or the long term (strategic limitations). This is where the treasures mechanics shine. As it is the main method of regaining Morale, it forces the game to go a bit towards area control, and drives confrontation. Taking a treasure means spending one Standard action instead of using it to cause Damage, so while it provides a gain in Morale it does so at the potential cost of not reducing your opponent's Morale. Though, in practice, the limitations imposed by position might make this cost moot (taking treasures en passant
while moving towards conflict zones is more or less free, assuming the distance is equivalent in number of turns by making a short stop on the treasure chest).
We can simplify the game of Dungeon Command Lite further to a purely Creature card-based game without a board (Dungeon Command TCG?
), which can help a lot when looking into warband designs. The reasoning behind this idea is simple: assume you are a perfect player (an assumption that comes naturally to competitive players :P). Assume your opponent is also a perfect player (a harder assumption for competitive players to assume). Assume a perfect player always is in position to use his most efficient action each turn. Therefore, in the abstract, you could conceive of the game only by referencing creature cards and looking at the strategy you should use to win if you can do any action possible in the game.
This way of looking at the game is useful but does warp one's conceptions (movement Order cards and Speed is hard to evaluate properly when you abstract out movement) so should be used sparringly. Under this abstract view, Creature cards are defined purely by a level value, an HP value, an attack value (whichever is best on the creature... again, this form of thinking does devalue range vs melee considerations) and all abilities related to HP or damage. At this point one realizes something quickly: the amount of HP per level is fairly standard, mostly 20 HP per level, with very little variation (ranged creatures tend to have less, some melee creatures have more). However, the attack power of creatures is much more costly. The amount of creatures that deal at least 10 damages per level is very rare at the upper tier, but common in the lower tiers, and you even have multiple creatures that deal 20 damages per level spent on them. Compare 3x Goblin Archers with a single War Wizard. The first army will get you 30 HPs and 60 damage. The War Wizard will get you 60 HPs and 30 damage. Let's abstract damage production so that War Wizard deals 30 'collectively' to the Goblins (which is actually making him look better in the comparison than he actually is) and the Goblins also get to attack (in a true game whoever attacks first wins of course, but we're trying to evaluate the 'economies' of both armies here). That means that a single War Wizard and 3x Goblin Archers basically cancel each other out in the economic race, but for one crucial factor: War Wizard was 4 levels, the Archers were worth 3 levels. The Goblin player is ahead 1 Morale point in the deal, and if they both started with the same Morale and neither collected more treasures, a warband composed of infinite Goblin Archers vs infinite War Wizards would inexorably result in a Goblin win.
Of course, in practice we DON'T have infinite copies of the creature cards, so we need to examine another cost: 3x Goblin Archers is 3 levels AND 3 cards, War Wizard is 4 levels and 1 card. However, this isn't Magic the Gathering. As you know, you draw one creature card per creature card spent, so in fact the cost is technically moot *assuming a large enough Creatures deck*. The economy of the Creatures hand isn't following the traditional card advantage principles of games where card draws are limited.
This was basically the main principle behind my Goblin warband. The Order card Reinforcements serves as an attempt to force the actual gameplay to approach as close as possible the ideal math analysis of the very simplified DCTCG game. With a judicious choice in our other Order cards we can attempt to limit the value of the opponent's Order cards and force the game to be fought according to the DCTCG principles. There are a lot of design considerations in the Order deck (and in the 'filler' creatures of the Creature deck, the ones that aren't the super awesome Goblin Archers or Cutters) to take into account the fact that the game IS a bit more complex
but the point is that if I'm forcing my opponent to play by the core principles of that subgame, it's better to swarm with infinite level 1s than larger creatures.
(To be continued with analysis of the Order deck economy, as I've not done as much analysis on that one.)