Quote: "But I'm wondering if it's overkill for what I'm trying to do."
I definitely do not think it is overkill at all. DBPro could be used to make a match-3 game, though it will take you more than a few hours to create it.
Quote: "IS DBPRo my best option for someone new to the more recent programming technologies? Is there something easier I should try first?"
The best option for you? Only you can answer that. From the background that you have listed, you should be able to do this with DBPro. If you do struggle with something, people on the TGC forums overall tend to be helpful (as long as the coder is willing to put forth their own effort and not depend on others to code everything for them). I would say that the 2D board is probably one of the least-visited boards on the site and that the NewComers DBPro Corner board would help you get an answer more quickly.
Quote: "Oh, I also need to be able to read and write data from the game to a file/DB."
Easily done with DBPro's file commands.
Quote: "The players abilities will increase over time and affect board layouts, special abilities, etc... "
You could code in all of these things.
Of course, there are a number of tutorials available on this site. Below is a link to several good tutorials to help you.
You might want to make a pong type game for starters, just to get the hang of how coding is done with DBP.
Good luck to you and welcome.
So many games to code.......so little time.