It’s been a while since I posted a review so let’s start off with a nice easy one to get back into the flow of things. Today I’m going to be discussing Dungeon Roll a dicey dungeon delve created by Chris Darden and Kickstarted by Tasty Minstrel Games.
I received my copy of this a few weeks back, and anyone who bought this through the Kickstarter campaign received a copy of the game and the expansion in an exclusive mimic box, a treasure chest with teeth! The artwork on the box is quite nice and when I got it I couldn’t wait to open it and see the contents.
In the base game you get seven Party dice. Each side of a single Party die has a symbol representing either a Fighter, Cleric, Mage, Thief, Champion, or Scroll. You use these to form your party as you delve into the dungeon.
Next you have the seven Dungeon Dice. Each side of a single Dungeon die has a symbol representing either a Goblin, Skeleton, Ooze, Dragon, Treasure Chest, or Potion. As you delve into the dungeon the number of Dungeon dice rolled increases with the dungeon level, for example, at level one you roll one dungeon dice, at level two you roll two dungeon dice and so on until you either retire, get defeated, or reach level ten. (There’s a D10 die in the box to show the level of the dungeon!)
One of the more interesting aspects of the game is the fact that you personally represent a character in the game. Before you begin you are randomly dealt one of the character cards. The artwork on these cards is beautiful and they add a lot to the game. You start with your character card on its weaker side and at any point in the game you can trade in five experience points to “level up” which basically means flipping the card over to its more powerful side. The basic game comes with eight of these cards and each has its own unique specialty which is active throughout the game, and an “Ultimate Ability” which is a once per delve ability.
As I mentioned, there’s also a character expansion pack which came with the Kickstarter package, but can be purchased separately for those who got their hands on the game after the campaign. This expansion adds eight more characters to the game for greater variety. It’s certainly not a necessity but there’s some nice characters and powers in the pack.
Out of the box you get a selection of cardboard tokens which represent Treasure and Experience (XP). Treasure tokens are placed back into the game box, shaken up, and drawn at random during certain stages of the game. XP tokens are placed at the side and earned during dragon fights or after a player retires. If I’m honest the XP tokens needed a little more thought, on one side of each token is the Roman numeral I, indicating it is worth 1 XP point. However on the other side of each token there could be a III (3XP), V (5XP), or an X (10XP). Unfortunately if you happen to be someone who likes to hold their winnings or, like me randomly plays with them during play, then the tokens can quite easily be flipped over to add or remove points to or from the total. I personally would have preferred the Tasty Minstrel guys to have provided a single extra sheet of tokens with independent 3, 5, and 10 XP markers on it.
If you backed Dungeon Roll via Kickstarter then you also got some exclusive content. The Guild Leader character who comes with an additional speckled party dice, improving your odds in the dungeon. Two additional dungeon dice and two cards representing the graveyard and the dragon’s lair. I guess the extras are OK, the Guild Leader is a nice addition and I think the extra dungeon dice were a nice touch. However, I really think they should have added three dungeon dice instead of two, that way you’d have one die per dungeon level. It just seemed a little bit cheap to have missed that one die. Finally the graveyard and dragons lair cards add nothing to the game other than a visual aid as to where to place used party dice and dragon dice.
Gameplay is fast, you take part in three delves and then count your XP to see how well you did. To begin a delve you roll your party dice to determine your party. This provides you with a mixture of characters that are going into the dungeon alongside you.
Next you roll a number of dungeon dice equal to the number shown on the dungeon level die. You may then “use” (discard) your party dice to deal with each of the monsters or items that appear in the dungeon. Each character in the party can be used to remove one of each type of dice. However each character type is strong against one different enemy type. for example.
You have three party dice showing a mage, a fighter and a thief. You roll three dungeon dice and get a skeleton and two oozes. You could use your mage to remove the skeleton, the fighter to remove one ooze and the thief to remove the other ooze. However, the mage is strong against oozes and a single mage can remove any number of ooze dice. So you use either your fighter or thief to remove the skeleton and the mage to remove both oozes.
Aside from monsters, dungeon dice may also show a treasure chest or potion. You don’t have to do anything with this type of die and they can be ignored in order to progress to the next level. However each of these types provides its own unique bonuses if you do decide to use it. You can use one party die to open a treasure chest, or one thief to open all of the rolled treasure chests. For each chest opened you get to draw a treasure token from the game box. The tokens benefits range from additional party members to additional points. At the end of your three delves each treasure token you still hold is worth one additional XP. You can also use one party die to quaff any number of potions. A potion enables you to take a dice from the graveyard and place it back into your party, any face up. This can be very powerful if the dungeon happens to contain two or more potions because you can resurrect your party and delve even deeper into the dungeon.
When a dragon dice is rolled as part of the dungeon level, it does not attack but is instead placed in the dragon’s lair, where it remains until activated later. After you clear all of the dungeon dice from a level you may have to fight the dragon. If the number of dragon dice in the lair is equal to or greater than three then you must fight. If it is lower than three, you can continue to the next level or retire, taking XP equal to the current level.
If you had to fight the dragon you must use three dice of differing classes to defeat it. For example two mages and a thief could not defeat the dragon, but a mage, a fighter and a thief could (Treasure tokens can help here). If you can’t defeat the dragon then your delve ends without receiving any XP. However, if you did defeat the dragon you receive 1XP and a treasure from the game box. You then decide to continue to the next level or retire to the tavern.
When you choose to continue, you increase the level die value by 1 and then repeat the above process. If you retire you receive the XP points equal to the level, reset the level die and proceed to the next delve. If you ever get to the point where you have to decide whether to retire or continue and the level dice is already on 10 (Dragon icon) then the delve automatically ends. You are the stuff of legends and you receive your ten XP points.
So, that’s how the game plays, but what did I think of it? On my first play through I have to admit that I was largely disappointed. Gameplay seemed dull, there wasn’t much going on, and I just didn’t get it. I was playing the game on my own and I didn’t think that this would have much of an impact on my enjoyment, however I was wrong.
The game supports up to four people, so I figured I’d give it another try with an extra player. As a two player game, your opponent takes on the role of the dungeon and rolls the level dice against you. The only real difference here is the addition of a person. You take it in turns until each person has completed their three delves and then compare your XP. Playing it like this really improved the experience. There was some banter going on between us, it felt as though you were achieving something when you rolled the dungeon dice because each bad thing you rolled hurt your opponent rather than yourself. It was definitely a lot better than with one person, but what about three or four players? Personally I don’t think the game will work very well with three or four players, I think there’s going to be far too much downtime between your delves and only involvement for two people at a time. As such I think the sweet spot for this game is at the two player mark.
Overall, after my second play through, I liked this game, but only as a two player experience. It’s nothing special, its light, it’s fairly fast and I’d play it again. The tokens and cards make it a little more fiddly than Zombie or Martian dice so it’s not one you’d be able to play in a queue, but it adds just enough extra depth to bring this out as a filler between games if I needed a break.