I consider myself an avid role-player. The love/hate relationship I have with dice is a tricky one. It involves various modifiers including bonuses, criticals, penalties, and the inevitable betrayal. But when I sit down to play a session of Dungeons & Dragons or Dark Heresy; I know my place amongst the chaos. My will is forever bound to the die and nothing… absolutely nothing makes me happier than surviving just one more round.
In Dungeon Roll, the game is almost just that. Instead of surviving the next round, do you have the courage to keep going? You start out as a Hero with your own Specialty and Ultimate ability. Before delving into the first level of the dungeon, you must assemble your party of seven companions made up of Fighters, Clerics, Mages, Thieves, Scrolls, and the ever versatile Champions. Now that you’ve gathered your crew of mighty adventurers, brace yourself as you delve your way to treasures and glory through Goblins, Skeletons, Oozes, and Dragons!
Whoa-whoa-wait… maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me fist tell you how all of this came about. Dungeon Roll was a much talked about Kickstarter Project when it was first announced back in late February, 2013. Mind you, I wasn’t on board until it was already fully funded and sitting around the $90,000 mark. That should tell you something when I say their Goal was $15,000 and they ended at $250,070 with 10,877 backers. If you don’t know anything about Kickstarter, we call that “impressive.” Now, I want to go ahead and admit that I adore this game. It’s quick, it’s fun, and the replay value is superb. So I can understand now, more than ever why this game was such a hit on Kickstarter.
Though as much as I applaud Dungeon Roll as a game; I have to give credit where credit is due… and that would be to Michael Mindes for running a solid Kickstarter Campaign. This was his 5th project at the time but crowd sourcing is no easy task. Being open and honest about how you are allocating the extra funds isn’t something we Kickstarter Backers are entirely used to. Stretch goals are one thing, but breaking down shipping, artwork, die molds, and card stock cost is another. Mr. Mindes consistently kept the backers updated on a weekly basis (often times daily, during the actual campaign) and I firmly believe his willingness to share and his efforts in get the backer community involved was what made Dungeon Roll such a huge success. I hope other future developers follow suit. OK, I should get back to the review.
Dungeon Roll carries a unique meld of luck and strategy wrapped up in a familiar theme. As mentioned earlier, I’m an avid role-player, so when I found out there was a fantasy themed dice game; it appealed to me right away. Before I get into the mechanics, let me go over the high quality components you get within the core retail game. Note that the box the game comes in doubles as a Treasure Box and is an essential part of the gameplay itself. Nothing goes to waste here, kids.
- 7 White Party Dice (Companions)
- 7 Black Dungeon Dice
- 10-sided Level Die
- 36 Treasure Tokens
- 24 Experience Tokens
- 8 Hero Cards
- 4 Player Aid Cards
- 1 Rulebook (click to check out the PDF)
- 1 Book of Heroes
During the setup of Dungeon Roll, you'll need to take out all the components except the Treasure Tokens from the Treasure Box. Designate two areas within easy reach of all players for a Graveyard and a Dragon's Lair. Choose or randomly distribute a Hero Card to each player. Each Hero Card has two abilities, a Specialty that can be used on every level, and an Ultimate Ability which can only be used once per dungeon delve (or turn). The further you delve into the dungeon, the more experience points you can potentially earn before retiring to the tavern from a hard day's work. Once you've earned at least 5 or more experience points, you can Level Up your Hero by flipping your hero card over from the Novice side to Master side; thus granting you a different Specialty and/or Ultimate Ability. Here is a list of the different heroes offered in both the core game and their first Hero Booster Pack:
Core Game: (Novice / Master)
- Crusader / Paladin
- Enchantress / Beguiler
- Half-Goblin / Chieftain
- Knight / Dragon Slayer
- Mercenary / Commander
- Minstrel / Bard
- Occultist / Necromancer
- Spellsword / Battlemage
Hero Booster Pack #1: (Novice / Master)
- Alchemist / Thaumaturge
- Archaeologist / Tomb Raider
- Dwarf / Berserker
- Leprechaun / Clurichaun
- Scout / Dungeoneer
- Sorceress / Drake Kin
- Tracker / Ranger
- Viking / Undead Viking
Before playing the game, you'll have to understand the meaning behind each of the faces on both the Party/Dungeon dice and what they can do. Dungeon Roll brilliantly reminds you by color coding each face of the face to its corresponding ability. Here are the six different types of companions/items you can roll when assembly your Party:
- Fighter (Green)
- Cleric (Grey)
- Mage (Purple)
- Thief (Pink)
- Champion (Yellow)
- Scroll (Orange)
Here are the six different types of monsters/items you can roll when delving in the dungeon:
- Goblin (Green)
- Skeleton (Grey)
- Ooze (Purple)
- Treasure Chest (Pink)
- Potion (Orange)
- Dragon (Red)
Generally, any 1 Companion can be used to slay any 1 Monster and open any 1 Treasure Chest from the dungeon. So a Fighter (Green) can slay a single Skeleton (Grey) without a problem, but if the Fighter was facing a band of 3 Goblins (Green), it would only take a single Fighter to slay all the 3 Goblins because both die are obviously green. So any 1 companion can slay and open any number of it's corresponding Dungeon Die. Now you might be wondering about the Champion. He's a jack-of-all-trades. A Champion a can slay and open any group of dungeon die that are of the same color.
For every Treasure Chest opened await random riches. These Treasure Tokens that can help you escape, bait a costly Dragon, and offer a potion to help revive a fallen Party Die. The Treasure Chest also offers 6 different tokens that act as the 6 different Companions on a Party die; basically a chance to earn more Companions. And for every two Dragon Scales gives you 2 extra experience points at the end of the game.
Scrolls and Potions play by a different set of rules and add another element to the delving experience. Scrolls "May be used to re-roll any number of active Party and Dungeon Dice." Meanwhile Potions can "use any Party Die (including Scrolls) to quaff any number of Potions. For each Potion quaffed, revive 1 Party Die and choose its face." This dice tend to do more to help than harm but be weary of Scrolls; they don't like me very much.
Now onto those blasted Dragon Dice. Dragons are feisty and don't take kindly to being disturbed. Every time a Dungeon Die results in a Dragon, it is immediately placed in the Dragon's Lair. As soon as there are 3 or more Dragon Dice in the Dragon's Lair, you must resolve any other Monster encounters, Treasure, and/or Potions before taking on the Dragon. The only way to defeat a Dragon is to play 3 different Companions from your Active Party. After defeating it, you gain 1 Experience Point and 1 Treasure Token.
A Dicey Dungeon Example
Let's say this is a two player match. Player 1 wants to be the Adventurer first and she was randomly dealt the Minstrel Hero Card which has the following unique abilities:
Specialty: Thieves may by used as Mages and Mages may be used as Thieves.
Ultimate Ability - Bard's Song: Discard all dice from the Dragon's Liar.
Now she rolls her 7 Party Dice for her first dungeon delve:
1 Fighter, 2 Clerics, 2 Mages, 1 Thief, and 1 Champion
Player 2 is the acting Dungeon Master so he decides to go ahead and roll the amount of Dungeon Die equal to the dungeon level, which is currently 1. He rolls a Goblin.
The Adventurer chooses to play a Cleric by moving it to the Graveyard. This defeats the single Goblin and Player 1 requests to go to level 2. Note: She is now one less Party Die since they can be used once.
The Dungeon Master now rolls 2 Dungeon Dice resulting in 1 Ooze and 1 Treasure Chest.
The Adventurer must defeat any monsters before attempting to loot and/or continue onto the next level so she'll play a Cleric to slay the ooze and a Mage to open the Treasure Chest. She places both the Cleric and Mage into the Graveyard and reaches into the Treasure Chest for her reward. She pulls a Vorpal Sword token which "can be used as a Fighter." Though she only has 4 dice remaining, she has at least 5 companions due to that token. She decides to continue further.
The Dungeon Master now rolls 3 Dungeon Dice resulting in 2 Goblins and 1 Dragon. The Dragon die is immediately added to the Dragon Lair. Remember, when 3 or more Dragon Dice enter the Dragon's Lair, The Adventurer must confront and defeat it to gain any experience. Or flee it and gain nothing.
The Adventurer is going to go ahead and use her Vorpal Sword Treasure Token to take out those 2 Goblins. She discards the token by placing it back into the Treasure Chest. Now with only 4 companions left: 1 Fighter, 1 Mage, 1 Thief, and 1 Champion; and she continues to press forward.
The Dungeon Master again, rolling equal to the current level; resulting in 2 Dragons, 1 Ooze, and 1 Potion. The 2 Dragon die are added to the Dragon's Lair and the Dragon has been awoken.
The Adventurer must resolve any Monster, Treasure, and Potion dice first before confronting the Dragon. She knows that she has enough to defeat the single Ooze and has at the very least, 3 more different Companions to confront the Dragon but she remains hesitant. If she defeats the Dragon, she would get 1 Experience Point and 1 Treasure Token. Then with no Party Dice left, she could press her luck with the next level and hopefully no monsters are rolled or retire to the Tavern and gain experience points equal to her current level (which is 4). She could also use her Ultimate Ability on her Minstrel Hero Card which would "Discard all dice from the Dragon's Lair"; ridding her of that pesky Dragon. Though she wouldn't claim any experience for doing so and she would only still have 3 Companions going into the 5 level. Even if she survive and retire to the Tavern then; she would only gained 5 Experience Points (equal to that next level). That's the same if she would just slay the Dragon now and retire this round. Why risk it? She uses her Fighter on the Ooze and her Mage, Thief, and Champion on the Dragon. She gains 1 Experience Point, a Dragon Scale from the Treasure Chest, and 4 more Experience points for clearing and retiring on level 4. This brings her total Experience Points to 5 and now she can Upgrade her Minstrel Hero Card to a Bard. Much more powerful and much more promising.
Her turn as the Adventurer ended as soon as she retired. Now she passes the Party Dice to Player 2 and takes up the mantle of the ruthless Dungeon Master; wielding karma ridden cubes of doom. "The game ends after each player has had 3 delves. Unused Treasure Tokens are worth 1 Experience Point each (except the Town Portal, which is worth 2). Dragon Scales are worth an additional 2 Experience for each pair of them in your possession. The player with the highest total of Experience is the winner! In the case of a tie, the tied player with the fewest Treasure Tokens is the winner. If still tied, the tied players rejoice in a shared victory."
I was amazed on how much effort my girlfriend, friends, and I put into this game. The high replay value is expected because you're for the most part, rolling 7 6-sided die to determine your turn. What wasn't expected is how much the Hero card can effect every level, of every delve. I found that some cards seem broken or overpowered but what I learned awfully quick that it doesn't matter. I've lost just as hard even though it looked like I was winning, or expected I was going to the furthest because I kept avoiding the Dragon. Delving further and getting Experience is one way to play, the other is delving and loot as much as humanly possible. "I knew I should have got that treasure." Of course, that all depends on how the dice feel about you using that particular Hero card.
I have to admit though, playing 1 on 1 is a sweet spot for this game. No waiting around for anyone or taking turns. You're either the Adventurer or the Dungeon Master. You're either Indiana or the Doom! Or you're both! I've played a half a dozen or so solo games and they can prove to be quite enjoyable. I missed the opponent aspect but the simple fact that you can actually play a board game by yourself is awesome. It allowed me to play another Hero I passed up on multiple occasions just because it didn't interest me. Oh, before I forget... I remember mentioning earlier that Dungeon Roll offered something familiar but honestly; their is something fresh about it. A lot of work went into this game from the ground up. All the artwork done by Rob Lundy, Ryan Johnson, Eric Carter, and Gordon Court is top notch and I can honestly see this growing into something larger. Just comparing the first Hero Booster Pack to the core game lets me know that they're reinventing certain aspects of the game even before it hits store shelves. Awesome work.
I feel that this is a great party game. Large or small. It's portable and surprisingly sturdy. It's colorful and easy to explain. I recommended this for anyone tired of just pressing their luck and wants to play something with a little more personality. Also, anyone that has kids; watching them match up the Companions with the right Dungeon die is probably a reward all by itself.
I'm not a big into writing playthroughs but it was the only way I could explain the game without paying it a disservice. It's very moment to moment, chaotic and calculated but most of all... it's a hell of a lot of fun. I'm digging the break away from the typical resource based dice or press your luck games. They're cute and simplistic but dice games get a bad rep for being dice games. Too much randomization. TMG's new game offers more than that.
You basically deal yourself a hand of cards and have to play them to the best of your ability. You just read what it was like to be a Minstrel and every card in this game has the potential to shake things up. There are 7 more heroes in the core game with very different abilities and 8 more on the way in their first booster. Dungeon Roll is a fantastically well made game that offers a lot more than I could have hoped for. I considered myself lucky to have been apart of it's Kickstarter and look forward to continuing that same love/hate relationship I have with all my favorite dice based games... stupid Dragons.
Critical Hit Review: 5 out of 5 - IT'S A CRIT!
BONUS! I've also embedded a Dungeon Roll - How To Play video from the amazing YouTube show "Watch It Played" hosted by Rodney Smith. If you're into board gaming, and if you're not by now... get on it and check out their other videos as well!