I have rarely had this much anticipation for the release of any tabletop game and certainly never for one that I paid just $15 to own. But that was certainly true for dungeon Roll from Tasty Minstrel Games.
There were regular trips to the email after I kickstarted the game waiting to get the shipping notice.
“The idea came to me in June of 2012, after I saw a call from another publisher who was looking for a press-your-luck dice game,” said game designer Chris Darden. “After the kids went to bed, I grabbed some six siders and immediately started playing around. I had the base mechanic that night, and the theme assigned the next day. Over the next few months, I tweaked and worked at it until it was fun. I showed it to TMG in November at BGG.con, and the rest was history. More tweaking and revisions followed to make the game as fun as we could, and give it a ton of replayability. So, from original idea to the state you see it in today, it was probably about six months.”
There are two distinct versions of the game, the one that came from kickstarter and the one that will soon be available at the retail level. Since several of the things included to kickstarter backers won't be available, at least for a while, at the retail level, I will focus on the retail product and the first hero expansion pack.
The box that contains the components will get your attention right away. It looks like a treasure chest. It is about the size of an adult hand and that makes the game extremely portable for taking and playing nearly everywhere. But it also doubles as a place to hold the cardboard pieces that represent the treasures available throughout the delves into the dungeon that make up the meat of the game.
“The look and price were a big deal to backers,” said Darden. “$15 for a treasure chest shaped box filled with custom dice is something people are going to love. I hope that the backers who came for the aesthetic find that they enjoy the game as well.”
The heart of what takes place in Dungeon Roll can be found in the dungeon dice and the party dice. The game comes with seven of each. These dice are of very high quality, etched so that they won't fade with repeated handling.
The game starts with the player rolling the 7 party dice. On those dice there is one side apiece devoted to a mage, a fighter, a cleric, a thief, a champion and a scroll. The results of that roll creates the party you will have for your first delve into the dungeon. The members of the party are color coded to help remember the strengths of each. Those members will be used to defeat the monsters that will come up when your opponent rolls the dungeon dice.
There is a 10-sided die to keep track of the level of the dungeon in which you are delving on your turn. It also serves to tell your foe how many dungeon dice he or she gets to roll to put in your way at each level. So for the first level, one dungeon die will be rolled.
Each member of your party will be able to defeat any one monster regardless of type. The monster die will go back to the pool to be used on future levels and the party member will go to the graveyard and will not be available for the rest of the delve unless a game element brings them back. The trick is that each party member will have something they do well. For instance, a mage will be able to get rid of all the oozes by using just one mage die face. Both of them are purple to help identify that pairing. Fighters have the same power over goblins and both are green. Clerics lord over skeletons and both are grey. Champions have that power over any of the three monsters I've mentioned.
But there are 3 other faces on the dungeon dice. One is a treasure chest. Any member of the party can open a chest but only a thief and a champion can open any number of chests rolled. For each open chest, the player will draw randomly from the chest to determine the treasure obtained. Some treasures act as faces of the party die and some help to escape a tight spot in the dungeon or defeat a dragon. I won't list them all in this review. Another face is a potion. Any hero or even the scroll can quaff (drink) any number of potions. Then that party member goes to the graveyard. What the potion does is revive any party die in the graveyard and let it come back as any face on that die.
The final side of the dungeon die has a dragon head on it. When one of those is rolled it is put into the dragon's lair where it remains until three or more have been rolled during a single delve. The the player must fight the dragon. It takes three different types of party members to defeat a dragon.
Dungeon Roll is a nearly perfect game that cleverly is both a push-your-luck game and a resource management challenge. Each time you clear a level of the dungeon, you can choose to quit or continue. If you quit, you receive experience tokens equal to the last level cleared. That decision needs to be made before the dungeon dice are rolled for the next level. If you go forward and fail to clear the next level, you get no experience points for the entire delve. Three delves for each player make up the game so it can be a bit crippling to fail in one delve if your opponents score in all three of their delves, but winning is still possible.
Defeating a dragon earns both a treasure and an experience point. Treasures not used by game's end are worth an experience point each and two of them, the town portal and the dragon scales can be worth more. At the end of three delves, the player with the most experience wins. The game takes 5 to 10 minutes per player.
Now all of that would be quite enough adventure for the cost of this game, but there's still more.
The game comes with eight base set hero characters. Each card represents who the player is during the game. Each hero has a novice side and an expert side. After accumulating five experience points, the player may flip the card to the experienced side. Each side of the hero has both a specialty and an ultimate ability. The specialty can be used at any point when it would make sense to use that ability but the ultimate can only be used once per delve or a maximum of three times per game. Each of those abilities are unique to each hero and it adds a lot of flavor and strategic planning to the game.
“There is another hero expansion pack being finalized at the moment and I've already designed a bigger expansion next year,” said Darden. “There are several other expansions on the drawing board, and the success of Dungeon Roll will determine when/if those see the light of day.”
Dungeon Roll is easily the best $15 I ever spent on a game. The full retail price will be $20 and it will still be the best $20 you will spend. The game will entertain one to four players, though with four I would suggest a second copy of the game so that each player is either delving or roll the dungeon dice. It makes the length of the game shorter and removes down time for all players.
Dungeon Roll will be available this coming week at GenCon with a special price of $15 on Thursday. As a show special, the first hero expansion pack, which includes eight more heroes will also be included in that price.
For more information about dungeon Roll visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/michaelmindes/dungeon-roll-a-dicey-dungeon-delve?ref=card