Dungeon Roll Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 1 to 4 players
  • Variable game length (dependent on number of players)

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Gather your heroes and enter the dark dungeon to find glory or doom…most likely, both.

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Legends are born from great deeds forged in the fires of trials and tribulations. A group of adventurers have gathered at the entrance to a dungeon known to be deep, dark, and full of monsters. Some come to make a name for themselves, while others just want to get rich. Whatever their motivation, they are willing to risk it all for the treasure that lies hidden below. Weapons drawn, they begin their journey downward that will either end in fame and fortune or doom.

Dungeon Roll, to be published by Tasty Minstrel Games, will reportedly be comprised of 7 custom six-sided Party dice, 7 custom six-sided Dungeon dice, 1 standard ten-sided die, 30 Treasure tokens, and 8 Party Leader cards. However, the game is doing exceedingly well on Kickstarter and the game’s final component inventory will be much, much more than what was provided to us. Since this is a review of the game’s prototype, we will not comment on the game component quality. However, Tasty Minstrel has released some illustrations on what the final game will look like. If the game is even remotely close to what is being suggested as the “final product”, the game will be very impressive looking. It is also of interest to note that the game box, which is used in game play, will be designed to look and open like a traditional “treasure chest”, if such a thing exists in the traditional sense. Not included with the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper to write down the player’s collected experience points.

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Pre-Dungeon Explorer Checklist

To set up the game, first remove all the game box contents except the Treasure tokens. These stay in the game box (which, again, looks like a treasure chest – how clever!).

Second, randomly distribute a Party Leader card to each player or have each player select the Party Leader card of their choice. Once selected, the Party Leader card is placed in front of the player on its “Novice” side. Any Party Leader cards not selected are removed to one side and are out for the duration of the game.

That’s it! Determine who the first player will be and being your dungeon exploring adventure!

Dungeons, Dice, and Dragons

There are two sets of custom six-sided dice included in Dungeon Roll. These are the Party and the Dungeon dice. The die values of each set are summarized here.

Champion (Party dice)

The Champion party member is the strongest and most skilled of heroes. This is a seasoned adventurer who knows how to deal with any threat they might encounter in the dungeon and how to bust open treasure chests with a swift kick. As such, the Champion may be used to defeat all Goblins, all Skeletons, OR all Oozes and is exceptionally handy to winning the game.

Fighter (Party dice)

The Fighter is a weapon expert and a fearless soul. They crave adventure and danger in equal parts, often favoring danger because it leads to glory. The Fighter knows how to use a weapon efficiently and may be used to defeat one Skeleton, one Ooze, or ANY NUMBER of Goblins, whom they greatly enjoy slaying.

Cleric (Party dice)

The Cleric is a pious individual who seeks enlightenment, but knows that the path to such spiritual knowledge is often fraught with danger. As such, the Cleric is armed and ready to defeat that which stands in their way of true understanding of the Universe. The Cleric may be used to defeat one Goblin, one Ooze, or ANY NUMBER of Skeletons, whom the Cleric regards as unnatural creatures.

Mage (Party dice)

The Mage is a student of the arcane and the mysterious beyond. They have learned a number of spells to defend the adventuring party and to lay waste to whatever foe they might encounter. The Mage may be used to defeat one Goblin, one Skeleton, or ANY NUMBER of Oozes, whom the Mage loves casting Fireballs at as often as possible.

Thief (Party dice)

The Thief is not trusted by any of his fellow adventuring party members, but his skills with the blade and his ability to open locked treasure chests makes him an invaluable asset. The Thief doesn’t care what his fellow adventurers think of him as long as there is treasure to be found (you can always buy friends at an Inn – and lots of gold buys lots of friends). The Thief may be used to defeat one Goblin, one Skeleton, or one Ooze.

Polymorph Wand (Party dice)

The legendary Polymorph Wand is either the greatest magical device ever created or the single most annoying. Arcane scholars have debated this argument for a good century with most arguments breaking down into a Wizard Duel that often results in one or more individuals being turned into a newt. While it remains an object of academic interest in the hollowed halls of learned Wizards and Witches, in the dark dungeons the wand has proved to be an invaluable tool. The wand can be used to re-roll any number of Party or Dungeon dice that are not currently in the Graveyard or the Dragon’s Lair.

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Dragon (Dungeon dice)

A creature of myth, stories, and legend, the Dragon is often talked about, but seldom seen. This is mostly because the people who do see the dragon are often eaten. As such, most knowledge about Dragons is often only tavern lore, lines in bardic songs, and the subject of long speculative lectures. One thing is for certain – they are not to be messed with.

Goblin (Dungeon dice)

For those cities and towns close to the center of the King’s Throne, Goblins are the subject of stories that are told to naughty children who do not go to sleep. Many a child has been scolded by a parent with the words, “Go to bed or the Goblins will get you!” For those small rural villages and settlements on the outskirts of the frontier, Goblins are not stories but a very real  and constant threat. They are mean, green, and well-organized. Whole farms have been found burned to the ground and livestock slaughtered with Goblin tracks everywhere. Oddly enough, and most terrifying, no trace of the families who lived on these farms are ever found.

Skeleton (Dungeon dice)

The Skeleton is an abomination and a mockery of life. Little more than a pile of bones, Necromancers use their dark and terrible arcane art to bind the soul of the dead to their remains. The soul of the individual is fully aware of what is happening, but is powerless to challenge the will of the Necromancer who bound them. The Clerical Orders of the kingdom have declared that any and all Skeletons found are to be destroyed so the imprisoned soul can be released and finally find peace.

Ooze (Dungeon dice)

Mindless and forever hungry, the Ooze is a gelatinous creature that has just enough intelligence to know where its next meal might be hiding. Difficult to kill and impossible to hear when they approach, the Ooze has claimed many a seasoned adventurer while they sleep, absorbing them, armor and all. All that remains of the Ooze’s meals are the weapons and armor that failed to protect the adventurer in life, but now serve as a reminder that even a harmless looking bowl of pudding could be out to get you.

Chest (Dungeon dice)

Treasure chests are the single most important thing to adventurers. The second most important thing is surviving long enough to enjoy the treasure chest’s contents. For many who venture into the dark places of the earth, all that is found is gloom and death. For a lucky few, a treasure chest will be found and treasure won! If they are really lucky, they’ll be able to brag about it at an inn.

Potion (Dungeon dice)

A sword, shield, spells, and blessing are always good to have in dangerous dungeons, but every adventurer knows you don’t steps one foot into a dungeon’s entrance without a potion or two at the ready. Small liquid vials full of the foulest smelling and worst tasting liquid you could ever imagine could mean the difference between life and death in a fight. Despite the unfortunate side effect of immediately feeling sick, a potion can heal the most grievous of wounds and even bring a dead adventurer back to life!

A Hero’s Hero

While the usual cast of fantasy adventurers will be joining the player in the game (Cleric, Fighter, Champion, Mage, and Thief), each player is given a very special and very powerful Party Leader to play with. Thematically speaking, this is the player’s avatar who is leading the adventuring party to obtain fortune and fame or death.

Each Party Leader has a Novice and a Master side, as well as two abilities (explained in phase 2 of a player’s turn below). When a Party Leader first enters the dungeon, they are inexperienced but eager to learn. Each Party Leader card has a listed amount of experience that the player needs to collect before the Party Leader can be “leveled up” to their Master side. As soon as the player does have a number of experience points higher than or equal to the Party Leader’s experience points needed to “level up”, the Party Leader is flipped to the Master side.

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Treasure, Treasure, Treasure!

Hidden deep in the dungeons are treasure chests. What lies within them is anyone guess and only a lucky few will ever know the riches they contain! Treasure tokens, located in the Treasure Chest box, are removed randomly by players when they defeat the Dragon and when they open chests they find in dungeon levels. In Dungeon Roll, there is no such thing as “worthless treasure”. Everything in the Treasure Chest box is a useful tool to help keep the player going deeper into the dungeon and to win the game! A summary of each Treasure token is listed here:

  • Town Portal – if used, the adventuring party is whisked away to the nearest town and the level of the dungeon they were currently exploring is added to the player’s experience points (or, keep this Treasure token for two experience points at the end of the game).
  • Dragon Bait – if used, any active Dungeon die can be changed to a Dragon and moved to the Dragon’s Lair.
  • Dragon Scales of Power – these rare and highly sought after scales from a Great Dragon will award their owner additional experience points at the end of the game.
  • Potion – if used, it acts just like a Potion rolled on the Dungeon dice.
  • Polymorph Wand – if used, it acts just like a Polymorph Wand rolled on a Party dice.
  • Vorpal Sword – if used, it acts just like a Fighter rolled on a Party dice.
  • Talisman – if used, it acts just like a Cleric rolled on a Party dice.
  • Scepter of Power – if used, it acts just like a Mage rolled on a Party dice.
  • Sledgehammer – if used, it acts just like a Thief rolled on a Party dice.

When claimed, Treasure tokens are kept face-down in front of their owning player and provides a one-time-use ability or they can be saved for experience points at the end of the game. Players can look at their Treasure tokens at any time and spend them to use the ability the Treasure token provides whenever it would make the most sense. Once spent, the Treasure token is returned to the Treasure Chest box.

Dungeon Rolling Like a Boss (Monster)

The game is played in rounds with each player taking a single turn per round. Each turn is separated into 5 phases that are completed sequentially. A player’s turn is summarized here and always starts with the player whose tun it is collecting the 7 Party dice. This player is referred to as the Adventurer. The opponent to the Adventurer’s left becomes the Dungeon Lord and collects the 7 Dungeon dice. The Dungeon Lord also collects and sets the ten-sided dice to the value of “1”, which represents the dungeon level the player’s party and Party Leader are currently at.

Phase 1: Fill the Dungeon

The Dungeon Lord now rolls a number of Dungeon dice equal to the ten-sided die value with one exception. No less than 3 and no more than 7 Dungeon dice can be rolled at any time during the game. If the Dungeon Lord is ever required to roll more Dungeon dice than what is currently available, they make do with what they have.

For example, if the dungeon level was a “4”, the Dungeon Lord would roll 4 Dungeon dice, but only if 4 dice were available.

The dice that are rolled are set to one side and close to the middle of the playing area so the Adventurer can see what they are up against. If a Dragon is ever rolled, it is immediately placed in the Dragon’s Lair, a place specifically dedicated to Dungeon dice that roll the Dragon value.

Phase 2: Fight Monsters

The Adventurer now rolls what Party dice they have available to them and attempts to defeat any monsters (Skeletons, Goblins, and Oozes) that were rolled by the Dungeon Lord. This is done by using one Party die to defeat one or more monsters rolled on the Dungeon dice. As a reminder:

  • Champions can defeat all Skeletons, all Goblins, OR all Oozes
  • Fighters can defeat one Skeleton, one Ooze, or any number of Goblins
  • Clerics can defeat one Goblin, one Ooze, or any number of Skeletons
  • Mages can defeat one Goblin, one Skeleton, or any number of Oozes
  • Thieves can defeat one Goblin, one Skeleton, or one Ooze

Once the Adventurer uses a Party dice to defeat one or more Dungeon dice, the Party and the Dungeon dice are moved to the Graveyard, a place specifically dedicated to used dice.

If the Adventurer has rolled a Polymorph Wand, they can use it (and place it in the Graveyard) to re-roll any number of Party or Dungeon dice that are not currently in the Graveyard or the Dragon’s Lair at anytime during this phase.

The Adventurer can also activate their Party Leader’s special abilities.

  • Specialty: This is a special ability that is always available to the Adventurer when it is their turn and can be used as many times as needed in a single turn.
  • Ultimate: This is a very special ability that can only be used once per Party Leader side. When the Ultimate ability is used, the Party Leader card is tilted to one side to signify that the Ultimate ability is no longer available. A Party Leader’s Specialty is still available, however. When the Party Leader is “leveled up”, it is titled back to normal and the Ultimate ability is again available  In this way, a party can make use of their Party Leader’s Ultimate ability twice per game.

For example, the Enchantress Party Leader has the Specialty of being able to use the Polymorph Wand as any hero to defeat a monster or the Dragon. Her Ultimate special ability as a Novice allows the Adventurer to set one Party die to any face value, and at Master level, the Adventurer can set up to two Party dice to any face value!

Note that the Adventurer must defeat all the monsters rolled during this phase in order to continue their turn. If they cannot, their turn is over and they immediately go to end of turn.

Phase 3: Battle the Dragon

The Dragon sleeps in the dungeon and won’t be awoken until there are 3 or more Dragons in the Dragon’s Lair. If there are 2 or less during this phase, the Adventurer goes to the next phase. If the Dragon awakes…well….time to fight or die.

To defeat the Dragon, the Adventurer must use three Party dice showing three different hero faces (Champion, Fighter, Cleric, Mage, and Thief). If the Adventurer can, they have defeated the Dragon and the following occurs:

  • Dungeon Level die value is increased by +1
  • Dragon’s Hoard is claimed by randomly selecting one Treasure token from the Treasure Chest box
  • The Party dice used to slay the Dragon are placed in the Graveyard
  • The dice in the Dragon’s Lair are returned to the Dungeon Lord for use

If the Adventurer is unable to defeat the Dragon, the Adventurer’s turn is over, going right to end of turn.

Phase 4: Loot Chests & Drink Potions

The Adventurer can now open any Chests rolled and use any Potions.

For every Chest rolled, the Adventurer can use either a Thief or a Champion to open any number of treasure chests for the current dungeon level. A Fighter, Cleric, or Mage can be used to claim one treasure chest each. Any die used to claim a treasure chest are placed in the Graveyard and the Chest die is returned to the Dungeon Lord for use. For every treasure chest opened and claimed, one Treasure token is randomly drawn from the Treasure Chest box.

For every Potion used, one hero can be returned from the Graveyard to the Adventurer for use. The used Potion die is returned to the Dungeon Lord for use.

Phase 5: Run or Seek Glory

The Adventurer now has a very important choice to make. They have made it this far without failure, beating the odds, and perhaps collecting some valuable treasure along the way. Is it time to retire and count their blessings or is this just the start of their adventure?

If the Adventurer chooses to run from the dungeon and call it a day, they will score a number of experience points equal to the Dungeon Level die value, then go to end of turn.

If the Adventurer chooses to continue to the next level of the dungeon, the Dungeon Level die is changed to the next highest number (in sequential order). The Party dice values that were rolled and not used remain where they lay, Party dice in the Graveyard continue to rot, but any dice recovered from the Graveyard will be rolled during the next dungeon level. When both players are ready, the next level starts with phase 1 noted above. While there are more rewards to be obtained, failure to succeed on the next level will result in the Adventurer not scoring any experience points on their turn.

End of Turn

The Adventurer’s turn is over when they either choose to leave the dungeon (in which case, they score a number of experience points equal to the Dungeon Level die value) or they are were unable to defeat the challenges the dungeon provided.

Regardless, any Treasure tokens they earned are kept, their Party Leader remains tipped if used, and it is now the next player’s turn. The Adventurer becomes the new Dungeon Lord.

End of Game

The game ends after the third round of play (ever player should have had 3 chances to explore the dungeon as deeply as possible). Final score is now calculated by adding the following:

  • Two experience points for every Town Portal Treasure token in the player’s possession
  • One experience point for all other treasure tokens
  • A number of experience points are awarded based off the number of Dragon Scales the player has in their possession (1 Dragon Scale = 1 experience point, 2 Dragon Scales = 3 experience points, 3 Dragon Scales = 5 experience points, 4 Dragon Scales = 7 experience points, 5 Dragon Scales = 10 experience points)
  • Any number of experience points earned from completing and exiting a dungeon

The player with the most experience points wins the game!

Solitaire Play

Dungeon Roll can be played with only one player. For the most part, the game is played the same as it would be with 2 or more players with the following exceptions:

  • Player rolls both the Party and the Dungeon Lord dice at the same time
  • Victory is based on obtaining a higher score than previously earned during past solitaire game play sessions

Achievements

As an extra bonus (and tempting carrot dangled in front of the player’s nose), there are achievements to obtain through strategic game play and pure luck. For example, a player can achieve the title of “Dragon Slayer” by defeating two Dragons in a single game play session, achieve the title of “Ringers” by having five or more Champions in the adventuring party, and achieve the title of “Here Dragon, Dragon, Dragon” by using three Dragon Bait tokens on one dungeon level to call forth the Dragon and defeat it. Now that’s gutsy!

To learn more about Dungeon Roll and read the full rules, visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Prediction

This game is going to be a bit difficult to teach to the Child Geeks. Dice can provide several abilities during their turn and knowing how best to use each die roll is going to be tricky to explain. For example, do you use the Thief to fight a Goblin or keep him free for the Chest? Sometimes these choices are very clear, but more often they are not. I think, as a result of the game’s subtle complexity and decision making, the learning curve is going to be moderate for the Child Geeks and for any Parent Geek non-gamer we have an opportunity to play the game with.

Teaching the game to my little geeks and the other Child Geeks was a process of divide and conquer. For such a little dice game, Dungeon Roll has a lot of rules. Knowing what each die face represents and how it could be defeated or collected was very important to the Child Geeks. I first started with all the heroes in the Party dice and made sure the Child Geeks (and all our play groups) understood what each one represented. I then did the same with the Dungeon dice. After that, we just jumped into the game. For the most part, a player must address the dice as they are rolled, and we only stopped to talk about options when a player could use one or more dice to address a Dungeon die. This process took a surprisingly long time and it was clear that Dungeon Roll was an easy game with a slightly moderate learning curve. The Child Geeks did great keeping it all in their head, but I could tell it was loosely there at best. I imagine I will be restating the rules a lot while playing it with the Child Geeks, which is perfectly fine.

For the Parent and Gamer Geeks, no problems. They pretty much grasped the basics and only had questions about particulars when we played the game. The non-gamer Parent Geeks were lost a great deal, but no more and no less than the Child Geeks. We simply just took our time through the game, made sure to explain all the possible choices, and all our players were most pleased with our explanations. Once you “get” Dungeon Roll and how it is played, it really is a very straight forward game with the majority of a player’s energy attempting to calculate their odds of success and the need to leave the dungeon.

And so, as my two oldest little geeks and I got ready to play our first game, I asked them their thoughts on Dungeon Roll so far.

“A very cool looking and sounding dice game. This sounds a lot more complicated than the other dice games we have.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“I really like how we can fight dragons with lots of heroes, Daddy!” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

Let our journey begin! I’ll have to help my 5-year-old with the reading of his Player Leader card, but everything else is just icons. I also expect I’ll be reminding my little geeks the rules, which will serve us all well. Nothing worse than playing a game you only half know the rules to (which my Gamer Geek friends can attest to). Let’s see if Dungeon Roll delivers an entertaining risk versus reward dice game experience in a fantasy themed world or is just another dice game that makes our wrists hurt.

Final Word

The Child Geeks were completely stunned by this game at first and didn’t know what to do with it. Every Child Geek we played Dungeon Roll with where very familiar with other “press-your-luck” dice games and had mastered or were very comfortable with the light dice management and risk analysis that those types of  games required. Even so, they floundered during our games and kept making the same mistakes with their choices. It got so bad that I had to call a “timeout” to let a few of the Child Geeks go off to find their “happy place”. It was apparent to me that we had presented this game wrong to our Child Geeks by suggesting it was like other games they had played. So, we took a different approach and instead taught it like it was a video game. You had your monsters coming in, your heroes protecting the border, and treasure chests to be found. By removing the abstract from the game, the Child Geeks were able to visualize what was going on and played a stronger game as a result. When all was said and done, for those Child Geeks who stuck with us, they had a wonderful time with Dungeon Roll and were most pleased to approve it. They also went off and created five more Party Leaders that we cut out and played with. For example, Optimus Prime made an appearance and totally kicks butt in dungeons.

Note that we played this game with Child Geeks as young as 5-years-old who could also play other risk taking dice games very well. Because of the reading necessary on the Party Leader cards and the more complicated game play, we observed that Dungeon Roll could be played well with Child Geeks as young as 8-years-old. Any Child Geek younger than that were either overwhelmed by how much they had to manage on their turn or overwhelmed by the waiting during the downtime. We reduced the downtime by reducing the number of players, but the younger Child Geeks just weren’t ready for Dungeon Roll yet.

My two oldest little geeks help each other out during their turns

My two oldest little geeks help each other out during their turns

Parent Geeks who liked the more casual dice games feel in love with Dungeon Roll, especially if they have had prior experience playing role-playing and fantasy games. They learned the rules quickly, jumped into the game, and promptly got their faces slapped by the game’s backhand. The staggered back and charged back in, knowing now that Dungeon Roll was not a game you could just roll through (oh, look, a pun!). Where the game really shined was when it was being played with the family and when Parent Geek couples who wanted to play a game at the table when the Child Geeks were off raising Hell somewhere in the house. The game plays casual, but grabs a player’s attention and imagination almost from the start. The only group of Parent Geeks who gave Dungeon Roll a thumbs-down were the non-gamers who more or less felt threatened by Dungeon Roll. The Parent Geeks who did like Dungeon Roll greatly outnumbered the few who didn’t, however, and the Parent Geek’s endorsement was won.

Gamer Geeks approach this game with some reservations. They saw it as fantasy themed dice chucker with little to no real value other than some basic risk versus reward and some very straight forward game play. When I explained the game in detail to them, and they took at look at the Kickstarter campaign, they started to come around. It is worth noting that the Gamer Geek crowd (not all of them, mind you) approved of Martian Dice for its fast and fun game play with just enough need to do some logical thinking to be competitive. The speed of Dungeon Roll is comparable, but there is a lot more thinking, strategizing, risk management, and general nail-biting. When I sat down and played it with the few Gamer Geeks that were willing to give it a try (and schedules matched mine), they very much enjoyed it. They didn’t care for the downtime between their turns, but this was fairly short in small groups (only about 2 to 3 minutes) and the Gamer Geeks were playing very efficiently. What they liked most about the game was how you had to sacrifice options to complete actions. You used a die for one thing and it was out for another. That’s when you really started to see the Gamer Geeks focus and think through their turns. There were some incredibly risky plays made that were a lot of fun to watch. Gamer Geeks can be very gutsy when they want to win. In the end, the Gamer Geeks gladly approved Dungeon Roll and thought it was an excellent game filler, light with a tendency to ether be really easy or become really hard based on the luck of the dice rolls, and a game that provided a lot of tense and fun moments.

Let’s get a few of the most pressing facts out of the way before I get to my final opinion of the game.

First, Dungeon Roll is “like” Zombie Dice, Martian Diceand Trophy Buck because it is (1) a dice game and (2) uses the “press-your-luck” game mechanism. But that’s where the similarities end and Dungeon Roll leaves its fellow dice games in the dust. Dungeon Roll is a much more complicated game, full of many more options for the player to choose from, and as a result, it is a much deeper experience. You still balance risk versus reward, and luck does play a part, but the most interesting game mechanism is the number of choices the player has and the options they can take. What is available to the player quickly starts to be reduced in number the deeper the player ventures into the dungeon.

Second, Dungeon Roll attempts to simulate a classic fantasy role-playing dungeon crawl, but falls short of actually providing the full experience. You have lots of rolls and choices to make, but the focused attention to managing party stats, re-equipping characters with new-found gear, exploring new rooms, and encountering deadly traps and puzzles is missing. What Dungeon Roll does provide is a very challenging gauntlet that gets more and more difficult the deeper you go. You will keep encountering the same monsters, but the ability to counter them quickly dwindles. In some ways, Dungeon Roll is similar to everyone’s first experience with role-playing games that were little more than epic fights with very little dialog or plot. These early “adventures” were all about going into the dungeon, kicking butt, and hoping you crawl back out alive with lots and lots of treasure. Dungeon Roll delivers this type of game play experience in abundance.

Third, the game plays fast but feels slow when you add more players. The recommended number of players for Dungeon Roll is 1 to 4, but you could just as easily play the game with 5 or more people. Not that you’d want to, mind you. With two or more players, one of the participants takes on the role of Dungeon Lord who does nothing more than roll dice. That’s it. There is no player interaction. The Dungeon Lord doesn’t get to make choices for the monsters or decide when the Dragon charges the adventuring party. While the Adventurer and Dungeon Lord are off rolling dice, everyone else in the game has a few choices available to them: play with their smart phones, visit with the players next to them, go get something to drink, or actively participate in the game by providing helpful suggestions and sarcastic remarks. The more players you have, the longer the game and the longer the downtime between rolls. An average player’s turn will take only about 5 or 8 minutes – shorter if they are huge risk takers. I think the sweet spot for this game is 3 people. Two are always active and the third is cheering them both on or refilling the snack bowl.

Fourth, Dungeon Roll can be played perfectly well as a solitaire game and the overall game play experience is somewhat improved because of it. While it is always fun to play the game with other people, you don’t need to with this game. Roll the dice, make logical choices, risk the odds, and repeat until you’ve done so enough times to complete 3 rounds. More players in the game only means three things: more friends to play with, more opportunity to enjoy the game with others, and longer time between rolls.

Fifth, luck is an active and fickle force of nature in this game. After playing the game several times, I have only made it to level 8. One player made it to level 10 without hardly trying, and another player kept running into the dungeon that was full of more dragons than any other monster…or treasure, for that matter. Playing Polymorph Wands and Potions is a must to keep the game under the player’s control. If there are none to be had, the player can only roll the dice and hope for the best. But there is also something to be said about timing. I saw one player push insanely to level 7, go to level 8 without a chance to survive it, and then popped a Town Portal to collect 8 experience points. BOOM! Eight experience points and a safe return for the heroes. But the Town Portal was won by the player through smart plays and random luck. You have to risk high to win big. You don’t get anything for free in Dungeon Roll and if the dice aren’t working with you, they are most certainly working for the Dragon.

Sixth, I had a really tasty sushi roll in San Francisco a few years ago that shared the same name as this game.

Given the above, I love Dungeon Roll and am ready to trade-off my copies of Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, and Trophy Buck. The game plays great, is challenging, and keeps me thinking. I dislike the downtime because I want to get back into the dungeon! I’ve played the game solo and with groups, and each time I am always biting my nails as I watch the Dragon’s Lair begin to stir and my adventuring party dwindle. There is much to think about and consider on your turn, even though it still pays like a simple dice game. But unlike other simple dice games, each die value rolled is exceptionally important, useful, and limited. Treasure must be won just to survive, but players will have to leave some treasure chest unattended because they cannot open them. The real trick is not being lucky, but being able to logically manage the ever-growing risk and identifying the point of diminishing returns. This is not a game where players will score big points, but most certainly can. Every experience point won has been hard-earned or was just given by luck. But no one’s luck lasts forever. If a player fails to see the writing on the wall or feel the Dragons’ breath on the back of their neck, they will completely and totally fail. Dungeon Roll is an unforgiving, unpredictable, and unforgettable game. For those who enjoy dice games, Dungeon Roll will most certainly please.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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9 Responses to Dungeon Roll Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Peter Schott says:

    Love the fact that Optimus Prime ended up as a leader. I think the price point is great for the Kickstarter campaign for this game (at least in the US) and the extras for being a backer are worth it. I’ve got some reservations on the art and can’t really recommend it to my casual gamers because of that uncertainty. Of course, nothing is finalized in that regard and it looks like I could make up some cards for that with toned down art or even TMNT’s if I wanted to. That’s a bonus. 🙂 For the price point and overall positive reviews I’m seeing, this is worth backing. 🙂

    Thanks for the review and details on how each group received the game.

    • Cyrus says:

      My pleasure, Mr. Schott. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. This review was over 5000 words long. Get yourself some water or something, as I am sure you are parched after the mental exercise of reading through my ramblings.

      I cannot really comment on the art either, other than to suggest it is going to be “very professional looking” and much better than my HP Printer version. Like all Kickstarters, you won’t really know what you get until the clock runs out on the campaign.

      If the game itself thrills you, but the card artwork does not, it wouldn’t take much time or energy to create your own Player Leader cards. Optimus Prime is just the start of the many awesome Player Leaders you could bring into the dungeon. For example, you could easily create a Player Leader card titled Drizzt Do’Urden, Rambo, or John Wayne.

    • Peter Schott says:

      It’s more that typical fantasy female art. It’s not extremely over the top, but just enough on the edge that I know my more casual groups would be a bit uncomfortable with it. Also not the sort of stereotype I wish to present to young female gamers. :-/ Still, the idea of making custom leaders is interesting. In our case it would likely end up being the Pevensie children. 🙂

  2. Michael Mindes says:

    There is a visual update to the Paladin coming.

    • Peter Schott says:

      Thanks for the update, Michael. I really think that the game has potential (thus backing it). Reading this review I kind of like the idea of making some custom leader cards as well. I can see that going over well with the younger set, especially if introducing characters they know/like already. I know that the production quality will be excellent. That’s never been an issue with any of the TMG games I’ve bought. With the relatively short play time I can see this potentially getting out a bit more often, though my wife isn’t a big fan of most dice games. If I can play this with my kid and/or she can play with her friends – even better.

  3. Trent says:

    Very thorough review – nice job.

  4. bookwormral says:

    Thanks for the review,
    I am waiting for my copy of Kickstarter Dungeon Roll to arrive on this side of the Atlantic Ocean and I hope to play it with my 5 year old. Your suggestions about how to teach the game are very helpful and I can see us making a Tinkerbell party leader card very soon (standard ability – can hide from 1 monster. ultimate ability, something to do with fairy dust)
    regards from the UK
    Richard

    • Cyrus says:

      I hope it gets to your front door and on your family gaming table soon, Richard. It’s fun to play as a casual game with adults and a lot of fun with the little geeks.

      Cheers!

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