Road Trip Dungeons Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Variable playing time

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Take on the role of a survivor of a deadly virus that has ravaged the planet turning man against machine while you travel from one location to the next in your vehicle!

Endorsements:

  • Game Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

After a deadly virus spreads across the globe, civilization lies in ruin, and the roads once used to travel swiftly from one location to another are now dangerous paths to walk. The machines of the world are now alive and have a will of their own, which is bent on the destruction of humanity. Many avoid travel altogether, preferring to stay safe behind walls that protect them from the outside world that has turned hostile. But there are a few brave and talented individuals who risk the ravaged land and walk the roads in search of adventure. You are one of these individuals and you are far from normal. While the virus killed many, some of those who survived had children that were blessed with special abilities. Using these, you have learned how to survive and now walk the broken roads in search of your destiny. Fight the machines and become a legend!

Road Trip Dungeons, by Fractal Evolution Games, is comprised of 11 Mystic Sorceress Characters cards, 11 Fanatic Ranger Character cards, 11 Great Warrior Character cards, 11 Sly Thief Character cards, 20 Level 1 Dungeon cards, 12 Level 2 Dungeon cards, 7 Level 3 Dungeon cards, and 6 Boss cards for a total of 89 cards. The Character Cards are further broken down into two sub-groups which are comprised of Character Level cards and Life Point cards. All of the cards have card backs that make them easy to separate for the game set up. The entire game fits in a small card tuck box making it easy to store in your vehicle when not in use.

Example of a Character Level card (in green) and a Dungeon card

Game Set Up

Note: To play this game, you’ll need to be in a vehicle and traveling. Obviously, the driver should not participate in the game. As space will be limited, the players will be holding most of their cards. For cards they are not holding, we suggest a small box that the player can place in their lap. However, this is far from necessary. The number of cards the players will hold and use during the game are small enough to put on a car seat without harming the game play. Of course, every vehicle is different and the amount of available space will determine how best to play the game with your adventuring party.

To set up the game, have each player select a Character type and take all the cards of that type. This will include the Character Level cards (levels 1 through 5) and the 6 Life Point cards associated with that Character type. The players then organize their Character Level cards by putting them in numerical order from level 1 to level 5 with the side that lists a spell or a special skill specific to that Character type face-up. The player then draws 2 Life Point cards are random, creating their character’s total Life Points.

Separate the Dungeon and Boss cards into four different decks (levels 1 through 3 and the Boss deck) and shuffle. The player who has the smallest number of Life Points (determined by adding each player’s Life Point cards together) is the “active player” and gets to go first.

Road Tripping Through Dungeons

On the active player’s turn, they will complete the following phases in the specified order to complete a single round of play:

Phase 1: Combat

The active player draws and reveals the top Dungeon card of the current level available to all the players. For Level 1 Dungeon cards, a total of 3 per player must be revealed before venturing to the next level. For Level 2 Dungeon cards, a total of 2 per player must be revealed before venturing to the next level. For Level 3, only 1 card per player is needed. The Boss cards are last and can only be drawn once all three levels of the dungeon have been completed.

The active player, once they draw the Dungeon card, will reveal it to all the players, announcing what needs to be spotted by them. The active player must now attempt to find an object that matches what is listed on the Dungeon card by observing objects they pass on the road. The opposing players all attempt to find 3 matching vehicles in any color that is referenced on their Character Level card. Counting the color of the car the players are traveling in is not permitted.

Note that some Dungeon cards are listed as “traps”. These cards are played as normal, but because they are a trap, they can be avoided or manipulated using a character’s spell or special skill that specifically targets, avoids, or is hindered by traps.

Phase 2: End of Combat

Combat ends as soon as one of the opposing players completes a count of three vehicles or the active player finds a matching object.

  • If the active player finds their matches first, they win the round, collect the Dungeon card, and earn the experience points (XP) listed on the Dungeon card.
  • If an opposing player finds three matching vehicles first, they win the round, collect the Dungeon card, and earn the XP listed on the Dungeon card. Additionally, the active player will take damage and reduce their character’s Life Points as indicated by the numerical damage value on the Dungeon card.

When a character takes damage, the player must turn in a number of Life Point cards that have a sum total equal to or higher than the inflicted damage value.For example, if the player is dealt 3 damage, but the player only has a “2” and “4” Life Point cards, they must pay for the damage using the “4” Life Point card. All excess Life Points spent are not regained.

Phase 3: Level Up

At the end of the round, regardless of the outcome of Phase 2, all players count their XP listed on their collected Dungeon cards. If they have enough to level up, they can turn their Dungeon cards into XP for character advancement. The amount needed is listed on the player’s current Character Level card. Multiple levels can be gained at one time if the player can pay for them.

When a character gains a level of experience, the player must turn in a number of Dungeon cards that have a sum total of XP equal to or higher than the character level up value.For example, if the character’s next level requires “8 XP”, but the player only has a “3”, “2”, and a “2” for a total of “7 XP”, they cannot level up. All excess XP spent is not regained.

Once the player levels their character, the current Character Level Card is discarded for the next level that was payed for with the character’s listed spell or special skill face-up, and used Dungeon cards are set aside.

Phase 4: Next Player

This completes the round and the new active player is the player clockwise from the current active player (as best defined by the seating positions of the players). The game continues, until one of the two winning conditions are met.

Spells and Special Skills

Character cards list spells and special skills unique to the character. At each level, a new spell or special skill is provided to the player.

Each spell and special skill can only be used once per level. Players keep track of their spell and special skill usage by flipping over their Character card once they use it.

All spells and special skills can only be used at a specific time during one of the Phases and only if a specific condition exists. For example, a spell that blocks damage can only be used if the character is about to take damage when they are the active player. The player is never required to use their character’s special abilities.

Winning the Game

The game ends as soon as a player defeats a Boss card on their turn as the active player or is they are the last character alive in the game.

Solo Play

This game variant allows for solitaire play. Instead of competing to defeat a Boss as quickly as possible or to simply survive, the player is attempting to collect as many points as possible. This is done by taking all the cards of the Level 1 Dungeon and attempting to make a match with any of the cards. Matches allow the player to score the card. A player will need to determine if they fail a card and will take a number of damage as indicated on the card. Once the player goes through the entire level, they go to next, and so on until they finish the Boss cards. If the character survives, they count their points. If their character dies, they count the points they earned and attempt to beat that score the next time they play.

To learn more about Road Trip Dungeons and read the complete rules, see the game’s web site.

Prediction

My family takes long car trips. The amount of effort, pain, and financial cost to fly a family of 5 far outweighs any benefits that could possibly be gained when we finally land. Believe me when I say that is it no fun being on an international flight with a screaming toddler. The looks you get from the other passengers could freeze the 7th level of Hell. Lucky for me, my three little geeks travel very well in the car. My wife and I have learned a number of “survival tricks” that allow us to travel up to 12 hours a day in our vehicle if need be without the kids melting down in the back seat. Video games, movies, books, toys, and listening to music has always been popular, and with the little geeks getting older, we are now able to play family games in the car.

Most of the family games we play are knowledge based or “who can see something first”. These types of games keep the little geeks occupied, thinking, and engaged in the scenery around them. When I was passed a copy of Road Trip Dungeons, I was overjoyed to see the simple matching exercise combined with a competitive game with character development and just a smattering of player decision making. This, I thought, was the perfect game for our big family road trip to New York this summer.

The rules to the game are very straight forward, but I took no chances and explained the rules to my wife and my two oldest little geeks before we were on the road. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to teach a game while I was driving 70 MPH down an interstate. All it took was about 5 minutes and a quick 2 minute refresher before we started our car trip. We also made sure that the players had a small box they could use to hold their cards if they needed to. That was all it took and every player was ready to go!

And so, as I turned the car key and the engine roared to life, I leaned over and asked each player what they thought of the game so far.

“I really like it, Dad. I like how I can level up my character like in our role playing games.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“I like it too, Dad. I like how my guy can use spells! Get ready, Liam!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

“A neat idea. Simple to play and can be very handy on long road trips. I don’t know how long it will keep the kids’ attention, though.” ~ Wife

Looks like the players are ready to go! The family vehicle is gassed up, bags are packed, and we are off. Let’s see how this game does on its very first road test.

Final Word

Road Trip Dungeons was a big success! It kept the players busy, engaged in the scenery, and with each other. The time in the car flew by. My 7-year-old (soon to be 8) had no problem playing the game. He became very excited when he was able to level up his character and used his character’s spells and skills intelligently. My wife, of course, also had no problem and gave my children a terrible thrashing. I think she had an advantage sitting up front, but her victories were never simply handed to her. She worked for them and my oldest little geek even won a few games. My 4-year-old (soon to be 5) didn’t do as well and asked repeatedly what a character did and how he should use it. As such, his level of interest in the game didn’t last longer than the first game. Based on our tests, we cannot recommend this game to anyone younger than 7-years-old.

Parent Geeks liked the game a great deal and found real value in what the game provided. Specifically, a fun distraction that kept the passengers busy. The game plays very simply but is not a free ride, so to speak. The players must actively scan the horizon for matches to do well in combat and to avoid being taken out of the game. This light level of competition was enough to make the game competitive without being overpowering.

Gamer Geeks were also pleased with the game, finding it fun to play a game while driving. Usually, car trips with geeks only allows for geek discussions. Not a bad thing, but there isn’t a Gamer Geek alive who wouldn’t rather be playing games versus talking about them. Some Gamer Geeks discussed role playing in the car, but this can be very tricky and requires the players be attentive at all times. This can grow thin and the level of noise in the car can make role playing difficult, not to mention the space needed to roll dice, keep track of characters, and the source material. Road Trip Dungeons, while not a role playing game, has role playing elements such as combat and character development with spells and skills. This much pleased the Gamer Geeks and they were happy to play the game.

My oldest little geek gives me a “thumbs-up” when I ask him if he is ready to go and to play after a quick stop on our car trip

Gamer Geeks, this is an easy game that will give you an opportunity to play a game in the car on your next long trip to a convention, game store, or wherever you might be going with a group of your geek minded friends. The rules are simple enough to teach in a few minutes, the needed area to play the game is small, and there is enough player choice to keep everyone active and feeling like their time and attention spent in the game is worthwhile.

Parent Geeks, this is a wonderful game to bring with you on your next long car trip. Perfect for families and for traveling with friends. Non-gamers and gamers alike had no problem with the game rules and how the game was played. It is intuitive and competitive. Expect players to be searching high and low for matches and groans of disgust when they are not the first to see objects they need. The level of competition in the vehicle could range from casual and friendly to downright cutthroat. Regardless, expect fun.

Child Geeks, here is a fun game you can play in the car with your siblings, friends, and family without ever leaving the safety of your car seat. You can now stay buckled in and embark on an epic journey where a sharp eye and quick tongue will be the only tools you’ll need. Use the character spells and special skills at the right time and you will have a serious advantage over your opponents. There is never a time where you will be left behind in the dust or you will not be hounded by your opponents if you are in the lead. The game is fun, competitive, and best of all, easy to play on long car trips.

Road Trip Dungeons does an excellent job of keeping the players engaged, but it can feel unbalanced. For example, the players in the front seat have an advantage over the players in the back seat. They can see objects on the horizon much easier than those in the rear. Players next to windows also have an advantage over those players who are sitting in the middle. Some players became very frustrated by this and declared the game to be broken. I disagreed and suggested that the players simply switch or rotate seats whenever we stopped. This fixed the problem and all the players were happy. For the little geeks who could not move their seats, however, this was a problem that could not be fixed. A child’s car seat is not the easiest thing in the world to shift around in a vehicle, after all.

Life Points were also a topic of concern for some of the players. The current rules do not provide a way for the player to gain additional Life Points. This means that the life expectancy of a character is limited. However, I didn’t have a problem with this as I found the lack of healing to be beneficial to keeping the game length short. It also makes the game much more frantic and exciting when you are the active player. The “combat” the active player engages in is as difficult as the speed in which their opponent’s find their cars. This creates a fun race where not only XP is at risk, but also a character’s Life Points. Personally, I found the combat and the lack of healing to be a brilliant solution to keeping the game fast, competitive, and easy to manage in a moving vehicle.

The only other issue players might find is they cannot find the items listed on the Dungeon cards. I’m afraid there is nothing to be done to correct this as the game requires and assumes the players are traveling on a busy road. As such, Road Trip Dungeons fails when traveling the back roads where there is little traffic or objects. For example, when we were traveling through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and taking the very scenic back roads, the players couldn’t match a single thing. The game became very long and eventually everyone decided to do something else. Where the game shines and is the most fun is on busy interstates or in urban areas. With a lot of traffic and things to see on the side of the road, this simple card game becomes wonderfully competitive and fast.

Despite some players perceiving they had a disadvantage and even going so far as to declare the game unbalanced and broken, no one could disagree that the game was a fun one to play. Frustrating for some, a cakewalk for others, but always engaging and competitive for everyone. This is an excellent game to throw in your vehicle’s glove box and have at the ready at a moments notice when the passengers start to get wrestles or if you want to get your geek on while en route to your next fun destination. Do take a look at this game if you, your family, and friends take long car trips. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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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4 Responses to Road Trip Dungeons Game Review

  1. Jaime says:

    Egads! The intention was that you also receive a new life card each time you level, to assist with the survival part. That was the way I had explained it to whomever played the game in testing. Unfortunately, this *minor* piece was missed in the official rules document. I couldn’t believe it until I went back and re-read my own rules. Somewhere during my editing of the rules PDF, that got cropped out. While you can certainly play it without receiving more life cards, that could lead to dying a little fast. (Rules document updated)

    • Cyrus says:

      Yeah, we thought it might be a typo or a future update, but we play and test our games with the rules provided. We didn’t find that the lack of Life Points stifled the game, only ended it sooner and made adventuring much more dangerous. A single hit by an encounter could drastically reduce the character’s survival going forward! I also made sure to note that the “The current rules do not provide the player to gain additional Life Points.” I could see additional Life Points being added in the near future, either with an update to the rules or an expansion.

  2. Peter Schott says:

    This looks really cool, but I’m sadly the main driver so wouldn’t get to play too often. 🙁

    • Cyrus says:

      Yep, I have the same problem as you, my friend. Still, it is a lot of fun to watch the family battle it out in the front and back seat. Certainly kept me occupied.

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