Dungeon Busters Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up
  • For 3 to 5 players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Semi-Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • The monsters are not your real enemy…

Endorsements:

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

Overview

Greed is a powerful motivator. A group of adventurers willingly venture into a dangerous dungeon to claim treasure. Monsters are abundant, but the real threat is not what lurks in the darkness. Watch your friends carefully, for they might be the real danger.

Dungeon Busters, designed by Tomohiro Enoki and published by Mayday Games, is comprised of 35 Battle cards (7 cards per player), 15 Dungeon cards, 45 Gem tokens (15 per type), 1 Spoils card, and 1 Leader token. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card and the tokens are made of thick cardboard. The illustrations by Osamu InoueYasuhito KimuraJan Saße, and Tori Hasegawa are a colorful blend of playful whimsy and stylized Chibi-like characters.

Traveling to the Dungeon

To setup the game, first give each player all the Battle cards of one specific adventurer. There are five different types to select from, but it makes no difference in the game what the player selects. This is purely player preference. Depending on the number of players in the game, one or more cards will be removed from play. All players should take their cards in hand, hiding their values from their opponents. Place any Battle cards not selected back in the game box.

Second, give each player 3 Gem tokens, one of each color. These are placed in front of the player. This is the player’s starting Loot pile. All remaining Gem tokens are placed in a pile to the side of the game playing area. This is the Bank.

Third, separate the Dungeon cards into three different piles using the number value on the back of the Dungeon cards as a guide (I, II, and III, respectively). Shuffle each pile of Dungeon cards separately. Remove one Dungeon “I” card at random, placing it back in the game box and being careful not to show anyone the card. Place Dungeon “I”, “II”, and “III” card piles face-down in a row in the middle of the playing area. These are the Dungeon draw decks.

Fourth, place the Spoils  card next to the Dungeon draw decks.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will be the first player and give them the Leader token. Time to bust this dungeon wide open!

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good!*

Dungeon Busters is played in rounds. A typical game round is summarized here.

Step 1: Reveal Encounter

The current Leader (the player with the Leader token) draws the top-most Dungeon card of the lowest level (I, then II, and finally III). The Dungeon card is placed face-up so that all the players can view it. The Dungeon card will display the monster’s strength (Hit Points) and what treasure (Loot) it will drop if defeated.

Step 2: Play a Card

Each player now looks at the cards in their hand and selects one Battle card, placing it face-down in front of them. Players should take a moment to consider what cards have been played by the other players and the Health Points of the monster to be defeated before selecting a card.

Step 3: Reveal!

The Leader shouts “Bust It!” (or whatever the players agree to) and all the player simultaneously reveal their played card, placing it face-up. The Leader than adds all the number values together from the players’ cards, disregarding any number values from cards that have duplicates. For example, if “2”, “2”, “3”, and “5” were played, the total would be “8”, since the two “2’s” are ignored.

Step 4: Determine Outcome

If the total value of the cards played (minus those not counted) is equal to or higher than the Dungeon card’s Health Point value, the players have successfully defeated the monster encounter as a team. The player with the lowest valued Battle card in play collects the Spoils noted in the first chest on the Dungeon card from the Bank. Then the second lowest takes the next spoils and so on. If two or more players played the lowest cards (even if they were disregarded during the count), they must split the spoils.

Then, all players who contributed to the battle may collect one Gem token from the Spoils card, starting with the player who played the lowest card. Then, in clock-wise order, the other players take a single Gem token as well. Continue to go around until all the Gem tokens are collected. If there are no Gem tokens on the Spoils card, then none are taken. However, if a player’s Battle card was disregarded during the count, they do not take a Gem token.

If the total value of the cards played is less than the Dungeon card’s Health Point value, the players have lost the encounter. No player collects any Loot. The player who played the lowest Battle card value is penalized for being a wuss and must take from their personal Loot pile the highest number of Gem tokens of one color, placing the Gem tokens on the Spoils card. In case of a tie, all players who played the lowest valued Battle card must pay the penalty.

Step 5: Ready for the Next Encounter

All player take their played Battle card for the round and place it face-up in a pile next to their Loot pile, ensuring that all played Battle card values can easily be seen.

If the players successfully defeated the Dungeon card, the player who played the highest valued Battle card is given the Leader token and the defeated Dungeon card, which is placed face-down and kept in a pile in front of the player.

If the players were not successful, the Leadership token remains in the custody of the current player who controls it and the Dungeon card is returned to the game box.

The game now continues starting with Step 1 noted above.

Going Deeper

If the last card in a Dungeon card draw deck is encountered and resolved, all the players take up their played Battle cards and return them to their hand. One card from the new Dungeon draw deck is selected at random and discarded without showing any of the players.

Finishing the Dungeon

After the last Dungeon card in the Dungeon “III” draw deck is revealed, encountered, and resolved the game comes to an end. All players now calculate their points by using the collected Gem tokens in their Loot pile.

  • 1 point per Gem token
  • 3 points for each complete color set (where a “set” is three gems, one of each color)
  • 3 points for having the most Gem tokens of a specific a single color

The player with the most points wins the game! If there is a tie, the player who collected the must Dungeon cards wins the game.

Game Variant

The Dungeon Busters Power Pack is a small set of cards that are added to the player’s Battle cards. The Power card can only be used once per game, and unlike the other Battle cards, is unique to the player’s selected adventurer. Each Power card (with one exception) contributes a strength of “2” when calculating the total strength of the player’s versus the Dungeon card.

To learn more about Dungeon Busters, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks loved the game artwork and quickly adopted a state of mind that is necessary to play the game. That is to say, they stopped trusting each other. This is a semi-cooperative game, meaning you need the opponent to succeed, but only to a point. With only one winner and multiple losers, individuals need to support each other while at the same time advancing their own interests. This was not lost on the Child Geeks. One Child Geek said, “I like how easy the game is to learn and how you can quickly get into the action. I also like how you are technically playing against the other players. Makes the monsters seem less of a threat.” Another Child Geek said, “I don’t like being tricked, but I love it when I trick everyone else!” The game had its ups and downs, but in the end the Child Geeks all voted to approve Dungeon Busters.

The Parent Geeks enjoyed Dungeon Busters as a game filler, finding it to be a quick and easy diversion at their family gaming table. According to one Parent Geek, “The game is pretty straightforward and was easy for me to learn and to teach. I found it to be a big hit with my family, but it always seemed to irritate a few players, too.” Another Parent Geek said, “It’s a semi-cooperative game, which means everyone is really only looking out for themselves in the end. This played well with my groups, since everyone is used to competing in games as it is.” The Parent Geeks found Dungeon Busters to be a success with their families and with their peers, noting that the age differences between players really didn’t make that much of a difference when it came to the game play. As such, the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game.

The Gamer Geeks liked the game’s look, but found the game play to be mediocre. According to one Gamer Geek, “Don’t get me wrong, the game works just fine. Tight rules and all, but the game play is not unique and you spend a lot of time guessing.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I’d play this as a filler late at night or as a quick game to start the evening, but it isn’t nearly as deep or as tactical as I would like.” All the Gamer Geeks agreed that the game provided a solid foundation, but what would make or break the game playing experience is the group of people you play it with. If everyone at the table is cutthroat, the game is a lot of fun. If players are a bit too casual, Dungeon Busters was a bust. The Gamer Geeks decided to give the game a mixed approval, as they had played and liked it well enough, but it fell well short of being loved.

Dungeon Busters is, essentially, Cutthroat Caverns lite. The players are working as a team – kind of – but are also working against each other – again, kind of. It’s the quintessential semi-cooperative where the opponent next to you is a necessary evil to obtain your goals, but also a potential roadblock. The game plays fast, almost too fast. The selection of what Battle card to play is more important than the game lets on, but this is mostly lost on the players since each encounter is revealed and resolved so quickly.

Even more important, however, is the collection of Gem tokens. The Battle cards are simply a slightly complex means to a colorful end. Victory does not go the player who played the best cards. Rather, it goes to the player who played the worst, but in a strange way, contributed to the overall victory. It feels backwards and had many of our players scratching their head, but it quickly became obvious to all that aiming low always paid high.

Despite there being an abundant amount of visible information, players will still be doing a lot of guessing. This turned off the Gamer Geeks, but was a big hit with the families and non-gamers. This is a game filler, at best. At worst, an exercise in futile guesswork as random card plays determine random outcomes of random encounters. What must be abundant in order for the game to be a success is a lot of bluffing and a lot of table talk. Dungeon Busters is best played like a party game, even though it isn’t. Don’t take the game seriously, but do take the interaction between the players as a necessary component to play the game. The more you talk, brag, and bluff, the more entertaining the game is for everyone as individuals duck, dodge, and deceive their way to victory.

Dungeon Busters is a quick game, making it easy to get to the table and play with a mixed group of skill levels. The Semi-cooperative nature of the game is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the game’s length and speed reduce any discomfort to near zero. This is not a great game, but it certainly isn’t a bad one either. It satisfies, but leaves most players hungry for more. Give the game a try and see if it works for your players.

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.

* It’s a Ghostbusters reference. I promised my youngest son I’d put one in this review. Don’t ask me why he wanted it. Kids…

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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