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Dungeon of Mandom

Reviewed by: Eric Brosius

(I Was Game, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; 500¥)

dungeonmandomDungeon of Mandom is a game that casts the players as heroes who plan to enter a nearby dungeon and fight whatever assortment of monsters lurk inside. In many monster-fighting games, the heroes work together as a team—or at least pretend to—but such a cooperative attitude will never fly in Dungeon of Mandom! No, your ego is so big that you will not even consider sharing the glory of conquest. Instead of working together, you all engage in bragging contests, daring each other to fight hordes of monsters with little equipment. Each round, the biggest braggart fights the monsters alone—with whatever equipment is available—and triumphs or fails alone. As the rulebook warns, there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity!

Dungeon of Mandom, designed by Masato Uesugi, is a compact game. The box is just big enough to hold a deck of thirteen handsomely illustrated monster cards, a collection of six equipment (“item”) tokens (plus one hero token,) four player cards, and the rules. The components are just right for the game, with clear, clean graphics.

In each round, players take turns bragging. To brag, you draw a card from the face down monster deck and look at it without showing it to anyone else. You then have two options: you may either add that monster card, still face down, to the pile of monsters the biggest braggart will fight, or you may remove one piece of equipment from the collection the selected hero will carry. Either way, you make it more difficult for the hero to succeed. Play then passes to the next player.

At some point, your sense of self-preservation may kick in. On your turn, if you decide it’s no longer safe to brag, you may pass instead, giving up any opportunity to enter the dungeon, or to participate any further, this round. Once all but one hero has passed, the remaining hero enters the dungeon!

In practice, any sane adventurer will pass before it’s too late. But each player has seen a different subset of the monsters the hero must fight and that knowledge may lead you to be more or less aggressive. For example, if you have secretly added the mighty Dragon to the stack, the removal of the Dragon Lance should make you wary, but if you discarded the Dragon, you don’t care about the Dragon Lance. Furthermore, you can bluff, bragging like you haven’t a care in the world in an attempt to lure fellow players to their doom.

When the bravest (or most reckless) hero enters the dungeon, he or she plays alone. The resolution of the encounter is simple and quick. Each monster deals a specific amount of damage, but some weapons defeat certain monsters so they don’t deal damage. Protective equipment adds to your hit points, as long as some fool hero hasn’t tossed it away! There is even a Vorpal Sword, which defeats any one type of monster, but you must name what type of monster it will defeat before you enter the dungeon.

Turn over the monsters in the monster pile one by one, adding up only the damage for those monsters that are not defeated by an available weapon. If the total matches or exceeds your hit points, you fail. If the damage is less than your hit points, you succeed. Reset the equipment and monster deck and move on to another round.

As soon as one player has succeeded twice, that player is the winner. And as soon as one player has failed twice, that player is out of the game. As an alternate victory condition, if all your opponents are out of the game, you are the winner by default.

Dungeon of Mandom is a game of pressing your luck, bluffing and trying to guess your opponents’ plans. Other games do some of what it does, but none does it as well. There’s a lot of laughter during the bragging phase. Then, once a player enters the dungeon, the resolution of the encounter is tense and quick. Everyone is involved because everyone helped to build the monster pile and whittle down the available equipment. It features player elimination but the game is so short that eliminated players don’t have to wait around long. The mechanisms fit the theme perfectly, you can carry it in your pocket and the rules are easy to teach (even to people who don’t regularly play games). I’ve really enjoyed Dungeon of Mandom.


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