Menu

Dungeon Roll

Reviewed by: Derek Croxton

(Tasty Minstrel Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 15-30 minutes, $19.95)

dungeonroll1Dungeon Roll is my first Kickstarter game. I seem to have a weakness for dice games, so I pledged this one with little more to go on than the subject. It turned out to be a heavily-promoted game that was at the top of BoardGameGeek’s “Hotness” list for several weeks. This is a lesson on the importance of marketing and theme, because the game is, on the whole, disappointing.

Dungeon Roll, designed by Chris Darden, comes in a cute box shaped like a treasure chest, and is nicely produced. There are seven white character dice and seven black dungeon dice with simple and attractive icons, color-coded so that characters match the dungeon items that they have special abilities for. There is a card for the graveyard and the dragons’ treasure horde and two-sided cards for each character (one side for beginning, one side once they level up). There are four summary cards that encapsulate the rules, a level die to keep track of where you are in the dungeon, and circular counters to represent treasures and experience points. The experience point markers represent the biggest production flaw, because they have different numbers on each side. While some have defended this as a reasonable cost-cutting measure, everyone I have played with thinks it is needlessly confusing. Hardly any other games do this, and I didn’t even notice it until I was halfway through my first game. The rules were also printed with one page twice and another page missing, which was not a big deal for me (the summary card covered the missing rules, and Tasty Minstrel promptly emailed all subscribers an electronic version of the rules that included the missing page), but soured some people.

Each player takes one of the hero cards on three “delves” into the dungeon. The delve begins with rolling all 7 companion dice, representing typical dungeon characters ( fighters, wizards, clerics, and thieves as well as champions and scrolls). Then the player to the left rolls dungeon dice equal to the next level – one to start with – and the player decides how to respond. After defeating each level, the player may return to the town and collect experience points equal to the highest level he completed or go on but, once the dice are rolled for the next level, he must defeat it or he scores no points for that delve.

Dungeon dice represent three kinds of monsters plus dragons, treasures, and potions. Any character can defeat any one monster but each type also has a certain kind of monster that he can defeat any number of: fighters can defeat goblins, clerics defeat skeletons, and wizards defeat ooze. Thieves may open any number of treasure chests and champions can duplicate the special ability of any one other type of character. Each character gets to do one action and then goes in the graveyard, exhausted for the rest of that delve unless revived by a potion. Any companion die – even a scroll! — may drink any number of potions, and each potion “resurrects” one die from the graveyard which you may also put on any face you choose. The other use for a scroll is to reroll any number of dice, companions and dungeon dice, of your choice. The only dice that cannot be rerolled are dragons. They accumulate on the treasure horde card and do nothing until there are three or more of them present, representing the dragon’s having been attracted by the noise you are making and attacking you. After defeating the regular monsters and using any treasure chests and potions, you then have to fight the dragon, which requires three different characters of any type. If you succeed, you are rewarded with an extra experience point and an additional treasure.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Dungeon Roll is the lack of rerolling compared to other dice games. You roll your characters once and the dungeon dice once for each level and you only get to reroll if you have any scrolls. However, scrolls are not always beneficial because every reroll effectively means you have one less resource to use killing monsters (since the scroll itself is used up when rerolled). This might be worth it if you were rerolling large numbers of dice but since you begin with only a single dungeon die and increase by one per level, there is rarely much reason to reroll until you are already to the fifth or sixth level. What you really want are multiples of the same dungeon item so you can use a single character to defeat them. If you roll a skeleton and a goblin on the second level, for example, you would have to use two characters to defeat them; the cleric can defeat multiple skeletons and the fighter can defeat multiple goblins but no adventurer can defeat multiple monsters of different types. You could use the scroll to reroll the monsters and hope for something better but, for most outcomes, you’d be just as well off if the scroll were a character that you could use to defeat the odd monster.

Because of the paucity of rerolling, the game has a scripted quality that is unlike other dice games. The only real push-your-luck element comes at the end of each level when you have to decide whether to go on or turn back. Unfortunately, there is rarely much to choose in these cases. After the first few levels, you are generally down to one or two characters and have little hope of defeating five or six dice. The one factor that mitigates this is the treasures which generally have a use as well as scoring one point at the end of the game. For example, there is a treasure that can be used exactly like a fighter; you would prefer to keep it, of course, but you could risk going on to the next level and, in effect, gamble your treasure against the possibility of a lucky roll that results only in treasures and potions. Since you get no experience points if you fail a level, however, you would rarely take a chance on going ahead unless you had treasures that could bail you out.

The other part of being scripted is that the game lasts exactly three rounds. There is no opportunity to go for broke and try to win early, and it is very hard to come from behind. Three turns per player does seem about right as far as time goes but I wish the end were based on achieving some number of experience points instead to add an unknown element. As it is, you can see pretty easily on your last turn whether you are ahead or behind; if behind, you might as well take every chance, even if it is virtually hopeless, because you have nothing to lose. I was surprised that the game had no compensation for the rigid turn order and I have adopted a house rule that players take their turns in victory point order from highest to lowest; this at least makes the person in the lead have to weigh his decisions.

The linear nature of scoring tends to make this more a game of cautiously hoping the dice work out than one of pushing your luck. If you go on to the next level, you can only be sure of one extra experience point and you’re unlikely to get more than three or four (two more if you defeat the dragon, but that requires resources that you probably don’t have if you’re pushing your luck). I thought the game would benefit from an exponential scoring system, for example, the square of the highest level you achieved. (This is not simple to adopt, however, because it would require adjusting the value of treasures correspondingly and there is no obvious way to do this.) The penalty for failing on a delve – losing the four to six points that you would have gotten – is very difficult to overcome with linear score and makes the safe call almost always the best call (at least in the first two turns).

There is basically no player interaction in this game apart from knowing your opponents’ scores. This means that the game does not scale well; beyond three players, it begins to take a long time between turns. On the positive side, the heroes mostly have interesting powers, including an Indiana Jones-inspired archeologist and a half-goblin who can convert one goblin to his side. When I have played competitively, I have found the game to lack tension because it is so hard to overcome an early deficit. On the other hand, playing solitaire, I enjoy seeing what the characters can do and how best to take advantage of their powers. The rulebook lists some “achievements” at the end such as defeating two dragons on a single delve or getting to level 10 of the dungeon; playing around solitaire and seeing how hard it is to get these achievements is more diverting that playing against other people, when the turn of the dice dictates outcome more than skill.

Dungeon Roll is a dice game, of course, so a lot of randomness is to be expected. Nevertheless, it is a game that feels like it is a few rules short of being far more interesting as a competitive game. Dungeon Roll is most fun as a solitary pastime.


Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Fall 2013 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by: Eric Brosius (Academy Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 1 to 2 hours, $65) In 1775, tensions that had been simmering between Great Britain and its North American colonies for years finally came to a head. A British force left Boston with orders to seize munitions from the Massachusetts militia —a mission they could not complete after they encountered opposition ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Chris Kovac (Zoch Verlag, 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, about 90 minutes, $54.99) Aquileia is a five player worker placement with a light ancient Rome theme designed by Cielo D’Oro and produced by Zoch. The object of the game is to have the most victory points after six rounds of play. To start, each player gets in his/her color five worker markers, ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Derek Croxton (Tasty Minstrel Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 15-30 minutes, $19.95) Dungeon Roll is my first Kickstarter game. I seem to have a weakness for dice games, so I pledged this one with little more to go on than the subject. It turned out to be a heavily-promoted game that was at the top of BoardGameGeek's "Hotness" list ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Red Raven Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 13 and up, 8+ minutes; $25) Packing a lot into a small box is something usually reserved for diamonds or other expensive bits of jewelry. In games, it's not quite so easy. So it is a pleasant surprise to discover Eight-Minute Empire, a new game designed by Ryan Laukat, which packs quite a ...
Read More
Getting a Kick out of Kickstarter When it comes to getting games to market, one of the recent intriguing developments is the emergence of Kickstarter. Now Kickstarter is not limited to games (it has been used to fund a whole variety of items) but, as it pertains to games, it basically involves pledging money for a proposed game that appeals to you. For your advanced ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Looney Labs, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 15-30 minutes, $30) It seems the trend in gaming is to come up with a successful boardgame, let's say Game X (easier said than done, of course), and, building upon that success, spin off Game X into Game X: The Dice Game and Game X: The Card Game. But when has designer Andrew ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Hurrican Games, 3 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes, $42.99) The time is Victorian England and noted explorer Henry Morton Stanley (of Stanley and Livingstone fame), who has sailed into London on his ship Lady Alice, has suddenly disappeared. In circumstances such as these, it is only natural to call upon the finest analytical mind to solve ...
Read More
[In this issue, we welcome James Davis to our pages. As James says about James: "James is of “that age” where he was a gamer before gaming became cool and hip. (Do they say “hip” anymore? Probably not.) Being a colossal nerd, he played many of the old Avalon Hill wargames and the original D & D before it got weird(er). He still likes many ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Schmidt Spiele, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes, $42.95) Reiner Knizia has earned himself an enviable reputation for quality game design. Over the last several years, the trend in his design preferences has been to move away from the heavy, gamers' games style with the shift being towards quality games conceived to appeal to more general ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Joe Huber (Ystari/Asmodee, 2 to 5 players, ages 13 and up, 60 minutes, $34.99) For me, one of the unexpected aspects of becoming more heavily involved in the boardgaming hobby has been the opportunity to spend time with and become friends with a lot of game designers. But, as enjoyable as that has been particularly in discussing game design with them, there's another ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Pevans (Beziar Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, about 90 minutes, $59.99) It’s taken me a while to get to Suburbia as Bezier Games sold out at Spiel ’12 – good news for designer and publisher Ted Alspach, but bad news for me. Mind you, it was my own fault as it wasn’t until the Sunday that I got to Bezier’s stand ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Victory Point Games, 1 player, ages 12 and up, about 40 minutes; $29.95) It seems that every four years, timed to coincide with the real life election for President of the United States, election games miraculously appear, some good, some bad, some too horrible to be named. This election year runs true to form. Most election games (and I am tempted ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Mayfair Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-90 minutes, $35) Klaus-Jürgen Wrede is probably best known for Carcasonne, the wildly popular tile laying game (featured in the Summer 2001 GA Report) that has gone on to spawn a host of spin-offs. But this designer's portfolio is more than a single game. Nearly a decade ago, Wrede found his ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Andrea "Liga" Ligabue (FunForge, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, 45 minutes, $39.99) Antoine Bauza shines like a new star in the Olympus of game designers. In just 3 years, he has been able to win Spiel des Jahres, Kennerspiel des Jahres, DSP, International Gamers Award and an endless amount of other awards. Of course most of his fame is due ...
Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Kayal/Eagle Games, 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, 90-120 minutes, $74.99) Dinosaurs live! At least they reappear here as players seek to grow their single herd of dinos into the dominant force on prehistoric Earth in Peter Hawes' new game: Triassic Terror. Triassic Terror is played on a large board depicting four environments: Swamp, Desert, Forest and Mountains. Each of ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!