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In search of another Dragon Scale

May 16, 2014

Dungeon Roll is a dice game about rolling dice in order to explore a dungeon, pretty much doing what it says on the tin.

An adventurer has been selected to deal with that pesky goblin!

An adventurer has been selected to deal with that pesky goblin!

Speaking of the tin, it’s worth noting the packaging. Dungeon Roll comes in a box shaped like a treasure chest, with a hinged lid. In fact, thanks to a friend (hi, Greg!) we have the special Kickstarter edition that is done up like a Mimic, a D&D monster that can take deceptive shapes, often like a treasure chest that attacks unwary adventurers. The box is actually used in the game: when you win treasure, you randomly draw counters from the chest, which is a lovely touch.

So we have had the game for quite a while but, despite playing it a few times myself, I never got around to introducing it to Miss B until now.

The game is a push-your-luck dice rolling fest with some lovely custom dice. Some of the dice are used to roll and find out which characters are in your adventuring party (fighters, thieves, clerics, that sort of stuff), then another player rolls the black dungeon dice to see what obstacles (and treasures) you encounter. You then allocate your adventurers to deal with the dungeon dice before deciding if you will continue to the next level, where even more dungeon dice will be rolled.

All this is pretty good fun, but what makes the game is that everyone has a unique character taken from a small bundle of cards that came with the game. There are eight in the base game, plus an additional promo card that came with the Kickstarter set, and we also have an unopened booster pack of further characters that we will open as and when we get bored of the original set. Each character has a couple of abilities that can really shape how you approach the game and, while they don’t introduce any deep strategy, they do make you think a bit about how and when to use them. Plus, after you have earned some experience in the game you can flip the cards to get an advanced version of the character with even cooler powers. Miss B and I were delighted to find that four of the nine characters that we have are female. And it’s not “princess” or “witch” characters: the females include the Paladin and the Necromancer. This sort of thing is sure to make Miss B a happy girl.

In play we had a ball. The whole thing of having the active player doing their thing while another player rolls the dungeon dice is a stroke of genius. It means that at any given time you have two players involved in the game play, and with two players that means all the game, all the time, which deals with a common problem of dice games (and not just dice games, if truth be told) where everyone just twiddles their thumbs waiting for their turn.

There are plenty of subtleties about using abilities and treasures effectively, but I pointed out options to Miss B and she decided what she would do, steadily getting her head around the game. Frustrations were surprisingly few, and it must me said that the joy of rolling fistfuls of these gorgeous, colourful dice (they really are great) more than made up for any disappointments that did occur.

We both like this game, and I think we’ll have fun working our way through the various characters.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¼): “I especially liked the Paladin because you can discard one treasure to defeat all monsters, open all chests, quaff all potions and discard all dice in the Dragon’s Lair, and just for one treasure, so that’s really good. I think the Knight (Dragon Slayer), Necromancer (Occultist), Enchantress (Beguiler), and Half Goblin (Chieftain) all look really good and I’m probably going to ask most of the time to play the game to try out all of them. I think it’s 10 out of 10 and I can’t think of anything else to say about it (LOL).”

The game: Dungeon Roll (Tasty Minstrel Games), 1 to 4 players aged 8+.

  1. Barnetto
    May 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    This didn’t work with three – too much downtime whilst waiting for the other brother to finish their delving – it’s certainly better with just two – though even then this hasn’t received many requests to play in our household to my surprise.

    Also, I have to say that I think the “push your luck” element is a bit too skewed in this game – the risk of losing all your XP by pushing on is usually just too great to take compared to the opportunity to gain from one more level.The potential upside just doesn’t warrant the risk.

  2. Rob
    May 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Good point there. I think if I was trying to play with two Miss B’s, at least one of them would have got bored and wandered off. This is a problem with a lot of dice games, which gets worse as the player count increases. Which is why I like the solution in this one of having two players involved in each turn. That said, I haven’t played with more than three people — I had a great time with this game and a couple of adult friends and a bottle of wine at the end of an evening once, but maybe the optimum player count is two here.

    You may be right about the skewed PYL, but most of the characters allow you to do a certain amount of mitigation, as do some of the treasures — though you have to get lucky in the first place to acquire the right treasures. We never really pushed, but there is often one of those points where you have a town portal, which allows you to effectively wager 2 points against the gain from another level. Thinking about it, perhaps having town portals more easily available but losing more points to use them…?

    • Barnetto
      May 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      Yes, you can certainly maximise your character and the treasures that you’ve collected and weigh up the risks and what you can do to combat them – and these may make it possible to risk going further. But my complaint would be that in those circumstances, you are rarely going to gain more than one XP (if carrying on is a risk, then you probably won’t have the characters to fight off monsters and open all the chests etc). Whereas you risk all the accumulated XP on the delve!

      Though there can be occasions where the gain is worth the risk – such as on your first delve and you are trying to get to Level 5 to level up. But I still think that generally the game does not really sufficiently reward you for pushing your luck. It is one XP per level – and so when you are down to a couple of dice and it is odds on that you will need to use treasure tokens to survive the next level, then there is not a lot of incentive to push on since the benefit of pushing on (likely no more than 1 XP) will most likely be wiped out by having to use that treasure token (or worse two)…

      However, I don’t want to get too down on the game. I think it’s very nicely produced and a fun diversion every so often (even if it does get me onto this hobby-horse….!)

  3. Rob
    May 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Ah, it’s great to hear from you on your hobby horse! Apart from anything else, after I reported a really good experience Dungeon Rolling with Miss B, it’s good to get an alternate view pointing out flaws in the game. 🙂

    This is why I never say that this is a review blog: we rarely get deep enough into a game to get at its real wrinkles before posting about it. Over time, though, you’ll see the games that have staying power for us. Dungeon Roll is currently going down well, but it’ll be interesting to see if we are still playing it in a year’s time.

    • Barnetto
      May 22, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      I know, I know… I do apologise! I realised when I got to the end of the last post that I was being a bit OTT on what is, after all, a light and fun diversion….

      Now if you’d be kind enough to blog on Jaipur or Fairy Tale or Der Kleine Prinz so I can get upbeat again….

      BTW I was “moved” to write a two player review of Little Prince on BGG…

  4. Rob
    May 22, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    No apologies necessary — it’s always good to read your comments, even if negative! 🙂

    We don’t have a copy of Jaipur (though it’s on my list — I very much like the game), but I’ll see what I can do about Fairy Tale or Little Prince.

    I’ve just read your review of Little Prince. Good stuff, thanks for sharing.

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