||Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/11/09/tabletop-review-dungeon-
To some, it might seem that playing a tabletop game by yourself reeks of loneliness and despair. However, when you consider the millions (if not billions) of games of Solitaire played each year, I hardly think choosing to play a more involved solo game is the saddest thing you can do.
I’ve had some experience with solo tabletop games. I’ve played a couple of Fighting Fantasy games as they got released on the PSP. I enjoyed them enough that the idea of a similar game seemed like something that would be fun. Enter Dungeons: A Solo Adventure Game.
It all starts with choosing a hero. There are four in the book to choose from. These are barbarian, dwarf, elf, and mage. They come pre-equipped and have all of their stats written out, making it easy to jump right into a game.
The stats included are combat dice, armor, wounds, magic dice, and speed. Combat dice represent the number of six-sided dice that character rolls when determining damage. Armor represents the lowest possible roll that lands a hit, wounds is basically health points, magic dice equal the number of dice rolled when trying to cast a spell, and speed determines attack order.
Barbarians use brute force to quickly dispatch opponents. They are the only heroes that use three combat dice, and they have the highest starting health in the game. However, they don’t have any armor to start with, and have a low speed that gets them in trouble. Since they have no armor, there’s a good chance that a quicker enemy will be able to deal damage. Still, if you can keep a barbarian alive long enough to get some better equipment, they are well positioned to win most fights.
Dwarves are probably the weakest character in my opinion. They have a respectable two combat dice, and start off with heavy armor that requires an enemy to roll at least a five to hit. They have the second highest wounds stat as well. What kills them? They have the lowest speed rating in the game. This means that they will always be attacked first. Plus, since most enemies have at least three health points, that means the dwarf can’t one shot them. This means that most encounters will result in the dwarf getting attacked at least twice. That’s a lot of extra dice rolls that could easily penetrate that tough armor. I have never had a dwarf make it out of the first campaign.
My favorite hero is the elf. Elves have two combat dice, start off with light armor, and are tied for the lowest health points in the game. More importantly, they have a base speed of three. This is as good or better than most of the enemies in the game. In addition, elves come equipped with a long range weapon at the start. Long range weapons allow you to get an attack in before starting normal combat. With the high speed, this means that an elf will be able to get two attacks in before an opponent in most circumstances. I’ve had a fairly high percentage of battles end quickly this way. Elves can also use magic. While that single die roll isn’t ideal, it can come in handy in a pitch. This makes the elf the most versatile character in the game. My most successful games have been with elves.
Finally, we have the mage. They have low HP, only attack with one die, and don’t start off with any armor. However, they get two magic dice. This means they have a much greater chance of successfully casting spells. This allows them to boost defense, boost strength, or just outright deal damage with a high success rate. The fourth spell allows you to roll for a chance to recover one health point at the end of each area. With two dice to roll, I had a high success rate here. The catch is that the mage has a medium speed, which means faster enemies have a good chance of wreaking havoc on that low health count. The key to using a mage is find items that increase his odds of avoiding that early onslaught. Boosting his speed is a good option, but so is picking up a suit of light armor.
The way the game works is simple. Most everything is decided by the roll of a die. You roll to pick the type of adventure you run, what you do in each area, during combat, and also when you earn treasure. There are six adventures. Each comes with a basic setup, a generic monster that you’ll likely face, and a final encounter you’ll have to overcome to complete the quest. After that, you roll a die again to decide what happens in the first area. You’ll either encounter an enemy, take part in an event, or simply find an empty room. Once you’ve completed twelve areas, you can move on to the final part of the quest.
It may sound like the game is too random, but there is a good deal of decisions to be made by the player. For starters, most of the events offer you choices. For example, you could come across a fallen soldier. The game offers you three different items that can be found on the body, and you’ve got to choose one. Another example is a fountain. If you choose, you may drink from the fountain. This could heal you, do nothing, or even poison you. If you need the health, it just might be worth the risk. At the end of each quest, you’re allowed to spend gold in order to purchase new equipment. Do you get better armor, save up for that powerful ranged weapon, or simply by some restorative items?
Character progression is done through finding treasure for the most part. Every time you successfully beat an enemy, you make a treasure roll. More than likely, you’ll just earn some gold. However, you can also find potions or magical items as well. At the end of each quest, you make a roll to determine your quest reward. You’re most likely to earn bonus health, but you could also earn a skill. If you get a skill, there’s a list of various options to choose from. This could make you faster, more deadly with a particular weapon, allow you to reroll some dice, or even shorten the length of subsequent dungeons. It’s always interesting to earn that reward.
The key to success in Dungeons is to get past the first few quests. At the start, the game is brutal and unforgiving. More than half of my characters never made it past the first quest. In general, the game gets easier as it goes. Your character gets more powerful, and everything else stays the same. Sure, you’re outgunned for the grand majority of the game, but it’s much more manageable when you can at least take care of the riff raff without a problem.
The game isn’t perfect by any means. There are so many dice rolls that my wrist was starting to hurt after a couple of games. Also, there is no story to keep you interested. You’ll have to use your imagination for pretty much everything. However, this game is very open for customization. You could easily create your own hero classes, monsters, events, and quests. The game is very light on rules. Therefore, it’s easier to customize it your play style. If things start to get too easy, simply increase the stats of your opponents. Make it so that lowly orc can suddenly cast spells. There’s a lot here to play around with.
For a measly two dollars, Dungeons presents an amusing solo game that can easily be modded and/or adjusted to fit your play style. If you can deal with the lack of story, it is certainly worth a try.
[4 of 5 Stars!]