Dungeon Roll is a neat little dice-based game that started out as a Kickstarter campaign. My friend picked up and asked me to look at and review it. He mentioned it didn’t really click for him and something about it seemed off and he wanted me to take a look at it. When I first started playing it I knew exactly what he meant; when you first pick it up it doesn’t seem to “flow” very well. But once you’ve got the hang of the rules and the gameplay it evens out and becomes a pretty fun little game.
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick it up is the quality of the construction. The cards and pieces are nicely made and should last a long time. It all comes in a cute little box that stores everything, looks fairly durable, and is even used while you’re playing. I always appreciate a well-made game that will last instead of falling apart after a few sessions.
Dungeon Roll comes with the following:
- 1 large treasure box that stores everything else
- 7 party dice
- 7 dungeon dice
- 1 10-sided level die
- 36 treasure tokens (10 different treasures)
- 24 experience tokens
- 8 hero cards (8 more if you pick up the expansion)
- 4 reference cards
- 1 rulebook and 1 hero reference book (and 1 more if you have the expansion)
Now, the first problem you’ll run into is when you open up the rulebook. It’s terrible: poorly-written, very confusing, and contradicts itself in places. One fairly major point of the game was left totally unexplained. I recommend watching a good tutorial, such as this one, before you start. Once you get what’s going on the gameplay is pretty smooth: each player attempts to go through the dungeon three times. Each of these is called a “delve”. During the delve each player collects experience points (XP) and treasure. Treasure can either be used during a delve or saved for the end of the game, where most treasures are worth 1 XP (some are worth more). The player with the highest total wins (by the way, the instruction book never gives you any kind of game objective like I just laid out. That should be the first thing in the rulebook but it’s not there at all! That’s one of the things that makes the rules so hard to figure out; it’s hard to piece things together if you don’t know what you’re building!)
At the beginning of each delve you roll all 7 white party dice. Each die can come up with a Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief (not Rogue, we’re kicking it old-school here!), Champion or Scroll. Scrolls let you reroll dice, and the others are used to either fight off monsters or claim treasure and potions.
Then you roll a number of black dice equal to the current dungeon level. You start out on level 1, so you only roll 1 die the first time. The dungeon dice can come up as one of three monsters (Ooze, Skeleton, Goblin), a Dragon, a Treasure Chest, or a Potion. Monsters have to be fought off using one or more party dice, and party members are also used to claim the helpful treasures and potions. Failing to defeat the monsters means you’re booted out of the dungeon and your delve is over.
Each player also gets a Hero to play during the game. Each one has two powers: one that can be used as often as needed and one that can be used only once per delve (I was amused that when you use the special power you’re supposed to “turn the card sideways to indicate it’s exhausted”. Oh, you mean “tap”? :p) When you earn 5 XP your Hero can level up and get an even niftier power.
Anytime you roll a Dragon on the dungeon dice it immediately goes into the dragon lair. If there are three or more Dragons in the lair you have to fight the dragon! Failure means getting booted out and ending that delve, but defeating the dragon earns you 1 XP and a treasure.
The gameplay boils down to utilizing your party members and your Hero’s abilities to efficiently make your way through as many levels as you can. At the end of each level you can decide to “cash out” and take XP equal to the current dungeon level or you can try to keep going (if you keep going you don’t get to reroll your party dice; once they’re used they go to the graveyard and can’t be used again that delve, although there are ways to get them back). Deciding when to quit is the biggest decision to make, but usually it’s fairly obvious when to keep going and when to quit. In fact that’s the major weakness of this game: 80 or 90% of the time it’s pretty obvious exactly what you should do, so there isn’t a lot of strategy involved. But then again, not every game has to be a totally deep, tactical experience that pushes your analytical abilities to their max. Sometimes a game that can just be quick and fun and not take hours to play and setup is just what you want!
I’ve played 5 or 6 solo games now and after the first couple I was thinking it wasn’t that great, but once I got the gameflow down and could play it quickly I got more into it. Now I really like it, and I’m looking forward to playing it at our next game day. Overall it’s not a “destination game”, as in “Hey guys, let’s all get together and play Dungeon Roll this weekend!”, but it seems like it can be a very fun little add to your gaming collection and a nice change of pace on your game days. The basic set and expansion are about $25 altogether, and it’s pretty good value for what you’re getting.