For a genre of tabletop gaming that’s synonymous with thick rulebooks, lots of number-crunching and campaigns that can last forever, Dungeon Roll aims to distill that classic role-playing experience into a shorter and more streamlined dice game. In this adventure, 1-4 players take turns delving into this treacherous dungeon to kill monsters and collect loot. After each player has taken three trips into the dungeon, the person with the most experience points wins. Is it worth suiting up for this dice-based dungeon crawl?
Inside the box are sets of white party dice, black dungeon dice, role cards, treasure tokens, XP tokens and one D10. Before the start of the game, each player takes a role that can be chosen or randomly distributed. From there, you roll all seven party dice to see what combination of mages, thieves, fighters, champions, scrolls and clerics you’ll enter the dungeon with. At the first level of the dungeon, you’ll only have to face off against one dungeon die. As you delve deeper, the number of dungeon dice increases and your pool of dice will gradually shrink as your companions die in battle. At a certain point, the odds will be stacked so far against you that it’s best to leave with your XP and loot intact.
Normally, you need to spend one die to beat one monster or open one treasure. However, there are many interesting ways to resolve dice conflicts. For instance, a party die can take out multiple dungeon dice of the same colour. This means that if you find yourself facing off against three green goblins, you only need to spend one green fighter to take them all out. Party dice with scrolls on them allow you to re-roll any combination of dungeon dice in hopes of a better outcome. Dungeon dice aren’t all bad either, as dungeon potions can be used to resurrect your dead party dice. If you get the hot hand, you might be able to barrel through the dungeon much farther and with a much stronger party. Much of it is luck, but you do have to make some key choices on when to use items, when to use your character’s special ability, when to open treasures or when to re-roll if you have the opportunity to do so.
If you’re going solely by the rules that come in the box to guide you through the learning process, you may be in trouble. They’re poorly written in a way that doesn’t even make it all that clear in what you’re supposed to do or how the game works. I played it at Snakes and Lattes and we had to get a game guru to explain the general concept to us before we could even get off the ground. Once you get past that, there are a lot of specific use cases that the rules don’t cover or explain. For further clarification, head over to Board Game Geek for a revised rule set from the publisher and a number of community discussion about how the game was intended to be played. The game isn’t actually all that hard to play; it’s just a matter of understanding the core concepts that drive it.
But if you get past that, there’s a really neat game here. It does a great job of conveying a light dungeon crawling experience while creating a desire to constantly move forward. Even though you’re primarily rolling dice, there’s enough moving parts and decisions to be made to keep it interesting. I think it works well with fans of the genre or with more seasoned gamers, though I don’t think this is going to fly very well with a casual crowd. Then again, I don’t think that was necessarily the intent with this one.
The game states that it works for 1-4 players, though going past two players creates lot of downtime while you watch others complete their runs. With two, one player can raid while the other controls the dungeon dice. This might actually work best as a solo adventure. By yourself, you raid the dungeon with a goal of trying to topple your high score. You may not have a second player to interact with, but you also won’t have to wait for someone else to finish their turn and you’ll essentially get the same experience.
Dungeon Roll gets off to a rocky start with its poorly articulated rules, but the game is actually a really cool solo or two-player adventure. It uses the dice in a way that gives you a sense of dungeon raiding while constantly rewarding your progress with goodies. Due to its subject matter and gameplay mechanics, this isn’t for everyone, but I like this one a lot.