One Deck Dungeon





[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 14 ]

There’s been a lot of hype online for One Deck Dungeon and I decided to pick up a copy to see what all the fuss was about. It’s a small box with cards, lots of little dice, some cubes, and a little rulebook. It’s a solo or two player game out of the box. Higher player counts require additional copies of the game. I tried it out solo – Wow! There is a lot of game in this little box!

Designed by Chris Cieslik and published by Asmadi Games, One Deck Dungeon is essentially a mini dungeon crawler. You take on the role of your usual fantasy class types, Mage, Rogue, Paladin, etc. Interesting to note however is that all the classes are women. No male characters at all. My 8 year-old daughter liked that a lot!

One Deck Dungeon published by Asmadi Games

After choosing your character, and choosing your dungeon rated easy to hard, you assemble your initial dice. The dice are different colors and represent strength, agility, and magic and differ from character to character. Moreover, you will have special abilities that allow you to gain additional hero dice or heal damage. On your hero card is indicated your health or hit points.  On your turn, you expend time by discarding 2 cards in your dungeon deck, and you can “Explore” which adds up to four possible rooms (Encounter Cards) to enter or you can “Enter a Room” which results in Combat Encounters or Peril Encounters. Lastly, on the Turn Reference card, a white cube is placed on the potion section. Each cube represents one use of any potion placed under the card including the one already printed on it.

Assigning your dice

In Combat encounters, creatures have special abilities that will make your battle more difficult. You roll dice and place them on the card to meet the required numbers or higher based on the type of dice required. Two dice of any color can be exchanged for a one-time use black hero die of the lowest value of the two dice you exchanged. You get those colored dice back at the end of the encounter. This helps mitigate requirements that might be too difficult because perhaps you don’t have enough strength or agility dice to meet the check. It’s very possible that you can still “beat” the creature, take the loot but pay the consequences which is usually made up of losing health points and possibly time (discards of the dungeon deck). Lose too much health and you lose the game. Health can be regained with various potions.

Peril encounters are handled a bit differently. Here you will have a choice between two checks both require a different type of die and one is always harder than the other, and each with its own consequences should you fail.

If that weren’t hard enough, in either case, as you roll dice to beat your foe, you will also need to beat the dungeon floor or suffer the consequences. Once you get through the dungeon deck and you reach the “stairs” card at the bottom, you advance down to the next level of the dungeon. Shuffle up the encounter cards and start another round. After three, you will face the dungeon boss on the flip side of the dungeon card.  Hopefully, you have gained enough XP to level up, have more dice, potions and skills necessary to fight the horrible beastie — they are tough to beat.

All the player character in One Deck Dungeon are women!

When you can claim a card as loot, which may or may not involve suffering consequences, that card is multi-purpose. Once you choose, you can’t voluntarily change it to something else. Although there are some cards that allow you to convert one type of loot to another. A claimed card can act as experience points that allow your hero to level up or it can be equipment, which means you can get an extra die or more. It can be a special skill/new ability that you place at the bottom of your hero card or it could be a new potion you place under the Turn Reference card.

All heroes begin at level one which limits how many potions they can have, how many skills they can use and how much equipment they can carry which translates into how many of each die type they are allowed to roll. Leveling up is key to winning the game as well as playing the included campaign mode.

I wish the box was a bit bigger for those of us that like to sleeve cards. Although not a huge issue if you toss the simple insert. However, what about expansions? This game is the new solo hotness right now and I think more cards and “stuff” would be very welcome. Depending on what gets added, the box might get a little tight.

Lots of characters to choose from with different abilities.

This game is an ingenious design. Having the encounter card be a multi-purpose loot (reward) card is a great idea. What type of loot will you use that card for? XP? More dice? Or a really cool special ability that comes in handy later? Don’t forget about those potions! That’s where a lot of the strategy in this game resides – the risk/reward from the choices you make. Sure, it’s a bit random with success hinging on the card flip and the required die rolls but the strategy in this game comes from the balance of how you use your dice, skills and potions together.

One Deck Dungeon has a lot of replayability. Nothing heavy here to be sure and a fair amount of randomness. Lots of variety on the encounter cards. Different heroes to play. Different dungeon difficulty levels. Different bosses to face in the end. Although the rulebook does have some ambiguity in it, a visit to the BGG forums should address most questions. Otherwise, One Deck Dungeon is fantastic compact card-based, dice chuckin’ dungeon crawler worthy of the hype train it’s currently on.

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Space Hulk: Death Angel: The Card Game





[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 13 ]

“By our fury, they shall know the Emperor’s name! Forward and destroy the infestation my Brothers!”

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game is a cooperative card game for 1-6 players from Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop set in their Warhammer® universe. You are a squad of soldiers clad in powered-up, mechanized armored suits rippling with weapons making your way through a giant space “hulk” of a starship, infested with aliens called Genestealers. You don’t need to have any knowledge of the Warhammer® intellectual property – just think of it as your space marines doing battle with xenomorph aliens from the popular movie franchise Alien. Since this is a cooperative game with all players trying to win (or lose) together, this makes a great solo adventure. But don’t get your hopes up, the aliens in this game are relentless and don’t often lose.

You start by selecting your marines (or choosing randomly) which come in pairs, each assigned a color. Each pair of marines comes with a color-matched set of three action cards.  Each pair of marines has different abilities than the others – some may be better at attack, or defense, or movement.  The “board” is set up with a set of locations at the top with the top-most card flipped to show where you are and also displays setup information. Beneath are your marines randomly distributed in  single column but the first three face to the left and the bottom three face to the right. On the location card will be the terrain cards that get assigned to spaces on either side of the marines. These include ventilation ducts, doors, control panels, and hallways. Most objectives require you to make your way through the space hulk to the last location and escape with at least one soldier still alive while other objectives may require a different end game requirement. Finally, to the left and right of the location card are small piles of face down Genestealer cards, called blip piles (again, think of space marines in Aliens and their motion trackers), from which aliens will spawn and attack your marines from each side in the column formation.

Set up and ready to play (and most likely lose)!

Each turn involves four phases. First is the Actions Phase where you choose which action cards you will activate – one for each set of marines. However, you cannot choose the same action card in a set in back to back turns. Second is the Resolve Actions Phase. Actions are now resolved based on the lowest numbered card first. Some action cards apply to both marines while others may only apply to one of “Your Brothers.” When using an “Attack” card, the dreaded “skull” die is rolled. A skull indicates you have killed an alien (50/50 chance). A player can also choose “Move and Activate” which allows you to change up your formation and move marines around, change their facing direction and activate a location. The last type of card is the “Support” which allows the player to place support tokens on marines to allow for re-rolls of the die or allow for activations when subsequently playing “Move and Activate” cards.

Brother Valencio

Once all of your actions are done, then it’s time for the Genestealers Attack Phase. The more aliens in the swarm adjacent to a marine means it’s easier and far more likely that the marine will get attacked! One hit on a marine and they are eliminated form the game.  Once each swarm on each side of your marines attack, you flip an event card and follow the text in the Event Phase. (hint: it’s usually bad) Also the card will indicate where more Genestealers spawn, from which blip pile they come from, and specify their movement within your squad’s formation. The game continues until you make your way through all the locations in the scenario and complete your objective or the aliens eliminate all your hardened space marines.

The Dreaded Skull Die

After one or two plays you’ll understand how to play the game. But, don’t be fooled! This is game is hard…really hard. The skull die is unforgiving. Even with a 3 in 6 chance of rolling a skull, it seems they never come up often enough. The randomness of the die roll is what makes the game exciting. Reading through the forums on BoardGameGeek online and you will notice a recurring pattern – loss. But quite honestly, if it were too easy, this game would not be as popular or fun as it is. When you do win, often times, you will do so with a lone marine or, if you’re lucky, two left – and it feels really good!

It is quick to set up and as your marines get killed by aliens you can return their cards to the box which makes clean up a breeze. Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game makes top 10 solo game lists every year since its initial release in 2010.  There are a couple of expansions that offer some more scenarios as well as some additional soldiers to choose from for your squad. It’s an alien beat down that is thematic, challenging and a rousing great time!

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Tiny Epic Galaxies





[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 12 ]

Tiny Epic Galaxies continues the Tiny Epic line from Gamelyn Games with what is quite possibly their most popular entry in the series yet. Designed by Scott Almes, you are in control of a small fledgling empire. Dealt cards in the middle of the table represent planets that may not only provide different resources but also add victory points and special abilities to your empire when you colonize them and add them to your empire. You roll dice that allow a player different actions like move a ship into orbit which over time allows you to colonize that world and add it and it’s special ability to your empire. You can also gain culture to advance your empire as well as gain energy which can allow you to re-roll dice.

Tiny Epic Galaxies (base game) published by Gamelyn Games

The game comes with official solitaire rules where you are battling another empire, called the Rogue Galaxy, for control of space. The AI comes in five degrees of difficulty ranging from the introductory beginner to the nearly impossible to beat “epic.” The first player to 21 wins the game.

On your turn you will roll only 4 dice although you can gain more dice as the game progresses. You spend a die to perform an action. Dice actions include:

  • Move your ship – Place a ship onto a planet (4 are dealt to the middle of the table) to gain it’s resource (energy or culture) times the number of planets you have landed on, or put your ship into orbit which over several turns can allow you to take control of the planet and gain victory points.
  • Energy/Culture – Either die face gains you the number of either resource as indicated by the number of ships either that are in orbit or landed on a planet that provides the applicable resource.
  • Diplomacy/Economy – Either of these die faces allow your ship to advance on the track orbiting a planet with the matching symbol. As you progress around in orbit (the longer the orbit and thus more spaces, the more victory points the planet is worth) Once you reach the end of the track, all ships are returned to their respective owners, you place the planet card under your galaxy mat (play mat), you gain the special ability and the victory points associated with it.
  • Utilize a Colony – this last die face allows you to trigger one of your special abilities of your empire.

You can also trade in two unused dice to convert a third unused die into any face you want. After you have spent all of your dice, the Rogue galaxy takes his turn.

The Rogue Galaxy AI Mat

The Rogue Galaxy starts with all four of his ships and 5 dice that you roll one at a time, perform the action and then continue. For example, the Move Ship action means the AI places a ship in orbit on the left most planet card where it does not have a ship. The AI gains Energy and Culture the same way as well as Diplomacy and Economy allowing the AI to race you for control of a planet. As the Rogue Galaxy gains culture it increases its dice pool, which gains extra VPs and the energy increase means it will “level up” and future attacks on you will change. When the AI rolls the Utilize Colony action, it will attack your empire zaping energy or culture from you or forcing you to return a ship home. If the AI cannot use the die face, then the AI does nothing – that’s a good thing. A very cool mechanic in the game allows the solo player to spend a culture of your own empire to “follow” or copy the action a die rolled by the AI. A mechanic reminiscent of Eminent Domain’s “follow” action.

Planets ripe for the taking!

Pretty simple, right? It is. It is not a complicated game. Don’t be fooled however by this small box game. The Rogue Galaxy AI can ramp up very quickly and gain lots of points fast. This is a great press-your-luck dice roller filler game and it doesn’t take up a lot of table space. It’s not  very deep and although there is some luck involved with regard to dice rolling, that luck can mitigated through the conversion of two unwanted dice to a die face of your choice. Additionally, falling behind can be diminished by using the “follow” action as long as you have culture to pay for it. Tiny Epic Galaxies plays fast and allows you to make some decisions and the dice rolls, both of the player and the AI, allow for some press-your-luck excitement. Considering the overall popularity of this game, an expansion is on the way in 2017 that provides more planets as well as secret missions and ship pilots with special abilities. Tiny Epic Galaxies is a must-have, fast dice roller for the solo player.

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Phantom Leader Deluxe

[ This post originally appeared as an article in Game Nite Magazine # 11 ]

Phantom Leader Deluxe from Dan Verssen Games is a solitaire game set during the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1972. You will be commanding US Air Force and US Naval pilots who each have unique skills and their planes each have different weapons to attack their targets. As pilots become fatigued and stressed, their accuracy will decline and could become unfit to fly. If your pilots succeed, they will earn experience so that they may “level-up” to higher skill levels and awarded victory points toward various campaigns.

First, you will select a campaign card, each with its own special rules and choose either a short, medium or long campaign. The sequence of play is broken down into five phases. First is the Pre-Flight Phase. You’ll draw target cards and select the one you wish attack based on your politics counter on your campaign sheet. Every target has a political value assigned to it. The higher the value, the less choices of targets will you have later as you choose from less politically sensitive targets. The harder a target is to destroy the better defended it is and the more victory points it will be worth.

Based on the card, ground-based air defenses are placed on the tactical display. Then, you choose you’re a certain number of pilots/aircraft. Each aircraft has six copies — one for each skill level of pilot from “newbie” to “veteran.”

Phantom Leader Deluxe Tactical Display

This game is first and foremost a planning game. Each aircraft has specific types and amounts of weapons it may carry. Also, your distance to the target will affect this. You will spend a majority of your time playing this game in this Pre-Flight phase while you study the target area determining what munitions are the best choice. These are agonizing decisions but it is a good agonizing as this is where the meat of the game lies.

Next is the Target-Bound Flight Phase. After you have resolved an event card, you place your aircraft in a pre-approach area on the edge of the tactical display and their exit path markers. Aircraft must exit the tactical display at these or their adjacent areas. Finally, enemy “bandits” are placed and the Over-Target Phase begins.

Pilots ready to enter the South Approach Area

You’ll need to destroy the target for the most victory points while defending yourself against ground and air defenders. But you can’t loiter over the target for long as you only have five turns to get in and exit the map before you run out of time. Pilots are fast or slow. Fast pilots get to attack first, followed by enemy sites and bandits and lastly your slow pilots. Then, all aircraft including bandits move and may adjust their altitude. Weapons counters on your aircraft are expended to attack sites, bandits and ultimately the main target in the center. Combat results are based on die rolls as indicated on the weapons counters. Some weapons can only be used air-to-air, others at low altitude, and others are ranged. While this is all an oversimplification of game play, it’s really not that difficult, and is easy to master after a mission or two.

As pilots gain stress through evading attacks or taking damage from enemy units, they can become shaken which adversely affect their die rolls and possibly make them “unfit” to fly which would force them to bug out home! Until unfit pilots are rested and regain some of their cool, they cannot fly another mission.

Enemy Counters and their Attack Angle markers

Once you have completed the Over Target Phase, the player draws an event card and resolve the Home-Bound Phase event. Finally, you move on to the last phase called Debriefing. This is essentially, a records keeping phase where you record victory points, pilot stress, pilot recovery and experience on your player log sheet.

You sit in command of your Naval or Air Force squadrons trying to best figure out how to efficiently take out the target as well as defending yourself from enemy bandits and ground sites. With repeated plays, you will be more accustom to the types of weapons and what targets they are best suited for. There is a lot luck involved with regard to dice rolls. You think you have an enemy in your sights whether it’s a ground-based missile launcher or a MiG-17 trying to blow you out of the sky, you roll your dice…a hit! The target is destroyed! That level of excitement and the “edge-of-your-seat” stress in the Over Target Phase is thrilling and fast playing but it can also be frustrating if you get some bad rolls.

The “leader” system is an easy system to understand and play. DVG has other games in the series if perhaps you are more interested in tanks, submarines, helicopters or A-10 Warthogs! Phantom Leader Deluxe is the flagship of the series and considered by many solo gamers as the best. Good luck on your missions and may all your pilots get home safely.

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