[ 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.