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Subject: StormGate Reviews: Dungeon Crawler rss

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Chad S
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Hello, and welcome to the next entry in a series of reviews, collectively called StormGate Reviews. These reviews will not concentrate on the specifics of how the games work, but rather a brief overview of the main mechanics, how people who play the games receive and enjoy them, how they look, and lastly, my own thoughts. All pictures are available on BGG. Any edits are to fix grammatical or spelling errors. To see other reviews in the series, Click Here!

Intro:

It's been a while since I've done one of these. Real life caught up to me, and I'm back on track to be able to resume the weekly reviews. Now, on to the review!

It's no secret to those who know me that my favourite games are adventure games, specifically dungeon crawler games. So, when I was sitting at my local game store eyeing up the shelves, and I see a game called "Dungeon Crawler," my interest immediately picks up.

Dungeon Crawler is a card based game of adventuring. You build your quest randomly, so each game plays differently. You can play solo, co-operatively, or competitively against another player's adventuring party, and there are multiple ways to win.

From the website, Dungeon Crawler is an adventure card game that is playable alone or with friends. You get to choose Adventurers, equip them, design your own Quests to conquer, seek out the evils that terrorize the lands, and save the Damsel. This intelligently designed game pulls together extraordinary art and fantasy flavor that can keep you spellbound in epic adventure.

How It Looks and What's In The Box:

The box is an odd size, but it contains quite a few bits. There are a bunch of miscellaneous tokens used to represent status effects or to keep track of victory conditions, the cards, the "active player" token, and of course, the rulebook.


Above - an image showing what's in the box, plus a couple of expansion packs.

From what I can tell, the card art must have been done by conspiring and collaborating artists, so you won't be seeing much variation in that regard. This is not a bad thing, as it gives the game a uniform feel, like everything belongs together. They are what you'd expect in a fantasy setting - fireballs look like fireballs, wizards look like wizards, and monsters look as though they should. All around it looks great.

The tokens are another story - the colours are quite dark, and the words on the tokens are quite hard to read in most cases. I think brighter colours for the text would be beneficial here.

The rulebook, on the other hand, is not very good. Fortunately, the designers of the game created a whole bunch of documents and videos to show people how to play. These videos are a must-watch for new players, as the rulebook as it stands is quite difficult to get through.

Please note that this game is not a collector game like Magic: The Gathering. It is like the Living Card Games that Fantasy Flight makes - every box is the same, and every expansion pack includes everything for that expansion.


How it plays: 30 to 60 minutes, including* teaching the game.

I will focus on how the single player or co-operative variant of the game works here.

You (and maybe your adventuring buddy) control a total of 4 adventurers, represented by cards. There are the usual selection of fantasy archetypes to chose from - Warrior, Cleric, Thief - and some others thrown in for good measure - Stormcatcher and Scout. You select 4 of these characters to form your adventuring party.

The game has a series of quest cards, of which 3 are used in each game. You can either select them yourself, or randomly pick 3, whatever you want. They can be something as simple as having 30 characters in the discard pile, or defeating a specific, powerful enemy, amongst other things. There are more quests and characters in expansion packs, of course. Two of the selected three must be completed to win.

Each character has a specific number of resources, which are used to use the cards from your hand each turn. These resources are not cumulative however - you only use whichever character has the highest value for that particular resource. For example, if three of your party members have 1, 2 and 4 skill resource icons respectively, you have 4 skill resource icons to use during your turn.

There are many, many effects written on the cards, all of which are described in detail in the rulebook. I understand why this was done, as it allows the abilities to change without having to errata the cards, but I would have preferred not having to open the rulebook all the time, with having the descriptions on the cards.

The players have an Adventure deck, which allows the players to do feats, or attack with more strength, shuffling their deck, etc. Be careful though, if you ever run out of cards, your game is over and you lose. The cards in this deck is where abovementioned the resources come into play - each card has a casting cost, which must use available resources for the turn. There is no way to keep track of how many resources you have used each turn, other than using your noggin - so be careful not to use too many. If you use a permanent effect, as opposed to a one-time effect, the resources are permanently consumed until that permanent is removed from play. The player(s) use as many of their cards as they want to buff up their party, make an attack, and then it's the Dungeon's turn.



The Dungeon deck is what your adventuring party is trying to defeat. If you solve your quests, or completely drain the dungeon deck, you win! This deck consists of terrain cards, trap cards, character (monster) cards, and all tries its best to kill you. Each turn, a certain number of cards are revealed based on their strength, and the party has to deal with what is in front of them. Solve traps, defeat monsters, and attempt to survive. The characters get to act before the dungeon does, which is a welcome change from most other games of this genre. If this deck runs out of cards, you have cleared the dungeon, and you win!



* There are many videos and documents available on the official website to aid in teaching the game, including a 45+ minute gameplay walkthrough video. I highly recommend watching and reading these videos and documents.

How it was received:

I have observed other people playing this game quite a bit, at the designers request, and everyone has had a fairly good time playing it. The most common complaint is the difficulty - this isn't an easy game. It is very important to watch the instruction videos to learn how to play. There are several small rules that are easily overlooked, which means there is a learning curve to this game.

Nobody had any real level of frustration, which is good, as I was able to explain the game after having spent some time learning it.

One of the players in my group went out and bought the game after playing it once, saying that he loves playing solo games, and there aren't many (any?) other solo dungeon crawler type games on the market.

My thoughts:

I was just about ready to leave this game. I had played 10 times, and only won twice. I figured I must have been doing something wrong, so I sent Jey (the designer) an email, asking what he thinks I could be doing wrong. What Jey did here was amazing - he agreed to meet with me in person and teach me the game. Lucky for me we live pretty close by to one another.

It turns out I was doing a few things incorrectly. For just one example, I was doing area attacks completely wrong, and they were decimating my party as a result. For another, I was not aware that you could use resources from a character that was already activated that turn. As long as a character is not locked by something, its resources are able to be used at any time.

After going through a co-operative game with him as my playing partner, asking about a million questions and trying Jey's patience, I went and tried a few more games on my own, winning 6 of the 7 games I played. 3 of those 6 games had me down to my final 3 cards of the deck. The game is designed to be a close call almost every time you play, and it definately succeeds in that goal.

The theme is good, but it doesn't draw me in like some other adventure games. I feel like the mechanics of the game can be applied to other genres without much tweaking, as the abilities are not really genre-specific. This may be intentional as to spread the theme of the game to other genres, whereby each genre can fight against one another in the competitive mode. Jey, if you're reading this, there's an idea for you for a future expansion. No pun intended.



I also love the fact that it is not a Magic: The Gathering-style expandable game. I have a rather large chunk of my brain stating that if something exists for a game, and I have the game, then I must collect it. Because this game is done in the Living Card Game style, I can expect to get everything available for that expansion with one purchase.

Once you have the rules straight, Dungeon Crawler is an excellent game. It just has a very steep learning curve.

Bottom line:

While in a crowded genre, this game is unique. It is designed to be an excellent solitaire experience. Throw in an equally excellent co-operative and competitive variant, and you have a great, great game. With the addition of tutorial videos on the website explaining the game combined with its amazing price point, this is a must-buy for any fan of the genre.

Score: 8.5 out of 10.
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Jey Legarie
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Just to note, there is no "active player token" included in the game. We use the "Spent Token" or some other form of tracking this, like a dice, coin or miniature.
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