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Subject: Mechanical Review: Dungeon Roll rss

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Mech Gamer

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Dungeon Roll. It’s an interesting concept. As absurd as it seems, I saw someone on BoardGameGeek describe this as Mage Knight boiled down into a 20 minute push your luck game, and, incredibly, this almost struck a chord with me. There are times when playing Dungeon Roll that yes, I’ll admit it - it felt like I was making the same sort of decision I might make while cavorting across the landscape of Vlaada Chvatil’s fantasy world. But, feeling like you’re making important decisions and actually making them are different things.

So what is Dungeon Roll? Kickstarted earlier in the year, Dungeon Roll is a dice game, though it does involve cards and tokens, that seeks to simulate progressing through a basic, video-game-esque dungeon, from level one, up (down?) to level ten. Each level of the Dungeon is populated by rolling dice, equal in number to the current level of the dungeon your heros have reached. Your heroes are rolled before entering the dungeon, and comprise of 6 different character types: champions, mages, clerics, thieves, fighters and scrolls. Scrolls are not heroes in and of themselves; they can be used to re-roll any number of enemy or hero dice and also, somewhat bizarrely, to quaff potions.

I’m going to come out at the start and say that I have an odd affection for Dungeon Roll. I find myself wanting to play it, even the solo variant, just to see what kind of scores I can get (highest so far, 31). In that respect it reminds me of a iPhone game that has a “just-one-more-go” feel.

I think the main problem came when I decided to write this mechanical review. An epiphany came when I decided that the easiest way to examine the layers of function under the dice was to look at each meaningful choice… and I was able to come up with just three. It’s not a great sign. Let’s get cracking. Here are the three decisions as I see them:

When to leave the dungeon

At some point, you will be faced with a situation in which you have three heroes left alive, two dragon dice in the den, and need to decide whether to go up to level 6 for one more delve. Here, there can be some meaningful decisions about which way to play it. For instance, you could have a character card action that could be used to wipe out at least a few of the monsters (more on this below). Or you could have a piece of treasure that will help - either a dragon bait (turns all monsters into dragon dice - better than it sounds, in some situations) or a town portal (allows you to leave mid-dungeon without losing all the victory points you acquired).

The trouble is, often these decisions are basic. As soon as you know what the dragon bait is capable of, or get your head around how best to utilise your characters ability, there is no ambiguity - it is either the correct move, or it isn’t. It seems the open nature of the information in the game leads to trivial decisions.

When to open a treasure chest

At times in your dungeon delve, you will be confronted by a chest, or perhaps multiple chests, and you will have to decide whether to open them. This is a more difficult decision than you may think. Chests use up heroes, although the thief (and the champion) can actually open multiple chests for the loss of only that hero. So do you waste a hero for the delicious treasure-y goodness within? Well, that’s a choice. It’s not a huge choice - after all, the treasure is usually very useful AND gives you experience points (i.e. victory points) so… well, you’re usually going to open them. But not always. So I’m going to count it as a choice. Way to go, Dungeon Roll!

The treasures are all well balanced and interesting and in themselves yield further choices. Because of their inherent value (in victory points at the end of the game), using them can be tough. You have to balance whether using a treasure is likely to earn you 2 more experience points, to negate the loss of the treasure.

When to use your Dungeon hero superpower

On each delve, you have a dungeon hero which is specific to you, as the player. The Dungeon hero has a superpower (my word, not theirs) which can be used once in a delve, is usually pretty powerful and affects the gameplay largely to your advantage (remove one of each type of monster, for example, or turn all monsters into Dragon dice, for another).

These powers can definitely be saved and used at an optimal time, and often there are clever ways you can manipulate your special power to ensure a deeper delve. Of all the choices, this is the richest - you actually feel like you are in control of this aspect of the game. I could even believe a cynic would say that this was “the” choice in Dungeon Roll… the others rarely being game changing. I wouldn’t say this was my opinion. Here’s my opinion:

Opinion

This is a little difficult. Is the game fun? Yes. Does it have lots of meaningful decisions? No. I’ve read so many people on BGG trying to persuade me that it does, but I don’t believe a one of them. Game changing decisions - that is, decisions that you truly feel determine your fate, are few and far between. Lots of Goblins attacking you? You’re probably going to want to use your Fighter. Allowed to take a die back from the graveyard? You’re probably going to want to go with a Champion, unless you need a varied team to fight a dragon.

I think the dragon symbolises all that annoys me. It gives the illusion of decisions (the Illusion of Decisions would be a pretty good treasure! You can have that, TMG). Because to fight a dragon, you need three different types of hero - and thus, you can’t just rely on Champions to do all the work; you need some balance. But balancing boils down to such a simple thought process as to make it arbitrary, because every hero die essentially does the same thing. It doesn’t matter which you go for, as long as your party is varied. It feels like it matters, but it doesn’t. And that is Dungeon Roll’s flaw.

I’ll say again - I like the game! And people I have introduced it to seem to like it as well. That doesn’t escape the fact it’s about as tactical as Temple Run.

For this review in its original form, with Dungeony pictures, please see http://www.mechanicalgamer.com/post/62240240466/mechanical-r....
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Rick Teverbaugh
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It only has meaningful decisions if you play well. To play safe and finish with a mediocre point total takes no meaningful decisions so ther review is partially correct.
 
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Silver Bowen
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If you look at DR as a step down from Mage Knight you're definitely gonna be disappointed. If you look at it as a step up from Zombie Dice, it's grand.

This is a light filler with a great theme and not much meaningful decision-making. A tad, to be sure, but not a lot. Expecting more out of it is like expected Farkle to have a deep and immersive theme.
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David B
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rickert wrote:
It only has meaningful decisions if you play well. To play safe and finish with a mediocre point total takes no meaningful decisions so ther review is partially correct.



Actually, given that the degree of meaningfulness of decisions is subjective, the review is totally correct.
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Kevin B. Smith
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I really appreciate reviews that focus on the decisions you make during a game. For me, that's the heart of any game, and yet it often gets glossed over in reviews.

This review seems to identify 4 decision points, not 3. When to USE treasures is entirely separate from when to OBTAIN them (via opening chests).

I haven't played much, but aren't there also decisions about when to use scrolls and potions? Or are they so under-powered or over-powered that it's really not a decision at all? Or perhaps they are just "small decisions", not up to the level of the treasure-related decisions.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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peakhope wrote:
I really appreciate reviews that focus on the decisions you make during a game. For me, that's the heart of any game, and yet it often gets glossed over in reviews.

This review seems to identify 4 decision points, not 3. When to USE treasures is entirely separate from when to OBTAIN them (via opening chests).

I haven't played much, but aren't there also decisions about when to use scrolls and potions? Or are they so under-powered or over-powered that it's really not a decision at all? Or perhaps they are just "small decisions", not up to the level of the treasure-related decisions.


Yes there are and it's not subjective whether they are there or not despite what some folks might try to misinform you into thinking.
 
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Mathue Faulkner
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Rick and David,
I think many of us are already aware of your disagreement on this particular game. No reason to re-hash it in this thread as well. Not trying to be an ass as you've both posted some insightful things before, but I feel like I've seen how this discussion ends already...
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David B
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rickert wrote:
peakhope wrote:
I really appreciate reviews that focus on the decisions you make during a game. For me, that's the heart of any game, and yet it often gets glossed over in reviews.

This review seems to identify 4 decision points, not 3. When to USE treasures is entirely separate from when to OBTAIN them (via opening chests).

I haven't played much, but aren't there also decisions about when to use scrolls and potions? Or are they so under-powered or over-powered that it's really not a decision at all? Or perhaps they are just "small decisions", not up to the level of the treasure-related decisions.


Yes there are and it's not subjective whether they are there or not despite what some folks might try to misinform you into thinking.



You are absolutely correct that it is not subjective as to whether or not there are decisions. What IS subjective is whether or not they are actually meaningful. Opinions on that differ widely and nobody is incorrect in how they feel about it.
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Greg Gresik
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While the review does a good job pointing out some of the decision points, it completely misses on one of the most important - and some of the most meaningful decisions in terms of end-game points, and that is when and how to use your treasures.

There are points where you don't have enough dice to press on - but your treasures may make the difference...

But do you use the treasures, or save them for XP value?
And even if you do decide to use treasures, when and how?
Do you dragon bait at the first sign of trouble and defeat the dragon, or press on with no heroes and use a town portal...or invisibility ring?
Many of those decisions about treasure usage and when are also influenced by your hero ability.

Another lesser decision point completely missed is that of scroll usage. Your on level 3, you still have a decent # hero dice, but you roll the trifecta of bad - ooze, skeleton and pudding (not chocolate!), do you scroll then? Or save it when you might need it even more. What if your power allows to defeat extra monsters...or you have a dragon bait?

I am not saying the decision tree is uber-deep or complex, but some of the negative (or at least, those bemoaning the lack of meaningful decisions) all seem to have in common the fact that they either gloss over or miss entirely large sections of those decisions.

And all of the above decisions are made more important in the final delve, when your opponent has 6 face down treasures in front of him or her and more points than you. Are they a couple of sets of scales? A portal? Or just 6 extra points?

While I appreciate the negative reviews, I find it odd that while trying to come off as "objective" they leave major portions of the game play out. Whether this is an oversight, a lack of experience with the game decisions or intentional, only the reviewers know.
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