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Dungeoneer: Vault of the Fiends» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Descent + Portability + Quickness = Dungeoneer rss

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Alex Martinez
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I've been playing a lot of Dungeoneer lately, a fun card game that combines the good old fashioned style of RPGing with straightforward rules and an actual game.

Dungeoneer came out several years before Descent, but their themes are nearly identical. A group of fantasy adventure characters explore a dungeon (or wilderness), encountering monsters and traps, attempting to complete quests. While Descent appears to be a fine game (haven't played it yet, but I've played Doom, which has the same basic mechanics and plays well in my book) I prefer Dungeoneer for a couple of reasons.

MONEY: Dungeoneer decks come in 2 player $10 decks or 2-4 player $20. There are several decks availabe, each with their own theme, monsters, heroes, etc. The game is non-collectible, meaning that the cards aren't randomized. This is another plus for me. You can combine the decks easily, but it isn't necessary.

PORTABILITY: I'll admit that Descent looks cool and it has got nice miniatures and a nice looking dungeon. But it's also a big box that you can't really lug around easily. The expansions come in large boxes too. I don't always play games at my house, so it's nice to be able to just grab and go. You can take the entire line of Dungeoneer card games (along with some dice and tokens) in fraction of the space of Descent.

TIME: Dungeoneer games take about 20 minutes per player compared to Descents two to three plus hours. I don't really get to play games all that often, and when I do, it's usually not a marathon. Just a few hours. So I could either squeeze in one game of Descent (maybe) or play a few games of Dungeoneer. Not a hard call for me usually.

SIMPLICITY: Dungeoneer is a simpler game than Descent. This isn't an insult to Descent, which isn't trying to be simple. But Dungeoneer is easy to learn and play. Even non-gamers can get into it rather quickly, and the few times I've played it with friends who had no RPG or game experience, it was easy to teach. The cards are clearly labeled and the rules are rarely confusing. And everything is resolved rolling a simple 6-sided die.

EVERYBODY'S A PLAYER: Unlike Descent, in which one player must take on the Overlord position and "run" the game, Dungeoneer allows everyone to be both dungeonlord and hero as they throw obstacles in their opponents ways and try to complete their own quests.

CUSTOMIZATION: It's easy to customize Dungeoneer for shorter or faster games and easy to create a unique game experience based on what you enjoy. Atlas Games has house rules posted on their website that can give you some ideas.

BALANCE: Dungeoneer is a balanced game. It accomplishes this with a simple system of Glory and Peril, which heroes accomplish just by exploring their world. Good things cost your hero Peril. Bad things use up your Peril. So even if all the players have it in for you, they won't be able to just swarm you with dragons and giants and acid pits. And even if you draw a great hand of useful treasure cards, you're not going to be able to just throw them down and become invincible. It's rare for anyone to run away with a Dungeoneer game, and it only happens when all the other players are napping.

FRIENDLY COMPETITION: Games like Descent usually revolve around a Heroes vs. Overlord mechanic. But in Dungeoneer, every hero is out for himself. On the other hand, it's unusual for the game to devolve into heroes attacking each other because that's not the object of the game. The first player to achieve three quests wins. If one player ignores the others and goes about his quests, even if the other players kill each other, it doesn't mean squat.

REPLAYABILITY: Because the map is laid out in cards and quests are randomly dispensed, Dungeoneer doesn't rely on scenarios which can quickly go stale. Also, because the Hero cards and the Dungeonlord cards are drawn from a deck as game progresses, no game is exactly the same.

EPIC: Atlas has just released the first Epic quest which allows for a longer, more involved game that allows heroes to reach new heights of glory. It's a nice addition to the line, and again, like all the decks, it still is designed to be played alone as well.

It's unfair to compare Dungeoneer and Descent too much. After all, despite their themes, they are very different games. Descent is more complex, prettier, and intentionally involved. Dungeoneer is an easy card game that isn't trying to be ultra-sophisticated, just fun and light. I think fans of either of these games would probably like the other. It just depends on where your particular gaming interests lie which you might prefer. But for all the reasons above, I'd give Dungeoneer my thumbs up.
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Matthew Jensen
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I appreciate your straight forward review. I jumped in to Dungeoneer as a response to playing Runebound. I wanted something just as fantasy filled without spending three hours playing. Like your experience with Descent, Dungeoneer fits that bill for me.

One drawback on Dungeoneer for me is that in a two-player adventure, the game can quickly become a 'How can I screw you over the most as DungeonLord?' That can keep it off the table for me at times. Three or more becomes a much better balance of 'Who should I throw this master dragon at?' Still that's only an issue because I play the game with my kids and they don't like it when Dad picks on them. Interestingly enough they don't have much of a beef if its working the other direction!

Keep on the with the Dungeoneer gaming. It's a great little community with out all the chrome. That is until the miniatures come out!

P.S. if you want a little detour try Anima: Shadow of Omega. It's an interesting game along the lines of Dungeoneer as well.
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Alex Martinez
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Thanks for the feedback.

I've never had the problem with being overwhelmed in a 2P game myself. I find the Peril system is good at keeping it balanced. But then again, maybe I'm not playing with folks who are just out to destroy the other player.

I've seen Anima, but didn't know enough to consider it. Any favorable review to Dungeoneer means I'll be happy to give it a shot. So thanks for the recommendation.
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Joshua O'Connor
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Thanks for the review/comment!

I bought Dungeoneer precisely because it seemed like a Runebound-light type game that my wife and casual gaming friends might actually play. I was frankly scared that Runebound and Descent would never get played if I bought them. I hope Dungeoneer keeps expanding, and I fully plan to but minis to go with the game.
 
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Martin Larouche
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We got (me and my wife) a copy of this dungeoneer for really cheap.

We played it once frankly, we hated it.

It's not the worst game there is out there, but we have much better alternatives to this kind of games at home that are much better.

Here's a few of the problems we saw with it:

- Rules are a mess. Quite simply, the rules doesn't provide every answer we required. We actually had to go to the internet to find newer versions of the rules that were provided in the box in order to make sense of it all.
For example, there were no mentions of what to do with your pack. We all know HOW the creatures get there, but no mentions of how to actually "play" cards in the pack. At least, not in the ruleset provided.
Same problem with the actual use of the fourth level of your character. Most quest providing the reward of a level, and games ending after 3 quests are provided, level 1 + 3 quests = level 4. What's the point of the actual level 4 when the game is over as soon as you reach it.
Of course the use of the level 4 is hidden in expansion cards and campaign rules found only online, not in the rule book itself that came with it.

- Players "options" are totally random. In our try-out games, it happened that one player had a bunch of card to upgrade monsters and other such stuff, but no actual monsters to put them on. For the "lord of the dungeon" role, too much depends on the luck of the draw.

- Some quests require specific cards to come up. If you have personal quests that requires specific cards to come up and they come by fast in the game, then you are lucky as they might never even show up for you to actually DO your quests. this provides players who have quests that are actually do-able a much greater advantage.

- Peril / Glory counts are most of the time unbalanced. Near the end of the game, players sometimes have so much glory and peril on them that are of no actual use. You might have lots of glory, but no treasure cards or lots of peril, with no opponents with cards in their hands to play against you. I know that you can have separate decks for treasures / trap,monsters, but this is an optional rules that is mentionned as best with expansion sets and not a single base set. With just a basic set, the peril/glory system was completely unbalanced.

- Too simple. Strategies are very limited by what you draw. Even RuneBound has the simple strategy of: trying to do an adventure and fight a monster or go shop or go heal yourself every turn. In dungeoneer, there's only continue advancing trying to do quests as soon as possible, hoping you'll draw a good card.

For this kind of game, or games in the same vein, we have much more fun with Descent/Doom and RuneBound/Talisman than this. I accept that this is intended to be shorter than those games, but for this kind of shorter game, we've had much more fun with Anima: Shadow of Omega than Dungeoneer.
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Alex Martinez
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Well, I appreciate your opinion, but you really wrote enough that you probably would've been better off writing your own review. Still, it's always good to have a counterpoint.

I almost completely disagree with your assessment though.

The Rules could use some work, I agree. Though I don't think they miss much. It's more that the game can seem overwhelming when first read. In that respect, the rules could definitely be improved. I remember thinking the game would be far too complicated, but it really is very easy to understand.

Any card game is going to have a random element. There are plenty of easy fixes if you want a more predictable game. One of the simplest is to divide the decks by category, so that if a player draws from the creature deck or boon deck or treasure deck, he knows that is exactly what he'll get. And yes, some quests are easier than others with a lucky draw, but that's just the nature of card games of this sort. Personally, I rarely find it to be a problem, but some players are less tolerante of luck.

I have to completely disagree on the glory and peril complaint. I've always found it worked beautifully. Then again, I'm not looking to spend it all every turn. It's not there to be burned. It's there to keep players from being overwhelmed, especially at the beginning.

There's no denying that Descent, Runebound, etc. are far more complex than Dungeoneer, presenting players with far more choices and strategy options. But again, Dungeoneer isn't designed to be that kind of game. So I'm not sure how valid I feel the complaint is. Though of the same "genre" they fill different niches.

I do like Anima too, though I feel your complaints about Dungeoneer could just as easily apply to Anima. After all, pretty much everything is random. Players can get stuck with bad cards, luck into easy quests, and don't have many meaningful strategies beyond doing the best they can with the cards they have. Perhaps it is the theme or art of Anima that wins you over, rather than the gameplay, which is pretty much the same as Dungeoneer as far as I can tell.
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Guy Riessen
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I haven't played Descent, but I will say this, Dungeoneer is a much better game than Runebound which, with its unbalanced characters (and yes you could choose your own and help that) and it's INSANE downtime, is an utter bore. There are player-made fixes for the game to help the horrible game length as written. And Runebound has a horrible "rolling whammy" with the rules as written, whereby the first player to fail at an encounter will be forever trailing behind unless more players suffer the same bad luck. And I simply cannot believe that anyone would think that Runebound is not rife with insane amounts of luck--Dungeoneer with its peril and glory based system is much more controllable by player actions. The main complaint that I would agree with is in the even that one of your quests require a certain room to come up and it just doesn't--although this is fixed with the optional pre-built dungeon rules (but we like the exploration element too much to play using this). Plus that problem is mitigated by being able to complete the open-to-everyone quest.

We don't play Dungeoneer as much as we did 3 years ago (we're just not playing that many dungeon crawlers at all right now), but it was a lot of fun then, and it it's still a blast when we get it out now.
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