$35.00
Recommend
7 
 Thumb up
 Hide
12 Posts

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review by Past Go Gaming rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Geoffrey Greer
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
Excerpted from pastgo.net.
Read the unabridged & illustrated version at https://pastgo.net/2016/08/31/game-review-dungeon-solitaire-...


Short Version:
It’s a dungeon-themed variant of Patience, which can be played with either (a) a standard poker-deck, (b) a standard tarot deck for a more advanced game, or (c) the custom-designed tarot deck which comes with 10 unique cards for playing the most advanced game.

Play Summary
In the basic game, you begin with the simple mechanic of the 2-10 of hearts/cups stacked in order (highest to lowest) to represent your hit point total. All other cards in the deck are shuffled and prepared as a draw pile. You draw one card at a time off the top of the deck and incrementally build a horizontal row of tableaus. Each tableau represents an encounter within the dungeon and your efforts to overcome/bypass the encounter; surpassed encounters are squared as a closed pile. These are the essential representations:

spades/swords 2-10 represent monster encounters
clubs/wands 2-10 represent locked doors
diamonds/coins 2-10 represent booby-trapped treasures
all kings are larger hoards of treasure
all queens are “automatic victories” for the encounter
all knights/jacks are “automatic victories” for their suited encounter (kept in your hand)
all aces represent the loss of torch light and act as a timing mechanism in the game (played to a foundation called the “doom track”)

Quite simply, whatever the encounter is, the next card you play, be it from the deck or from your hand (and regardless of suit for values 2-10), must equal or exceed the value of the encounter card for you to “win” the encounter. For a “won” encounter, you get to collect any treasure (diamonds/coins) and hoards (kings) that ended up in the tableau. For “lost encounters” you do not, and if you do not “win” monster encounters, you suffer hit point damage (flipping hearts/cups cards) for each lost draw. Afterwards, a new tableau is begun to represent the next encounter.

Your goal is to collect as many points (treasure and hoards) as you dare (and possibly other objectives, depending on scenario) and exit the dungeon alive before the fourth ace is turned (representing loss of torchlight) or before dying (last hearts/cups card flipped). You have to mitigate how many encounters “deep” you go, as each encounter deep represents one additional encounter you’ll have to deal out in your “retreat” to exit the dungeon.

More advanced/complex rules add additional arcana (tarot deck) and the so-called “extra” arcana (custom-designed deck) to increase the variety and decision-making options available to the player. A wider variety of cards is kept in the hand, offering the player more challenging choices, and the “doom track” foundations can also include “curses” and “food reserves.” The various arcana represent more diverse obstacles to consider. Finally, there are two “scenario” variants and a set of rules for a “campaign” variant. Actually there’s quite a bit to offer in this little package, so let me get into the specifics.

What Doesn’t Work So Much for Me:

1 A little bit pricey. If you want the “complete set,” which includes the customized deck (about $20) and the paperback-bound rulebook (another $20), both sold separately, it’s going to set you back about $40. That does sting a little bit if you’re considering that all you’re getting is a paperback book and a pack of playing cards. However, everything you need to play this game is available for free, if you want it. The rules can be downloaded from the website, and the entire game can be played with a standard tarot deck or even a standard poker deck. So what you’re really paying for is the beautiful artwork, which in itself is probably worth the money, and after you see just how much game and variety is packed into this minimalist project, you’ll understand that the price is well-earned. So this is not so much a personal gripe for me as it is a point of interest for you.

2 Card quality & backs. I’m a big fan of plastic coating and laminate finish on playing cards,and these cards by the Game Crafter simply do not have that. They are glossy card stock, but they’re just not as heavy-duty as I’d like them to be. Another imperfection is the cut. Stacked together, the edges are ever so slightly uneven. It’s not bad enough to get in the way of shuffling, but neither does it have that perfectly smoth flush that you’d find in a pack of Bicycle cards, for example. When I opened my sealed pack, the cards were all dusted in little paper particles I call “jigsaw dust.” This of course disappears and blows away soon enough, but it’s a testament to the quality of the cut. Finally, the artwork on the backs of the cards is rather boring. It doesn’t hold a candle to the magnificent artwork throughout the rest of the project, so the draw pile is a minor eyesore when you’re in the midst of a game.

3 Rulebook binding. The rules are printed and bound like a standard paperback book. At 156 glued pages, you get a hard spine that’s about 9mm thick. It’s a high-quality binding, to be sure, but it’s impossible to leave the book open on the table for reference while you’re playing, and especially while you’re still learning to play and need to frequently consult the manual. A helpful quick-reference table is found at the front of the book, but you still can’t leave it face up on the table in front of you. You’re left having to leave the book turned down onto the table like a tent, or sticking one of the spare logo cards in as a bookmark. Either way, until you start memorizing the rules and card meanings, you’ll be constantly picking-up and setting-down the manual. I definitely recommend photocopying or printing from the website the key pages/tables you want to reference.

4 Random interference. The role that chance plays is a bit higher than what I prefer, and there are a number ways in which you can be killed and lose the game automatically and instantly, through no fault of your own. It’s actually far more frequent than I’d like, and it was one of my first disappointments as I was learning the game. In fact, you really don’t have ANY choice at all in how the game plays out, until you start building an inventory in your hand, and that only comes gradually and can’t prevent some of the auto-kills. More often than not, the process has less resemblance to a tarot-game and more to a tarot-reading. I truly thought this was going to be a deal-breaker for me on an otherwise magnificent game. However, there is a silver lining to this cloud which I’ll discuss in my highlights.

What’s Really Great:

1 Artwork. l’ve already mentioned it above, but it deserves re-stating. With the exception of the uninteresting card backs, the unique tarot artwork by Josephe Vandel is tremendous. Even if you don’t have the deck itself, every one of his illustrations is found in the rules, but I recommend getting the complete set. It’s wonderful to look at spread out on the table, and the style greatly enriches the theme. Honestly, more than one round of play for me has gone on much longer than it needed to, simply because I stopped to examine and appreciate every individual card. Your delve through this dungeon will be like a journey through some demonic art museum.

2 No dice needed. It seems like a small thing, but this is important to me. Many of the opportunities I get to play solo games are in environments that need to be quiet, such as an office or library space, or at home when my kids or wife are sleeping nearby. I’m glad (and so is my wife) for a game that incorporates a bit of meaningful chance without the constant rattling of dice. There’s still the shuffle, but (a) you only need to shuffle once—at the beginning of a game; there’s no re-shuffling unless you’re playing more than one round, and (b) you can always shuffle “casino style,” as I call it: spreading the cards in a big pile all over the carpet and smearing them around until they’re mixed. (Evidently, this is called a corgi shuffle.)

3 Intuitive and elegant rules. Don’t be alarmed by the mention of the rulebook being 156 pages. You can learn the basic game in about the first 20; the advanced campaign mode in about the first 40. This is a book with lots of generous margins on the pages, full-page illustrations, extraneous and flavorful explanations, and redundancy in the text for ease of understanding. It’s clearly divided into navigable sections for learning the game in stages, and those stages aren’t really all that complex. Much like what you’d expect in an RPG manual; many of the rules are only consulted on an as-needed basis, so it functions more like a reference manual than something you need to completely digest before playing. As for the play itself: I was apprehensive that I would run into the same problem I had with Dueling Nobles—namely that it would be too difficult to memorize the thematic meaning on a bunch of abstract playing cards. Quite the contrary. Dungeon Solitaire applies very natural interpretations to all the suits and face cards; you’ll memorize their meaning in no time and won’t find yourself needing to consult the rulebook very often at all once you’ve gotten a few plays in. More than this, set-up is extremely simple. It’s even simpler than dealing out a hand of Klondike. You separate out the 2-10 of hearts; you might separate out other cards, depending on the variant you’re playing, and that’s it. The rest of the deck is shuffled and you’re ready to go. Set-up time is literally under 60 seconds.

4 Customization/adaptability. This is the silver lining to the random interference cloud I brought up above. Despite the low player-choice established by the standard rules, the game is easily adaptable to house rules, which can readily increase or decrease the difficulty and the role of luck. You can easily invent your own interpretations of the existing cards and their function, and/or, since the rules are based on standard components, you can readily import cards from other decks to further enrich your play. After about a week of consistent, daily play, I’ve devised a set of my own house rules, adding only the four jacks from a standard deck. I want to continue to test them a bit more, but so far it looks like my simple adjustments are radically shifting the game back towards the player’s control, without contaminating the essence of the game. I will share my full house rules in a separate and later post, but the fundamental corrections include a starting inventory of some kind (so that there is player choice from turn 1), and mitigating the auto-kills so that they are a result of at least one previous choice rather than simply the shuffle. These were easy fixes to make, I think, and I also am working with a few more thematic house rules to accompany them.

Final Remarks:

Dungeon Solitaire is incredibly rich and thought-provoking. This game takes you by surprise. I confess that when I was first teaching myself the basic rules, I was a little disheartened, as it was looking to be about 95% luck and only 5% decision-making. I pushed through anyway, giving it a chance to reveal itself. Ultimately, this is how I came to identify not only the problems with the random interference, but how readily they could be fixed. Moreover, it is saying something that I continued to play the game—and in fact have played it every single day so far—despite my distaste for the randomness, and before I started considering any house rules at all. This game keeps calling me back, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Especially when playing “campaign mode,” the story-telling element really shines. I haven’t had this much fun inventing fantasies and character backgrounds for nobody’s pleasure but my own since I was 16 and discovered Dungeons & Dragons. Assigning narrative to the random sequence of events is truly the best part of this game; balancing that randomness with some easy house rules really completes the picture and turns this into a strong solo role-playing game.

More than a game, Dungeon Solitaire is a full-fledged creative project: a piece of collectible art and an artifact for contemplative study. The rules encourage the player to engage in story-building while playing, and the game is well-suited for it. They also provide a little history on the art of cartomancy and offer this unique set as a beginner’s introduction to exploring that field. True to the nature of tarot cards, there are just so many layers of personal meaning that can be divined from this project. There’s not just a dungeon here; there’s a fortune.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
AG Palmer
United States
Waldorf
Maryland
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
You really hit why I love this game so much. It is my favourite solo game of all time, which initially sounds crazy with the way encounters resolve - you can just die by drawing a bad card out of a totally random deck-on-rails? Unthinkable!

But then that actually happens to you, and it doesn't feel quite like that - it feels like turning a corner and slamming into the tail of an enormous dragon. And then maybe you actually survive the dragon, and feel like an absolute badass. You're down to 5 HP now, but hey, if you die now, you died a legend. So you push your luck just a bit further...

As a tarot reader, I use my own decks for this, and usually settle on a deck from the Lo Scarabeo "minis" series - they're sized like those cutesy mini cards you see in some euro games. Add that to keeping track of HP in my head, and that's all I need to play the Advanced rules and most of the variants, and man is it tiny. It's exponentially the smallest game (or game component set, I suppose) in my collection. With no dice, as you point out! Talk about an efficient boredom killer. I really can't recommend it enough.

Thanks for the lovely review
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Garrett
United States
Missouri
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the review! I'm hesitant to splurge for the custom Tarot deck in light of the price. Do you feel like the experience would be drastically reduced by NOT using the custom deck? Alternatively, are you aware of any other Tarot decks that might fit the theme and possibly not be so expensive? (I know nothing about Tarot decks personally...)

Thanks for your help.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoffrey Greer
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
Vilci wrote:
You really hit why I love this game so much. It is my favourite solo game of all time, which initially sounds crazy with the way encounters resolve - you can just die by drawing a bad card out of a totally random deck-on-rails? Unthinkable!

But then that actually happens to you, and it doesn't feel quite like that - it feels like turning a corner and slamming into the tail of an enormous dragon. And then maybe you actually survive the dragon, and feel like an absolute badass. You're down to 5 HP now, but hey, if you die now, you died a legend. So you push your luck just a bit further...

As a tarot reader, I use my own decks for this, and usually settle on a deck from the Lo Scarabeo "minis" series - they're sized like those cutesy mini cards you see in some euro games. Add that to keeping track of HP in my head, and that's all I need to play the Advanced rules and most of the variants, and man is it tiny. It's exponentially the smallest game (or game component set, I suppose) in my collection. With no dice, as you point out! Talk about an efficient boredom killer. I really can't recommend it enough.

Thanks for the lovely review


You're welcome, AG. Glad you enjoyed it. It's really an interesting game, even if you just run it as a "tarot reading," like I said--like tuning in to find out what happens this week to your favorite hero. I have literally been "scorekeeping" my games by writing little summaries of the delves in narrative style, adding a little flare and character development. Most likely, nobody will ever read these documents of mine except myself, but I'm having a great time.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoffrey Greer
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
@Garrett:

I don't think the game would be diminished at all by using other decks. It may even change the mood and inspire you to imagine a completely different atmosphere.

Any tarot deck will do. All standard tarot decks have the same suits, ranks, and "arcana" or "royalty" cards. These decks just aren't sold in as many places and sometimes you have to hunt down a head shop or a metaphysical artifacts shop in your area. Fortunately, there's the internet, and Barnes & Noble has begun to stock this kind of thing in their mainstream shops. Also, Bicycle playing card company has for the last few years been putting a wide variety of stylized poker decks. For example, they have "dragon back" cards that have a really ornate dragon pattern on the back. I would also recommend, especially for Dungeon Solitaire, Bicycle's "Tragic Royalty" deck, which has a kind of "Nightmare Before Christmas" feel, and the card faces are gray instead of white. (Supposedly they glow under black light, but I haven't tried it.)

At any rate, the collectible Bicycle decks are only going to be slightly higher than their standard decks, maybe only 1 or 2 bucks at the most. You're looking at 5 bucks or so for a playable deck.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Garrett
United States
Missouri
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks so much for the detailed response! Time to get that rule book ordered
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
AG Palmer
United States
Waldorf
Maryland
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
designer78 wrote:
@Garrett:

I don't think the game would be diminished at all by using other decks. It may even change the mood and inspire you to imagine a completely different atmosphere.

Any tarot deck will do. All standard tarot decks have the same suits, ranks, and "arcana" or "royalty" cards. These decks just aren't sold in as many places and sometimes you have to hunt down a head shop or a metaphysical artifacts shop in your area. Fortunately, there's the internet, and Barnes & Noble has begun to stock this kind of thing in their mainstream shops. Also, Bicycle playing card company has for the last few years been putting a wide variety of stylized poker decks. For example, they have "dragon back" cards that have a really ornate dragon pattern on the back. I would also recommend, especially for Dungeon Solitaire, Bicycle's "Tragic Royalty" deck, which has a kind of "Nightmare Before Christmas" feel, and the card faces are gray instead of white. (Supposedly they glow under black light, but I haven't tried it.)

At any rate, the collectible Bicycle decks are only going to be slightly higher than their standard decks, maybe only 1 or 2 bucks at the most. You're looking at 5 bucks or so for a playable deck.


I absolutely agree about the way decks can change the atmosphere. Due to no intention of my own, the narrative of my LoS games has quickly mutated into a story about robbing a pyramid in which four revered cats were buried - all because I've been using the Tarot of the White Cats deck.

The moment someone on this forum recently posted that there should be a Cthulhu retheme, with rations acting as sanity, I realized that all that would take is using the Necronomicon Tarot as your deck. The rest would just happen naturally.

I feel like themed decks existing, combined with the in-rulebok suggestion to use your deck's title cards as expansions, is the biggest invitation I've ever seen to create a million homebrew insta-rethemes. You could make it about literally any topic that involves moving around and solving problems. Which is just brilliant.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam L
United Kingdom
Gravesend
Kent
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't want to spend money on a Tarot deck - but I was interested in trying the expert and advanced game.

If I had 2 identical decks of standard cards, could I just use those?(assuming I wrote the 22 arcana somehow on some of the cards with a sharpie)

I know it's not as cool as a themed deck, but presumably that would work?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoffrey Greer
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
madad07 wrote:
I don't want to spend money on a Tarot deck - but I was interested in trying the expert and advanced game.

If I had 2 identical decks of standard cards, could I just use those?(assuming I wrote the 22 arcana somehow on some of the cards with a sharpie)

I know it's not as cool as a themed deck, but presumably that would work?


Definitely. The suits and values translate very easily. And Bicycle card company does manufacture a blank-face deck, which you might consider as a way to smoothly mix-in your hand-made cards with standards.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam L
United Kingdom
Gravesend
Kent
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great. I think I'll use 2 decks of the Tragic Royalty (it will mean writing on one of those decks. But basically I can use the 4 jokers as the Pages, then use the one "gaff" card as the scroll of light.

Then just 2 suits (A to J) will do the Major Arcana
I can then decide to use some of the face cards, or maybe jsut a D10 for the maze type cards I guess?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoffrey Greer
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
I wouldn't go with a d10 just because it changes the odds. Part of the thought-process of the game is a certain level of card-counting and knowing which cards/values are still in the deck and which ones aren't. Dice don't function that way.

But, hey, it's your game! Play it how you like it!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam L
United Kingdom
Gravesend
Kent
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for that. I'll use some of the picture cards then.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.