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Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls is the book-length successor to author Matthew Lowes' previous game design Tomb of the Four Kings (available for free on his website). The original game was playable with a standard pack of playing cards, and it is preserved nearly unchanged as the "basic game" of the "Labyrinth of Souls." The new game, however, calls for a tarot deck, and the author has collaborated with illustrator Josephe Vandel to create a new deck for it, which includes 10 "extra arcana" or additional trumps.

The rules supplied in Labyrinth of Souls include the basic game (uses 53 cards--a standard playing card deck with a single joker), the expert game (uses 78 cards--a standard tarot deck), the advanced game (uses the 88-card custom deck OR a standard tarot deck plus a ten-sided die), and eight official variants of the advanced game. One of these variants ("Cartomancy") can be used for divination, and the supplementary "Arcana" and "References" sections provide some useful pointers regarding divinatory meanings for the cards.

I had played Tomb of the Four Kings a fair amount before acquiring this book, and found it to be a quick and fairly difficult solitaire game with a strong narrative element. The expert mode in Labyrinth of Souls expands the game elegantly by adding companions (the tarot Page cards), mazes (a new encounter type), blessings, corruptions, and several new magic items. It took me three dozen plays to get to a win, i.e. escape with all three "heavenly jewels" needed for victory in the expert game. In the meanwhile though, I had lesser successes in gaining treasure and rescuing companions.

The advanced game adds two new ways to lose: provisions that can be exhausted (in the same way that a player can run out of torches in the basic or expert game) and a couple of boss monsters, the lich and the dragon. These latter are very daunting, but I beat the lich in my first two plays in the advanced format.

The rules for the various modes of the game are all written quite clearly. The basic game includes a very detailed example of play that was not part of the Tomb of the Four Kings rules, and goes a long way toward eliminating any ambiguities in the rules. It gives the reader a very clear idea of game play. An assortment of reference tables and blank recording forms are present for copying and play convenience.

All of the trumps and court cards of the Lowes/Vandel Labyrinth of Souls deck are reproduced at or near full size in black and white throughout the book and especially in the "Arcana" section of the text. These seem to constitute a pretty passable deck, and the designs of the "extra arcana" are certainly interesting, but they just don't "grab" me aesthetically or symbolically. I have not handled a production copy of the Lowes/Vandel deck itself, and I'm unlikely to acquire one. I do like and recommend the rule book and the game, and I would be interested to see other artists' realizations of the "extra arcana" invented by Lowes.

I have been using the Luis Royo "Dark Tarot" to play the Labyrinth game, and I'm liking it a lot for that purpose. Here are some examples from a game in progress and a completed game:


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