Brian M
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This review is part of my attempt to review as many co-op games as I can. All of my reviews are in the geeklist A Crazy Couple's Co-op Guide: 2013 and onward Edition

Our rating:

Modes: Solo, Co-op

Players: 1-2 (can play up to 4 with two sets)

With a couple: Plays very well with 2; some nice options for cooperating.

Play Time: 30 minutes or so.

Difficulty: Tough to say, seems like it can vary a lot based on which characters and which dungeon you are playing. Playing the harder dungeons with basic characters is quite tough. If you play the campaign, you can level up characters to where they are all easy.

Skill Factor: 2 - 3 While you can choose how to use the cards you acquire and try to avoid cards you can't handle, there's a lot of luck in the die rolls.

Individual/Group Play: Very group play oriented.

Component Quality:

The game is mostly cards. Card quality is fine. The artwork is very nice, and is consistent. Game text and icons are well integrated with the cards, and the art is clear and visible.

The dice colors are clear, and the translucent dice are a nice touch.



The health and potion markers are simple wooden cubes. Functional, though not exciting.

Rules Quality:
The rules are clear and detailed. The rule-book is basically duplicated; the first half is the basic rules with pictures and graphics. The second part is a reference without the graphics and examples. Nice for both learning to play and looking up questions.

The icons and text on the cards are also clear, and the reference cards and sheets contain everything you need to play the game in a convenient format.

Mini-Review
A pocket sized dungeon crawl with monsters, traps, skills, potions and even a mini campaign!



This is a delightful little fast playing adventure. Pick a character, pick a dungeon, shuffle the deck and descend in to try to navigate three dungeon floors and defeat the boss at the bottom.

The main card deck does a lot of things. It shows challenges, shows the reward for defeating them, and acts as a timer for your quest. Defeated cards tuck under the character cards to show their new abilities. It all works together very smoothly.

Each turn, you'll either refill the dungeon up to 4 closed doors (by drawing cards off the deck) or open one of the doors to encounter what is behind it. Exploring or opening a door takes time (discarding cards off the top of the deck), and when you run out of time you'll be forced to move to the next, more dangerous level of the dungeon or start taking damage.

When you open a door, you'll meet either a monster or a trap. You can always flee from an encounter if it looks too tough, but then the card will sit there taking up space and forcing you to spend more time exploring.

The meat of the game is in resolving the encounters. Each encounter card has a number of challenge boxes. Each character rolls a number of dice of different colors. Yellow for combat, purple for dexterity, blue for magic, and black as 'wild' dice (all colors also have symbols with them, so no problem for the color-blind).

You must then fill the challenge boxes with dice of the appropriate color. Some boxes require a single die of a certain value or higher, while others can be filled with multiple dice as long as they add up to at least the required total.



You'll overcome the challenge and take it as a reward no matter how many boxes you fill, but each unfilled box will either cost you time or do damage - too much damage and your hero is defeated and you lose!

To help make the rolls, each character has abilities to modify dice, and you can combine two dice together to change the color. At the start of the dungeon, you don't have a lot of options and have to rely on luck, but as you defeat cards and get more abilities and more dice the game becomes a veritable puzzle of figuring out combos to defeat the challenges.

As you descend, the challenges get harder and harder (in a different way in each dungeon) until you reach the final floor and fight the boss - and hopefully win!

While you use the whole deck every time, a good 3/4 of the cards or so get discarded as time, so what you actually meet varies a lot from delve to delve.

There are rules for a little mini campaign where you gain experience and level up as you play. That's a fun feature, and you can treat it as a challenge to see how few tries you can beat all the dungeons in. However, the content seems a bit short for the campaign - we've completed all the dungeons before we have a chance to get more than 2 or 3 upgrades.

Overall, this a very fun little dungeon crawl. Fast to play, fast to set up. A nice amount of variety. While there's a lot of luck in the die rolls, there's also a neat puzzle element of figuring out combos to use. A great pick for anyone wanting a quick dungeon adventure.

We didn't like...
* Occasionally the dice just come up all low, and there's not much you can do about it.
* The Archer character seems pretty badly under-powered.
* The campaign ends too fast!

We really did like...
* Very quick to set up and play;.
* Puzzle like element as you figure out how to combine abilities and dice.
* The different dungeon cards provide a variety of environments with simple mechanics.
* Deciding how to use each card you gain.
* Addictive challenge of trying to beat each dungeon.
* As a side note, all the characters are female - and dressed totally appropriately for adventure. Its a nice change of pace.

Images courtesy of the BGG gallery, provided by dotKeller, angelkurisu, and chansen2794.
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Curtis Frantz
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StormKnight wrote:
Rules Quality:
The rules are clear and detailed. The rule-book is basically duplicated; the first half is the basic rules with pictures and graphics. The second part is a reference without the graphics and examples. Nice for both learning to play and looking up questions.


This is the one thing in your review I tend to disagree with. The rules may be well-written, but there are a lot of odd interactions and questions that come from playing it, and some of the answers are not in the rulebook (although there is a revised version now that helps).

Just a quick look at the number of rules questions here on BGG tells me that maybe these could have been better, or some of the abilities/monsters could have been ironed out a bit better to prevent confusion.


StormKnight wrote:
* The Archer character seems pretty badly under-powered.


This is the other thing I wanted to address. I agree with you, however there is a semi-official rules fix for this. Rather than paying two time to roll 1 black die, you pay two time to roll two black dice and use the better result and discard the other. The same applies for spending four time - you roll three dice and take the best two.


Great review of a great game!
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tribefan07 wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Rules Quality:
The rules are clear and detailed. The rule-book is basically duplicated; the first half is the basic rules with pictures and graphics. The second part is a reference without the graphics and examples. Nice for both learning to play and looking up questions.


This is the one thing in your review I tend to disagree with. The rules may be well-written, but there are a lot of odd interactions and questions that come from playing it, and some of the answers are not in the rulebook (although there is a revised version now that helps).

Hmm. We haven't really had any rules questions so far, though maybe things just haven't come up. The one thing that has caused a bit of confusion is that the campaign advancements seem written for 1 player games, and its occasionally unclear how to interpret them for a 2 player game.
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Chris Van Deusen
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StormKnight wrote:

We didn't like...
...
* The Archer character seems pretty badly under-powered.

Note the Archer is undergoing a revision: Archer: Rebalance Test
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StormKnight wrote:
Hmm. We haven't really had any rules questions so far, though maybe things just haven't come up.

I agree ... I read the rules once and after monitoring the forums haven't found anything that I concluded that was mistaken. I'm rather surprised by all the rules questions, honestly. I guess people process rules very differently, but I found them refreshingly straight-foward.

Of course, the other rule book I read that week was Gloomhaven, so maybe its all relative
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cafin8d wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Hmm. We haven't really had any rules questions so far, though maybe things just haven't come up.

I agree ... I read the rules once and after monitoring the forums haven't found anything that I concluded that was mistaken. I'm rather surprised by all the rules questions, honestly. I guess people process rules very differently, but I found them refreshingly straight-foward.

Of course, the other rule book I read that week was Gloomhaven, so maybe its all relative

How is the gloomhaven manual
 
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Is it like a blend of Elder Sign and Dungeonquest?

Looks interesting.
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magmaxtic wrote:
Is it like a blend of Elder Sign and Dungeonquest?

Looks interesting.


I suppose that's sort of accurate, though it is substantially less random than DungeonQuest.
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I was just looking for games in a similar vein when I stumbled upon your review.
Now I know what to buy next!

I'm guessing it's sold out everywhere right now, but a reprint is coming in May.
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What kind of decisions do you make in terms of playing together.
What is better/different than playing alone?
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ionas wrote:
What kind of decisions do you make in terms of playing together.
What is better/different than playing alone?


You each roll your dice and then need to decide how to allocate them to defeat the challenge. You're really deciding as a team which dice go where. You also need to decide when to use potions, who will take damage, etc.

I've never played it solo, so I don't really know how it compares.
 
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Decide as a team... so what does each member of the team contribute that is special? No hidden information? Anything? Nothing... right? :

If so,... yet another solitaire-multiplayer game.
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The dice each team member rolls can only be used for their own skills. You cannot use your roll to power your partner's skills.
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ionas wrote:
Decide as a team... so what does each member of the team contribute that is special? No hidden information? Anything? Nothing... right? :

If so,... yet another solitaire-multiplayer game.


No hidden info/real-time mechanic or anything like that. One player could quite easily play two characters without changing the game.

Hmm, I think I should start adding a little more specific detail on topics like this to the "Individual/Group Play" section of the review.
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jhauser42 wrote:
The dice each team member rolls can only be used for their own skills. You cannot use your roll to power your partner's skills.


Your or your partner can still decide for you...
So basically the game scales well into family/teaching settings and solitaire, but are lackluster for those who fear alpha-gamery most multiplayer-solitaire games got.

Not my cup, but fits the current trend quite nice.

Good luck
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ionas wrote:
Your or your partner can still decide for you...

Simple fix: don't play with bossy people who do that.
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StormKnight wrote:
ionas wrote:
Your or your partner can still decide for you...

Simple fix: don't play with bossy people who do that.


No, simple fix: Don't buy the game.
Reason: A game is a product, and I buy products for people, not the other way around.

I do not choose people for my products (I do, but only when it comes to 3+ hours game romps like Battlestar Galactica, and generally I keep a collection of games to play with people that do not like such long games).

And then neither do I like to be bossed around (and I experienced it) now do I like perfect-information multiplayer-solitaire games where I can quarterback all time and otherwise feel like "why those bad moves" (I made others experience it, too). I still like those people, and they probably like me. So time to pick other - arguably better - games, next time.

I think games are meant to be create an enjoyable time, and that time I will not have with games that enforce quarterbacking because the game designers either did not care or just forgot to implement at least a few mechanics here and there, that make people chose for themselves, even if they play coop (think Hanabi, Dungeon Fighter, Space Alert, Shadows over Camelot and many more).

Verdict: A definite pass for me, because the game does not fit the people.
... unless I want it as a parent-child game... but I am not sure if I won't find a bunch of games in my 300 games, that fulfill that job in about 2-3 years... so no reason to start collecting those, right now.
 
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You don't like perfect information coop. Some of us do. Not every game is for every person. It's great that you want to play with specific people who can't play games like this. That's not the designer's fault, though.
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The key issue goes beyond perfect information (I like perfect information games, like say Medina, Santorini or Dubgeon Fighter; they don't suffer fron this issue).

That aside sadly the recent coop-hype results in reviewers, publishers and designers having no incentive to speak the truth about their game, neither here nor on KS:

'Solve this shared puzzle' vs 'sit down with your friends and cooperate on mastering the dungeon, making tough decisions for the team' - it is clear what sells and what not IMHO - however latter could describe as well a game where you have OR want to (even if perfect information is on the table) make decisions on your own and by doing so bring something unique to the table, impact the game in ways your boyfriend would not or could not have.

But it is all muddy and BGG misses tags for collaboration on the one hand and multiplayer-solitaire (competitive multiplayer-solitaire got their own issues, and I have not found a 100% parallel one, yet) on the other hand.

Neither is there the will of authors, publishers and reviewers to clearly state whats going on.

If all that wasn't the case...

Then everyone - without much ado - could decide if something is their treasure or their trash.
 
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ionas wrote:
The key issue goes beyond perfect information (I like perfect information games, like say Medina, Santorini or Dubgeon Fighter; they don't suffer fron this issue).

First, random side comment, I think 'perfect information' is the wrong word here, though I know what we're talking about. I think 'perfect information' is usually used to describe games where there are no unknown elements during play. Chess, Checkers and Go are perfect information games. Agricola, Terraforming Mars and One-Deck Dungeon are NOT perfect information.

What we're referring to here is...I don't know. Games where players have hidden or unique info? I don't know of the correct word for it!

I think the key point you have is that you want a game which has mechanics limiting information or with time restrictions such that one player could not really play as two players.

Quote:
That aside sadly the recent coop-hype results in reviewers, publishers and designers having no incentive to speak the truth about their game, neither here nor on KS:

'Solve this shared puzzle' vs 'sit down with your friends and cooperate on mastering the dungeon, making tough decisions for the team' - it is clear what sells and what not IMHO - however latter could describe as well a game where you have OR want to (even if perfect information is on the table) make decisions on your own and by doing so bring something unique to the table, impact the game in ways your boyfriend would not or could not have.

But it is all muddy and BGG misses tags for collaboration on the one hand and multiplayer-solitaire (competitive multiplayer-solitaire got their own issues, and I have not found a 100% parallel one, yet) on the other hand.

Neither is there the will of authors, publishers and reviewers to clearly state whats going on.

If all that wasn't the case...

Then everyone - without much ado - could decide if something is their treasure or their trash.


The board game world has a lot of terms, but many of them aren't very well defined or agreed on. I think what you are hitting here is not that anyone is "lying" about their games, it is simply an aspect that is very important to you but is irrelevant to a lot of people.

I get this in various places, on both sides of it. When I started doing co-op reviews, I thought that some people didn't like playing two characters in some games simply because it was too much stuff to manage, so I only reviewed it from that viewpoint; turns out many people simply don't like it "thematically", no matter how easy it is. I never would have considered it; I'm absolutely in no way bothered by controlling multiple characters.

As far as what a "co-op" game is, to me its simply a game where all of the players are on the same team and win or lose as a group. That's it*. It doesn't matter at all to me if the game could be played solo as well, its still a co-op. On the other hand, some people list games with traitors or with one 'adversary' player; to them, that's co-op. To me that's absurd - especially when playing with just two players!

However, you've got a point that does matter so some people and so I'm revising my Group/Individual Play ratings to have more details on how exactly the game plays from that standpoint.

* The only slight modifier is that a real co-op should never require you to make an "intelligent" play for the "AI". IE, its OK that in Castle Ravenloft you decide where a moving monster goes, since you are supposed to make the choice that you as a player want to make. It is not OK if the game tells you to "make whatever move hurts you the most" or "play the enemy intelligently"; at that point I'm simply playing both sides rather than playing a co-op game. But that's extremely, extremely rare as far as I know.
 
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Getting back to ODD, I can definitely see how the 2-player game could be dominated by an alpha player, but there is one aspect of this game that makes it a little different: You both take your turns at the same time.

In Pandemic, you take your turn while the other 1-3 players watch you. If you do something less than optimal, it is very hard for them not to give you advice to do something different. This is pretty much the same in just about every coop game I have played. You take your turn while all the other players watch you.

In ODD you both roll your dice at the same time and your first priority is how to modify and improve your roll to defeat the encounter. In the last game I played 2-player, I was the mage and he was the warrior. It was my job to take care of the magic boxes and some of the agility boxes. I spent the first 20-30 seconds after my roll trying to figure out the best way to use my roll and my abilities to generate what we needed. By the time I looked up, he was often already covering yellow boxes and had often already used some of his skills.

Once we both did our best to cover as much as possible, and we were looking at our scraps and trying to find the best way to use them, only then would I look to see how he used his dice and if there might be a better way. If there was, I would suggest it. He was a new player, and by the end of the game, he better understood how to use his dice and his best effort was usually the best we could do.

Now, a supreme alpha player might insist on looking at the other player's dice first to make sure they use them right. If you are playing with that type of player, then, yes, this game is probably not for you. But because this game does not force you to lock in dice, you can always adjust afterwards, and there is no harm in letting each player try to modify their dice to their best advantage first before offering advice.

Obviously the rewind button in this game has limitations. If they spend dice to reroll dice, you can't easily un-reroll them. And if they increase values, you might not remember exactly which dice were changed and what their old value was, but for the most part, there is no harm in letting your partner work out their puzzle while you solve yours.
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ionas wrote:
StormKnight wrote:

Simple fix: don't play with bossy people who do that.


No, simple fix: Don't buy the game.

There is a third not so simple fix, it comes in two variations: don't let yourself be bossed around, or don't feel like you're being bossed around.

Of course changing something about yourself is really unpopular and much harder when compared to blaming others or the game, but it's probably just as effective, if not more. A therapist could help with this for sure, but that's a big commitment that most people will frankly find completely ridiculous (it may not be though).

Barring that, what I would suggest you do is identify what exactly you feel aversion towards in those "bossed around" situations, and take it from there.

If it's another person who literally doesn't let you say a single word before telling you what you should do (and he happened to be a perfect player who is always correct and you cannot improve his suggestions), then you should politely define your boundaries by asking to let you be the first one to suggest a play on your own round, or something to this effect. And then everybody else can chime in, you just want a moment to try to think for yourself first. It's not too much to ask at all, you're not being rude, and it will be a valuable exercise in patience and listening skills to the bossy player. But I can't imagine that this scenario is all that common.

The more common problem, I imagine, is when you feel aversion to other people suggesting you better alternatives. Basically because deep down you don't want to be "wrong". You have a good idea, and when somebody contradicts you, you may immediately feel defensive even before analysing what the other person is suggesting. This becomes about your ego and not about playing co-op. You isolate yourself from the group by thinking that your ideas are somehow inherently more important than others', because it's your turn. That you should be allowed to play the turn the way you want, ignoring the whole co-op thing. You lose track of the fact that the goal of the game is for everybody to win, co-operatively, and not for you to have the most brilliant ideas. You don't win by being smart or lose by not being smart, it's about the group, etc. I'm sure you're getting the point.

I don't know an easy way to solve the last problem, and I can only recommend putting effort to familiarise yourself with your pattern of thoughts/feelings in these situations, and try to always be on the lookout for it to emerge. Then you need to think it through rationally (kinda like I did above), exposing it's flawed self-centred basis. It might be too hard during the game night, but you can definitely reflect back on it in your spare time later. Most people won't be bothered though.
 
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