Kenton White
Canada
Ottawa
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One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows

Sometimes I just feel like chucking dice. Mentally exhausted after a long day, I want something without too much thought. Those times I reach for One Deck Dungeon and it's stand-alone expansion Forest of Shadows. These solo games are mostly random affairs — rolling dice and hoping for success — with a handful of really nice decisions thrown in.

In One Deck Dungeon I'm working my way through a deck containing monsters and traps. I'll roll dice, matching the colour and value to the card. Successfully match and I'll gain the card as an item, skill or experience. Fall to match and I still gain the card but must take damage. The deck is also a timer — every action I take will burn cards. When the deck is empty I descend to the next dungeon level, which adds more challenge to the encounters. I continue until I either beat the boss monster at the end or die trying.

The first decision I really like is which encounters I will attempt and which I will flee from. Each game starts with four upside-down, unopened door cards. On my turn I spend 2 time, discarding 2 cards from the deck, to open a door. I then decide if I want to enter the room and complete the encounter or flee. Fleeing may be wise at the beginning when I'm not very powerful. Over a few turns I can open doors one at a time until I find an encounter I can easily complete. But each new door I open wastes time. Waste too much time and I might not have had enough encounters to sufficiently level up.

I can always attempt an encounter. Even if I fail, I still receive the benefit. My risk is that I take damage. Completing an encounter is straightforward. I have a pool of dice with different colours: yellow strength, pink dexterity and blue mana. I roll my dice and must place a matching colour die with a value equal to or higher than the value on the card. If I can place all the needed dice I win! Otherwise I take the penalty, usually damage, from all uncovered spaces. There are limited opportunities to manipulate the rolled dice. Initially I can discard any 2 dice for a black wild die with a value equal to the lower of the 2 discarded dice. This is a nice way to use coloured dice I don't need. As i gain more items and skills, opportunities for dice manipulation will increase.

(Encounters have great variety.)

Items and skills are the next really interesting decision. Starting character stats are often lopsided — I'll have lots of mana but little strength or dexterity. This means I won't have many yellow or pink dice in my pool. If an encounter requires lots of these colours, I'll have a hard time succeeding. Items will add more dice to my pool and skills will help me convert dice of one colour to another. This opens up two interesting strategic paths: I can focus on acquiring items and balance my dice pool across all colours; or I can focus on one colour and acquire skills that convert that colour to the other colours. This second option is by far the coolest. I can build a large mana (blue) dice pool and then have the flexibility to convert that mana into either strength (yellow) or dexterity (pink) as I need.

The actual encounters are far less interesting. I find that the encounter typically plays itself. I'll roll my dice and cycle through my skill engine, swapping dice for new dice and re-rolling low dice. Then I'll cover the spaces I can. Usually at this point I'll have completed the encounter. If not, I'll look for opportunities to trade dice for wild, black dice. If I still haven’t beaten the encounter I’ll look for ways to limit the damage to 1 or 2 health. There is nothing wrong with the way the encounter plays out. Rolling dice and going through a standard routine is relaxing. Just know that the meat of the decisions is building the items and skills — not finding a clever solution to a sticky encounter.

If all goes well, I'll have access to many dice of many different colours. This is important for the final boss. Each boss is selected at the start of the game. The boss not only determines the end challenge, they also dictates the progressive challenges for each level. Between One Deck Dungeon and Forest of Shadows, there are 11 different bosses providing plenty of variety.

(There are nearly a dozen heroes to choose from.)

Forest of Shadows adds potions, poison and more encounter cards. The encounter cards can be mixed in with the original cards, creating a hybrid deck (this is how I've been playing, so my description is based on the hybrid deck. Playing just with the Forest of Shadows will be slightly different). Potions are single use skills. Pay a potion token and gain the ability. Poison adds a push-your-luck mechanism when exploring. At the start of each explore action I must roll higher on a single die than the number of poison tokens I have. If I fail the roll I take 2 damage and discard a poison. Taking 1 or 2 poison doesn't hurt much, but higher than that and poison can be pretty lethal.

I really like having more variety in the dungeon encounter cards. Playing with just the base set got repetitious quickly. I have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards the potions and poison. When I play, I don't use the potions too much. I'm much more interested in building a great skill engine than the one-off potion powers. Still, having a potion can come in handy as a last resort. Poison is fairly easy to avoid — I prefer the certainty of taking a single damage than the potential risk of losing 2 health in the future, so I'll focus on covering the poison squares over the damage squares. I'm curious if anyone prefers taking poison over health damage.

Overall I enjoy playing One Deck Dungeon and Forest of Shadows. I have to be in the mood for a random game. But when I am, One Deck Dungeon has just enough interesting decisions to hold my attention, with plenty of relaxing, dice chucking thrown in. Forest of Shadows adds more encounter cards and bosses — definitely a worthy addition to the game.

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kos blaat
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To summarize, you enjoy Two Deck Dungeon.
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Kenton White
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kosterix wrote:
To Summarize, you enjoy Two Deck Dungeon.
Wish I had thought of that!
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Giuliano Bartolucci
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A silly question from a not-actually-but-soon-to-be-owner of Forest of Shadows: if you mix 2 decks, is the dungeon doubled in lenght? Or you mix cards and just take a half of them?
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Kenton White
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You mix half from one and half from the other. The are markings on the cards to denote which to use when mixing 2 decks.
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Giuliano Bartolucci
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kentonwhite wrote:
You mix half from one and half from the other. The are markings on the cards to denote which to use when mixing 2 decks.

Far too kind, thank you
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