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Cardmaster: Adventure Design Deck» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Cardmaster Review - Dungeon Delving Danger Deck rss

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John "Omega" Williams
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CARDMASTER
ADVENTURE DESIGN DECK
Overview and Review by Omega
2009

Today in the depths of a dungeon we have an early example of one of TSR's various attempts to cash in on the then burgeoning CCG craze with something non-CCG. Cardmaster is both a stand-alone card game and a plug-in game aid for the AD&D RPG. It can be used to create simple GM-less dungeon crawls, or as a visual aid for a GM or even a quick dungeon encounter generator. Written in 1992 by Richard Borg, it is also one of the last of TSR's small boxed sets.
*** NOTES will be designated thusly.***

The box is standard TSR format which they pretty much had down to a science by then. About 21x28cm in dimensions and 3cm deep. Cover price is 18$. The contents are as follows. A 16 page rule book and a sheet of pre-generated adventures, 3 sheets of visual aids consisting of a room, a hall and plenty of cut out furniture and deccorations - made of the usual thin but sturdy cardstock TSR tended to favour. The game comes with a set of dice as well. One each of a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20.
Lastly there are the 216 cards. These are square cut standard card size. 54 Monster, 54 Treasure and 108 Location. 6 of the Monster cards double as Character and NPC cards the rest being 15 Green, 13 Blue, 9 Red, 7 White, 3 Trap and 1 Wandering Monster special encounter. The Treasure cards are divided into 20 Green, 12 Blue, 13 Red, 9 Traps and 1 Red Treasure Trap. Location cards are 41 Green, 39 Blue and 28 Red. ***NOTE: Some have wondered. "But I only see 108 cards? Where are the rest???"... um... Well... You did look under the card tray DIDN'T you???. I've bumped into no less than four people who never thought to look under the thing. The other two decks are packed there.***

The card art is standard TSR format of mostly re-tread art from the Monster Manual and some new art tossed in. The art though is clean and readily recognizable for each creature represented. The locaton cards are at first glance all the same. But on closer examination there are variations in furniture and floor clutter. Some of the pre-gen adventures actually take this into account which is a nice touch for a game like this. The cut-outs are large and none should require any fine skill in removal. Pre-punched would have been optimal. But as is it works for what is basically an introductory game.

The 16 page rule book measures 21x28cm, BW illustrated and uses a good font size making it easy to read. The rules are laid out as follows.

CREDITS
Designed by Richard Borg
Edited by Doug Stewart & Steve Winter
Cover Photo by Charles Khol
Location Card Illustration by Valerie Valusek
Typography by Angelika Lokotz

This is followed by the CONTENTS list and then a brief introduction to the game explaining the versatility of its potential uses. An aid for GMs, GM-less adventuring, or even Solo play. Then a run down of the parts and a quick explanation of how the colour coded system works. Green is the easiest level while Red is the hardest, and representing levels 3, 4 and 5 of a dungeon.

THE CARD DECKS
* LOCATION DECK: These cards are divided into Rooms or Corridors. In the bottom corner is a coloured circle which represents the locations level. Exits are colour coded to and represent what level the next room may open up into.
* MONSTER DECK: These cards are divided into Monsters and Characters, and a single Wandering encounter. Monster cards are designated with a level colour as well as the creatures Name and How many are present, Hit Dice(HD), Armor Class(AC) To Hit AC0,(THAC0) and wether or not it has any treasure. Character cards are laid out much the same. But also indicate level, Hit Points(HP) and Class. Monsters with a White colour code can appear on any level.
* TREASURE DECK: This deck is divided into Treasure and Traps cards. Treasures are colour coded.
* VISUAL PLAY AIDS: This details the possible use of the cut-out pieces for use with 25mm miniatures.

CARDMASTER FASTPLAY
This section covers the rules for playing without a GM. Either as a group or solitaire.
* GETTING STARTED: First a pre-gen adventure is selected, then characters are taken. Un-used characters are shuffled back into the monster deck as potential encounters. Wizards and Clerics note down how many spells they have for the session. Then an appropriate corridor card of the starting level is selected and the game begins.
* GENERAL COURSE OF PLAY: The party moves from section to section of the dungeon, checking for encounters and hazards each time.
* ENTERING A NEW LOCATION: Select one of the exits from the room and draw a Location card. If the colour of the drawn location matches that of the exit then that is the room beyond. If they do not match then that exit is a blank and you must select another. You may not backtrack. ***NOTE: This tends to cause the game to dead-end sometimes so I suggest using the optional rules listed later.***
* ENCOUNTERING MONSTERS: Once you have entered a new room or corridor you must check for a possible encounter. If the room has a monster symbol on it then you will definitly encounter a monster. For those without a symbol simply draw one card from the Monster deck. If the colour matches that of the room then you must fight. Otherwise there is no encounter. But if there is a symbol then you must draw a second card if the first did not match, and draw a third if the second did not. If this third card doesnt match then you encounter the monster anyhow reguardless of where you are.
* FIGHTING MONSTERS: If a monster has a number before its name then you must fight that many of them. Each has identical stats then. A monsters HD is both how many d8 it rolls to attack but also how much damage it can take before going down. AC and THAC0 are used only if the game is being played as an extension of a AD&D session. Otherwise they are ignored.
Corridors can only hold 2 people standing side by side. This also applies to monsters. Those in the back ranks cannot attack unless they have ranged weapons or spells. Rooms can hold 4 in a rank. Player ranks cannot be less than monsters. So you cannot have a rank of 2 and 2 if the monster is 3. You would then be 3 and 1 to match the monsters 3 in the front. Monsters cannot hit characters not in the first rank.
To start off the fight roll a dice of any type. If the result is even then the players attack first.
To attack a character rolls a number of dice equal to their level and determined by their class. Warriors use a d10, Clerics a d8, Rogues a d6 and Wizards a d4. Monsters use a d8 in the same manner. Class also determines your chances to hit. For example a warrior hits on a 7-10, while a Rogue hits on a 5-6. Monsters hit on a 6-8. Monsters though total all the dice to roll and divide the attacks evenly between the available targets. So 2 monsters with 3 hits each against 3 characters would deal 2 attack rolls to each one.
Players are unconcious then they reach zero HP and dead at -5.
The option to flee a battle can be taken only if all members are fleeing. A location card is drawn and if it matches the colour of any door in the place they are fighting in then they escape to the new location.
* MAGIC: Wizards and Clerics use a slightly diffrent system for casting. The type of dice rolled is determined by the level of the spell. A 1st level spell will roll a d6, 2nd level uses a d8 and so on. Level of the caster determines the number of dice rolled. Each individual roll is then reffrenced on to determin how much damage was done, if any. A roll of 1-3 does no damage. The chart used is very clever in that it combines all dice ranges into a single reffrence. Wizards get a single spell for use, Magical Bolt. Clerics have just a Healing spell. Both use the same effect table.
* TRAPS: Traps attack all members of the group for the damage dice number listed. Traps use a d8, dealing hits as per a monster, 6 to 8 being a point of damage.
Rogues can try to disarm a trap by rolling a number of d6 equal to their level. If any comes up a 6 then the trap is disarmed. But if none come up a 6 then all take damage and the Rogue takes an extra d8 roll.
* TREASURE: After beating a monster there is a chance to find treasure. If the monster lists as definitly having treasure then draw a card from the treasure deck. If it matches the then the group gets that item. Otherwise draw again. If the 2nd draw fails then the group gets the 3rd draw no matter what its colour. If the monster has a ? instead for treasure then you get only one try and if it doesnt match then there s no treasure. Of the monster is a White type then the draw has to match the room type. White Treasures can be found on any level.
Empty rooms can also be searched for treasure with a single draw that must match colours. Corridors and Fountain rooms cannot be searched.
If a treasure trap is discovered and it is successfully disarmed then you may draw to see if there was a treasure present.
Rogues can try to swipe treasure from monsters as they flee. Only monsters that definitly have treasure can so be attempted. The rogue rolls d6 equal to level. If any come up a 6 then the Rogue gets one draw from the treasure deck. If it matches then they pilfered that item, otherwise they failed.
Some treasures have a limited number of uses per adventure.
* MAGICAL HEALING: Along with cleric and item healing there are also possible Healing Fountains in the dungeon. When a group enters such a room they recover 2 HP. They can recover an additional HP for each treasure tossed into the fountain.
* CONCLUDING THE ADVENTURE: The session ends when the groups goal is met, they give up, hit a dead end, or are killed.
Surviving members get to keep one item they discoverd that session. They may also keep rewards and gain Experience points for levelling up. ***NOTE: Despite the game listing the XP needed to level a character up. It fails to list exactly what the monsters are worth. Without the appropriate Monster Manuals from the D&D game there is none.***

OPTIONAL RULES
* SHORT GAME: Divide the Location deck in half.
* WANDERING MONSTERS: If a group spendsmore than 2 turns trying to open a door then draw a monster card. If it matches the room then the party is attacked.
* SECRET DOORS: In empty or dead end locations the group can search for a secret exit. They select a colour and then draw a location card. If it matches they found a secret door and proceed. If not then draw a wandering monster check. Rooms can only be searched once.
* CONVERTING AD&D CHARACTERS TO CARDMASTER: Basically retain the characters level and class. HP is calculated based on class. Warriors have 10HP per level while wizards have 4 each.
* DESIGNING NEW QUESTS: some very basic pointers on creating a quest.
* LAYING OUT THE DUNGEON: This section details some optional ways to use the location cards. Instead of just playing a location one by one to a stack. The cards are laid out to form a dungeon floorplan. Cards can be turned to orient them in some order. Characters can then backtrack through the dungeon sections. But must draw for wandering monsters as noted above. Using this system the players must now actually work their way back to the start room to exit the dongeon when a quest is completed.
* PLAYING WITH AD&D OR D&D GAME RULES: Some quick pointers on using the system directly with the RPG game.
* PLAYING WITH A GM: Pointers and examples are given for how a Game Master can use Cardmaster for creating quick dungeon delves or as a visual aid in mapping out a dungon.
* Also is provided an XP chart and a spell progression chart for each class.
* The back cover helpfully re-prints the reffrence tables for combat and spells.

Lastly the Fastplay Adventures sheet provides 9 group quests and 3 solo quests of progressive level and difficulty. Each quest details one or more characters to play, what level they are and what level of the dungeon they start on as well as what they are trying to accomplish. Some quests also supply one or more starting items.

Cardmaster is one of my old favorites from TSR and makes for a nice little solo board game diversion. I've used it with the AD&D RPG too and it works fairly well for an on-the-fly GMing tool. But for me it really excells as a GM-less adventure board game. The ever random layout of the dungeons and what you may encounter lends the game quite a bit of re-playability. Some sessions can be relatively easy while others can end up pretty tense as you risk overextending to reach that goal so close! The Fasplay Adventures are well set up and showcase quite a variety of styles and creative use of the location decorations. The only one I havent beaten yet is the Solo Skull Quest. It can be quite elusive! But I plan a rematch soon!

While the rule-book could have been a little more organized. It gets the job done and is excellent for the novice as it gives frequent examples of what a rule is describing. The optional rules definitly add to the gameplay and I usually play with them as hitting a dead end in the normal Fastplay can be a nuisance if you cannot backtrack.

If you do youse the optional map style lay-out of location cards then I'd suggest a good sized table as the thing can end up sprawling quite a bit! I'd also suggest having some sort of token or miniature handy to keep track of where you are.

Unfortunately the cut-out play aids are usefull only in the hands of a GM using miniatures. I think the game designers could have tried to come up with some viable use for it in the GM-less fastplay side. But it would have of course complicated things more than the base game was intended.

The ability to port personal characters into the game is a nice touch. Though you will have to do a little thinking to accomodate non-core classes like Paladins, which could be played as a Warrior with very limited cleric healing access. More on that later perhaps.

Lack of reffrence for the XP of encounters is the only real omission problem of the game. Not so much if you have the Monster Manuals to reffrence. But it really should have been included. A simple work-around for this is to just multiply each defeated encounter HD by 10 and count 1/2 the Gold value of items found on monsters as EXP if turned in at the end rather than kept.

And remember to look under the card tray!!!
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Jon Y.
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Thanks for the great review! Your session report led me here and I now have a new game for my trade radar.

Could you give a general rundown on the quests provided?
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John "Omega" Williams
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Sure.

The pre-gen quests provided with the game are as follows.

3RD LEVEL ADVENTURES
1: TAILS, I WIN: A brother & sister team of Warriors level 5 & 3 are sent into the dungeon to collect the tail stinger from a Huge Scorpion or Giant Wasp for a 400gp reward. These are Green and Blue level monsters.

2: THE ROGUE'S SCHOOL: A level 4 Rogue is sent into the dungeon to practice disarming traps. He brings along a level 3 Priestess for backup. He must disarm two traps and cannot use any trap evading items to do so.

3: MAGIC TREASURE: A Level 3 Priestess and a level 3 Wizard enter the dungeon with the goal of grabbing 2 treasures each.

4: SOLO ADVENTURE - SKULL QUEST: A level 5 Wizard must find three skulls in the dungeon. One of the skulls is only found on the Red level. He starts out with the Longtooth Dagger, Bracers of Protection, and a Scroll of Restoration.

4TH LEVEL ADVENTURES
5: JEWELS, GEMS AND PEARLS: The Queen sends a level 4 Warrior into the dungeon to recover her stolen jewlery. He brings along a level 3 Priest and a level 4 Rogue. The Group gets 400gp per Jewel, Gem, or Pearl collected.

6: QUEST FOR WORDS: The level 5 Wizard and level 3 Priestess enter the dungeon in search of at least one magical book or scroll each.

7: BOUNTY HUNTERS: The King has placed a bounty on raiding humanoids. A level 2 Warrior, a level 3 Wizard and a level 3 Priestess set out to collect. Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Gnolls and Hobgoblins are the target, as well as the leader, a Cyclops. The adventure starts on Red level.

8: SOLO ADVENTURE: CRY WOLF: A lone level 4 Warrior is sent to take out a pack of Dire Wolves. He is given for this quest the Sword of Slaughter, a Large Shield, and a Flask of Cures.

5TH LEVEL ADVENTURES
9: VAMPIRE HUNT: A level 4 Warrior and a level 4 Rogue set off to slay a Vampire or find its coffin and destroy it. There are coffins in rooms on the 3rd and 5th levels. Also any NPC characters encountered will join the group instead of fighting. The adventure starts on Blue level.

10: LITTLE LOST PRINCESS: A Princess has gone adventuring with the Rogue and are now missing. The level 5 wizard sent to find them went missing too. The level 4 Warrior, level 3 Wizard and level 3 Priestess are sent to find the Princess. If the wizard or rogue are encountered then they join the group. The princess is represented by a room card inserted into the Monster deck.

11: CLEAN SWEEP: The Queen sends the level 4 Warrior, level 5 Wizard and level 3 Priestess into the dungeon to recover the Broom of Flight. Any NPC adventurers met will join the party.

12: SOLO ADVENTURE: MIRROR, MIRROR: The level 3 Priestess is sent by the Queen to find the Mirror of Memory. She is given the following items to aid her. Bracers of Defense, Candle of Invocation and the Holy Mace. NPCs will join her.
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Sean Allen
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Omega2064 wrote:
***NOTE: Despite the game listing the XP needed to level a character up. It fails to list exactly what the monsters are worth. Without the appropriate Monster Manuals from the D&D game there is none.***


I added the XP for each creature type in the files section (the XP is per monster so some math may be needed).

I think this is a cool little system you got me turned onto. I've modded it a bit with some extra Descent tiles and doors I had... fun for a low setup dungeon romp.
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Tristan Hall
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LIFEFORM - LATE PLEDGE NOW!!!
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Thanks for the review, would love to bag a copy of this on ebay someday. cool
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John "Omega" Williams
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Its a TSR game. I'd be surprised if they didnt print a gazillion of the things. Look around and one will pop up eventually.
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Tristan Hall
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There are a few US copies going for about £50 including shipping, but I can wait.
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John "Omega" Williams
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ow. Yeah. Some people get this idea that OOP=rare=price it high as can.

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Tristan Hall
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Yeah, I just ebayed 5 rare OOP games and put them up for 99p each, no reserve. They all went for around £10-20 and I'm sad to see them go, but I'm glad they're going to homes where they'll see some use instead of just collecting dust.

Total side-track there! Thanks again for the review, it's great that rare OOP games like this get such detailed attention on BGG.
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Sean Allen
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I shouldn't say this... I found this copy on ebay about two weeks ago... shipped $17 (open but unplayed).
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Frank S
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I searched and found this review (on an iPhone) as I looked at a used copy that had just come into my FLGS. The copy is near mint and looks to have never been used.

Needles to say, after reading your thorough and descriptive review I picked up the game - at a very reasonable price.

Many thanks!!!
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John "Omega" Williams
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Great. Glad to hear you found it at a game shop no less after all this time.

Hopefully you will find it an enjoyable, (if more than occasionally unforgiving in the basic mode,) game..
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Scott Siedschlag
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And for those looking for an even more inexpensive route...

If you Google it and it will find you. GM me if you are having trouble.
 
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