I like dungeon crawling as a theme: the old Gygax idea that you're in an underground maze trying to steal an ogre's apple pie off the windowsill. I liked the card game Dungeoneer, so this should be the big-box version, I imagine.
Dungeon Run is right up my alley. The box art is campy, but in a good way. Off goes the lid! *boxfart*
It's not too complicated inside. Thick cardboard punch-sheets for tiles and a few markers, and the rest are cards. There's a few different kinds, and it takes about a half-hour to get things organized and the rules read. Everything looks great, the cards are reasonably thick, the miniatures look like they'll hold up. Well, the dice are pretty low quality, but they still work.
The rules are simple. Players assume the role of one of the heroes in the box, and run around the dungeon trying to find the Boss and kill him. The Boss drops the Summoner Stone. Whoever leaves the dungeon with the Summoner Stone wins. Players resolve traps and monsters by matching dice, gather items to increase their power, and increase abilities by trading in defeated monster cards.
The theme is nice, the art is good, and some of the cards are pretty interesting. I liked what I saw. Well, how does it play?
The game is designed around players being openly competitive. Players are supposed to be climbing over each other to get the best items, in order to be able to hold off all the enemy players, scoop up the Stone and get to the goal.
The first play we didn't really do this, instead playing roughly cooperatively. The dungeon itself was explored very quickly, with each player killing 2-3 monsters/traps before the boss appeared. Once all the tiles have been laid down, the dungeon becomes rather empty, with not much to do except fight each other and the boss to see who wins.
The second game we played with all the tiles (about 50% more than the game recommends), but this didn't lengthen the game very much. Again, the players spread out some, building out the dungeon in a few turns. One player had a majority of the items and was the only one in position to defeat the boss, so players harassed him and moved the boss around, trying to steal items. It didn't really work, and as soon as he picked up the Stone, he slew all the other players in a single turn.
Regardless of how you play, the game is pretty short. It isn't intended to be played like an RPG, where you carefully negotiate challenges and level up. I never saw a player level-up more than once per game. Most players recovered between 1 and 3 items per game. There isn't much of a power gradient between start and end. Players feel strong out of the gate, and most of the monsters and traps provide little challenge. I don't remember anyone ever running away from a monster or getting killed by any of the mundane features. Except for one reckless attempt at the boss, all deaths were player-on-player. A lot of the abilities and mechanics are predicated on the idea that there will be loose monsters in the dungeon all the time, but this rarely happens in practice. Usually, only the boss survives long enough to wander around.
There aren't too many cards in total, either. After two games we'd seen most of them. This game is begging to be expanded with more tiles and cards... specifically, harder ones.
The game seems to end with a sortof keep-away game being played with the strongest player, while the boss runs away, and other players try to strip his useful items. Alliances are frighteningly temporary.
Combat is loose and random: usually monsters are soundly beaten in 1-2 battles, rarely this will stretch if a character gets lousy rolls. This only drives home the point that your enemy isn't the monsters or the dungeon, but the other players themselves. This game is best played with a fight-dirty mindset, and I believe that is how it is most fun.
I like Dungeon Run, but it's not perfect. It's a bit abrupt for the theme, but you can and probably should play it multiple times in an evening. Most fantasy games are lengthy, complex and wordy, and this game is not; this is refreshing, honestly. There's some variety in the different heroes and monsters, but you'll see it all after 2-3 games, and most of the heroes are quite capable. Very infrequently will you be severely tripped up before you empty the dungeon and chase the boss.
The dungeon clears out quickly, often just before you're getting in the groove. I would have liked to see more challenging and varied encounters, but you're not playing against the game. This is an arena/race game with a dungeon theme, and if you're looking for something like that, then this ticket is just fine. It's light enough to be beer n' pretzels, but too light to be a satisfying RPG replacement. Maybe an expansion will come along to give this game some teeth.
The foundation of this game is fun, and I think with some tweaking it'd be more to my taste. Most of these could probably be addressed by expansion content from the publisher, but we'll see.
1) Game Length
The first 2/3 of the game would be more fun if it was more challenging, and a bit lengthier. Maybe 50%-100% lengthier. Adding more tiles would increase the length of the game. I'd say 10-12 per player (instead of the recommended 6) would give the dungeon some space, and room for more encounters. In practice, this only adds about 15-30 minutes to the playtime, and would make collecting and trading items much more relevant.
Proposed House Rule Solution: Always use all the tiles.
The monsters should be harder in general, and there should be more of them. Players should want to run away from time to time to preserve their items. The dungeon should always have a couple roaming monsters in it. Some mechanic should be added, perhaps, to insert wandering monsters into the dungeon. More monsters means more advancing, so the bosses should probably get a boost, too.
Proposed House Rule Solution: More monsters in the dungeon will help wear down players. If there's no monster in the dungeon other than the boss, one wanders in from the entrance.
The items are good, but only a few of them are truly interesting. There's plenty of space for clever or bizarre items: cursed items, teleportation, more powers against specific opponents, advantage/drawback tradeoffs and the like.
Proposed House Rule Solution: Not sure... invent your own? Tweak the numbers?
Take a look at http://www.plaidhatgames.com/news/20 link. There is a Dungeon Run 2 coming out as either stand-alone or combination with the first set.