Pol Michiels
Belgium
Ottenburg
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Of all people who have nothing to say, those who say nothing are the wisest.
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I am always on the lookout for games that do something new and interesting. It's why I like Stefan Feld. It's why I have to go make another firstborn everytime Vlaada Chvatil makes a new game, just so I can trade him for it. And it's why I was so stoked when my FLGS sent me an email that Dungeon Fighter (English edition) had finally arrived.


Image courtesy of W Eric Martin

Dungeon Fighter is a co-op dungeon crawler, where you play the heroes as they make their way through a dark complex filled with monsters, treasure, and the occasional shopkeeper, until they at last defeat the evil that infests these lands or get their posteriors handed to them in a doggy bag. To battle the monsters in your way, you throw dice. Nothing new so far, but here it comes. You throw those dice not to read some boring numbers on them, consult chart VII-B-sub-a to see if your long sword of crushing beats the monster's Red Scales (Tough). You throw them at a target, and try to hit as close to the bullseye as possible. As the game goes on, you will do this in ever more ridiculously challenging ways, flicking from you elbow with your eyes closed while jumping up and down, headbutting it and finally bouncing twice on the table and.... If this sounds like a roaring good time, Dungeon Fighter may be for you.


So how do you play?



A game of Dungeon Fighter in progress (image courtesy of eklp fistronek)

You start the game by laying out the dungeon, and setting up your intrepid party of adventurers. There are 9 heroes to choose from, and each brings his own combination of 3 special skills to the table. There's the barbarian, who hits things hard with lots of weapons. The dwarf who is extremely resilient to damage thanks to the power of BEER! The wizard who can if lucky turn your enemies into toads (the toads are still ridiculously strong, though). The thief, who steals equipment form the enemy. The princess, who will charm defeated monsters into hitting other monsters. No fantasy cliché is left unmolested in this game.


Some of our intrepid heroes (image courtesy of djfranky)

The dungeon itself is set up by randomly choosing 3 of the 12 available boards, and putting one after the other. Dungeon layout is not just an esthetic thing. During the game, you will move from room to room, occasionally having a choice, generally between a quicker, but harder path, and a longer path that offers some benefits like extra treasure or healing fountains. The problem is, the more rooms you visit, the harder the monsters become. There are 4 levels of monsters, and at the beginning of the game you take fixed amounts of each level and put them in the provided tower. You fight the easiest level 1 monsters first, then move on to the next level when they run out. Fighting level 4 monsters can be a pain in the arse, but worse, a drain on the resources you need to fight the boss. So sometimes, you may prefer to take the harder, shorter path.


The titular dungeon (image courtesy of djfranky)

Every turn, you move to the next room in the dungeon, and fight a monster there. Draw the topmost monster in the tower, and place it on the table. You mark its hit points on the enemy tracker, and launch into the fray! For every new monster, you get 3 colored dice to beat it. On his turn, a player chooses one of these dice to throw, and throws it at the target board. To be a legal throw, you have to bounce the die at least once on the table, before it hits the board. If the die comes to rest on the board, you have scored a hit, and do damage equal to the number of the ring it rests on. If it falls off te board, you have missed, and the monster will attack you, taking off precious hit points.


A collection of the creepy-crawlies you can clash with (image courtesy of djfranky)

Every die has some sides that are marked with an eye symbol. If the die lands showing one of these, then the hero's special ability of that color is activated. All heroes have 3 special abilities, one for each color. The effects can vary greatly, from bonus damage, to allowing a reroll, healing allies, stealing gold or items, or the more exotic abilities like Beer, Seduction or Bardic music. As such, some coordination in who throws what, to optimize the benefits from possible powers, is definitely important in this game.

If you can not defeat a monster with the three colored dice given to you, you must choose to either throw one of your precious (white) bonus dice, or to accept temporary defeat. If you accept defeat, the entire party takes damage from the monster, and all three colored dice are refreshed. Then, the fight continues until either you or the monster are no longer ambulatory.

I promised you impossible complications to rolls, and I plan to deliver. Sometimes monsters or rooms will have special powers of their own, and by far the most common type will force you to throw the dice in a certain manner. Instead of any old how, you will now have to flick from your elbow, headbutt, throw blind, throw from under the table, ... You may even decide to do so on your own. Why would you possibly be so masochistic? Because of equipment. You see, on your travels, you will come upon shops that sell mysterious items of great power, like the helm of courage, the sword of friendship, potions of napalm, and much more fun stuff. A lot of these will offer you bonuses to damage, or reduced harm to yourself, IF you just throw the die with the hand of your friend, or from 2 yards from the table, or... And, like the chump you are, you will do it, because you will need that extra damage.


When fighting in dungeons, it is important to keep your eyes on the prize dice (image courtesy of mescue)


And so, your party of heroes party members will erratically slaughter their way through the dungeon until they finally come upon the boss and take him down a peg, or get reduced to dungeon furniture item #56 (bleached bone skeleton) themselves.

So how does it play?

Exactly as advertised. Do not come into Dungeon Fighter expecting it to be anything more than an excuse to make crazy die rolls and laugh uproariously for about an hour. It does not do deep and strategic thinking. It does not do heavy immersion in a fantasy theme. It does beer-and-pretzel level silliness, with some skill and dexterity involved. And it does this well. Every time we played, we had a great time. It is a great way to fill an hour, and I love how involved some people get with this. Dungeon Fighter is a fresh breeze in gaming, and if you like the idea of a dexterity based dungeon crawler, I heartily recommend you check it out. Just watch out for that frogman.
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Peter Brichs
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Great review of a fun, fun game!
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Ian Allen
United States
Madison
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This game sounds completely awful.

I wonder if I should buy it for my drunken Dragoncon crowd. I would never play it EVER otherwise .... hmmmm....
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Rodriquez Wrenchezo
United States
warner robins
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glookose wrote:
This game sounds completely awful.

I wonder if I should buy it for my drunken Dragoncon crowd. I would never play it EVEtherwise .... hmmmm....



Yer are going to dragoncon? Sweet we are also.

Cheers
Rod
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Lee Wardle
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glookose wrote:
This game sounds completely awful


It's a game that makes rolling dice FUN! Can it be that bad?
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John Weier
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glookose wrote:
This game sounds completely awful.

I wonder if I should buy it for my drunken Dragoncon crowd. I would never play it EVER otherwise .... hmmmm....


Well guess what, Ian? I bought the game (you know I like completely awful things, that's why we're friends) and I'm gonna try to get it played this weekend! If not it will definitely make an appearance at DragonCon.
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Pol Michiels
Belgium
Ottenburg
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Of all people who have nothing to say, those who say nothing are the wisest.
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plpompey wrote:
glookose wrote:
This game sounds completely awful


It's a game that makes rolling dice FUN! Can it be that bad?


This. It's great fun, that doesn't really overstay its welcome. Be sure to play 3-4 players, though. The listed 1-6 overstates things a bit in my opinion. Too few and you won't stand a chance (fewer total HP, and fewer equipment you can carry), and too many means too much downtime, which will kill a game like this.
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Nick McCord
United States
Olympia
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My fiance and I play this sucker with just the two of us on a regular basis and LOVE it. The two-player scale is fantastic- gameplay's much more streamlined, and the big baddies feel that much more imposing.
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Ryan Kramer
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Stevie D would be fun to play this game with at D*con.
 
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