Review: Welcome to the Dungeon

Welcome to the Dungeon review

The ominous creek fills you with dread as you open the door to the dungeon. You gulp as you stare into the inky black depths and imagine the horrors that await you. “Right, let’s do this,” you try to psych yourself up; but first let me light my torch so I can get some light. “HEY, WHO TOOK MY TORCH?” “What the heck, where’s my sword?” Before you can blink you are shoved from behind, into the dungeon, and the door slammed shut behind you…

Welcome to the Dungeon, is a translation of a Japanese game called Dungeons of Mandom by Masato Uesugi. This English version was published by Iello Games in 2013. It’s not won any awards and I’ve not heard of the designer before so it’s slipped under my radar for a while. Looking at the box at ICON last week, it piqued my interest so I went off to one of the demo halls to take a look at an open copy. 10 minutes later I bought it.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the Box

Specs on the box:

  • 2 – 4 players
  • Ages 10+ (I think you can easily play it with a 7 or 8 year old)
  • 30 minutes

The box itself is rather small, it’s actually nice and portable and does not have a big foot print so you can play it almost anywhere. There is a really small rule book, 25 cards which are Monsters for the dungeon, success markers and player reference cards. There are also 28 tiles for the 4 different Heroes and their equipment.

Welcome to the Dungeon review
Everything fits nicely into the box.

Everything fits nicely into the compact box, and feels like it’s good quality. I do need to find sleeves for the cards but I think that might make the card too large to fit into the box with the insert. I’ll have to give that a try when I find some sleeves that fit.

Theme

The game is set is a fantasy world where the players are either trying to defeat a dungeon full of monsters, twice, or be the last player standing. If you fail twice then you’re out of the game.

The monster cards, which represent the dungeon, are beautifully illustrated and the icons on them are nice and big and easy to recognise. I only have one gripe with the game and that is that the monsters don’t have their names on them. Some items in the game pertain to certain monsters and if you don’t recognise them directly then you will need to figure out which applies to which. Not that it’s a difficult thing to do.

Hero and equipment tiles are nice and chunky with some really good artwork. Each hero and their respective equipment has a bright background which makes it easy to separate and setup is very quick.

While the theme is well represented, it’s not very in depth. You have heroes and monsters, that’s it. That’s actually a problem as this is not your usual dungeon crawler.

Gameplay

If I say that there is a hand full of rules, I most likely miscounted and reached a higher number. It really is very easy to get playing. There is even a difficulty rating on the back of the box (2/4).

Welcome to the Dungeon review
The difficulty rating almost put me off of the game. It made me think that it would be too easy.

Setup involves shuffling all of the monster cards to make a monster deck then selecting a hero and placing him and his equipment in the playing area. Each player gets a player aid and then you can start.

The game starts with the bidding phase where players have one of 2 choices. Either Draw a monster card from the deck or pass.

If you draw a monster card you then have to choose to either add the monster, face down, into the dungeon or to keep it aside. However, there is a cost to keeping it aside. You will have to remove a piece of equipment from the hero.

Only you will know which monsters you have added to the dungeon and which ones you have kept aside. The other players choices remain a mystery but the poor hero’s state of affairs are left open to all.

Your second option is to pass on bidding. Once you have passed you are out of that round. Once all but one player has passed the bidding is over and the remaining player has to use the Hero and brave the dungeon in the 2nd phase of the game.

Welcome to the Dungeon review
Ready to play.

In the dungeon phase the player controlling the hero needs to reveal the monsters from the dungeon one at a time and see if has the equipment to defeat them. If he does not then he must lose HP (health) equal to the strength of the monster. Should the hero run out of HP then he dies and the player flips his player aid over to the red side. Lose like this twice and you are eliminated. If the hero is still alive after the last monster is defeated then the player gets a success card. If you get 2 success cards then you will win!

Conclusion

The game seems simple but there is more to it than meets the eye. It calls itself a push your luck game but there is a bit of strategy involved that makes it a good filler game and possibly good party game, if you’re having a small party.

Deciding when to pass is the key to the game but that depends on how you’re currently playing. You could be looking to knock someone out or to beat the dungeon.

Welcome to the Dungeon review
The warriors Torch will defeat both the Skeleton and the Orc.

It is an enjoyable game. Very easy to teach to the kids and the whole family can play it. It can also play very quickly. It is great as a filler game where you can just play a single dungeon at a time until whomever you’re waiting for is ready.

Can I play this at a braai?

Sure you can. It’s really simple and the only board state is very easy to asses. Rounds can be played in the time that you need to wait between turning the sausages. I’d not recommend it if you’re aiming for medium steaks though.

Both sides of the player aid let you see all the monsters available at a glance.
Both sides of the player aid let you see all the monsters available at a glance.
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