As someone who is far more into board (and card) than video games, as someone who spends a lot of time alone, and as someone who has immense insomnia (compounded by the ridiculous anxiety brought on by recent politics), the volume and quality modern board/card games continues to impress me. While I know I’m not alone in seeking these out, I do think they get pushed to the side a bit, and I’ve been meaning to get a few write-ups out there about the games I’ve been enjoying as of late. Initially, I’m going to present this series as my current top five, but in the future I’ll be tacking others on in no particular order. With that…
First up is Dungeon Roll from Tasty Minstrel Games and designer Chris Darden. Its appeal is pretty clear: it’s cheap, has fun dice, and comes in a tiny cardboard chest that you pull treasure from during the game. They bill it as playing 1-4, but multiplayer is essentially just every individual playing a solo game while others watch. All of the encounters are based on dice, with no automatic rerolls (some character abilities grant rerolls), so it is very much a game of randomness and of pushing one’s luck. There are a handful of expansions out there (all bundled together in a cheap package at CoolStuff Inc., conveniently), which are largely just new player characters, though the winter one also adds some interesting new treasure.
Character abilities are wildly unbalanced, which is a good thing – you get some sense of a difficulty level out of the game for it. Aside from this, you’re always rolling the same set of dice at the beginning of a delve to form your party, and rolling a (generally) increasing number of monster/encounter dice. Monsters must be addressed, potions and chests can be addressed or ignored. Addressing anything – even the good things – means killing off party members (or equivalent treasure), which means sometimes a roll is perfectly safe and sometimes you’re forced to wipe out a major percentage of your party just to survive. Generally speaking, once the encounter dice have been rolled, it’s a given what to do. The major decision-making moments are in pushing on to another, potentially more difficult dungeon level, using character abilities, and pushing one’s luck on having more chests to open next time.
Dungeon Roll is an incredibly light, lucky game. But it is fun. Throw a bunch of dice, tempt fate, get eaten by a dragon. When I’m feeling too out of it to even pick up (spoiler alert) Onirim, Dungeon Roll is a great midnight snack of a game.