Solo play: One Deck Dungeon

On to my number one solo game at the moment: Chris Cieslik’s One Deck Dungeon, released by Asmadi Games. This game takes all the uncertainty and the brutality of a roguelike, and packs it into a small deck of cards and a pile of dice. One’s character has attributes which indicate the number and color of dice that can be rolled in resolving a conflict. A section of dungeon, so to speak, is entered by spending time (discarding cards). This fills the player up to four face-down dungeon cards, which can then be encountered on a turn by flipping them up. One can either attempt to defeat the card or leave it for later, wasting time and available space to fill with new dungeon cards. Defeating these cards involves rolling the dice allowed by the player’s character attributes and placing them to beat numbers on the card. These can be color-specific or not, and spaces can either require the placement of one die or allow multiple dice. Unfilled slots are what ultimately cause damage – to either health, time, or both. Assuming the player lives, resolving a conflict allows them three choices – the card can be taken as an item (additional dice and/or health), a skill or potion, or experience.

As you run out of dungeon cards, by wasting time (discarding) and just fighting stuff, you ultimately encounter stairs. You can descend, reshuffling the dungeon deck and making the dungeon harder (oh, yeah, the dungeon also attacks you), or you can stick around and fight whatever might be left in front of you – but time spent in this way will start to injure you.

As I already mentioned, this game is brutal. The enemies are hard, the dungeon itself is out to get you, time is constantly running out. Initially you look confidently at your pile of dice, but once the first baddie is flipped up and you see just how many boxes you have to fill… you begin to realize you simply cannot have enough dice. While there is some element of defeating things vs. fleeing impacting the dungeon in the future, it doesn’t have the same level of turn-by-turn analysis that Friday does. It’s also rarely immediately obvious what the ‘best’ choice is in any given situation, and even if you think you’ve puzzled that out, any given decision could backfire down the line.

One wonderful thing that I mentioned in the footnote of a previous article: all of the playable characters are female. All of them are also actually dressed. I can’t give Cieslik enough props for this decision. The art itself, by Alanna Cervenak and Will Pitzer, is gorgeous. The dice are all these little transparent things, and they’re also quite aesthetically pleasing. My cards started showing wear in the first play or so, so the quality there isn’t the best (though some plastic sets may still be available – an upgrade I jumped on). I’m actually torn at this point between the ‘deluxe’ version of Innovation, which I’m sure is on the normal Asmadi cardstock, or the plastic cards with no expansions. But that’s another story for another day. As to One Deck Dungeon, it can be printed and played, but it’s well worth the money for either the normal or plastic edition. This is just… an incredible game.