- by Gitabushi
I stumbled across this game on Amazon. It sounded good, so I bought it.
Let me take a step back and ramble. Nothing better than a good, rambling post, right?
Games are fun. I’ve heard it explained that games are mind hacks, going back to the original notion of a hack being something bad, as in a process that hijacks normal processes to exploit the target for specific purposes, usually material gain. I’m convinced men are biologically programmed to achieve things. Games give men the sense of accomplishment of achieving something, and we pay money for that sense of accomplishment. But we don’t actually succeed at anything. Which is why males who do nothing but play video games are generally looked down upon. They are caught in an addiction of useless “accomplishments”, the game companies are making money off that addiction, and the most successful games are those that parcel out accomplishments regularly, and tying them to payments to make the “successes” slightly easier.
But that being said, when you do have a normal life with normal accomplishments, it can be harmless fun to play a game or two.
I’m old. I still remember when Pong came out, and I remember getting the chance to play it. We were early adopters of the Atari 2600, and I played all the old games. I rolled the score on Missile Command, and then rolled the score on Chopper Command (Defender-like game) while drunk on Christmas Eve.
Being this old, I was also an early adopter of Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World, Boot Hill, and other role-playing games. And more than that, I was into Avalon Hill in a big way.
There is nothing like playing a live opponent in a complex strategy board game.
Sure, video games have gotten better. I’ve seen League of Legends, and you have live opponents there, too. AI has gotten great on some of the video games, making strategy that much more challenging and fun. And there are plenty of Rogue-like games where you aren’t playing an AI, but facing off against a randomly generated series of obstacles, like in Desktop Dungeons (free download of the fully-playable beta version is available if you look around for it).
But there is still nothing like the thrill of a tabletop game.
One Deck Dungeon is much like Desktop Dungeons: you don’t face off against anyone, you overcome a series of randomly-generated obstacles.
There are so many ways this could go wrong. It could be predictable. It could be too easy to win, or too difficult. Winning could be based simply on the random generation, rather than your skill. There has to be a challenge, but there also has to be a sense of progression in skill, the feeling that the more you play, the better you get at it.
One Deck Dungeon has this.
The random generation has two aspects. One is simply the cards you lay down as opponents. The other is the dice.
So much more of the game, however, is in your choice. Obviously, you have the choice of what character class to start with, and you have the choice of what card to turn over, and whether to engage after you see what the card is.
But from there, you need to assess whether you have enough dice to defeat the obstacle. You sometimes have a choice of the tactic to use. Once an obstacle is defeated, you have the choice of using the card gained (and you get the card whether you win or lose the encounter…that’s a nice touch) as experience toward leveling up, or as an item that increases your basic ability dice totals, or as a skill that can improve the rolls you get on the dice, or as a potion that provides a significant (and instantaneous) boost in power.
With these choices, you really have a great deal of flexibility in how you play. The very first time I played, I made it to the boss, thought I was going to lose immediately, but thanks to two sets of unusually good rolls, I lasted until the 3rd round, where an unusually bad roll sunk me.
Still, I didn’t feel frustrated or screwed over by the dice. There are always different choices I could have made that might have meant I didn’t need the above-average rolls, or that could have defeated the boss before getting to that third set.
The next 5 games, I lost on the first level.
The game after that, I won.
I’ve learned that leveling up is the last thing you should do: always go for abilities or skills, because when you reach your limit and overflow, you can choose a less-helpful one and it becomes experience for leveling up.
One other thing: you also have multiple methods of generating wild-card dice to defeat monsters, and of healing yourself. But there are restrictions I hadn’t mentioned, like how you have to “fill out” the card by applying your dice to each block on the opponent card. Some blocks require agility dice results, some strength, some magic. Some dice totals can be achieved with multiple dice, but others require a single dice. It can be tough when you see you need a 6 and a 5 of agility, and you are rolling just 4 dice. And it is even more distressing when the 5 cannot be filled with a wildcard dice. How did I defeat it? I had a skill that let me turn one agility dice into a 6 at will. So I knew that every time I had to roll agility, I was going to get at least one 6, which meant that I would always be able to fill at least one box each time agility was required. And the 5? Well, if I didn’t get the roll, perhaps all I needed to do was spend “time”. Or just take one hit of damage, which I could heal one of several different ways.
Oh, yeah: time. One other unique aspect of this game is you are often required to spend “time”. I use the term in quotes because “time” is flipping over cards into the discard pile. There is somewhat of a race against time, because the longer you explore (the more cards you get to challenge and win), the more items/skills you obtain, which then turn into experience to level up, which gives you a larger capacity for items and skills, which lets you overcome obstacles easier. When you reach the end of the deck, you can always descend to the next level immediately. But if there are 3 more cards, and you need just a little more experience to level up before facing the more difficult challenges of the next level? Well, you start taking damage. At what point is the damage you take worse than the additional skills/items you pick up?
Only you can decide. And that’s what makes it fun.
Finally, I’ve played this nearly 10 times on just the first boss level. There are 4 more bosses I can take on, all of them harder than the level 1 boss. And then I can teach a friend to play and we can take on the dungeon together, completely changing the dynamics of skills, items, experience, and damage…who takes the damage, who gets the item (the game requires mostly even damage-taking, but you still have options of who takes it first). If that ever gets bored, buy a 2nd set, find two more friends, and try it with 4 people (to the best of my understanding, you can’t play it with 3 people).
Now that you’ve read the review, here’s a video explanation!
For $25, it seems extremely re-playable. There’s an “expansion” (stand alone, basically just another version of the game with a completely different deck…no idea whether you can combine, but I doubt it) called Forest of Shadows, and I think I’ll get that and keep it in reserve.
UPDATE: I can’t reach any of the items on Amazon right now. They were available when I started this post. I don’t know if Amazon is now sold out, or there is some sort of temporary error. Probably the latter. Let me know in the comments whether the links work or not.