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Deck Box Dungeons Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Deck Box Dungeons

Designer: Zeke Walker, Majdi Badri 
Artist: Jordan Cuffie
Publisher: Ariah Studios
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-2
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Deck Box Dungeons. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


tl;dr: A quick-and-easy dungeon delver that fits in a deck box. It's not just a clever name.

Getting to the Game: The DM here is controlled by an app, which automates the story and determines which map cards connect to what rooms. It doesn't currently track player locations or actions, serving only to carry out the most basic functions. Enemies follow specific rules outlined on their cards, though rolling their dice and occasionally making targeting decisions falls to the players. I personally wish the app did more heavy lifting, but it's possible that such functionality could be rolled out in the future. The rules are fairly simple, but there are some nuances that will need to be kept in mind. Overall, time to table is very quick.

The rules and components all fit into a single deck box, so there's not much to unpack. Heroes are represented by tiny meeples, and all enemies are separated into variously colored dice. The game comes with six separate heroes to choose from, each with varying base stats. You're allowed to choose a starting class and weapon for each hero, so the variability of your party is nicely executed. After selection, set your starting health to the value on the hero you chose, and your energy and loot to zero. Place your chosen hero meeple anywhere in the four starting squares, and it's dungeon time.

Playing the Game: Each hero is given two actions a turn, which can be used on movement, attacking, or a special action (if available). Heroes are also afforded a number of minor actions, including abilities from their class card, trading between heroes, and purchasing items from the store using acquired loot. Thematically, this last action makes the least sense, as apparently there's just a merchant following you around, risking their life alongside yours, but only willing to give you the good stuff they're carrying around for the hides of your enemies, but hey... it's a dungeon crawler. After all heroes have finished their actions, the enemies present in the room follow their engagement rules on the bottom of their card. Back and forth you go until you've either done what you came to do, or your bodies are left behind for the next party to find.

Gameplay mechanics simplify the standard d20 tropes down to the bare minimums, which again, works very well for streamlining gameplay. There's no distance for range attacks. If there's at least one square between you and your target, and you have line of sight, you can hit it. Melee attacks work only on orthogonally adjacent enemies, unless you have reach. Roll a d6 and add any weapon or character modifiers. If the result is 6 or higher, you hit. If it's a natural 6, it can't be blocked. Attacked by an enemy? Roll the same d6, add your modifiers. If the result is 6 or higher, you block. Every attack dings you for a single point of damage. 

As a speedy dungeon dive, Deck Box Dungeons delivers in spades. The app could be a little more robust, but what it does is fine and allows players to expedite the action without having to track each thing both on the table and in their device. I mentioned earlier that I wished the app did more; I think there's a nice middle ground between micromanaging the game and just being a reference. The one main thing I wish the app could do is automate enemy movements. The players have a little too much power as it stands in choosing which hero is attacked and can game the system enough to avoid real tragedy. 

For some, this might oversimplify the experience that's ingrained in those of us who grew up on D&D with thick rulebooks and saving throws. It's my opinion that while spiritually similar, these are different experiences. DBD is designed to scratch the itch while maintaining the casual timeframe and attention span of a lighter gamer. Call it a gateway game if you like, but it's by no means an incomplete experience. There's certainly room here for the developers to add a campaign editor into the app, allowing players to write their own stories but allow the app to randomize the rooms and even the difficulty. The addition of the app into the standard RPG experience leaves a ton of room for innovation, and while its current iteration isn't gorgeous, it is just a beta and isn't release-ready yet. The developer assures me the app will look far better than it does today, which means there's room for all sorts of additional goodies.

Artwork and Components: Tough to judge these from the prototype-level components I got, but I'll tell you what I think with the caveat that nearly all of it could (and likely will) change. The meeples are cute, but fairly boring. Same for the attack / defense dice. They're small enough to fit inside a map square, likely designed to match the enemy dice. Everything else looks really nice. The hero cards, along with their weapons, class, and stat tracker companions, have outstanding art, and I'd wager that increased cardstock quality would be a stretch goal in the campaign. The enemy dice are perfectly sized to fit in the map squares as mentioned earlier, which leads them to feel just barely too small. I have larger hands, though, so this may not be an issue for everyone. All of the dice roll well enough to feel sufficiently random, and the iconography on the enemy dice are perfectly distinguishable. 

The Good: A clean, promising game that plays quickly and looks good. Delivers on the core experience of a dungeon dive, replete with loot, special powers, variability, and even boss fights. 

The Bad: Might be too light for some. The app, and I stress that it's in prototype mode right now, is a little wonky and is missing some really nice features while getting the job done. Dice feel just a tad too light for my hands. 

Score: Deck Box Dungeons as it arrived to my door feels solid, but not quite ready. With time aplenty to get it finished, I'm going to be looking forward to the changes and following the campaign with earnest. It has everything you want in a light RPG, and its mobility is a great advantage. I'm giving Deck Box Dungeons a score of A Great Role to Play.


On KICKSTARTER between now and April 11, 2018.

About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Deck Box Dungeons Kickstarter Preview Deck Box Dungeons Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on March 05, 2018 Rating: 5

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