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Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look:

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve by Concrete Canoe Box Art Cover Card GameDesigner: Daniel Grek
Artist: Alisha Volkman
Publisher: Concrete Canoe Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2
Playing Time: 10-20 minutes 

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Review:
Sometimes there just isn’t time for full-on dungeon exploration. Fortunately, Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve is here to scratch that itch (for about 10-20 minutes). A memory game with some clever hand management, Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve is a solid game you can take literally anywhere, all the while having a good time.


Some smaller games sacrifice function for form, but with this one, it’s all worked in to a smooth game that will test both your memory and strategic thinking. There’s something special about a small, pocket-sized game with solid mechanics. While not too deep, the subtle strategy involved in this game makes it stand out from other games based on pure-memory. 



Setup:

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve Cavern Setup Board Game Card Game Concrete Canoe Games
This is how the game looks once set up (I keep the Depths sideways to make it easier to tell it apart).

Each player takes a reference card and the remaining 16 cards are shuffled together. 4 cards are dealt to each player, with four more dealt to the middle. The remaining 4 cards are set off to the side in a pile (known as the Depths). Arrange the 4 cards side-by-side in each player’s row, as well as the row in the middle. These rows of cards constitute the Caverns. You have a cavern, your opponent has a cavern, and the middle cavern exists for both of you to utilize.

Got that? Great! You’re ready to play.

Gameplay:

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve by Concrete Canoe Games Gameplay


Each round consists of each player taking four turns (alternating). The first player rotates the left-most card 90°, indicating the first turns of the round. Also, the rotated card in each round may not be swapped out or looked at.

The first player then reveals a card and performs its action. Then the second player reveals a card and performs the action indicated. Once each player has taken a turn, revealed cards are flipped back over and each player’s reference card is placed overtop the card that was just revealed. Cards in your cavern that are covered by the reference card may not be used on the next turn.

Speaking of the next turn, this concludes the first turn. Now, rotate the first card in the middle cavern back to its original direction (another 90°), rotate the next middle cavern card in line by 90°, and play starts with the other player in the same manner as before.

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve The Smiter Card Concrete Canoe Games
Consider me smitten.
This continues until the fourth turns have been taken (i.e. the fourth middle cavern card has been rotated and all turns used by both players). Once this turn is over, the experience from each cavern is totaled (as shown in the upper-left corner of each card). If nobody has the Smiter card in their cavern, each player receives the experience of their personal cavern. This can be tracked on the folding box the cards come in (although you may need to cop a few components from other games to use as markers, or use a pen and paper).

If a player does have the Smiter card in their cavern, then that player may choose which cavern to score (the middle cavern, their opponent’s cavern, or their own). Then the other player chooses one of the two remaining caverns to score.

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve by Concrete Canoe Games Box Experience Track Markers Level 5
We used the little tokens from Love Letter to track experience.
When scoring, if a player happens to have the cavern worth the most experience, they receive 5 bonus experience points tacked on to what their cavern is worth. However, if their cavern happens to be worth the least amount of experience, then hang your head and weep, because you take 5 experience away from your cavern’s total. If it so happens that your cavern is neither worth the most or the least (meaning the middle cavern is either highest or lowest), then no bonuses or penalties are applied. In the event of scoring a cavern that is worth the same as another cavern, no bonuses are applied.

The game ends when the first person reaches Level 5 (which is 70 experience).

Theme and Mechanics:

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve by Concrete Canoe Games Card ArtThe theme, of course, is that of exploring dungeons in a fantasy world. Unfortunately, another new adventurer (much like yourself) is also exploring the same dungeon you are! With your cunning, craftiness, and the help of a good memory, you can show that other n00b explorer that they don’t belong here! The theme is lighthearted in nature but offers a quick little dive into a fantasy world you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

The mechanics are simple. It’s really just about discovering which cards are where and managing your hand (cavern) in such a way that you can get the cards you need to win. However, by doing so, you risk revealing important cards your foe could snatch away from you. There’s some guessing near the beginning (after all, their cavern is a blank slate to you at the start of a round), but ultimately it comes down to how you play your cards. And, if you really have no idea where the Smiter is, then some risks are necessary (but can come with great reward).

Artwork and Components:

The art is fun and certainly conveys the theme. The little folding box the cards come in is a wonderful idea and works well. While this is still a prototype and things are subject to change (so take this with a grain of salt), it would be nice to see some small tokens included with which to track experience. But, of course, that is a super minor detail, easily fixable by using a pen and paper, smartphone, or components from other games.





The Good:
With a total of 18 cards (at least in my prototype version), Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve fits nicely into your back pocket (without making it uncomfortable to sit down), glove box, or purse/wallet. The portability is undeniably convenient.

Despite being small in nature, Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve offers fun without using much table space to speak of. In fact, I wouldn’t doubt this game would fit nicely onto one of those airplane trays (you know, the ones that are too small for your laptop but too big to be comfortable while in use).

While the rules state the game goes until someone reaches Level 5, there’s no reason why you couldn’t adjust the time by deciding how many points to play to. You could make the game longer (it’s not a long game to begin with), or shorter, depending on how much time you have.

I like the bonus and penalty added to having the highest-valued and lowest-valued caverns. This helps balance the game. For example, in one game we were at the last round and my opponent had one more point before reaching Level 5. I was still over 10 experience points away. Not looking good for me, I can assure you. However! I managed to claim and control the Smiter by the end of the round, which allowed me to choose which cavern to choose. I, of course, chose the cavern worth the most experience, which had me scoring 19 points (with the +5 bonus tacked on). In this manner, I came out victorious by a few points. In a nutshell, this game feels well-balanced, which is wonderful.

Speaking of balanced, despite this being a memory game, there is strategy involved. In order to foil my opponent’s plans, some rounds I would stack their cavern with lots of low cards. Assuming the Smiter to be in the Depths (not in play, essentially), I banked on us having to choose our own caverns, thus leaving them with few points. This can backfire, of course, as can any strategy, but knowing where to move cards and when to keep them (even low-experience ones) is critical to success.

The Bad:
With just 18 cards in the deck, variety can be a tad limited. That being said, the game goes fast enough that it’s really not that big of an issue. I’m not sure I’d play a lot of games in a row, but it’s certainly a great filler game for traveling and waiting for your friend who always shows up late to show game night.

Final Thoughts:
It's so small!
Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve is small enough that you can literally take it anywhere. Some small games you’d simply rather not take because you’d rather not play it, but that’s not the case with this game. It’s fun, engaging, and fast. These four attributes (small, fun, engaging, fast) are what pocket games should be, and Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve nails it on the head. Would I play this game for hours on end? Probably not (but you might!). But I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it with me to a restaurant, park, game night for some fast filler fun, on a trip (train, plane, etc.), or even gift one in a stocking for Christmas (assuming they’re not getting straight-up coal again this year…). For the size and quality of gameplay, Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve is a splendid game.

One last thing. There may be some unique character abilities added to the mix, which will be optional to play with but add more depth to the game's strategy. So keep your eyes out!

Players Who Like:

Fans of small, pocket-sized games will appreciate the depth (excuse the pun) this little game brings. If you like the Button Shy games (if you don’t know who/what Button Shy is, I recommend checking them out), fantasy themes, memory games, and quick playtime with the ability to vary the playtime, Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve should be on your list.

Check out Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve on:

               

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve is on KICKSTARTER between now and May 24, 2018


About the Author:



Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.

Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve Kickstarter Preview Itty Bitty Dungeon Delve Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on April 30, 2018 Rating: 5

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