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Dungeon Drop Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look: Dungeon Drop

Designer: Scott R. Smith
Artists: Marília Nascimento
Publisher: Phase Shift Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 10-20 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

When we dropped into the dungeon, we didn’t expect the dungeon to drop around us as well. But that’s precisely what happened. The entire dungeon seemed to fall, creating rooms of random design, some filled with treasures untold, while other rooms housed only a few items. We got around alright, but it wasn’t until we came back for round two that we realized something was amiss…

After stashing our loot, we decided to see if we had missed anything. We went back, dropping into the dungeon once more. This time, the rooms were laid out differently. Not only that, but there was more treasure laying around! Our greed knew no bounds, so we continued searching this ever-changing labyrinth, dodging monsters and looting rooms. 

If we return the next day, I will bet my life that the rooms will once again be different. Don’t believe me? Then join us on our next quest into the  dungeon…

Review:



Oh, hi there! Thanks for dropping in to my Dungeon Drop review. To start off, Dungeon Drop is a light-hearted game of looting rooms, avoiding monsters, and making due with what you’re given. Actually, that last part is how this game came to be. The Game Crafter (website) had what is called the Game Pieces Only Challenge, in which contestants design  games using only components found at The Game Crafter. Dungeon Drop won, and now it’s being produced in all its glory. It’s certainly a neat concept, building a game by starting with the bits, but does that mean the gameplay will stand the tests of time?

Personally, I think so. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect going into it, but I was impressed from my first play. There’s a lot to talk about in this small game, so I’ll walk you through my thoughts and feelings on everything from setup to components. Ready to drop in? Let’s go!

(For more detailed descriptions of setup and gameplay, kindly refer to the rule book.)

Setup:


Half Orc (race), Ranger (class), and personal scoring card (this is how I would score points).
Setup is simple, and that’s always nice. All you do is grab a hero race and class (they combine to make your hero unique), take a secret objective, and drop all the small cubes onto the table/play area (the large cubes and dice stay away.. for now). Once the cubes have dropped, you’re ready to play.

One of the things I really like about Dungeon Drop is the way the game is set up. It spreads the cubes around in a way that will always be different, and you can never really plan where they’re going to end up (including the floor, if you’re not careful).

With that, this was also one of my least favorite aspects of the game (although that “least favorite” feeling doesn’t run too deep, and note the word “was”). The rules suggest dropping the cubes from a height of about 1.5 feet. Depending on your play surface…you may want to adjust the drop zone. When we dropped the dungeon from that height, the cubes went everywhere. As in, the play area included the table, the floor, and my kid’s booster seat tray. Of course, we just re-dropped from a lower altitude (where oxygen masks aren’t required), and the spread still work nicely. By adjusting the drop height, we solved the problem, and joy and happiness remain.


Our makeshift dungeon walls to keep the cubes from going rogue.
Each hero also has a number associated with it, which dictates the order in which it takes its turn. The lowest-numbered hero goes first, and the highest-numbered hero goes last. This is due, in part, to the heroes having varying abilities. Some abilities are better than others, so they take their turn a little later. It’s a nice balance, and this even switches up during gameplay, between rounds.

Gameplay:


That big red cub? That's the dragon. It deals 10 damage. Hope you have some armor!
Speaking of segue, the game is played over a series of three rounds, and each rounds has each player taking one turn. As in any good dungeon-based game, heroes are going to explore. However, they don’t explore by walking around. Instead, the active player retrieves some large cubes (at random) and drops them into the dungeon (watch your heads, little heroes!). Then, that player may activate their race ability or their class ability.

And then they loot a room.

Looting a room is where the game really happens, and it’s one of the most abstract mechanics I’ve seen, and I love it. When looting a room, the active player selects three pillar cubes (the grey ones). These cubes make up the three corners of the room (whoever built this dungeon was a huge fan of triangles). Connect there three pillar cubes with an invisible line (or use one of those laser levels/guides all the hardcore X-Wing kids use for precision during tournaments when there’s an arc dispute). You collect everything inside that invisible triangle, including cubes touching that imaginary line

This is relatively simple if all you needed to do was collect cubes. However, because you have a scoring card, and this is the only way you score points, you need to collect the types of cubes that score you points. What this does, then, is makes finding that perfect room much more difficult. Considering you can’t loot a room if it would involve looting another pillar (that’s called vandalism), combined with monsters roaming about, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Still, we had a great time finding the most ideal room to raid, and then looting. There’s some abstract thought that goes into this phase, and it’s a really nice touch.


This player would take all the cubes (including dice) inside and touching the red lines. In this case, the player gets the chest (die), two gold, a purple gem, and a silver/clear gem.
Sometimes, however, you simply can’t get what you want. It’s impossible…or is it? Many abilities allow you to flick a cube, or to gain a cube outside of the dungeon boundaries (i.e. unobtainable cubes). Flicking adds a nice bit of dexterity to the game, and came be a huge game changer for players. I’m a big fan of dexterity games, so having this itty bitty mechanic added in makes me really happy. I don’t use it all the time, but just knowing it’s there brings a warm feeling to my heart (which, admittedly, could also be heartburn). 

The addition of monsters roaming around makes choosing your room even more difficult. Monsters collected remove one or two hearts from your hero. You may not loot a room if it would mean claiming a monster if that monster would take away your last heart. So maybe you take damage early on to get a good bit of loot, but then don’t have enough hearts later on to get that much-needed gold piece that’s in the same room as a goblin. Plus, more monsters (trolls) might get pulled and dropped into the dungeon on any given turn, so the threats are always breathing down your neck.

The end of each round also switches up turn order, depending on the amount of loot (or “weight,” as it’s known in-game) each player has. It’s a nice balance mechanic, and keeps the first player from running away with all the good stuff every round. 

Theme and Mechanics:



The theme of dungeon exploration and looting is done in a vastly unique and interesting way. The dropping of cubes is fun, although it can get messy if you’re not careful. Another thing we did, besides dropping the cubes from lower heights, was to create a border around the pay area using books, game boxes, and other things to keep the cubes from bouncing off the table and onto the floor, where it would inevitably get vacuumed up, tossed (or eaten) by a toddler, or lost forever under the bookshelf. This fix is one we did and loved, and will honestly most likely continue setting up barriers for the dungeon each time we play (and we will keep playing).

I found the way you loot rooms to be surprisingly thoughtful. Creating the rooms using the randomly dumped pillar cubes gives you a lot of options, which is a good thing.

That little bit of dexterity is the cherry on top.

In the end, I’d say the mechanics are great, and they compliment the theme in a way I never would have thought possible.

Artwork and Components:


The whimsical art on the cards helps illustrate (see what I did there?) the light-hearted nature of the game. Dungeon Drop consists of square cards and a bunch of cubes. And a cloth bag and rule book. And that’s it! There will be a box in the final production copy of the game, but really, this game is minimalist and doesn’t lack because of it.


The cubes and player aid (note that this is a prototype copy).
I will say that in my review copy, some of those cubes are hard to tell apart from others of a similar color. I expect (hope?) that will change when produced, but if not, it’s still a good game, even if there’s a bit more examining of cubes that there might normally be otherwise.

The Good:
  • Always changing play area
  • Dropping game pieces onto the table
  • Making shapes
  • Combining heroes with classes to create a ton of combinations
  • Unique scoring conditions
  • A healthy dose of dexterity

The Other:
  • Game pieces can bounce/fly off the table when dropped if not careful
  • Cubes share similar colors/shades (in preview copy, at least)
  • Pretty abstract for a thematic game (although not inherently a bad thing)

Final Thoughts:



I’m a believer. Coming into Dungeon Drop only knowing that it was designed with component restrictions had me curious, but nonetheless clueless. I am happy to report that, for me, Dungeon Drop is a good, solid game. It’s super easy to setup (especially if you separate into different bags the small cubes from the large), the gameplay is fast and easy to learn, and you can get many plays in during one sitting. Despite having some “other” factors (see above), there really isn’t anything in this game that would keep me from pulling it out to play. And one of those things could very well be improved upon for the final product! 

In the end, I’m happy to be alive in the same day and age as Dungeon Drop. It’s a surprisingly good game, and I mean that in the best way possible. At first I was intrigued, and now impressed.

As a postscript, I would like to make mentioned that typically, these types of games aren’t my first choice, and the same goes with Dungeon Drop. If given the option, I’ll play a longer, meatier game. But, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy games like this. I do. So while I wouldn’t pick this as my first choice if a longer game was an option, I’m still putting out the feelers to where it would be on my lighter-weight game choices. A solid mid, and possibly higher. I guess I’ll just have to keep playing until I can decide.  :) 

Players Who Like:
If you like looting dungeons, combining different hero and classes, and throwing/dropping components, Dungeon Drop is for you. It’s got a good bit of set collection, so fans of that mechanic may very well like this as well. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that folks who simply want to see how a good game can emerge from a concept originating with only components really need to give this a go.


Check out Dungeon Drop on:

               

Coming to KICKSTARTER June 4, 2019.



Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. 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 Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.
Dungeon Drop Kickstarter Preview Dungeon Drop Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on May 28, 2019 Rating: 5

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