Dungeon Fighter testing.

Yesterday was a pretty great day.
First, I passed a kidney stone that was so large that it made the technician whose job it is to collect kidney stone samples from people say “Wow, that had to hurt”. It is good to be recognised for your achievements.
Second, I was picking Carol up from work so I got to drop by The Source. I picked up the first volume of Hellblazer stories and Dungeon Fighter.
Third, we went for dinner at On’s Kitchen and had the Yen Tha Phoe which was pretty much the bomb.
Of these three things, I’m only going to post a picture of one. You’re welcome.

I should have taken a picture on my table… but I didn’t so here is a German guy’s nice round table, which I bet is perfect for this.

I unpacked Dungeon Fighter for some testing, because from the description I could see how this could be a fun beer and pretzels game, but I wanted to find where the rubber meets the road in terms of game play.
Sidetrack: I love that about boardgames, that tipping point that you discover, usually on your first or second pass through the game when you suddenly understand what will keep the game fun. Someone can explain the game to me and they can tell you what I have to do to win; I may even win on my first try if I’m lucky and everyone else is bad at it. But the joy for me is in figuring out what the mechanic is that makes the game fun. It’s like figuring out why a punchline works or why a song lyric has more weight than others; the moment where you understand where the game’s traction comes from.
Obviously a large part of Dungeon Fighter is to do with playing with other people. It is a social game, to the extent that there is no inter-player competition, you’re all on the same team. Any rivalry in this game has to be added by you, but that actually seems kind of doable, given the risky decisions you’ll have to make on behalf of your group.
But the solo run through has helped me grasp the (simple) rules and the basics of gameplay.
Fluff: Everyone got tired of your characters pretending to be heroes, so that King had you thrown in a Dungeon and you aren’t allowed out until you actually beat it and become heroes. You start at the beginning, fight your way through three levels and then kill the Final Boss at the end, or you die trying.
Time: 45 minutes to an hour. That seems pretty snappy, but I bet it is true.
Players: 1-6.
Quality: German, solid, durable, high quality material. Although there are some nice flourishes that betray the game’s Italian origin; the art is better than I expected and the design is thoughtful. The backs of the Monster cards, for example, are designed as the binding of the Mostronomicon, Volumes 1-4. This lets you know what level the monster is, but also is in keeping with the Bestiary look of the monster card’s face. The humour is Italian, not German. It could have used some more workshopping, and it is nothing we haven’t seen in Munchkin, but hey ho.
Set-up: Is not difficult. You have twelve dungeon maps, you shuffle them and create a 3 level dungeon. Then you add one of 4 big bad guys at the end although that stays face down so you don’t know who you get until the end.
There are a few choices to make while you progress through the dungeon. You can go quickly through a level, usually involving at least one fight with a special dice-rolling condition or slowly, involving rooms with treasure/equipment/healing etc. This is done by group consensus. At the end of each level of dungeon, including right before the Final Boss, there is a shop. Once you defeat the monster there, you can shop for equipment.
Something that is not included in the set-up, but is definitely very important is the playing surface. Where you play this will be important too, given that the game can involve jumping up and down, throwing from distance, throwing over your shoulder, etc.

3 characters. The Stained Glass window indicates that this character has sustained 3 Scars and has therefore “Leveled Up” to a better place.

You: Choose one of 12 “heroes”. Each hero has a Blue, Green and Red special ability, 9 hit points and three equipment slots. It is these abilities and the configuration of equipment slots that make the difference between characters. The Bard, Fridolin, for example can take one of each kind of equipment slot (Weapon, Armour and Item) and his special abilities are B: +2 damage on a hit, G: +4 damage to a human/shapechanger and R: Enchanting Song, an ability that only the bard has that removes special dice rolling conditions from the monster. These abilities are activated when you a) roll that coloured die and b) get an Eye on that die. (I’ve just noticed that both the female characters have a special ability that prevents them from taking damage if they miss the target board (see below)/GIRLFRIENDMODE!).
Combat:  You progress to a room and take the next monster card from the tower. There are x 1st level cards, x 2nd level, x 3rd and 4th, and you draw them in order, so if you bust through the dungeon quickly, you won’t get to the 4th level cards since there are only so many rooms.
The first player takes the three, coloured dice, chooses which one to throw (this can be coordinated between party members and almost certainly should) and rolls. He resolves that roll then the two remaining dice go to the left, and the 2nd player rolls one of them, resolves, then passes. The third player has no choice, rolls, then resolves.
At this point, the party leader (nominated at the start of the game) can choose to expend white dice from the party’s treasure pool OR everyone takes the monster’s level in damage and the coloured dice get removed from the board and given to the next player in order and the combat continues as before. If they choose the second option, defeating the monster does not yield a white die like it normally would.
If they choose the first option, the next player in order takes a white die from the treasure pool and rolls that and resolves it. Unlike the coloured dice, the white die has only 1 Eye with which to activate special abilities and it doesn’t come back once it is rolled.
The players either defeat the monster (take its treasure and white die if eligible) or they faint, feigning death having lost their hit points. Once revived by whatever means from a faint, the character has a scar – this knocks off 3 hit points and one of their RGB special abilities for the rest of the game. If all characters faint during a combat, the party is devoured and the game ends.
These are the decisions to be made, but you’ll make them based on how the rolling goes. The rolling is absurdly easy, oddly difficult.
  • You roll with your dominant hand.
  • It has to hit (bounce on) the table before it goes on the target board.
  • If it leaves the board, even hitting the table through four holes in the board, it is a Miss.
  • If it never gets on the board, it is a Miss. If it lands on one of the bones, it is a Miss.
  • If the roll doesn’t fulfill some special rolling condition that a Monster places on you, then it is a Miss.
You and I know how to roll dice. At lower levels, most of the rolling is pretty straightforward. But adding any of the special conditions gets really tough. The Sword of Friendship, for example makes you throw using someone else’s hand; you hold at the wrist and try to bounce onto the target. The Golden Sword of Friendship, makes you hold someone’s hand by the wrist, but also cover their palm with yours as though you are praying… then you have to try to throw like that. The Spluttering Sword makes you blow the die off your palm. When fighting the Frog Man, you have to throw the die while you are jumping in the air. Fighting a mounted opponent means you have to bounce it over a card before it gets to the target. Using a weapon usually means that it adds damage, but you (the player have to be proficient at that throw.
When the die lands on the board, you do however much damage is indicated by the area in which it landed. If the die lands Eye side up, you apply that ability/equipment modifier or effect. That’s how Monsters lose hit points. If the die misses for whatever reason, the Monster deals its (fixed) damage to you. At higher levels misses will do horrible things to you like break your equipment.
Assuming that none of those dice hit a hole on their way there: I can tell that this is the 6th roll of combat. Whoever rolled the green activated their special ability and scored 4 damage. Whoever rolled that white off the board took damage from the monster.  Red and Blue both scored 2 damage, one white scored 4 and the other white scored 3 even though they probably argued that it was a 6. I reckon that means they are fighting a 4th level monster as most 1st level monsters only have 6 or so hit points. See, easy?
(Above) Assuming that none of those dice hit a hole on their way there: I can tell that this is the 6th roll of combat. Whoever rolled the green activated their special ability and scored 4 damage. Whoever rolled that white off the board took damage from the monster.  Red and Blue both scored 2 damage, one white scored 4 and the other white scored 3 even though they probably argued that it was a 6. I reckon that means they are fighting a 4th level monster as most 1st level monsters only have 6 or so hit points. See, easy?
So that’s pretty much how the game works. At the end of the game, there is a scoring system. I suppose playing against previous scores is a thing you could do.
Traction: It has to be that assignment of coloured dice based on the special abilities of the party, and the rolling abilities of the party: and maybe it is discovering the rolling abilities of the players is what will make this game work. Discovering that I can’t roll Twist Shots while Overbo is a genius at Elbow Shots will inform those decisions we make about who does what in a fight and who uses which piece of equipment.  There is no-one to beat but the game itself, and they seem to have done a good job of making that reasonably difficult.
Second Sidetrack, more of an emotional outburst: If you roll a die into the bullseye, it is worth 10 points. If you roll Eye-up on the Bullseye, it auto kills the opponent, even the Final Boss. This should make everyone who doesn’t know how to play darts happy: for some reason I get really upset when TV shows and movies want to show someone being good at darts and they have them hit the Bullseye. Goddamn it: that just means they are good at throwing darts. If they were good at playing Darts, they’d have put it in the Treble 20.

3 Comments on “Dungeon Fighter testing.

  1. Thanks for the live test Rolland, Mike and JIM. Dungeon the Dragon may have defeated us, but we died as heroes.

    That’s a good, stupid, fun game and i think most of us believed it was amateur-friendly. Right?

  2. I think nose throwing would be more fun if I didn’t suck at rolling dice to begin with. I think both those games are wife friendly.

  3. For sure. It seems kind of complicated at first, but I thought that melted away pretty quickly when you realize that you’re really just getting deeper and deeper into trick rolling dice onto a mat. The resource management part of it is a lot more straightforward than it appears at first (hit points? white dice? gold? special abilities? equipment? Oh, none of those really matter if I can just get it on the bull’s eye.)