18 June 2021
It's not really about winning or losing
Anna Blackwell’s fantasy-themed zine Delve is as much a creative exercise as it is a game, meaning that you not only play it, but also end up with something that, whatever level your drawing skills, can be a pleasing memento of the experience – perhaps even something that can be repurposed for RPG scenarios or one-shots.
It casts its solo player as the boss of a dwarven clan, who must explore a dungeon in search of the fabled Void Crystal. If you find it, you win; if the monsters you disturb rampage to your entrance, you lose. The dungeon gradually materialises on your blank sheet of paper – either inch-gridded, or plain if you prefer to freehand – through the strokes of your pencil (and the rubs of your eraser), as you explore, recruit specialists, and gather and manage resources, spending them to create rooms or devices of your choosing.
Your discoveries are dictated by the flip of a standard playing card. A heart gives you resources (equal to the number of the card, plus the level of dungeon you’ve reached); a diamond trade goods; a club a natural formation (check a chart to see which kind); and a spade a remnant (ditto). It is inherently randomised, which often means you’ll unearth something it’s impossible to deal with early during your ventures, while in our games we never once found that damn Void Crystal.
But it’s not really about winning or losing, it’s about crafting your own map, and your own mini-narrative, and in that sense Delve is a slow-burn, ultimately satisfying experience that often rewards your patience.
PLAY IT? Probably
Designer: Anna Blackwell
Publisher: Anna Blackwell
Time: 1-3 hours
This article originally appeared in issue 48 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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