20 November 2019
Dungeon Academy looks deceivingly simple, yet beating its dungeons isn’t easy.
With roll-and-write games on the rise, it was only a matter of time before the words ‘dungeon-crawling’ were added into the mix to hit the buzzword bingo. That said, in the case of Dungeon Academy, it’s best to put any cynicism to the side.
Each die face represents monsters that will cost health or stamina to beat or, rarely, a potion that will replenish some of the hero’s strength. Players will draw a path through the dungeon each round and, if they survive at the end, earn victory points and loot. Sounds simple, right?
Well, as it turns out, with two different health bars, a little bit of monster variety and the addition of a timer, no dungeon is simple. Even in a four-by-four grid, it is easy to get lost or end up fighting one monster too many. Both mistakes and successes are fun, and even the light penalty for coming last doesn’t discourage players from heading into the next level of the dungeon.
While Dungeon Academy nails its mechanics and the feel and ease of the game, its components are bit hit-and-miss. At the beginning of the game, players assemble the dice tray which sets up the dungeon without revealing the roll results ahead of the players’ start. This is well done, if a bit fiddly.
The game advises player to place health and stamina tokens on the pad to indicate which monsters they have defeated, but the tokens are bigger than the grid, making tracking the monsters in turn harder. Also, the rulebook encourages players to download the free Dungeon Academy app: a timer for 30, 45 and 60 seconds. It’s completely unnecessary given that all smartphones used to download the app have the same basic capabilities.
Dungeon Academy looks deceivingly simple, yet beating its dungeons isn’t easy. It may have gone for excess in its components, but its gameplay is honed and distilled to essentials that make it both entertaining and challenging.
PLAY IT? PROBABLY
Designer: Julian Allain
Artist: Régis Torres
This review originally appeared in the November 2019 issue 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.