14 February 2019
A D&D party game that doesn't drag on
This Dungeons & Dragons party game might have the dungeon, but it definitely doesn’t drag on.
A chaotic all-for-one card game in the vein of Fluxx and Love Letter, Dungeon Mayhem has a silly, simple appeal. Four classic classes from the RPG – barbarian, wizard, paladin and rogue – do battle with all manner of attacks, spells and abilities, hoping to be the last one standing.
While there’s not a d20 in sight, the game is a D&D diehard’s delight. Each character has a unique deck that reflects their differing playstyles, every one of the cards vividly illustrated with punchy cartoon artwork tailored to the asymmetric decks and offering up a litany of D&D references as players knock down their rivals’ HP, block incoming blows and deploy individual powers to quickly take the upper hand. Azzan the Mystic, for instance, might unleash their Vampiric Touch to swap health totals with another player, providing a sudden escape from death – or realisation that you’re now totally screwed.
The rapid-fire single-action turn structure gives way to the chance to chain together combos of card draws, attacks and blocks. With the right luck, players can pull off absurdly powerful moves that verge on being laughably unfair as cards are endlessly revealed and played, but the short rounds and OTT nature of the whole affair make it generally entertaining rather than infuriating.
On paper, it shouldn’t work: there’s player elimination, much of the outcome depends on the luck of the draw and the small hand size and lack of control often means there’s few actual decisions to be made – in some cases, you’ll end up finishing yourself off with an unavoidable fireball.
But you could say the same of Love Letter and, like that pocket-sized hit, Dungeon Mayhem will go down a storm with the right group willing to not take it too seriously. Play it down the local tavern or bring it out for a few rounds while you’re waiting for the DM to set up your next campaign and there’s a good chance it’ll land a critical hit.
Designer: Jordan Comar, Roscoe Wetlaufer
Artist: Kyle Ferrin
Time: 10 minutes
This review originally appeared in the December 2018 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.
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