Rolling in the deep
Exploring a darkened dungeon, battling monsters and uncovering precious loot is a tabletop pursuit that never fails to excite. Offer us the chance to blast through a pocket-sized lair in half an hour and we’ll reach fever pitch.
That’s the premise of One Deck Dungeon, a charming game of dice-rolling best experienced with just one other person (though you can combine multiple sets to support up to four players).
True to its title, the game tidily condenses the exploration, combat and treasure hoarding of a sprawling underground setting into a single deck of cards. The trick is to roll each character’s dice to overcome each danger, be it a monster or environmental peril, with the number and colour of the dice dictated by each fantasy class’ strengths. Fail to cover over some of the required dice results and you’ll lose health, time or both.
The gameplay is surprisingly fully-featured for such a compact package, incorporating character skills, traits, items, levelling, magic, bosses and more into a handful of dice and cards. There’s even a well thought-out campaign mode that tracks permanent progression over several matches. As a bonus, all four of the diverse player characters are female.
Although it all sounds a dream on paper, One Deck Dungeon is somewhat of a letdown once the dice are rolling. In short: despite the smartly-designed systems, the outcome is simply not engaging enough. Each encounter blends into the next, with unique monster abilities and attractive artwork failing to provide enough differentiation as you battle through the floors.
The peril encounters and acquisition of spells and loot do help to mix things up a little, but it’s not enough to overcome the feeling of monotony that sets in very quickly. It’s a real shame, as the separate ingredients are clearly implemented with care and consideration – it just adds up to a whole load of nothing.
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the June/July 2017 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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