What kind of game comes in a small box with 110 cards and 50 life tokens? Well, if that box comes from homoludicus and Passport Game Studios, your getting into a game of dungeon delving like you have never tried before, Phil Walker Harding’s Dungeon Raiders.
Dungeon Raiders is a game for 3-5 players, although there are alternate solo and 2 player rules that I did not get a chance to try before this review, in which the players are taking a trip through five levels of a dungeon looking for fame and fortune. The person who comes out of the dungeon alive with the most treasure is the ultimate winner. The players each take the role of a different Adventurer, either an Explorer, a Warrior, a Knight, a Thief or a Wizard.
The game is played over 5 rounds, or rather 5 levels of the dungeon. Each level will contain five rooms that could contain either a Monster, a Trap, Treasure or a Vault. At the beginning of a level the five cards are dealt into a row, some of these rooms will be visible, some will be hidden.
In order to maneuver through the dungeon the Adventurers have to have ways to combat what’s hidden away, well that’s done via card play. Each Adventurer at the start of the game is going to have in front of them a hand of power cards numbering from 1-5 and possibly an extra item card or two that add extra “abilities” to the heroes. They also start with an amount of treasure and health as depicted on their starting hero card.
The Adventurers step into the first room and if the card is upside down they reveal what they are going to face. The power cards in the players hands are their “weapons” so to speak. If the heroes reveal a monster, they need to play power cards equaling or greater than the health of the monster as noted on the card, using only the power cards in their hands. The revealing of the player’s power cards is done simultaneously, with each person placing their card face down in front of them until everyone is ready to reveal. When they reveal their Power Cards, they compare the total value of their cards to the monster card where there will be three different numbers, those are the health numbers based on the number of players in the game. If they defeat the monster by having combined power cards equal to or higher than the monster’s health, they move on to the next room, but if they don’t the player who played the lowest power card takes the damage noted on the monster card before proceeding to the next room. If the room card revealed is a vault, the players all pick a power card to play and they receive the treasure based on what power card they played. If the room card is a treasure room, the players all select a power card and play it, the highest card wins the biggest treasure available in the room, if there is a tie, the players all split the treasure rounding down, the next highest card played would get the smaller of the two treasures if there is a second one in the room. Lastly the heroes could reveal a Trap room, these rooms all have varying effects, but they all could be bad for at least one person based on the Power Cards played. For example, if there is a Magnet trap, the player with the most treasure at that time would lose 1, 2 or 3 treasure if the highest power card played is a 3, 4 or 5 respectively. If there is a tie for the most treasure, all Adventurers that are tied lose that amount of treasure. The important thing to know about these power cards is that you can only use them once per level, at the end of the level you refresh your hand with power cards that were previously played.
To help these Adventurers out, there are Item Cards that they can add to their hand to use as they move throughout the dungeon, once these Item Cards are used, they are gone from the player’s hand and back into the item stack. If for some reason, players are receiving an Item Card and there are not enough to go to everyone, no Adventurer receives the Item Card.
The game continues on through the five levels, the final card flipped on the fifth level is going to be one final boss. These bosses are stronger than the other monsters and they also have variable powers that take effect and may change the way that the Adventurers approach the fight.
After the heroes have finished the fifth level of the dungeon and dispatched with the final boss monster, the dungeon is complete and the game is over. The surviving heroes check their lives and in a twist, the player with the lowest health left is eliminated, their wounds are too grievous to overcome and they collapse. If there are multiple heroes tied for the least amount of health, they all are eliminated. However, if all heroes are at the same health they all survive, count up the treasure and the player with the highest amount of treasure wins the game.
Dungeon Raiders is a small box game that offers some of that big box feel in 20-30 minutes of play time. In most of the games we’ve played the scores have been tight and the choices of what to do have been interesting and even sometimes a bit tense. There are decision points in just about every level of the dungeon, made all the more agonizing by the fact that some of the rooms are unknown, unless of course you use that Torch card to see ahead and know what’s coming. But do you help the other Adventurers prepare or do you keep all that information to yourself? Do you play that Crystal Ball to see what the other Adventurers are going to use against the monster and try to purposefully tank it so someone takes a bit of damage? The game can be pretty cutthroat, in a good lighthearted way. The elimination of the player or players with the least amount of health at the end of the game, which worked wonderfully in High Society and probably a few other games, adds a bit of a twist to the end game, it gives you something else to watch out for and makes choosing treasure over health in the vaults a little more agonizing at times.
Components wise, the cards do seem a bit fragile. After a handful of plays ours are starting to chip a bit around the edges, now, I don’t think this will ever affect game play in any way, but it should be noted and if folks want to keep their cards in pristine condition they should look into sleeving the cards. Also the health markers seemed to not have been cut away cleanly as there was plastic flashing around the edges of some, once again, no big deal game play wise, just something to note for those who expect everything to be perfect in the box when it arrives. This also could just be an isolated issue as I have not heard from anyone else who had the same component issues.
Dungeon Raiders is available now from Passport Game Studios in North America for a MSRP of $19.99. Online stores seem to be in re-stocking mode, and Passport Game Studios has assured me that it will be in stock again soon. At the time of this review on 4/15/2015, it is available through Amazon.
In our minds Dungeon Raiders is well worth that price if you like the fantasy theme and shorter play time games or if you just need a fun filler to throw on the table on game day that has quite a bit of interactivity among the players and offers a lot of fun in a small box.
This is really how small box games should be, a lot of fun and a lot of game in a little box.
Review copy provided by Passport Game Studios