For such a simple game, Guild of Dungeoneering is able to provide lengthy campaigns and engaging battles. Combining card-based battles and basic building mechanics, each quest provides a unique journey in an attempt to grab treasure. The base game came out earlier this year in July, but an expansion titled Pirate's Cove is already in the works.
Welcome To The Dungeon
For the uninitiated, Guild of Dungeoneering lets the players choose characters who must reach a certain location in a dungeon, displayed as a small sketch in front of a grid-paper backdrop (tabletop nostalgia, anyone?). However, parts of the maze aren't constructed, so the dungeoneers must build paths of their own in order to reach the treasure. When the limit of turns is reached or the players reach the treasure, they must fight a boss before finishing a mission. If the boss wins, the dungeoneers must start the entire level again. After every quest, the dungeoneers return to the guild house where they can buy upgrades to the house, obtain special abilities, buy accessories or open a new set of cards for battle.
For combat, the player and the opponent have a set of cards that can be used for attacks, block and restoration. The goal is to reduce the enemy's number of hearts to zero before the same happens to the dungeoneer. Beating these enemies will level up the character and also yield bonus cards, accessories or gold that can be added to the overall card deck or used as an armor of sorts for the head, arms and legs of the dungeoneering, giving them an edge in battle. Those who played the card-game Munchkin will see the resemblance in this combat mechanic.
X Marks The Spot
The original game contained three regions for dungeons: Aztec ruins, an English medieval castle and an abandoned mine. Each area contained a different set of monsters and quests appropriate for that region. Pirates Cove doesn't change the gameplay at all. In fact, it builds on the existing features.
In addition to a new location, the expansion will have two new dungeoneers available: a swashbuckler and a drunken sailor. The new location also breaks down into five different adventures with multiple quests inside.
There are also special pirate accessories available in the expansion. Fortunately, the player doesn't have to traverse through the pirate region to obtain them. Just like the other items in the game, they are scattered across the different regions so it's possible to get an off-hand item such as a small stool chair in an abandoned mine or in the pirate's area.
Full Sail Ahead
The demo at PAX Prime showcased both characters as well as an example of a particular mission. In 11 turns, the dungeoneer had to reach the boss and fight. If he couldn't get there in time, the boss will find him and start the battle anyway.
The hardest part about creating the dungeons is the limited options in the hand. Only a handful of cards are provided each round to lay out dungeon paths, bonus items or even enemies to force the character to level up in certain situations. It's not easy to create a direct path to the boss, and there are a few routes already built-in. Based on the cards in hand, there will be times when the dungeoneer must build away from the boss in order to create the best route to get around.
Surprisingly, combat was easier to pick up than dungeon building as it is a case of action and reaction. You already see what the enemy is going to play, and you have to determine the next plan of attack (or defense) with the cards provided that turn. Sometimes, these battles go as planned thanks to careful planning. However, there were more times when the luck of the draw turned things around. Also, the various accessories for the head, legs and arms helped out as some of them also contain special abilities. For example, a successful strike guaranteed one extra hit to the enemy on the next turn, or I couldn't be killed unless I only had one heart remaining.
That last ability came in handy in the boss battle, who was significantly more powerful than me, but with the right abilities (and an ungodly amount of luck with cards), I was able to beat the boss, which was something not a lot of players were able to accomplish at the show.
One More Time
Unfortunately, beating the boss took a considerable amount of time. The dungeoneer died three or four times before I fully understood how to properly play the game. All in all, I spent about 30-40 minutes trying different strategies and paths, and it was a fun experience. It didn't require much thought to fight, but each time another dungeon path was created, I had to think carefully about the next few moves. It was engaging, yet still enjoyable with each encounter. The Pirates Cove expansion has no release date yet, but it will be a cheap, and worthwhile addition at $4.99.