Players: 1-2 (4 players with two boxes!)
Play Time: 30-45 mins.
One Deck Dungeon borrows from the popular electronic gaming Roguelike genre and adapts some of the core concepts to a highly efficient, fun card game format.
The Roguelike Comes to Tabletops
The Roguelike genre is a very popular one in the realm of video gaming. Especially over the past decade or so, the rise of the indie game has seemed to coincide nicely with explosion of elements from Roguelike games popping up in many different forms. With the Board Game Boom still growing annually, seeing experimentation with genre borrowing is another natural extension. We’ve even seen Tabletop gaming taking a shot at the very popular MOBA with Rum and Bones from CoolMiniOrNot
With One Deck Dungeon, developer Chris Cieslik took a shot at porting the randomized, highly-challenging goodness of the Roguelike to our tables. With a successful Kickstarter campaign now completed and delivered, we busted the box open and took more than a few runs through the dungeons that his game creates.
So pick up that potion that could heal you or melt your face off, and descend with us to see whether or not One Deck Dungeon succeeds in creating that delicious Roguelike-feel in a Tabletop Card Game.
Intermediate Game - Just a notch above Gateway level of difficulty.One Deck Dungeon has rulebook is concise but could leave a few questions for someone who doesn’t play other board games. The actual gameplay is quite fluid and very easily understandable once the iconography is digested.
Recommended for all but the most casual gamers, who may still enjoy it with some early guidance.
One Deck Dungeon comes in a relatively small box – similar to the perfectly pocket-sized Love Letter Batman. One of the goals of the game, it seems, was to be incredibly efficient with the usage of components. On that front, I have to remark just how incredibly well One Deck Dungeon has been constructed.
The cards, which are the primary component of the game, tell the whole story:
There is a ton of content on each of these cards. Each one of them also serves many different gameplay purposes that come up later on. These cards end up serving as timekeepers, dice holders, abilities, items, potions… It’s pretty remarkable!
The game also comes with a few bigger cards that show each of the Hero characters that you can choose. Each of these is two-sided with varying stats for the 1 player or 2 player version. (The 2 player version is also used in the case of a two-box four-player mode.)
…and what Dungeon-Crawling game would be complete without some dice and some health counters?
The dice are colored for gameplay reasons and (aside from the black ones) nicely translucent!
One Deck Dungeon actually got a nice upgrade along the Kickstarter campaign to include these little wooden heart tokens. Typically I absolutely despise cardboard health counters, but I actually really like these little guys!
Instructions and Rules
One Deck Dungeon comes with a small rulebook that is concise enough to cover most of the game’s rules. The issue that I ran into, pretty quickly, was really just seeing confirmation of my understanding of some of the rules, and the timing of certain interactions.
Some of my questions simply required another quick glance over the section in question, so it’s hard to fault the developer too much. With that said, I think a little bit more page space could have been devoted to some additional examples for player feedback.
In addition, more specific instructions early on dungeon difficulty levels and what is campaign-specific components vs. standalone game components would have helped!
One Deck Dungeon is a game that tasks your hero, or group of heroes, with descending through 3 floors of battles and encounters, and defeating the boss at the bottom.
In brief summary, the gameplay is all about dice mitigation to make sure you roll the right combination of numbers and colors to fill in all of the boxes in any encounter that your hero faces.
To start, you will select one of the base hero classes. We will use the Rogue for an example.
Each of these cards is double-sided, with the 1p side having much more of each skill and generally being more self-sufficient – since they can’t get help from other heroes!
Each hero has a set of stats, up on the top left, showing the amount of dice they will roll for Strength (yellow) Agility (red) and Magic (blue)
Below that, there is a set of starting skills. Each skill can only be used in the encounter type(s) listed on the bottom right. In this case, the Rogue can roll an extra Black Die (wild) at the potential cost of taking health and spending time if the roll turns out to be a 1!
The second skill is a reaction that happens any time you flee. These starting skills and the statistics give each hero quite a bit of unique flavor to begin.
Now, given what we know about our basic heroes, let’s examine the encounters they will have to overcome. The game of One Deck Dungeon is driven almost entirely on wonderful efficiency of the cards:
Full Disclosure: I’m a wizard at MS Paint, so if you want to take a moment to gaze in awe at the beauty of a picture above, go right ahead.
There are two main types of cards in the game: combat and peril. The Beetle above is an example of a combat card. Most of the cards share plenty of common elements. Referencing the numbers on the card:
1. Challenge Boxes where the required color and number (or higher) dice.
If you encounter a combat card like this, you will roll all of the dice according to your stats (strength=yellow, agility=red, magic=blue) and then try to cover up each of the Challenge boxes to defeat the card. Until you cover up all of the green shield icon boxes, however, you cannot put any other dice on the card!.
Also, if you need a color that you don’t have, you can spend two of any dice to create a wild dice with the lower value of the two dice spent. That was… a lot of words. Put simply:
If you need a blue 3, and have no blues, you can combine a red 4 and yellow 6 to make one
At this point, the other 3 sections noted become what type of loot the card you just defeated will become. You can choose:
- 2. Turn this defeated card into an additional skill.
- 3. Turn this card into an item, granting you additional strength, agility, magic or health.
- 4. Turn this item into XP, used to level your hero up.
The way each of them work is simple, and slick. If it is an item, you just slip it to the left side of your hero sheet – so it naturally looks like more of a stat. Skills, likewise, slide right under the bottom so you grow a list of skills as the game progresses.
It seems like a pretty silly little detail to get excited over, but I’m huge fan of seeing Game Designers really use cards for multiple purposes. This is one area where Chris Cieslik absolutely killed it (in a great way) with One Deck Dungeon!!
The other type of encounter card is a peril, which is usually a type of trap. This one similarly needs dice but they can be added together to fill one larger box. The difficulty is that you can only choose one color to attempt and are limited to just that color of dice.
This can often pose a very difficult choice for a character that has a weaker stat, forcing them to spend time to take a less-than-ideal outcome.
Time is another very important concept in the game. You begin each floor of the dungeon with the full deck on top of the stairs. You spend time to explore and put doors out on the board. You spend time to open doors and flip them, revealing the encounter. You can spend time as a penalty for not completing boxes, and occasionally spend time as part of skills.
Time is a resource that is very precious in One Deck Dungeon, as once the stairs become visible (the deck/time ran out) you take damage the longer you wait to go down. Each time you go down the stairs, everything becomes much more difficult.
The difficulty comes from each floor having its own set of challenge boxes for each encounter. For example, on the easiest dungeon (The Dragon’s Cave) you have to spend time before even starting the floor – and then each peril has another box with a 2 requirement, and each combat encounter has a 3 strength box, with a penalty of health for not completing it.
Going down to the third level? Well those boxes just keep on adding up.
By the third level, each peril now has 3 extra boxes and combats have 3 boxes, one of which requires 10 strength and since it’s a shield, is required to put any other dice on the rest of the card!
The challenge of even making it through three floors in One Deck Dungeon is notable – and potions are rather limited as well. Luckily by collecting Experience, you can level up your hero, which gives you one potion. It also gives you one black die that you can roll on every encounter!
Each subsequent level also gives potions and if you manage to get to level 4, you get one additional black die on each encounter…. and you will need it when you run into the boss.
The boss cards are slightly different, but maintain the basic premise of “cover up the boxes”.
This time, covering up the boxes with the skull icons is what does damage to the boss. If you don’t do enough damage to kill it, the game progresses and you continue doing rounds of rolling until either you, or the boss are very, very dead.
If you’ve had the pleasure (maybe?) of playing a Roguelike before, you know that it’s all about dying. A lot. After that you immediately restart with a barebones character and give it another go, trying to find that sweet spot combination of skills and items to try and win.
In that respect, One Deck Dungeon delivers on the on the Replay Value front, because it offers multiple dungeons, different bosses for each, and a wide variety of cards that have different roles based on what your hero needs at the time. Replay Value is a quality at the core of the experience, and it shows.
Oh… did you want some more Replay Value with your Replay Value? How about a campaign mode:
Campaign mode opens the game up to the concept of progress, and it is very highly welcome. This is a challenging game that goes the extra mile providing a way to let the player grow a character that battles through and becomes strong enough to more reliably face the tougher dungeons.
One Deck Dungeon is impressively packed with value for a game with such a small footprint.
“Just one more game.”
Those are the four words that must be some of the sweetest sounds for a developer or designer to hear. That realization that someone playing your game finishes with the drive to immediately reset all of the cards and try it again.
“Just one more game” is the precise feeling that I had after ending many rounds of One Deck Dungeon.
It starts looking like such an innocent little game. A deck of cards, little rulebook, some dice to chuck. Then it escalates, as heroes die on the first and second floors sometimes. You wipe it all away and start fresh, having learned something new or a little trick about when to fight and when to flee.
I’ve played and enjoyed quite a few Roguelikes on the PC (love F.T.L.!!), and initially was skeptical that the experience could be adequately translated. At even a basic conceptual level, it’s very simple to hit a “reset” button on a Video Game. Resetting a Tabletop Game can be a huge pain in the ass!
Suddenly, thinking about even a subtle nuance like that makes the efficiency and design of One Deck Dungeon that much more on-point and well crafted. This is a game created by a designer that knew exactly what he wanted to make, and made lots of great decisions along the way to not only maintain his vision, but make something fun as well.
One Deck Dungeon – The verdict
One Deck Dungeon successfully translates the challenging try-and-try-again Gameplay of a Roguelike onto the Tabletop in a highly efficient and entertaining way!
What we Loved about One Deck Dungeon
– The variety of the starting classes.
– Wonderful inclusion of a Campaign System built in.
– Multi-functional cards that serve so many purposes throughout the game.
– Just the right balance of challenge where death is common, and success accordingly rewarding.
What we didn’t Love as much about One Deck Dungeon
– Instructions cover just enough, but could use more confirmation of rules understanding
– Balance of heroes may need some tweaking through errata.