Last week, Fish told me to pick up The Guild of Dungeoneering when it was a member of the middle tier of a Humble Bundle.
The sentence he gave me that sold me on the game was this: “I figured it’d be a game that I sat down and played for a half hour and then I’d never touch it again and then I noticed that it was two hours later.”
I can confirm: it’s much, much worse than that. It’s one of those “one more game, one more game, OOOOH! SO CLOSE!!!!! one more game, one more game” games.
First off, let’s talk about the aesthetic. It looks like art that would be drawn by an enthusiastic young gamer who had a lot of raw talent at drawing maps, monsters, and heroes on graph paper. The maps are sketched out on graph paper before you as you play, and the heroes and monsters look like little paper tokens that were cut out of a drawing book for the exact purpose of playing a dungeon crawling game in a basement somewhere.
On top of that, the game has a minstrel who sings what’s going on as you play. Since your dungeoneers will die a lot, he’ll mostly sing about how you’re killing your heroes who wander into the dungeons. From time to time, however, you’ll win a fight. And the minstrel will sing a song that sings about how surprised he is that you didn’t die (maybe even a song singing your glory!!! but it’ll be short-lived because your heroes will be dying again before long).
As for the gameplay itself, it’s amazingly addicting. You’re in charge of the League of Dungeoneering and you start with a downright dinky League clubhouse. The game first prompts you to put up a poster advertising for adventurers and, first thing, “chumps” start showing up. You then delve into a dungeon where your hero starts in one area of a map and is dealt a hand of cards from three different categories: rooms, monsters, and treasure. There are a TON of monster cards. There are almost as many room cards. There are a handful of treasure cards.
You then deal out three of the five cards you were dealt. A room is probably going to have to be first and you will have to connect it to the room(s) you’re starting in now (if the area you’re starting in has multiple rooms, you’ll be able to get away with only dealing out monsters and treasure… but if you start in a one room area, you *MUST* deal a room first). So deal the room. Two cards left. If you have any treasure, you’ll want to deal that and then you should look for a monster card that is the same level as you.
You’re level one. So deal a level one monster. (Do *NOT* deal a level 3 monster.)
Your hero will start wandering the halls in search of adventure and treasure and will most likely walk right into the monster at which point you will start to fight. If you win the fight, you’ll end your turn and do it again and draw more rooms on the map and put more monsters on it and, if you’re lucky, gather treasure. The dungeon you’re in has a particular victory condition… maybe “kill 3 monsters”, maybe “kill the boss monster”, maybe “make it from your starting area to this square right here in the number of turns allotted”. And you’ll have to deal rooms and kill monsters and otherwise meet the condition.
As you adventure, you’ll gain cash and with this cash you can buy starting conditions for your heroes as well as different dungeoneering classes (bruisers, apprentices, cat burglars, etc) and each new hero will have a different fighting style which you will *NEED* to master because your starting class is “chump” and they fight like it.
Which brings us to the combat. Combat is card-based as well. You get dealt a handful of cards and you will choose one of them to play. The monster will play his or her card, then you will play yours (which means that a tie goes to the monster… so don’t get in a tie!) and if you’re both still alive after that, you’ll play another card until one of you (or both of you) are dead. If your hero isn’t the one that’s dead, hurray! You’ll get some equipment if the monster you beat was your level or higher and maybe you’ll get some treasure too. Once you amass enough treasure, you’ll be able to acquire upgrades to your guild of dungeoneering. This can be stuff like “additional classes to hire” or “bonuses that they’ll be able to start with when you go back into the dungeon”. Because you *WILL* be going back into the dungeons.
Different monsters and different classes have different decks with different cards that do mostly different things… so each monster is kind of unique as are the members of the different classes. Bruisers, for example, have a lot of physical damage that they can dish out and a couple of shield-against-physical-damage cards. Apprentices do magic damage and have a couple of magic shield cards. Cat burglars and Mimes have a mix of both (with emphasis on one or the other).
Different classes do better against different monsters… there are physical damage based monsters, magic based ones, monsters that cast a lot of spells devoted to making your hand size smaller, other monsters devoted to hitting you hard (even if it does damage to them). As you play you’ll learn which monsters to charge into and which ones to avoid unless you’re playing certain classes.
And you’ll die a *LOT*.
But it’s okay. Just one more attempt. One more dungeon. One more treasure. Hey, you’re only 100 gold away from buying an upgrade. Just one more. Just one more. Just one more.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))