Deck Box Dungeons Review – An Expandable Hybrid Tabletop Dungeon Crawler

Deck Box Dungeons
Deck Box Dungeons Review – An Expandable Hybrid Tabletop Dungeon Crawler

Platforms: tabletop, iOS, Android, Amazon, Steam

Game Name: Deck Box Dungeons

Publisher: Ariah Studios

Developer: Majdi Badri, Zeke Walker

Genre: RPG, Dungeon Crawler, Tabletop

Release Date: 2018

Deck Box Dungeons from Ariah Studios

Deck Box Dungeons from Ariah Studios is a successfully-Kickstarted, app-supported (but not reliant) tabletop game for 1-4 players that comes with a card-deck-sized package containing custom dice and meeples, 5 standard 6-sided dice and of course, a deck of cards.

While you can go to their website and download print and play campaigns for free, the app version is where the game really shines – as the developers use random and procedural generation to create the dungeons, encounters and location of the boss. As you tap the various dungeon rooms along the way, you will get information for how many of what color of monster dice to roll that also establish their hit points and whether they are ranged or melee types.

Tip: For my own games, I hacked it a little and replaced the standard white dice with my own set of four purple dice for the heroes and the four black dice for the enemies. The reason I didn’t choose green, blue, or red, is because those are the colors of the custom enemy dice. Having these personal colored dice helped me to track and differentiate between attack and defense rolls.

Two Sides to Every Story

The monster cards are double-sided, as are most cards in the game, and yet each card has a symbol to match for green, blue or red in ranged and melee.

Deck Box Dungeons photo
A clever UI lets you attached a weapon to the left side of your hero card, and specialized attacks to the right. Furthermore, a point tracking card is fitted under each of these – Weapon (called “Treasure”), hero, and Energy, respectively.

Every time you land a hit, by rolling a 6 (either with modifiers or a natural 6) you gain an energy point, whether or not the enemy blocks, which they can do by also rolling a 6 on their defense roll. Note that a natural 6 roll, is a critical hit and cannot be blocked by enemies, and furthermore, a monster cannot roll a crit (ie. you can always roll to defend)

When you kill a monster, you roll their die and use the resulting number to determine how many Treasure points you accrue. These can be spent at any time on items in the Market. When you buy an item it is immediately replenished from the supply.  There is no inventory limit for the characters, though I’d love to see this implemented, as inventory management can be a real nail-biter (see Matt Leacock’s “Forbidden” series of games – Island, Desert, etc).

Final Character art - "Delyth" from Deck Box Dungeons
Final Character art – “Delyth” from Deck Box Dungeons

Anyway, you will continue to advance through these rooms, laying down the matching Map card on the table in front of you, and moving your meeples at the number of tiles allowed by their speed (lower left on their hero card). Line of sight is established by being able to draw a line from any corner or a square to any other corner. Some of the rooms have pits, or pools, or walls, so these must also be taken into account, unlike in a game like Four Against Darkness, where the layout of the room doesn’t matter as much, except to show you the exits.

Here are some minor gripes that will certainly get resolved in upcoming updates:

  • The rule book can be vague and is sometimes not laid out in the best order. (The same could be said of Four Against Darkness, and a few bespoke character sheets and adventure guides on BoardGameGeek solved this for 4AD).
  • The are only 10 enemies. This needs to be expanded, just for more variety. Though Ariah does a great job repurposing these double-sided cards in many scenarios, this is a huge missed opportunity and mere variety would do so much to add to the game’s allure and replayability.
  • There are typos. Just…fix it please, it shows you care more and didn’t rush it out the door.

But as you can see, these gripes are minor. Designing a new, functional, fun, solo or multiplayer game, that has a framework that can be easily expanded via online or free printable assets is a big deal. It got on my radar, and I have spent quite some time with it, and I keep thinking about it.

I would love to see a two player mode where one player takes on the role of the dungeon/enemies, so as to take over for the AI and make the strongest possible tactical choices for the bad guys.

Deck Box Dungeons works, and it is fun and in many ways a triumph. Having spoken with the developer, I was able to iron out some basic facts that I lay out in the video below. All in all Deck Box Dungeons is a win.

[xrr rating=”4/5″]

Check out this quick and dirty setup and single turn playthrough of Deck Dox Dungeons where we attempt to clarify some of the rules:

  • Note that in this video, when the heroes enter the room 9b with the enemies, I didn’t move the enemies before the heroes rounded the corner. Technically, after the heroes have used their action points, all enemies activate. The way I read it was that the enemies wouldn’t have yet noticed the heroes. I later mentioned to the devs that it would be interested to implement an initiative or awareness check, or even the opportunity to stealth checks. This wouldn’t be hard to do since there are already skill checks implemented in the game – you roll 4d6 and all 6s (whether natural or with the help of mods) are a successful roll. Then you must match the required number of successful rolls against the required check. So a Wisdom check of 3 requires 3 6s on 4 dice.

Another adjustment to the video per the developer on BoardGameGeek: “Allies can move through and have Line of Sight through other allies. So enemies through enemies and heroes through heroes.