Ulrich Blum & John Kovalic
DOODLE DUNGEON, with John Kovalic's immediately recognisable illustrations, along with its title "Doodle Dungeon" makes this look like a family children's game. The cover art is wonderfully Kovalic, looking like the cover from a Dork Tower magazine.
For 1-4 players aged 10+ (younger players can easily understand the rules but may find their focus wandering as it heads towards an hour or more into the game). This is probably going to be found under the Roll & Write genre, but that's not really a correct definition as you don't actually Roll & Write.
The premise is simple. Each player creates a dungeon on an 80 square (10x8) sheet using the information collected from 14 cards during the first phase of the game mechanic - selecting cards from the display.
Every player is given a pencil and a Dungeon sheet at the beginning of the game. The Start Player is decided and given the Most Powerful Sharpener of Pencils (that's what we like to call it as it fits in neatly with the game).
The display is set out after every Round, with each player, in turn selecting one of the available cards, Turn order changing each time. Some of the cards, the majority, are Blue based, others are Red.
The cards show symbols on their bottom section. They show one or more icons pertaining to Traps, Walls, Monsters (Dragon, Orc, Goblin) Treasure Chests or [X]s.
Whatever is on the chosen card has to be added to the drawer's Dungeon. If it is anything except a Treasure Chest the Pencil Stencil is used to recreate the icon in one of the Dungeon's squares.
There are rules as to where you can place the Dungeon inhabitants - not next to each other or to Traps being the main ones. There has to be a pathway from one opening, the entrance at the top left of the page, to the exit at the bottom right. Both of these doorways are marked with footprints (not Footsteps as the rules book relates - at least I didn't hear them).
The pathway can go through Traps and Monsters but it cannot go through Walls - a clear path through means a treacherous and dangerous journey for the adventurer. Some Monsters will be guarding Treasure but this isn't located until after the Monster is defeated. Players pencil in a cross over defeated Monster drawings. We have added some coloured pencils to our game so that pathways and defeats can be marked in different colours. There is no need for this, we just like our Dungeons to look pretty.
The game should flow quicker than it does (at least for us) but we cannot help ourselves turning each basic outline, especially the Monsters, into something more fun looking - this takes more time than you may think. It adds nothing to the game or the game-play, but it's a lot of fun for us as players. I suppose, in its own way, it does add another mini dimension to our play.
I mentioned that some of the icons on the cards are [X]s. These are used to make the Monsters tougher, the Traps more deadly, the Treasure more valuable etc. Each line of the small yellow boxes in the blue shaded areas needs to be completely filled before the effect can be used. One of the effects is to hold more cards in your hand per Turn. From experience you really must use at least 2[X]s for one additional card as playing off of one card gives you no options and cuts the fun aspect down considerably.
The 14 cards that each player has collected make up their deck. The Blue based cards effects/text is used by the Player to help the Monsters defeat the Heroes. The Red cards effects are played on other players (each may only have 2 Red cards on them at any one time) and help the Heroes in their Dungeons fight the Monsters (or gain Health etc).
Once all players have used the icons on their cards it is time for the action phase to begin.
The players give their Dungeon Sheets (apologies 'Official Dungeon Sheets') to their neighbour - the player to their left. This neighbour then draws a continual (contiguous) line from the Entrance to the Exit, clarifying its direction by adding pointer arrows where necessary. Pathways drawn like this may enter and exit each square only twice - in/out then return in/out (this is often necessary to reach those Dungeon parts other pathways cannot reach.
When the pathway is completed the Official Dungeon Sheet is handed back to its owner and they place an Adventurer Meeple on the entrance ready to enter.
As the Dungeon Owner you want to defeat the Hero. Heroes have 20 Life Points that are shown as Hearts on the bottom edge of the Official Dungeon Sheet (ODS) which are marked/crossed off (coloured in) as and when the Hero is injured. If all 20 Hearts are removed/crossed then the Hero dies and the Dungeon Owner gains 5 Victory Points.
The idea then is to draw the Hero's path so that it explores as many squares as possible. Remember that going onto a Monster space means the creature has to be fought (dice roll versus dice roll with modifiers where possible). These creatures/Monsters may have Treasure with them, the value of which may have been adjusted by the Dungeon Master Owner. Traps are there to do damage and therefore should be avoided where possible.
When the game is over - all Dungeons explored - each Dungeon Master Owner scores their own Dungeon according to a number of occurrences. Treasures not found are scored at 1 VP each multiplied by the completed [X] rows. Monsters that stay alive score according to their racial value. Dragons = 3 Orcs = 2 and Goblins = 1. Five VPs are added if the Hero has been defeated but -1 VP is scored for every Heart/Life Point the Hero has remaining. The overall total of these scores added up together and minus the Life Points gives the Dungeon Master Owner their actual score. The player whose Dungeon scores highest is the winner.
DOODLE DUNGEON costs between £22.00 - £30.00 online. One session with 4 players pays for the game in recreational value. Where else, other than board games, can you get such good value entertainment?
Great fun to be had by all!