Ah, the dungeon crawl. An iconic element to many a tabletop RPG. The monster slaying, the looting, the experience points; all of it a joy.But what are you to do if you want all of those classic elements, but don’t have hours of time or a willing DM/GM on your hands?
Tasty Minstrel Games to the rescue!
TMG offers not one, but two dungeon crawl analogs in a small box format that play in around half an hour’s time: One utilizes a dice mechanic and the other a card mechanic.
Which to choose?! Well, dear reader, I’m here to break down the play styles, pros, and cons of both and leave you to just such a decision. Although I do feel obligated to remind you that you can totally own both and be awesomer for it! There is much to love in each.
Let’s start with what the games have in common, as it is quite a lot. While the gameplay mechanics vary, much is shared. Dungeon Roll came first in 2013, with Dungeon of Fortune premiering in 2015. While the two are not compatible in any way, playing either will definitely prepare you to breeze through the rulebook of the other.
Iconography between the two is identical. A wizardy looking hat serves as a Mage, for instance, in both games. In fact, all Companion and Monster symbols are the exact same in each, along with Chests and Dragons.
Companions and Monsters also work similarly in both games:
- One Thief opens any number of Chests.
- One Cleric defeats any number of Skeletons.
- One Fighter defeats any number of Goblins.
- One Mage defeats any number of Oozes.
- The Champion can be used to defeat any number of a single type of enemy (excluding Dragons, of course).
- And all Companions can defeat any one monster.
You gain XP and Loot in both, although their prevalence when it comes to scoring varies between the games. Even the art and character powers are nearly identical, with some changes to accommodate the difference in game mechanics. With so much identical between the two, how can they be sufficiently different enough to warrant owning both?
Dungeon of Fortune
Dungeon of Fortune utilizes a deck of cards to move players through the various levels of a dungeon. Each player reveals the top card on their turn, and if they have the resources to claim it (unused Companions), they can gain XP, Loot, and or Stair icons.
XP is used to grow and strengthen your party (2 XP to move to Level 2, 3 XP to Level 3, etc – with each level having to be gained successively all the way to Level 5 which grants a new power!), Loot is used for scoring at the end, and Stairs allow you to progress deeper into the dungeon for greater rewards!
Each card in the deck shows 5 levels, and the characters must have the resources to clear their current level, or they must flee – abandoning all XP and Loot gained during that delve! Dragon cards require three unused Companions to be defeated, and they are color coded as weak to one type of Companion – allowing you to beat them with just two if you’ve got the right Companion remaining in your party.
Dungeon of Fortune is very much a press-your-luck kinda game. Do you risk checking the next room, or will you call your current delve done, bank your Loot and XP, and wait until the next foray? As an added incentive, the last player to leave the dungeon gets 1 bonus piece of Loot.
Play progresses until all Loot tokens are claimed. Their value is revealed by flipping them to their reverse side, and the delver with the most points wins!
In Dungeon Roll, one player attempts a delve while the player to his or her left assumes the role of the Dungeon Lord. Both roll a pool of dice:
- The delver rolls a pool of 7 white Party Dice to form that delve’s crew combination of Mages, Clerics, Thieves, Fighters, and Champions. They might also roll a few Scrolls, which allow them to re-roll some or all of their dice or the Dungeon Lord’s dice. Each player also has a character card that permits them a constant ability (Specialty) and a unique power that can only be used once per delve. 5XP grants that character his only Level Up of the game, but his unique power is strengthened!
- The Dungeon Lord rolls one Dungeon Die per level of the dungeon the delver is on, tracking that level on a 10-sided Level Die. Their dice might show a Potion on its face, which allows the Adventurer to reclaim a spent die from the Graveyard and select its face. Of course, the Dungeon Dice might also show one or more Dragons, which get set aside until they total 3 – at which point the Adventurer must face the beast!
The Adventurer progresses the Level Die one step by successfully navigating each level (defeating Monsters, opening Chests, etc, with Party Dice that have not been sent to the Graveyard by use). At any time, they can choose to Retire to the Tavern and collect XP equal to the level of the dungeon they were on when they decided to bail.
If they press their luck and come up short on Companions during a level, they gain no XP at all for that delve (unless they beat a Dragon in the process, which will net them 1 XP which is not lost)!
Loot works a little differently in Roll, as well, as each piece grants the player a one time use ability. Some can be used as extra Companions, others as Scrolls or Potions, and still others to avoid or force a confrontation with a Dragon (who is worth XP and Loot). Any unused Loot will increase your score in the end game, along with all gained XP.
Dungeon Roll concludes when each player has tried three delves.
So Roll or Fortune?
Which game fits you or your gaming group best is going to depend on a couple of factors. Both are super quick and über fun, but here are the quick Pros and Cons of each:
Dungeon of Fortune Pros
- Less time between each player’s turn (Seconds, really!)
- Accommodates more players (Up to 6 as compared to Roll‘s 4)
- Pilfer cards can be drawn while delving, and they let you steal from another player’s Loot (I love me a bit of sabotage, but I do get that some might not care for it. This can keep the game from being a runaway win for anyone, though – making it easier to come from behind even if you’re not the one stealing the Loot.)
Dungeon of Fortune Cons
- Less strategy required (Could be a Pro for some!)
- Random Loot could mean that the player with the higher number of Loot pieces still loses due to value (Talk about a let down!)
Dungeon Roll Pros
- Dice rolling is always a plus!
- Increased strategic elements due to one-time use powers on player cards and Loot, as well as smart uses of Scrolls and face selection when the Dungeon Lord rolls a Potion (Could be a Con for some!)
- Can be played solo.
Dungeon Roll Cons
- Much longer time between players’ turns (Although playing the Dungeon Lord keeps at least one other player busy when they’re not delving, a delve can take several minutes. The higher the number of players, the longer you have to wait, obviously.)
- One bad delve is pretty difficult to overcome if the rest of the table wins out or even Retires to the Tavern at middling levels.
I think my gaming group prefers Roll to Fortune, but we’re not representative. And we love and play both, to be honest. Why choose, anyway? You can snag both from Amazon for about $30 total.