In Dungeon Academy from The OP, players aim to graduate with what I’m calling their Masters in Magic and Monsters by successfully navigating four successive 16 room dungeons, one at a time, as quickly as possible without failing. Players must wisely choose their path to collect Glory and replenish lost Health and Mana. Safety is paramount, but speed comes with the enticing boon of getting first dibs on Loot!
How to Play Dungeon Academy
Before play begins, you’ll need to build the cardboard dungeon, which fits nicely into the game box’s insert. Each player will then draw a Hero Card which will grant them varying amounts of Health and Mana and grant them a unique ability to use in the rounds to come.
Each player will also grab an Adventure Sheet, upon which they’ll map their routes and track their accumulated Glory.
Then you’ll toss 16 six-sided dice into the dungeon’s roof, shake or roll them until they settle in a 4×4 grid (which the space is designed to accommodate perfectly), cover the roof with the floor, and flip it.
When everyone is ready, start a timer and reveal the dungeon’s 16 rooms – with each die face representing a room. Players then have 60 seconds (easy), 45 seconds (moderate), or 30 seconds (hard) to map their character’s route through the revealed dungeon.
If you travel through a monster’s room, you’ll lose 1-2 Health or Mana. Pass through a Potion room, and you’ll gain one back. Health and Mana carry over round to round and do not reset…unless you fail a level. But you don’t want to do that because you’ll gain zero Glory!
The first person to mark their route on their Adventure Sheet snatches up an Exit Card with a 1 on it, the second person a 2, and so on. If the players successfully past the current level of the dungeon, the number on their Exit Card determines the order by which they’ll select from the revealed Loot Cards.
A successful level also allows the character to tally up their Glory which will count towards their game end score. Then you reroll the dice in the dungeon, flip it, and do it again!
For added difficulty and challenge, you can replace a Room die with a Labyrinth die beginning with Level 2, and later a Boss dice on level 4! There are also a set of “Golden Rules” that cannot be violated during progress through a level, and you can even play the “No Mercy!” variant which does not allow for erasing or crossing out of route errors. No mistakes allowed.
Dungeon Academy Board Game Review
All of the dice are large, which makes reading them at a quick glance easy. The dungeon itself is a neat component. Some assembly is required, but as I said above: There is a spot designated for it within the box’s insert, so you only have to build it once.
On top of that, the 16 Room dice are stored within the dungeon in the box, while the Boss and Labyrinth dice have their very own storage spaces. I love it when a box has clearly designated and clever storage!
The Adventure Sheets are also well designed, with fun little Quests across the bottom you can use to boost your score level to level. One of your neighbors will use your Adventure Sheet to check your route and ensure your success or declare you a failure – you know, to keep you honest!
Luck in Dungeon Academy comes from the roll of the dice that define each level of the dungeon and the draw of the Loot cards. Floors could be light on Potions, meaning it is risky to try and gain a bunch of Glory.
Alternatively, a floor’s arrangement could set you up for a super high Glory score if you K.O. a bunch of monsters and play your Quests wisely.
The rest is up to your quick thinkin’!
Dungeon Academy definitely has a very cartoony feel, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is a child’s game (as I will admit it did me). There is plenty of fun and challenge here for adults.
Everything is designed with simple iconography, so it is easy to track what you’ve gained and what you’ve lost from level to level.
The flexibility of varying time lengths for varying difficulty is great, as is the introduction of the Labyrinth and Boss dice. Still not tough enough? Play the “No Mercy!” variant!
Too tough? Give yourself or younger ones more time to navigate each level, and leave the Labyrinth and Boss dice out of play.
There’s also a fun Solo Mode (always a plus in my book!) that has a grading scale to measure your performance.
Loot Cards add some extra variety from play to play too, and coupled with the inherent variability of rolling 16d6, and you’ll be hard pressed to play the same game twice.
Dungeon Academy is light but challenging fun. The pressure to race for the Exit Cards certainly amps the tension up a good deal! Your mind will absolutely race as your eyes flit between the dungeon and the resources on your Hero Card.
It isn’t just about getting out alive; it is about getting out with the most Glory! Risks must be made, but if you miscalculate, you can take a 0 while your opponents continue to rack up Glory.
This isn’t a press your luck game – it is a resource management game. Time, Health, Mana…what can you do with these three things each level?
Earning A Diploma Has Never Been More Fun (Or Faster!)
Dungeon Academy is a great, great game! It is simultaneously simple and challenging, with a play speed that would make the Flash blush. Due out this fall, don’t sleep on this title. It easily earns the Nerds on Earth Seal of Approval.
[Disclosure: The OP provided a copy of Dungeon Academy to Nerds on Earth in exchange for an honest review.]