Tonight, I brought some Dungeoneer decks to board game night at Quarterstaff Games. It’s a fun little card game where each player takes the character of an adventurer and explores a dungeon, the rooms of which are randomly drawn from a deck. The twist is that each player plays a hero and the dungeonlord, personifying the innumerable monsters, traps and hazards waiting to trip up unwary competing tomb raiders. As the heroes explore the labyrinth, they attempt to achieve various quests by battling monsters, making skill checks or delivering items — people, dark tomes, etc. — to specific locations. Whoever achieves three goals first wins.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve gotten to play a Dungeoneer game. Of the three sets I had in my bag, I pulled out Vault of the Fiends because it’s the most straight-up dungeon crawl; Realm of the Ice Witch is an above ground arctic wasteland and Call of the Lich Lord introduced epic level play, which I didn’t think would be a good way to introduce people to how the game plays.
As it was, I learned six people is too many for Dungeoneer. It says right on the box that the game suits two to four players, but people kept showing up and there weren’t any other games they could jump into, so we tried to make room. From this, I learned a couple things:
- With six players, there will only be one Quest card left unused, which puts a severe crimp in the ability to exchange difficult quests at the dungeon entrance, or for more than two players to achieve the global quest.
- Cards cycle less quickly. One of the nice things about Dungeoneer is cards move through your hand fairly quickly because you always fill it back up to five at the end of a turn, encouraging you to play as many as possible against other players and for yourself. When more cards are bound up in other players’ hands, it can make getting something useful like a character boon or a monster-killing sword much more difficult.
- It’s slow. The gap between turns can be twenty minutes or more, even after people have the mechanics down — and we had one player who’s developed a reputation for not grasping rules; even after an hour of play, he hadn’t absorbed what the Peril resource represented or how it was spent.
- New players to a game may not ruthlessly take advantage of someone with a heap of Peril to the extent a more experienced adventurer might. Not only does it inconvenience the targeted player’s hero, but it increases the flow of cards through one’s hand, hopefully improving the odds of pulling helpful treasures and boons.
All said, Dungeoneer is still fun. It just shouldn’t be played with more than four.
After that, I got in a couple rounds of Blokus. It’s an abstract puzzle game where players lay pieces of various shapes on a grid, aiming not only to place all their pieces, but also to block opponents from doing the same. I’d played a couple games of travel-scale Blokus before and I think that helped a bit, although I was easily the last place winner in the first game by a margin of at least ten points, if not fifteen.
Which makes the second game all the stranger, because I actually wound up winning that one. My gut reaction is either everyone decided not to go easy on me, which dove-tailed with me taking a more aggressive approach to dividing the board, or I had a brainfart and miscounted how many pips of tiles I had left at the end.
Either way it’s a game that rewards repeat plays as the player begins to discern patterns and the best techniques for blocking opponents. As I play more, I’ll spend less time focusing on my planned placements and more watching how other players position their tiles.