Designer: Masato Uesugi  |   Players: 2-4   |   Playtime: 30 minutes

There’s this interesting thing that floats around the BGG entries and that’s the re-themed concepts posted under a game’s image tab. I love looking through these and finding a game I’d otherwise written off as not interesting and suddenly become drawn in and want to know more as an alternate theme resonates with me. That’s how I came across Dungeon of Mandom, what would eventually become Welcome to the Dungeon.

MECHANICS

Seeing people playing quick 2-player dungeon crawlers over lunch was really intriguing. Could we really get a small, quick dungeon experience in during a 30-minute lunch? Well, not exactly. First thing to note is while the ads and theme scream dungeon delving, it acts as a theme and not a mechanic like a crawler. But before my fellow dungeoneers stop reading in disappointment, for what the game is it has some combat and equipment elements that may scratch that itch.

What we’re looking at is a glorified game of chicken with a splash of deduction. During your turn, you can either draw a card, adding to the difficulty of the dungeon in some way, or you can chicken out if you feel the dungeon is getting too dangerous for you. When there is one player left, still brave (or foolish) enough to be in the running, he is forced to run the gauntlet and face whatever horrors were placed in the dungeon during the round.

“Welcome to the Dungeon is a glorified game of chicken with a splash of deduction.”

As players draw cards, they have a piece of information no one else has. There are only 13 monster cards in the deck and now you know where one is going to be. The question is whether you place it in the dungeon for you or someone else to face, or do you discard it instead? If you discard it, you must also discard one of the six pieces of equipment that are used to face the various monsters. Each piece of equipment deals with the monsters differently, so you may be removing an unnecessary item in anticipation of running the dungeon yourself, or perhaps you are getting rid of an essential piece with every intention of making someone else run through those treacherous catacombs.

As a volunteer is called – and all but the one player steps back – we resolve the dungeon cards one by one and watch the back and forth struggle between the noble hero and villainous villains. Too bad the plate armor and the torch were taken out of your inventory last round… you probably could have used those.

PRESENTATION AND COMPONENTS

If you are purchasing this game, I highly recommend the Iello Games version that is currently in print. It has a production quality leaps and bounds higher than the original version with new artwork and very functional player aids. The hero characters and relevant equipment comes on thick, sturdy tokens and the print on the cardboard has a nice embossing feel to them. Really, everything is done well and far beyond what is needed to enjoy the game.

In addition to including high-quality components, the newest edition also sports alternate hero characters that may be cycled through from round to round. This is a substantial addition to the content of the game from its original incarnation, and while not adding a ton of variety to gameplay it does work in keeping multiple rounds fresh.

RATING:

Try this game if you like:

  • Love Letter
  • Lost Legacy
  • Coup
  • Saboteur
  • Werewolf

FINAL THOUGHTS

I like this little game. It’s great to find something compact and quick in the vein of Love Letter but tilted toward my personal tastes. It does suffer from some the same kind of staleness I feel that comes with multiple, back-to-back plays of these kinds of games. But it makes a great little filler and it’s really easy to teach. I personally like how it incorporates hit points and combat into a small, micro-style game. This is something that really calls out to the role-player/adventure-gamer in me and as a cards-only game, I’m surprised at how well the struggle plays out.

Of course, the climax of each round is watching the adventurer go through the dungeon and visualizing each encounter. It makes for a great story and we’ve had some close rounds that are short and engaging for everyone at the table, not just the person going through it at the end. Check out our Microbrew of the game to see for yourself.

Overall, I’d say it’s a good game that offers some fun moments, but it’s the kind of game that will probably cycle in and out as fillers are needed or sit off to the side as a waiting option until we can get into something bigger. 4 player games get a little too unpredictable for my taste, and 2 players can get a bit dull. The 3 player game hits the sweet spot though and that is probably the determining factor on when this comes out over others in its class.