Welcome to the Dungeon
- Designer: Masato Uesugi
- Publisher: IELLO Games
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: ~30 minutes
- Times played: >15 with a review copy provided by IELLO games
Welcome to the Dungeon is a second generation production of one of my favorite games to come out of Japan in the past few years, Dungeon of Mandom. You may not have heard much of the original game because it was done by OINK games, a fairly obscure Japanese company known for its miniscule packaging of its games. OINK games often have limited distribution over in this part of the world. In the past few years, many of the Western publishers are recognizing that there are a lot of interesting games coming out of the Far East, and Welcome to the Dungeon is no exception.
In Welcome to the Dungeon, the players act as a team of heroes that are exploring a dungeon. Each of them takes a turn doing some reconnoitering of the place, and in a wonderful push-your-luck scenario, the bravest explorer (which is really the one who takes the longest to chicken out) enters the dungeon and tries to survive the monsters within.
There are actually game components for four different adventurers (a adventurer tile and 6 protective item tiles), and at the start of each round, one of them is chosen to be the one which will explore the Dungeon. There are also 13 (unchanging) monster cards that range in strength from 1 to 9. Each of these monsters has at least one weakness which can be exploited by the different equipment that the adventurer uses. Finally, each player gets a summary card which outlines both the number of monsters as well as their weakness(es).
At the start of each round, the monster deck is shuffled and an adventurer is chosen. The corresponding equipment for that adventurer is placed on the table as well. Each round is split up into a bidding/auction phase and then a dungeon exploring phase.
In the first phase, players choose between passing out of the round or drawing a card. If the player passes, the good news is that he has no chance of being injured as he’s run very far away from the dangerous dungeon. There is no chance that he will have to go and face the nasty monsters that lurk within… However, that player also has no chance of winning the round!
If the player is brave enough to draw a card, he draws the top monster card from the deck, looks at it, and then faces a decision. He can either place the monster in the Dungeon – by putting it face down in the center of the table – or he can discard the monster from the Dungeon. If the monster is placed in the dungeon, that player’s turn is over. If the monster is discarded, the Dungeon is obviously a little safer, but to balance this out, the player must the choose one of the adventurer’s remaining protective item tiles to also discard out of this round. Each of these items offers a different sort of protection to the adventurer – some add HPs, some automatically defeat a specific type of monster, one of them allows you to name any of the 8 monster types to be automatically defeated. Furthermore, each of the four adventurer’s has a slightly different selection of protective items, so you’ll have to look carefully at what the choices are each round.
The phase continues with players deciding to pass out of the round, add a monster to the dungeon or discard a monster and protection tile. When there is only one hero left in the game (because everyone else has passed) OR when there are no cards left in the deck to look at, the player whose turn it is must then explore the dungeon.
If there is a Vorpal item in play, the player must first decide which type of monster the Sword will automatically destroy. The adventurer starts with a base value of 3HP, and this can be modified by upwards by different types of armor. The monster cards in the dungeon are now flipped over and dealt with one at a time. If they are automatically vanquished by a tile, they are simply discarded. If they are not killed, the monster card will deal damage to the adventurer equal to its strength number (again, varying from 1 to 9).
If the adventurer is reduced to 0 HP, the round ends. The player who was exploring the dungeon is now injured. If it is his first injury, he flips his player card over to the red side to show that he has suffered the damage. If it is his second injury, he is eliminated from the game! On the other hand, if the adventurer is able to survive all the monster cards in the dungeon, he scores a victory point! The player takes a Success Card from the supply and puts it in front of him. The game is won if you have scored your second victory and gain your second Success card.
If no one has won the game at the end of a round, the monster cards are shuffled, the item tiles are collected, a new adventurer is chosen for the next round, and another round is played.
My Thoughts on the Game
Welcome to the Dungeon takes the fun from the original game, Dungeon of Mandom, and improves upon it by giving players a more varied game experience. The original version only had a single hero, so every round was played exactly the same with the same 6 defense items. Of course, the original version had the added benefit of being able to be carried around in your pocket. The entire game is in a box about the size of a standard deck of cards. The new version is still quite small (15 x 10 x 4 cm OR 6 x 4 x 2.5 in), but unless you have some seriously huge pants, this is probably not going to fit in a pocket. But… a jacket pocket? Definitely!
During each round, players will slowly gain some knowledge about what monsters might be in the Dungeon – both from the cards that they draw and see as well as inferring information based on which protective items are removed from the game. Players need to constantly re-assess the chances of escaping the dungeon alive as monsters are placed in and/or armor is removed. Trying to read what your opponents are doing is key to the game – is he discarding the War Hammer Lance because he knows that the Golems are already excluded from the dungeon OR is he trying to guarantee failure by making sure no one can stop the Golems?
Timing is also important in the game because you have to always factor in the possibility that many changes will happen to the dungeon before your next turn to decide – since each player either adds a monster to the Dungeon OR removes a piece of protection away from the adventurer. If you stay in a round, who knows what the situation will look like when play comes back around…
The artwork is well done, and the artist Paul Mayafon has done a wonderful job with the different monsters and items. The cards are quite sturdy, and they have not shown any signs of wear despite many plays in the past month. The rules are well laid out and easy to grasp.
Each round only takes a few minutes, and our games run about 6-8 rounds on average. Perhaps we’re a bunch of scaredy-cats but most of our games end with someone winning positively (by vanquishing the dungeon twice) rather than simply being the last person standing. This game has become a go-to filler for us, and I’m glad to see that this great game will be available to all from IELLO. It is a great game in a tiny package (though not as small as the original).
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Lorna: I have only played the first edition from Oink games. Best dungeon crawl ever. It’s short so even if you are eliminated it’s not too painful to wait for the next game.
Karen: I have been able to play both versions and enjoyed all my plays. Very short and fun. The IELLO version does offer some variety with the different heroes which I appreciated. I wish it was in a smaller box so it was more portable, but that is certainly not a deal breaker!
Jennifer: I have played the Oink game version dozens of times, and the IELLO version only once. I usually don’t like reprints of the Japanese games – bigger box and different artwork that most times take away from the elegant simplicity of the original design. However, in this case, I think the IELLO version is a big improvement. The added heroes offer more replayability, and the artwork is gorgeous. I am a little torn on the box size – while I like the small box from Oink Games (easy to always carry it on one’s person), once a game is not in regular rotation, the small box means that I can never find it again (hidden behind something else on the shelf or in a bag somewhere). The IELLO version wouldn’t have that problem, and it’s still small enough that it can fit on top of a bag of games.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y, Jennifer Geske
- I like it. Lorna, Karen M
- Not for me…
I’ve only played the Oink version (Dungeon of Mandom). It’s great, and it sounds like Welcome to the Dungeon improves on it. Looking forward to playing the new version.