- Publisher: Iello Games
- Designer: Masato Uesugi
- Artist: Paul Mafayon
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Playing Time: 30min
- MSRP $14.99
- Release: 2015 (Original Japanese version 2013)
- Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
- Game Played: Review Copy
- Number of Plays: 10
You all stand at the entrance to the dungeon, but only one will enter: the bravest, the craziest, or maybe just the one who hasn’t had a chance to flee yet! To see who has the guts to enter, take turns setting aside equipment or adding monsters to the dungeon. Are you tough enough to hit the dungeon? Or will you let someone else go down – and hope they stay down? Welcome to the Dungeon is a subtle game of “chicken.” Don’t get cold feet, but enjoy icing your opponents! (From the back of the box.)
Welcome to the Dungeon is played over a number of rounds until one player either survives twice through the dungeon or all opponents have been eliminated.
Game play is very simple. There is a deck of 13 monster cards and a choice of four character tiles, each with their own set of six equipment tiles. The game also includes eight success cards and four player aid cards (one per player). The latter doubles as a “damage counter.” It has a white side and a red side; it starts on the white side. One unsuccessful trip through the dungeon turns it to the red side; the next unsuccessful trip eliminates the player from the game. The type and number of each monster is listed on the card, as well as the item type(s) that will affect it.The monster deck is placed in the middle of the table, along with one of the chosen character tiles and its corresponding equipment tiles. Characters each have their own health point (HP) value – the amount of damage they may take before being knocked out.
Each round has two phases, the Bidding Phase and the Dungeon Phase. During the Bidding Phase play goes around clockwise; each player must either draw a card from the monster deck or pass (in which case they are out for the rest of the round). When they draw a card, they secretly look at it then decide either to add it to the dungeon pile face-down or put the monster card face-down in front of them, in which case they must also take a piece of equipment. Both are now out of play. Once all players but one has passed, the Dungeon Phase begins. The player who did not pass must go through the dungeon. First add up the HP on the character and equipment. Next start flipping monsters from the dungeon pile one-by-one, determining if the character has enough HP to make it through the dungeon.
Some equipment allows a player to survive certain monsters without losing HP. If HP drops to zero or below, the player loses the round and must flip their card if it’s white, or is eliminated if it’s red; otherwise the player wins the round and takes a success card. The first player to get two success cards is the winner. If no one has won, another round is played; the player who went through the dungeon gets to pick the next character. If all but one player is eliminated, the last player to survive is the winner.
Full rules for Welcome to the Dungeon are available at the Iello website in pdf form.
Welcome to the Dungeon is part of the Mini Games line from Iello. The original Japanese version was released under the name Dungeon of Mandom. It had only one character, whereas Welcome to the Dungeon has four.
As stated in the intro, at its core this is a game of “chicken” – who will drop out of the round and who will stay to the end. Staying in may mean pushing your luck, a lot in some cases, since you may not make it through the dungeon with what’s left of the equipment. But if you don’t ever go through the dungeon, you can’t win unless everyone else fails twice.
If you play a card on your turn, and all other players after you pass, you will be going through the dungeon. Each turn you take gives you some knowledge, either of what monster was placed in the dungeon or what was removed (along with the equipment, which is general knowledge). But you do not know what monsters other players may have removed or put in the dungeon.
Much of the fun of the game comes from the bluffing element, deciding where to place the monster you just picked, and what equipment to eliminate. Do you remove a monster plus a piece of equipment that might help against the monster removed, hoping you can make it through the dungeon next turn if everyone passes? Do you place a big scary monster into the dungeon hoping that another player will take a turn and you can pass next turn so you don’t have to go through the dungeon yourself? Then there’s the wondering what other players have put into the dungeon or taken out.
The elimination factor usually isn’t a problem; rounds are fairly quick and an entire game is roughly 20-35 minutes long. The game is pretty light, making it a great filler. Also, since the game is small, it is very portable – a great choice to take to a restaurant or for travel.
The artwork is decent – fittingly fantasy themed. Each character and its equipment are color coded in bright backgrounds making them very easy to separate. The components are all high quality – coated cards plus thick tiles with a mix of matte and gloss so certain areas of the tiles stand out (the item or character and its title).
The game is fun and as simple to learn as it is to teach, making it a great choice for family, non-gamer friends, and newbies. It is also interesting enough to entertain even the most seasoned gamer (at least in-between those more serious 3-hour games).
All considered, Welcome to the Dungeon is a great addition to anyone’s game collection.
An expansion, Welcome Back to the Dungeon, is expected to be released in 2016. It will include 4 new characters as well as new monsters.
Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y (from an earlier review): 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…
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).
Joe Huber (2 plays of this edition; 25 total plays): Having enjoyed Dungeon of Mandom for some time, I decided to give the re-release a go. And while there is more in the box – it’s a bigger box. And I’m not as fond of any of the alternate sets of weapons as I am with the original set (which, thankfully, is included). And the title just isn’t as intriguing. So in the end, I decided that I only needed one copy of the game – and the original was the one I wanted in my collection. For those less constrained by space, or for whom the alternate weapons make more of a difference, though, I can definitely recommend the Welcome to the Dungeon edition – nothing negative has been done to the game, and for most I expect (like for Dale) the changes to be upgrades.
Dan Blum: The original edition has more charm and is smaller, but I like the variety of the IELLO edition. In any case it’s a fine little filler.
Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it: Mary Prasad, Joe H, Dan Blum
- Not for me…