Dale Yu: Review of Dungeon Rush

Dungeon Rush

  • Designers: Rustan and Eli Hakansson
  • Publisher: Lautapelit.fi
  • Players: 3-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 10-12 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Lautapelit.fi


I knew nothing about Dungeon Rush prior to Essen – even though I was pretty interested in the other three games from the Finnish publisher – somehow this title was completely missed by me.  When I first sat down to meet with Lautapelit, Toni was super excited about this title, and it was the first one that he showed me.  We quickly played a round or two and I was sold.

An example hero

An example hero

In this game, players control two different heroes.  They are laid out on the table in front of the player – on to the left side and one to the right.  There are four different attributes for the hero found around the four outer edges of their character card: swords, arrows, magic wands and eyemasks.  Over three rounds of the game, players will try to improve the abilities of their heroes and earn coins.

To start the game, a Dungeon Lord and a Dragon are randomly chosen and put face up on the table.  Then, all players choose two heroes – done Settlers-style.  There are three different decks of cards, each for a particular round in the game, which are each shuffled.  Each of the three rounds is comprised of three turns each, and then at the end of the nine turns, there is a final round where you try to defeat the Dungeon Lord and Dragon.

A Dungeon Lord and A Dragon

A Dungeon Lord and A Dragon

Each turn follows the same pattern:

1) Reveal Monster Cards – each player is dealt two monster cards.  These are simultaneously revealed (flipping away from the player).

2) Attack Monsters – As soon as the monster cards are flipped, players now use both hands to defeat the monsters.  Each monster card has its defense weaknesses in the main portion of the card.  You want to attack the monster with a hero that has the matching attributes.  The hero on your left is controlled with your left hand, the hero on the right uses your right hand.  Cover monster cards with the appropriate hand.  Only one player may cover a card, so be quick about it – though you could use both of your hands together on a card if you need the attributes of both of your heroes to vanquish a particular monster.  Once you cover a card, you cannot change your mind.

Three Level 1 Enemies

Three Level 1 Enemies

3) Check to see who wins – once everyone has covered the desired Monster cards, now you see if the hero(es) that have attacked the monsters are able to win.  If so, the take the monster card and add it to one of their heroes – does not have to be the particular hero that attacked that card.  At the bottom of almost all monster cards is an attribute icon which is then placed underneath your chosen hero card as to add that attribute to his character.  Some may only provide coins – these can be kept face up near you. If you have mistakenly attacked a Monster and cannot defeat it, you place the monster card face down near you where it will be a penalty in endgame scoring.

The first deck is used for rounds 1-3, the second for 4-6 and the third for 7-9.  At the end of the ninth round, there is a final attack.  Each player combines the attributes of both of their heroes and then tries to attack EITHER the Dungeon Lord or the Dragon.  Each of those cards will have different defense values and different rewards.  If you are able to win the final attack, you use the coin reward from that card to start your scoring.  To this value, add the coin value of all other monster cards that you managed to successfully defeat throughout the game.  Finally, subtract one coin for each monster card that you were unable to defeat.

The player with the most coins wins.  There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

The whole idea of building up your two adventurers is neat – as is the binding of the two characters to your two hands.  Over the course of the game, you do get the feeling that your characters are growing and getting stronger – and the use of three different decks gives a progressively harder set of opponents to deal with.

The game moves by really quick – with only nine turns, this turns out to be about a 10 minute game – when you include the five minutes it takes to set up the game!  Each individual round takes about ten seconds to flip and choose cards, and then maybe another twenty seconds for the players to choose where the newly gained cards will go.

One rule that new players in my games seem to have missed is that new cards which are collected can be placed on either of your heroes – it does not matter which hand slapped the card.  So – you end up with a little bit of strategy – do you choose to equally distribute your characteristics or do you load up one/both with a particular skill?  The other option which I have to remind new players (usually when we get to the third deck of monsters) is that you can use your two hands together to claim a larger monster card.

For a speed game, this isn’t too bad.  Yes, that sounds like a loaded statement – and it is.  Speed games have always been lower on the totem pole for me as they generally seem to disproportionately reward the player who might only be slightly faster – but consistently better.  For that reason, I’m not overly keen on speed games because invariably one or more players just ends up not even competing in the game as they are unable to do things as fast as everyone else (OR one player is just consistently faster and they run away with the game.)  Dungeon Rush seems to mitigate this problem for the most part.

First, with players having two adventurers, often with different skill sets, it’s hard for any one player to be consistently faster with both hands.  It’s just a lot to process in a second or two.  Second, the varying cards (some with skills, some with coins, some with both) offer up enough variety to give up plenty of options.  It’s hard to say that there is a “best” card flipped up.  In the end, faster players will likely be assured of getting at least one new card each round, and most likely two – and this will lead to a slow but steady advantage in their characters.  However, this has not felt like an overwhelming advantage in our games to date.

The cartoon-y art is nice, and the different monsters and characters are well drawn.  I do have a mild quibble with the graphic design – the arrow, sword and wand icons are all thin and skinny – and while they are different colored – in the rush of choosing; they can look alike, especially in low lighting settings.  Of course, this may actually be helpful in preventing a super speedy  person from dominating because there will be times when you have to take a second and make sure that you’re slapping the right card.  

For a small filler – both in physical size and play time – Dungeon Rush isn’t bad.  If you like speed games, this is definitely worth a try. The short play time makes any runaway issues moot – in a ten minute game, just enjoy the ride and have fun killing off enemies and beating the Dragon at the end…

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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