- Designer: Ulrich Blum
- Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 45 minutes (in actuality our games have been closer to an hour or slightly more)
- Played with review copy provided by Pegasus Spiele
In Doodle Dungeon, players take on the role of dungeon architect. For once, you’re not the human hero trying to crawl through the dungeon, defeat the enemies and grab the treasure. Here, you’re on the other side of the coin, setting traps and placing monsters in just the right places to get a nice unsuspecting human snack. This game is an offshoot of the very familiar and popular Roll and Write (RAW) genre, tentatively labeled as a Draft-and-Draw (DAD).
Each player gets a Dungeon Sheet, which shows a 10×10 grid at the bottom and a few areas to mark other info at the top. Write the name of your Dungeon and your name at the top. Each player also gets a pencil, a Dungeon Template, and a smaller score sheet. The Build deck is constructed based on the number of players and is shuffled. The start player gets the start player marker, which cleverly is a plastic pencil sharpener.
The game starts with the Building phase – over 14 rounds, players will lay out N+1 cards, and then starting with the starting player and going clockwise, players will draft a card out of this display. The bottom of the card shows what building elements are to be drawn in the dungeon this round. The top of the card has an Action on it – but you won’t need this Action until the third and final phase of the game. You are free to choose any card available – sometimes you will choose a card based on the building elements at the bottom; other times you might want a particular action to be in your deck, so you choose the card based on that. However, regardless of your motivations, you will have to deal with both halves of the card during the game.
Once all players have chosen their cards, the remaining card is placed in the discard pile. You must include as many building elements as shown on your card, and if necessary, you must place them in left to right order on the card. Walls, Traps and Monsters are placed on empty spaces in your dungeon, and they will occupy the entire space. There are some detailed rules for placement; they can be found on the single player aid – that will be passed around. (If you have a copier at home, just make 3 copies…) For instance: when building walls, you can’t fully block off any section of the dungeon but you are allowed to rotate or mirror them as shown on you cards; traps and monsters may not be orthogonally adjacent to another trap or monster.
If you don’t think your drawing skills are up to snuff, use the handy template included for each player. Treasures are hidden in your dungeon – write the location on your score sheet. Finally, Improvements are made by checking off boxes in the top area of your Dungeon sheet. Take the card, place it face down in your area, and then pass the pencil sharpener clockwise and repeat another round. Continue this until 14 rounds are complete – each player should have a dungeon that is doodled in, and a deck of 14 cards in their Action deck. Finally, in the Quantity area at the top of your sheet, mark down the number of treasures found in your dungeon.
In the second phase, you now get to draw the path that the Hero takes through a dungeon… but not your own! All players pass their sheet to the player on their left, and then players draw a path through their opponent’s dungeon – in a single line from the entrance (A1) to the exit (H10). The hero always moves orthogonally and can never cross thru walls. The path can only be in any particular space twice, but it is allowed to cross itself or run parallel to itself if necessary. The path can even enter a space and do a 180 and come back out the way it came in. You may not cross over the same Monster twice without passing over another Monster or Trap in between. If it helps, you can look through the cards in your personal Action deck to remind yourself of what abilities you will have in the next phase. When you are done drawing your path, pass it back to the owner (who can double check that you have followed all the rules).
In the final phase, players defend their dungeons (and also try to help out the heroes in their opponent’s dungeons). In turn order, players go through the following four phases – with the exception that there is a special first turn where players only do steps 3 and 4. To start, each player draws cards from their Action deck as stated in the Hand Size improvement box (anywhere from 1 to 4 cards).
1] Move the Hero Figure – move the Hero on the appointed line until it comes to a Trap or a Monster – and this encounter is resolved.
2] Resolve the Trap or Monster – If a trap, the Hero takes damage equal to the amount seen in the Trap Improvement box at the top. Cross off hearts at the bottom of the dungeon. Cross the Trap off the map, it is no longer there. If it is a monster, roll 2d10, add the sum together and add the modification in the box for that type of monster at the top of the sheet. If the total is 20, the hero loses the fight and takes damage as listed above. Do not cross off the monster, if the pass crosses this space again, you’ll have to fight the monster again! If the total is less than 20, the monster loses and is crossed off. It is no longer on the map! After the dice are rolled, the dungeon master could play cards from his hand to modify the action. Note that you are always limited to using 4 dice max in a fight.
3] Play Hero Cards – now, if you want, play Hero cards from your hand onto an opponent’s Dungeon. There is a max of 2 cards played on any dungeon. The owner of said dungeon will resolve the card when the conditions on the card are met.
4] Refill Cards – draw cards up to your hand limit (as determined by the hand size improvement box)
If your hero dies or escapes the Dungeon, you continue to play, but only doing steps 3 and 4…
When all heroes have completed their trips through their respective dungeon, then the game is scored. There are 6 categories of scoring:
- Treasures – for each of your treasures that is still guarded by a living monster, score points equal to the value in treasure improvement box
- Goblins – 1 point per remaining goblin
- Orcs – 2 points per remaining orc
- Dragons – 3 points per remaining dragon
- Hero Death – 5 points if the hero in your dungeon died
- Hero Lives Penalty – negative 1 points for each heart that the escaped hero still has
The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the fewest eliminated monsters in their dungeon.
My thoughts on the game
Doodle Dungeon is a super silly and entertaining game – and in the right group (or circumstance), it’s a blast. This is one game that I’ve found works well with kids/teens – and it got a good, but not great, reception from the regular gaming group.
The first part of the game has been a hit across all players. It’s simply fun to try to design your dungeon. And, for those gamers that like a bit of crafting in their game experience, there is really a nice chance to be expressive and let your artistic side run free. For the right brainers like me, it’s really nice that they give you a template so that everyone else can figure out what you’ve done with your dungeon!
Our initial games focused more on the building instructions at the bottom and less on the actions at the top – in part because it’s hard to realize what effects the cards will have. With experience, it is very possible to generate a nice strategy if you can dovetail your card actions with your drawn items – i.e. fill your dungeon with mostly meek 1 pt goblins – which suddenly become a terrorizing army when you get enough improvements to give them all +12 in fights!
The second phase, drawing the path, is OK – but can give an extremely variable result. There is a bit of L-R binding here, because if you give your dungeon to an inexperienced player, or one who doesn’t immediately grok the rules, you can end up with widely variable results… When you’re drawing the path on someone else’s board, ideally you’d like to have them hit as many monsters as possible (and as safely as possible) while avoiding traps. This is the hardest part of the game; remembering when you’re trying to kill off the hero (on your own board) and when you’re trying to not have the hero die (on an opponent’s board). Based on the cleverness of the artist, the path drawer might have to make tactical decisions – as a good dungeon will include path forks which cannot be fully explored; the path drawer may have to choose between options as to exploration. In short, your success could be directly determined by the choices and/or skill of your player to your left. If you’re really serious about winning, make sure you sit to the left of the worst skilled player in the game.
The third and final phase tends to take up the bulk of the time. With casual gamers, this is just fine. With veteran gamers, if you’re already in the phase of your game night where you’re drinking beers and chatting a bit, it’s probably OK too. But, it can drag on a bit. The reason for this is that the setup has each player moving forward an incremental amount – just to the next monster/trap – and then dice are rolled, cards are played, more cards are played, etc. Then the next player does it, and so on.
In one way, it would be funner (yes, that’s not really a word, but I’m using it here) if one player could just run his hero thru the dungeon all at once and everyone could watch and see how it goes. Or… it could be faster if everyone could simultaneously run their hero through their own dungeon, and you just compare scores. But with the turn system and the hand limit of cards, you are obligated to go in order to allow for players to play cards on their own board, and more importantly onto their opponent’s boards, at the right time. I’m not saying this this is good or bad – but more as a way to say that you can’t make and changes to speed up the game – it is set up to work this way.
For a euro-gamer, the direct targeted nature of the cards could be a turnoff. The rules try to prevent a dogpile from happening by limiting any dungeon to 2 negative cards played at it at a time; but if you really want to gang up on someone, you wait for their turn to end, when likely one of the cards is removed, and then simply play another card on that player. As a Euro-gamer, I’d prefer a few less Red cards (or maybe no red cards) to allow players to interfere with their opponents – but that’s just personal preference. The 2 card rule prevents things from ever getting too far out of hand, and that’s good enough for me in this sort of game.
The components are great! It is genius (and well appreciated) to have a pencil sharpener included in the game. It’s also nice to have a small gum eraser in the box… The Dungeon Templates really help non-artistic people such as myself from making unruly and illegible dungeons! My only complaint is that there is a single player aid. IMHO, a single player aid is really no good – because it might as well be in the rulebook as only one player can look at it at a time. I solved the issue by making 3 color copies so that every player could have one at their side.
The artwork is also well done; the art being illustrated by renowned comic artist John Kovalic – and the illustrations bring smiles to the faces of the gamers. The “artwork” made by the players is fun too – I do like a good bit of crafting in my game, and though my art skills are awful, the template helped me create a dungeon that looked decent, and it was a lot of fun to draw and create.
If you’re looking for a beer and pretzels game, this is a good choice. This is more of an experience game, where you’ll spend 60-75 minutes drawing your dungeon, and then laughing/groaning about the fate of the poor human heroes in the dungeons. As long as people are along for the ride, and maybe a bit less focused on who wins and loses, this is a great game for you. If you’re looking for a more serious strategy game without issues of unequal cards and player order binding – probably best to pass this one by for now. It’s not for you, and that’s OK – because there are definitely gamers out there that this one will be great for. This game does what I think it intends to do, and you’ll probably know whether you’re the target audience or not just by reading this review.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor