For a complete playthrough of One Deck Dungeon, click here.
What is this game about?
One Deck Dungeon is a cooperative, dice-chucking card game in which you explore three floors of a dungeon, then fight a big boss at the end to win. During your time in the dungeon, your goal is to defeat enemies so that you can loot them for stat boosts, abilities, or experience points (experience allows you to add more abilities and more stats boosts to your character). To combat enemies, you roll dice that represent your current skill levels in the areas of strength, agility, and magic. You can also acquire and roll "heroic dice," which count as dice of any skill type.
What makes One Deck Dungeon such an interesting game is that you manage to do all of these activities with dice and with cards that can be used in multiple ways. While they are still in the deck, cards can be discarded to represent the passage of time—once you run out of time (i.e. cards in your deck) on one floor, you will need to descend to the next floor. When set out facedown in front of you, the cards represent locations you can explore in search of monsters, perils, and ultimately loot.
Once flipped over as encounters, the cards come to represent perils and combat scenarios. And when those scenarios are defeated, you make a choice about what kind of loot you want to receive: Will you take an ability, an "item" (i.e. stat boost), or experience points? Once you decide, cards can actually be slid under your character card as visual reminders of the buffs your character just received.
I absolutely love that every card in the game can represent different things at different moments: the passage of time, a closed door, an enemy, a new skill. So much flexibility, all contained within a tiny little box, is very satisfying to me.
How does it play solo?
One Deck Dungeon can either be played co-op (with two players) or solo. The game scales nicely— each character and level-up card has one side for co-op games and another for solo games. It is entirely possible to play One Deck Dungeon as a pure solo game in which you control only one character. But if you prefer to play two-handed and enjoy the interactions between characters, that is also a lot of fun.
I have a good time playing One Deck Dungeon, but with that said, you have to be prepared for one thing: this is a dice game. Although there are ways to try to mitigate your rolls, the simple fact is that a lot of times your dice are going to screw you over. You will take wounds, lose time, and even lose the game because you had too many bad rolls. If you typically want more control over your games, do not play One Deck Dungeon. Otherwise, I think you should pick it up (it's only $17.99 on CoolStuffInc right now) and have a great time. This one works great for me when I want a small, quick game that still allows me to make some decisions about my characters' progression.
In addition to the clever gameplay, One Deck Dungeon is also of interest to me because all of the heroes in the game are female. This choice was made without fanfare, but I definitely noticed. As a female gamer, I love to see game art that presents women as adventurous and capable, and I would say that One Deck Dungeon is a great example of what I want women in my games to look like.
Aside from the luck factor, One Deck Dungeon does have one issue: It is very repetitive. Creating an entire dungeon crawl from a single deck of cards is clever and efficient, but it also means you will see the exact same cards again and again. I definitely burn out on this one and have to give it a rest before I come back to it.
If you try One Deck Dungeon and enjoy the experience, an expansion for the game has been Kickstarted and delivered to backers (sadly, I was not one). The expansion should be available to all of us around March 2018. I definitely like this game enough to pick up the expansion once it's on sale in game stores.
Do I recommend it?
If you can handle the fact that One Deck Dungeon is very luck-driven and that you will frequently see the same cards in the game, then yes, I recommend it.
Overall rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.