Welcome to the Dungeon is a 2-4 player push-your- luck and bluffing style game, with a play time of about 30 minutes (closer to 20 in my experience), recommended for ages 10 and up.
In Welcome the Dungeon, players are competing to see who among them is the bravest and willing to take the chosen hero into the depths of a dangerous dungeon with the fewest pieces of equipment. Players will face all manner of monsters inside the dungeon, but did they bring enough along with them to survive?
Gameplay overview: (Note: The true experience of this game is not easily communicated through an explanation of the rules. To get an idea for the “feel” of the game, be sure to read my thoughts on the game, as well.) The object of the game is to either be the first player to successfully survive the dungeon twice, or to be the last player remaining.
Players will begin by selecting a single hero (either a Warrior, Barbarian, Rogue, or Mage) to be shared by the group, with all 6 of its equipment tiles laid out in the center of the table. The equipment tiles vary from hero to hero, but will consist of things such as extra health, potions to revive the hero if he’s defeated, or weapons which automatically defeat certain monsters.
Players will then take turns by either passing (and thus losing the opportunity to go into the dungeon with the chosen hero for the round) or by drawing a card from the monster deck, while keeping it hidden from other players. The monster deck consists of 13 cards, ranging in value from 1 (the weakest) to 9 (the strongest). The number on the card is how much health that monster will remove from the hero if encountered.
After a player draws a monster card, they will then decide to either place the monster card face down into the dungeon, which the chosen hero will eventually face, or by discarding face down the monster card along with a piece of the hero’s equipment. The choice here comes down to, “Do I make the dungeon more difficult by adding this monster, or do I make the hero weaker by removing this helpful piece of equipment?”
Players will continue in this fashion, adding cards to the dungeon or removing equipment from the hero, until all other players pass (meaning they no longer believe the hero can survive the dungeon) and the remaining player is forced to take the hero through the dungeon themselves.
That player will take the dungeon deck without shuffling it, and reveal monster cards from the top one at a time. Each monster will subtract health from the hero equal to its value, or be defeated by one of the hero’s remaining equipment tiles. If the hero’s health reaches 0, they are defeated and the player flips over their monster reference card they received at the beginning of the game to the “red” side. But if the hero makes it through the entire dungeon deck with any health remaining, the hero survived and that player takes a “Success” card.
Then the player who just took the hero through the dungeon will select the next hero that the group will use, and a new round will begin, repeating the process described above. If a player is ever defeated in the dungeon a second time, they are eliminated from the game. Rounds will continue until either only one player remains or until one player has successfully survived the dungeon twice.
Components: The components to this game are well-made and nice to look at and handle. The artwork is a very appealing, somewhat cartoony style. The cards, while not the highest possible quality, are good (and there’s so few that if you’re really worried about them, you could sleeve them in little time at all). The equipment tiles are nice and study, and have a cool spot-varnish that gives them a nice visual presence on the table. The rules are short and simple, and the game has good, clear, references on the monster cards and player references. The box itself is also a nice, small size, making it easy to transport.
Thoughts: This game packs a big punch for such a small box. There are few components, simple rules, and uncomplicated powers and abilities (on the equipment tiles). And yet there’s a surprising amount of depth to the strategy of what is essentially a game of chicken, where players are daring each other to face the unknown with as little as possible.
As stated in my gameplay overview, the choice you most frequently face in this game is, “Do I make the dungeon more difficult by adding this monster, or do I make the hero weaker by removing this helpful piece of equipment?” However, you also have to face questions like “How powerful was that monster he just put in the dungeon? Would he put in a monster he knows he can’t defeat?” Or, “Why did he remove the only weapon that kill the dragon? Does he think it’s not in the dungeon, or does he know it is and is trying to sabotage me?” And while you can try to intentionally sabotage other players, if they bail out too early you may get stuck with a dungeon deck you know you can’t defeat. But other times, you may be forced to go into a dungeon you think there’s no way you can survive, and yet somehow you come out alive. That’s a truly great feeling!
One minor thing I have noticed with this game is that while the rules themselves are very simple, making it a great game to teach to new gamers, the nuances of this game are hard to explain, and most new players will need a round or two to really “get” the strategy and motivation behind certain choices. I recommend doing a practice round before beginning to actually keep score. After that, most players should be good to go, and all bets will be off.
Welcome to the Dungeon is full of simple yet significant choices, tension and excitement, fear of the unknown, the occasional thrill of defeating the impossible, and the joy of seeing your friends (or yourself!) face their doom. Plus, it all happens in 30 minutes or less. It’s a really neat, fast playing game, and I absolutely think you should check it out.
For the Parents:
Violence: Equipment tiles that that heroes may use to defeat various monsters include axes, war hammers, swords, knives, and other weapons.
Sexual content: None.
Drugs and Alcohol: None.
Horror/Occult: Monsters include skeletons, vampires, a ghost, and a demon, among other fantasy monsters. The ghost and vampires are defeated by the “Holy Grail” equipment tile, and one of the ways of defeating the demon is with the Mage’s “Demonic pact” equipment tile. As a reminder, the artwork is done in a light, cartoony style, and isn’t dark, creepy, or gruesome.