Dungeon Heroes designed by Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games is themed as a dungeon crawl game, but it’s really more of a two player face-off along the lines of Jaipur or Ballon Cup.
“The inspiration for Dungeon Heroes came from a desire I had to play dungeon crawl,” Coe said. “As I’ve grown older my time has become sparse. I have a wife and daughter and a lot more bills! I simply don’t have the time required for dungeon crawling. I needed something fast. A dungeon crawl I could play in 30 minutes over lunch. I didn’t want to play a dungeon themed card game either. I wanted to move figures around a dungeon scene, encounter traps and monsters and find treasures and equipment. I wanted to be challenged to utilize abilities of various party members and be given the chance to make my own dungeon as if I were the game master.”
Gameplay is asynchronous. One player controls a group of exploring heroes and the other plays the dungeon lord trying to kill the good guys.
“The asymmetrical play style of the game was the most difficult to balance. Playing as the hero party and playing as the dungeon lord are two VERY different experiences. It’s almost like having two games in one! I wanted to explore thematically appropriate mechanics for both sides while presenting players with a head to head challenge. Finding the balance between the two was tricky and required extensive play testing and tweaking.”
For the Dungeon Lord to win they must kill all the heroes. For the Heroes to win they must successfully find three of the four treasures in the dungeon.
The game is broken into two halves. In the first the Dungeon Lord places four tiles face down per turn while the heroes spend their turn exploring the dungeon. In the second half of the game, once all the tiles are placed, the Dungeon Lord is allowed to swap exposed monsters for awesome looking meeples that can be used to attack and kill the heroes.
Each tile that a Dungeon Lord can place has a unique property. There are of course monsters, but in addition there are instant deaths, traps, artifacts, and portals. On the flipside the heroes all have special abilities. The warrior can kill any monster, the wizard can reveal face down tiles, the rogue can disarm traps and the cleric can heal party members.
The strategy is straight forward. The Dungeon Lord wants to use the facedown tiles to stall and mess with the heroes so that when the midpoint of the game is reached they can summon their monsters. While the heroes are desperately trying to find and disarm as many monsters as possible so that once the second half of the game begins they can simply go about their business trying to find the treasures without stressing.
“Mechanically speaking, not much changed from the game’s initially conception,” Coe said. “Just tweaks here and there to fine tune the balance and play experience. The original concepts all stayed in some form or another. The only significant change would be in components. The game originally used different RPG dice to represent each hero on the board and doubled as their health counter. Later the game was evolved to include avant garde wooden figures as the heroes and monsters. The RPG dice remained but as only as health counters.”
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Dungeon Heroes is more than a generic dungeon crawler. It’s one of those games where you are truly playing against your opponent as opposed to playing the system. There is a lot of bluffing involved and it plays complcetly differnet depending on your opponent.
“Dungeon Heroes has a bright future and belongs in every gamer’s collection!” Coe said. “Since it’s release it has been selling out at all retailers and has been generating a lot of positive buzz around gaming communities. So if you haven’t had a chance to play it yet, find a way, I’m confident you will love it!”
Dungeon Heroes is available at the Gamelyn Games website and an expansion including a cool dragon meeple have already been released. Plus more expansions are already in the works!