Monday, September 22, 2014

The Press-Your-Luck 3-in-1 Review

Hi everybody!

So today I am going to talk about big risks in small packages. I am reviewing three fantasy themed press-your-luck games; Dungeon Roll, Monsters and Maidens, and Dragon Slayer.
Chunky Dice Galore.
Each game brings something different to the table along with their scale of ease and luck. Besides the big mechanical similarities, all three were also successful Kickstarter projects from Game Salute, Tasty Minstrel Games, and Indie Boards & Cards. So without further discussion, let's get right into it.

Chris Darden's Dungeon Roll is a game of party assembling. You roll your hero dice in hopes of getting the best dungeon delving group ever assembled in order to gain massive loot in the dark depths. Each player picks a character card ranging from wizards and warriors to Santa Claus and Ebenezer Scrooge. These characters grant players a one time use power to help combat the monsters lurking in the dungeon. These characters also level up and gain better powers for further exploration. Now, the player rolls a series of hero dice that can become thieves, warriors, mages, clerics, etc. This is your party and each party member can clear any number of equally matched monsters, so clerics can wipe out skeletons, thieves take out chests, and you get the idea. You press your luck by delving further with a limited party, spending heroes as you gain levels and loot. Your goal is to hopefully make it down to the 10th floor and defeat the dragon that lurks there.
Filled to the brim with goodies.
You can be defeated and lose all of your collected loot on that delve. It can be a real plummet in score for you.

Out of the three games I am reviewing today, Dungeon Roll has the highest difficulty in it. It seems like the game is tightly gripped by Murphy's unforgiving Law. Whatever can go wrong most certainly will. The biggest downfall of the game is that the player interactions are nonexistent. It is a solitaire game through and through. Sure, an opponent rolls for the monsters, but outside of that minor working there is nothing you can do with or to each other. Unfortunately it is a spectator sport. The other major folly of Dungeon Roll is that the rule book is hot garbage on a sunny day. I read the rules, so did my fiance and we came up with two different interpretations. We watched 3 different reviews and play through videos and all 3 had different rule sets as well. So for awhile it was hard to figure out the exact right way to play. Eventually we saw some gameplay that worked and that is how we have been going about it ever since. Enough of the negative though, let's talk about some of the positives. Firstly, the artwork and custom dice are fantastic. They went all out to make the game look beautiful. The Mimic box from the Kickstarter also has am eerie gloom about it. Really spot on. The character powers add something special to Dungeon Roll, it is more than just flavor, but something that really sets it apart from other similar games. It can give you the edge you need or even better loot grabbing. There is also plenty of variety, so whether you choose favorite characters or deal them out randomly, you won't be sore with what you have. Now, I am going to save the rest of my thoughts for the end when I will compare the three together, so stay tuned for that.

 Dragon Slayer by David J. Mortimer puts players in the roll of heroic knights out to slay as many dragons as possible. The game is very fast past where the first person to hit 40 points wins. Each dragon, represented by 3 dice, is worth a number of points and has its own level of difficulty. The player picks a dragon to fight and rolls its dice along with his knight dice. The goal is to roll the dragon's Head, Body, and Tail in order to confront it in combat. After that the player only needs to roll 1 axe in order to slay the beast and score. However, the dragons have breath weapons and you have a trusty shield. Hopefully you can outlast the onslaught from your fearsome foe. When a dragon is slain the player can fight another dragon and hope to win as well. If he fails all points are lost and his turn passes. The thing is another player may use a challenge token, a one time use item to coerce the current knight into fighting one more dragon. If the knight refuses the challenge, he ends the turn and nets only half of his points while the challenger earns 5 points. If the knight succeeds the challenge he earns double his points that turn. It is quite a risky move and can make or break someone's current dragon slaying streak.
Thar Be Dragons

Dragon Slayer finds itself on the low end of the difficulty scale. The game is very straightforward, easy to learn, and easy to get into. The game shines with more players, basically the more challenges that get thrown around the more laughs are had. My one problem with the game is that it suffers from being a little too easy. My fiance and I might have just been on lucky rolling streaks, but we both found it easy to hit 20 points on a single turn and one unfortunate challenge can just end a game for 2 players. Other than that the art work is nice, the trophy board and knights are a little unnecessary, but they are cool to have. The metallic dye on the knight dice is a great contrast against the black plastic.

Last, but not least we have Fred MacKenzie's Monsters & Maidens. In the game players take on the roll of the hero, brave and strong, out to fight vicious monsters in order to save a whole harem of maidens. The game consists of 9 dice of three different types; monster, hero, and maiden. On a player's turn the dice are rolled, the maidens are put on your hero card for potential scoring while the heroes and monsters cancel each other out in combat. If there are too many monsters a player loses that number of maidens and places them on the monster card. If, however, there are more heroes a player may rescue that number of maidens from the monster card. It is a big back and forth of points and a player can continue to roll and push their luck for however long they wish or until they meet one of the two automatic end conditions. The automatic end conditions are rare, you either roll all maidens and immediately score them or you roll all heroes and monsters and end your turn. If your turn is automatically ended you gain an EPIC FAILURE card. The card can only be used on your next turn to change the face of any 1 die you rolled. The game play continues like this until the total of all players scores is equal to the player number multiplied by 20 (so 40 in a two player game).
Monsters, maidens, and a lot of bits.

Those black dice in the picture are the Epic Dice Expansion. It adds a season die that adds a special effect for the whole round, a fate die that is rerolled each time you roll to usually some negative effect (like losing a die), a tool die that can greatly help you out, and an adventure die that has a good mixture of positive and negative effects for you.

Monsters and Maidens is a medium difficulty out of these three games. It has a good range of judging when to stop and how far your luck can really go. I have two complaints with this game. The first being that those great maiden meeples aren't part of the game. They are sold separately. Without the meeples all scores are tallied with pen and paper, which is fine, but the meeples add some flare and make score visually easier to keep track of considering you need to reach 20xY points in order to end the game. The other complaint is that the automatic turn end conditions are rare at best. Over the course of several games it only happened twice. Those Epic Failure cards are pretty much useless throughout the game.

There is one stipulation I have with this game and that is the Epic Dice Expansion is totally worth the money. It adds a layer of complexity and deeper risk to the game and really enhances the fun factor for it.

Now that all of that is said, let's get right down to my final thoughts about the games in question.
Dungeon Roll, despite having great components is a pass. The game is short and the characters are great, but the game itself is slow, lots of player down time, and no player interaction, you might as well be in a room by yourself and chuck some dice. It has limited appeal and I feel that the game is easy to pass by. You aren't missing out on anything if you haven't played it. If you have to play it though, play it as a 2 or 3 player game, it will go quicker with less down time. The Winter Promo doesn't add much outside of variety, its a cool idea, but not really worth it in the long run.

Dragon Slayer is a very fun game. It isn't meant for 2 players though. It works great with 4 or 5 making the challenges a lot more fun and viable to play. It has a nice balance to it and is suitable for players of almost all ages. There's a lot of laughs to be had here and I give it one great axe up.

Monsters and Maidens is my clear favorite here. The game screams fun with any player count. The dice are nice and chunky, the games become tight and almost like a race to the finish. There is a good risk to be taken each turn and you can really fall hard if you make a few bad rolls. The game by itself is fun, but only OK - I give it a good recommendation. Once you add the Epic Dice Expansion though, the fun factor goes through the roof and adds some obstacles in your way. The expansion really made the game for me and I will sing some good praise for it.

There you have it, Monsters and Maidens won out on this battle with Dragon Slayer not too far behind, but they both leave Dungeon Roll in the dust.

I hope you enjoyed another review from the Daemonic Teutonic.
Thanks again.

Cheers,
Phil

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