IN A NUTSHELL
A dungeon crawl boardgame by 0One Games, essentially a re-imagining of the old Games Workshop/Milton Bradley favourite, HeroQuest. Available as a PDF download to print and assemble, or (hopefully soon) as a "proper" boardgame.
As in HeroQuest, a party of up to four adventurers enters a dungeon in each quest to achieve an objective.
WHAT’S IN THE DOWNLOAD
I went for the travelmate edition, which differs from the regular one in having counters rather than standees to cut out. (I plan to print them on big sticky labels, and stick them to foamcore board to make more durable components.)
This has 10 files in it, containing:
Boards: Venture has six boards, each 9" by 9" and split over two pages. These contain an entrance hall, a hall of pillars, and boards with one, two, three and four rooms on them, respectively. There are no corridors as such, probably because they’d make the layout too big; as it is, every piece of every tile is an encounter area. Doors, traps and furniture are represented by counters, so have no fixed positions on the boards. Each scenario uses 2-6 of these modular boards in a different configuration. The file also contains a Decks Board, where the four card decks needed for play are laid out.
Bonus Materials: This file is intended to be printed on heavier card stock, and assembled to form a box full of trays to store the other components. I’ll probably get a plastic box and some bags for that purpose. There is also a sheet of stickers to convert ordinary dice into the game’s special dice. More on those later.
Cards: Two files here, one with 14 pages of cards for equipment, expendables (such as potions), spells, events, and initiative, and one with the card backs. You could go nuts adding your own extra cards.
Counters: Two files again, one with markers for traps, lost hit points, and the disembodied spirits of the adventurers, and another with counters for heroes, monsters, doors and furniture. If you get the normal edition, the second one is replaced with standees for those items, which you can also buy separately if you change your mind. Or you could use all those miniatures you have lying around.
Evil Keeper’s Screen: Reference charts for the EK, which you assemble into a GM’s screen.
Hero and Monster Sheets: Cards for the four heroes (human barbarian, human thief, elven wizard, dwarven fighter) and the five ordinary monsters (orc, ogre, kobold, skeleton, zombie). The monster cards have summaries of their statistics, and the hero cards also have places to park counters for hit points lost, equipment, and spells cast. The boss monsters – death knight, evil mage, and chaos fighter – are handled differently as their statistics are variable.
Rulebook: 15 pages of rules, covering movement, combat and spells. The rules are boardgame-level, so you’ll have no trouble picking them up. Each figure’s statistics are defined as a number of dice; your Move score is how many squares you can move, and combat and spellcasting are resolved by dice rolls. Moves cannot be diagonal; attacks can only be diagonal if you have the right equipment.
Quest Sheets: Ten ready-to-play quests, each with a map layout, statistics for the Boss, traps and any non-standard rules. There are more quests free to download at 0One Games, and expansions for the game are starting to appear too.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Heroes can’t be permanently killed by low-grade monsters; as in games like Guild Wars, being killed by one of these means your disembodied spirit has to move to a shrine and respawn.
- Heroes can rest to recover hit points.
- Each time the heroes rest, respawn, or find some treasure, the dungeon’s Boss gets stronger. This means that if they lose too many fights, or clean out the entire dungeon, the Boss can become undefeatable – and he CAN kill heroes permanently.
- The Evil Keeper lays out all the map tiles at the start of the game, but not the doors, monsters or furniture. The heroes thus know the extent and shape of the dungeon, but not how they’ll get into each corner, or what they will find there.
- Campaign mode, in which heroes can keep equipment from dungeon to dungeon… but the more they keep, the stronger the Boss gets.
- Each board is split over two sheets of paper; they have to be printed and assembled. I’ll get over it; if necessary I’ll recreate the boards and print them and the counters using "shrink to fit". So there.
- The custom dice. These are 6-sided dice of three different types, which grant a success 2, 3 or 4 times out of 6, respectively. This just feels clunky as a mechanic. It has the advantages of requiring almost no arithmetic (which would be needed for die roll modifiers) and fewer dice than if all of them had the same chance of success. I don’t like it, though.
- The quests don’t link together in an overall campaign. That was one of the best things about HeroQuest for me. Easy enough to fix, I suppose.
This looks like a serviceable enough game. My main interest was in using it as a source of additional dungeon tiles and scenarios for other games, so my slight disappointment in it is unjust, as that isn’t really what it’s designed for – 0One do a very snazzy line of dungeon tiles already. I can’t see a way to play it solo, but maybe it’s one for the holidays – I can play it with the family over Christmas.
This sort of dungeon crawl game has a lot of devotees, in the UK, USA and Europe, so I expect it to do well. I shall follow the expansions with interest.