Posted on September 22, 2009 by spikexan
I’m not one for the dungeon crawl. Despite the fact I’ve been gaming since the mid-eighties, catacombs filled with creepy-crawlies that seem to have no apparent food supply just bores me to tears. One thing I do like though are the Choose Your Own Adventure books from days gone by. While Dungeon Crawl can be played with two or three people, it is intended as a solo-game. While it isn’t a new concept (TSR did it with the Marvel Super Heroes line with their title Thunder Over Jotunheim), it is a rather rare one. My allegiances are bitterly torn on this review, so watch out.
Before I go into my standard format, let me explain a little bit about what this game does. This game is part tile-based and part RPG. You take on the role of a character (Human Thief, Elf Sorcerer, or Dwarf Fighter) and stat your character out. They pretend that there are six character types, but differentiating between male and female Elf Sorcerer loses much of its argument when the following politically-correct sentence dictates that there are no benefits or penalties from playing males or females. This is one key benefit to this game as you can play it different ways by choosing different characters. Tiles are separated out. I should point out there are nearly sixty pages of things to print out and build for this game. The game points out that there is also a hard copy version of the game that comes with all the required cards and tiles. There are tiles for creatures, treasures, traps, and more. The character sheet is rather interesting in that it too is essentially tile-based. It’s multiple pages that fit together like a poster-sized character sheet (you will have the room since you’ll probably play this alone). The player (or players) then dive into the dungeon on a quest to take care of whatever mysterious ending they have drawn.
The book and tiles are laid out with a parchment background, which looks really good. The fonts on the first few pages of the book were interesting, but were quickly phased out. The same dull font runs through the rest of the book. The accessories luckily have more fitting fonts for them. Had they not the production value of this game would have suffered too greatly. The graphics of the various dungeon rooms and doorways and such look like they will work out well for what the directions detail. The finished product for this game is a 3D tile-based RPG. The 3D aspect is basically the doors, but still the effort to make something visually appealing stands.
The artwork of Dungeon Crawl surprised me. Martin McKenna’s pencils were cool additions to the book. The attention to minute detail was there along with creating some good looking character pieces. Some of the cards depict this, but most look like actual weapons or CGI interpretations. The artwork on the final cards (Dragons, Demons, and other nasty bits) isn’t so consistent. The Lich Lord card looks like it would fit better on Judas Priest album. The dragon, on the other hand, fits perfectly well.
The writing for the game is clear and detailed without bogging the reader down with useless information. The core rules are just over twenty pages and needs just about all that space to properly explain the game. The writing is sound and properly edited. The writing doesn’t concern itself with setting up any fantasy setting. It is treated just as rules to Clue would be treated.
The solo-play aspect of this game is its saving grace. The other aspects of the game are good, but not great. It just doesn’t build any real excitement. I used to play a TSR board game called Dungeon, which is a better-produced version of this game. Of course, you’re going to be spending fifty to three hundred dollars on it, depending on which version you want. Dungeon Crawl allows for more role-playing than most board games will allow; nevertheless, it’s not enough for me. My final scores for Dungeon Crawl are:
Layout: Two out of Five Dice (Better fonts throughout would be nice)
Artwork: Three out of Five Dice (Great pencils)
Writing: Two out of Five Dice (Rules can have more flavor)
Overall: Two out of Five Dice (Original, but not Catchy)
Review by Todd Cash