This review is based on the final retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
Hey, do you remember HeroQuest? A game so wrapped up and covered in nostalgia that you can only look on an original physical copy of the box by wearing rose tinted spectacles? Do you remember running around dungeons trying to succeed in the various quests? Do you remember playing as a Barbarian who basically ran around in a set of furry knickers with a decent sized chopper, collecting treasure unless they drew my favourite treasure card and found nothing? Do you remember that as a game it was actually fairly tricky to beat and relied on so much randomness as you played? Me too, me too..
Would you like to play a game like that again? Like now? After all the iterations of games that have been out? From Super Dungeon Explore to Dungeon Saga to Ravage: Dungeons of Plunder to Tainted Grail, plus the many others that have graced tables over the last thirty years or so? You do?
|WolfHowl Furry Knickers|
Because of course you do. I'll be honest. It's been mere weeks since I last played a dungeon crawler type game and that was in the form of the hugely successful CoraQuest Kickstarter. The thing about that game was that it highlighted for me how much I did actually love playing Dungeon Crawler games. That given the right setting and mechanics and without all the puff piece nonsense that modern games seem to pile on in terms of extra cotton wool mechanics and 'lore', there is sometimes nothing better than just jumping from map space to map space, collecting treasure and sticking the pointy ends of weapons into denizens that are only there because house prices continue to be terrible everywhere.
So entering on the stair tile comes Crypt of Chaos from Crystal Dagger Games, that comes in a dainty 6 inch by 4 inch sized box that contains the legend of a sword, a key and a Dragon that needs its butt kicked. There's room enough for solo dungeon delving or a quicker co-operative two player option. Or if you fancy turning up the difficulty slightly more, you can decide to hit the chaos mode instead. As you play and explore you'll add floor tiles which may or may not contain obstacles, or treasure chests or monsters. In order to pass obstacles you'll need to make sure you have the right tools, like Boots of Bounding if you happen across an impassable Hole in the Floor. If you enter a room with a monster then you have an option to not bother engaging with it at all, but walking back to where you came from. Though as time goes on, and you reveal more tiles, you'll normally get to the point where you have no choice but to engage with the dungeon inhabitants.
Crypt of Chaos avoids the use of dice, instead relying on a draw of cards to decide how the battle progresses, but unlike a lot of its kin, the monsters will only fight back if they are attacked first. You always have the option to walk away, but if you do, then the monster in question will recover all of its health back, thus needing you to really think about whether to take the risk and keep on fighting. You both draw from your own set of battle cards that are shuffled before each combat, and the cards will either increase your attack which you'll combine with your weapon strength, or will cause you to miss. As you explore the dungeon, you'll naturally be discovering more loot to help boost your basic stats and some of your own character traits will allow to simply ignore some of the residents. The randomness of using cards is not much different to using combat dice, with the only difference being that you'll begin to learn the odds of the combat deck as you play through an encounter, and so sometimes it's worth pressing on against your opponent, especially if you know your bigger attacks are about to be drawn.
As with all things that rely on the luck of the draw, unlucky combat decks have the chance to derail you. The Dungeon deck has been constructed so that things are only likely to hold you up as you get closer to the end game itself. Things will ramp up slowly as you play, so you never feel that the tiles are all of a sudden going to end your adventure with no discernible way forward.
I get the impression that Crystal Dagger games are very self aware of the genre they have decided to to tackle, and want this to be something you're happy to spend 30 to 60 minutes of your time on. This isn't the big epic dungeon crawler extravaganza that contains three hundred minis and backstory Tolkien would be proud of. There are a few budget decisions that have been made in production. The assets are from Shutterstock so the images of the heroes are pretty stereotypical of what you would expect if you searched 'Dungeon Heroes' in an image search, with the Barbarian more likely to die from catching a cold than being put to the sword and the flavour text had me chuckling as Crystal Dagger are obviously aware of it as well. The Wizard looks like all wizards, a useless bearded idiot with a beard (don't get me started) and all in all I wonder what kind of art style they would have gone for if there had been a bit more money behind the game. But those are what ifs, and for what it is worth Crypt of Chaos has done some very interesting things with the cloth it has cut itself.
I had fun with Crypt of Chaos. It takes literally five minutes to set up, doesn't take a long time to learn and doesn't spend weeks staring up at you from the table as you pretend to be enthralled with all of its Dungeon Tale. It's the kind of game you'll bring to the table when you've time to spare, or you and a friend fancy dungeon diving without all the palaver that surrounds similar games in the genre. It doesn't do anything too fresh, there's a chance you'll eventually tire of the same tiles cropping up, but it does a very decent job of playing the nostalgia card for those who remember, and for many of us, that will be enough to give it a try.
1 or 2 players
30 to 60 minutes
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