Where to begin with Dungeon Draft? It’s a game that has managed to keep my attention constantly for over a couple of years now. Firstly, Dungeon Draft is an easy to play, card drafting game for 2-5 players. Games usually last between 20 – 40 minutes, depending on the number of players. The game is designed by Justin Gary and published by Upper Deck, who also published the deck building masterpiece that is Legendary Encounters, where you and your teammates try to avoid being eaten by those classic film baddies, the xenomorphs. Lovely.
The game is fairly simple. Players begin with 9 gold pieces which are spent to play cards. Then, they each draw seven cards and pick one before passing the rest around the table, eventually drafting the best deck they can. Once this is done, they take turns to try and use as many of their cards as they can, spending gold to place them on the table. Once they’re there, they become permanent. In that way, the game draws upon elements of engine building and point maximisation.
Players can draw upon four colours/classes, each with its own themes. Red is your typical aggressive damage-dealing type of card, Green focuses on money generation and cost-effectiveness. Purple will allow you to combo and sometimes bring out cards for free (depending on lucky guesses) and Blue works on card draw and cost deduction. Once a round is complete, players draw seven cards again and repeat the cycle 3 more times. Sometimes, you may end up spending 9 gold on a ridiculous monster of a card, that gives you gold every round and is worth a ton of XP. Or you may spend the money on a load of smaller cards that work in synergy with each other. It’s up to you.
The ultimate aim is simply to accumulate the most points (XP), using whatever combos you can with the cards you get. Play ends after the 4th round.
Dungeon Draft is very well balanced. It took my troupe a few minutes to learn how to play, owing to a nice, tight rulebook, free of unnecessary complication. It also retains multiple ways to win and play, despite the apparent ease of gameplay. No two games will be the same, given it comes with a whopping 200 cards.
Usually, I prefer to seek out cards that give me a good attack strength, so I can kill off those pesky orcs and zombies. These black cards give instant rewards, such as gold or the coveted XP that wins you the game.
Sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way, given the nature of the draft. I’ve ended up with a bunch of blue cards before and had to adapt my strategy for excessive card draw, hoping to pick up points through those extra cards. It must be said that the game doesn’t necessarily force that on you: I did have some attack cards in that instance, it just seemed wiser to opt for the blue strategy.
A personal favourite card of mine, for example, is the ‘Axe of the Gods,’ a red card which costs 6 gold, but then reduces any other weapon cost by 6. If you’ve managed to collect a bunch of weapons, you could be in for some bumper XP. A further complication I haven’t mentioned yet are the quests. You choose 3 of them at the start. Once per game round, you can play a quest card which gives you a small but useful buff for the rest of the game. The caveat is that you must have a certain amount of a colour, or class out first. The druid cost reduction quests for example, which are amazing, require you have two or three greens out before being able to activate them. You totally shouldn’t try to get them at all costs. Nope.
The tangible parts of the game, the box, the little gold pieces and the XP pieces are of a high enough standard, though I’ve used a couple of small bags to keep them in, just to keep things nice and tidy. The artwork is beautiful, and I love the rich colours and hues. It’s a game I can thankfully look at time and again. The ‘Goblins’ card evokes exactly what I’d expect from a pack of sniggering goblin folk. In this regard, it does a good job of conjuring a theme to get involved in. Classic magical heroes with their fabled weapons competing to take out the most enemies and get the most points.
Dungeon Draft does exactly what you would expect. It is a no-nonsense, fun-packed dungeon crawler using card drafting and engine building. There are many elements of the game I have found to be quite finely tuned. The game length feels just right, and the rules are streamlined and easy to follow. I’m also impressed with the number of cards provided with the game which ensure a different outcome every time you play.
Two quite minor issues: I find the game’s theme to be generic. Goblins are goblins and orcs are orcs. This didn’t bother me at all but if one is looking for variations on the theme, they won’t find it here. Secondly, there is a lack of player interaction. The game very much takes place in turn order. Player one does their best with their draft, followed by player two and so forth. The interaction occurs socially with the commentary on how well the previous player did! If player interaction is something you’re looking for, this won’t satisfy that criterion.
These are small quibbles and will not impinge on the game. All in all, Dungeon Draft is easily a favourite of mine. It's well worth picking up to satisfy that card drafting dungeon crawler we all need.