Before I begin, I received a copy of the game in return for an honest review. This is not a paid review.
I have quite the proclivity for dungeon games, solo games, inexpensive games, kickstarter, and portable games. So how I missed Puzzle Dungeon is beyond me. I was certainly excited to get a chance to check it out recently when I was sent a review copy (and a second copy which I will be giving away on my YouTube channel…so keep your eye out for the video review to post to get a chance to win a copy!)
This game is a relatively simple Dungeon crawling puzzle game. What does that mean? Well, ostensibly you are a hero of some sort (warrior, pirate, bounty hunter, illusionist etc) who is dungeon delving looking for a certain prey. The type of prey is different for each hero type.
As with all games of this sort each hero has a special power they can use, and they also have a special ability associated with trophy kills…or kills of monster types that do not match the type of prey they are after. In addition each hero has two sides on their card to add variety and challenge.
In order to combat these monsters in the dungeon the hero uses their hand of cards and the “arsenal” which is laid out in front of them. When the hero is using cards from their hand they can pick and card they want, when they are using cards from the arsenal they must use the card furthers to the right first.
The way you go hunting is by selecting the a monster at the bottom of one of the columns. On the top right of the card it tells you what kind of monster it is (and whether it is a prey you are seeking), the bottom tells you what four suits you need to defeat it. To gain the suits you can use cards from your hand, or cards from your arsenal. Remember that you can only use the card the furthest to the right from your arsenal. If you are able to come up with the four needed suits then you have defeated the monster, you gain the reward listed on the bottom of the card, and you can now move on to another monster at the front of your column.
There are some variants to the monsters, such as when you defeat the third of a monster type you flip the fourth one over, creating a boss monster. Each of the boss monsters has an ongoing effect listed at the bottom of the card, so you will want to be careful how quickly you kill the different types if you can.
The only other thing to know is that, in addition to attacking monsters, you can also draw a card from your deck into your arsenal, it immediately goes to the right side, becoming the new card that is first available. Other than that you are just trying to manage your hand in a way that you can kill the monsters that you need.
So what did I think?
I think there is a lot to like here. I like the art, it has an old school 16 bit look to it…it is good fun. I like the puzzle gameplay aspect to it. Puzzle Dungeon, to me, is a fantasy update of solitaire. I don’t know about you but I spent hundreds of hours playing solitaire on the PC back in the day. (Yes children, I am old enough to have done that). This has the same feel, as you work through the columns and try to match your cards to what you need, however it has the added bonus of there being a story and theme behind it. I guess what I am saying is that it makes solitaire fun again.
I am also very pleased with the speed with which you can play a game, and how very portable it is. This is just a little bigger than a deck of cards, however, unlike a deck of cards it comes in an lovely box that opens completely, rather than a usual card box.
The rule book. It is just a printed piece of paper, which is fine, but it did take me a few reads to make sure I knew what I was doing, or more importantly doing it correctly. I was very excited to have won my first game…only to learn I was voraciously cheating. Needless to say I have not won much since. I would have liked to see some diagrams, and have the images of the cards labeled in the booklet a bit more clearly. I was able to figure out what was going on, but it could have been simpler.
I think overall this game delivers on what it sets out to do. However, for me, I think I would like to feel like the theme is a bit more realized. Just a little more fluff, give me a bit of insight into the world. I suspect many of you could not care less about this, but for me I like a little more story.
Bringing it all together
This is a very, very solid game. It is a delightful fantasy evolution of solitaire, with cool 16 bit art. The game plays quickly, takes up minimal space and is extremely portable, with a high replay value. It might not be for everyone, because it is, at its heart, solitaire. I love that they went the extra mile to make the box extremely nice, and the cards are of high quality. The rulebook is a little bit harder to parse than I would like, and it is just a folded piece of paper. Finally, though the theme is spot on a realized, I do wish that we were given a little more story to go along with it.
I would rather be the prey than read all that hot garbage
*Quick to play, quick to set up
*Well realized thematically, but could use a bit more story
*Good art, and components (other than the rule book)
*Rules could be easier to follow
*If you like fantasy, and you ever enjoyed solitaire then this is your game