Review: Dungeon Mayhem

As I rule I try and avoid reviewing anything where I can’t play a thinly veiled Drizzt clone, but I’m willing to make an exception for Dungeon Mayhem because it’s cute, lightning-quick and I’m a sucker for anything with the D&D logo on it.

The game sets up 2-4 players as a band of adventurers each trying to be the one who’ll take home the day’s allotment of golden cups, magic swords and whatever else you find in generic treasure hoards. Naturally, the way they try to settle the dispute is by knocking seven kinds of snot out of each other with axes, daggers and magic missiles.

In game terms, this means flinging cards at one another in a bid to weaken your foes and shore up your own defences. Most elements of the game, from damage dealt to whether you can play another card on your turn, are shown through little icons stuck in the corner. The few special abilities that can’t be summed up so easily rarely have more than a half-dozen words of explanation.

It took maybe two or three minutes for us to go from tearing the plastic wrap off the box to playing the first card, and perhaps another ten to have a winner. The rules are simple enough for kids or slightly-drunk adults, while set-up time can be measured in seconds.

Dungeon Mayhem isn’t the deepest or most intricate of games but it still offers at least a fair few elements of strategy, especially when you consider its simplicity. Stringing together combos with Oriax the Clever, a dagger-loving tiefling rogue, can be incredibly satisfying and requires some intelligent play if you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck – or possibly scream for your stab.

Each of the four characters packed into the base game have their own decks to choose from and though most of the core elements are the same they manage to feel different, like you’re playing a different class entirely. 
Sutha the Skullcrusher, an axe-wielding barbarian, has a deck packed with high-damage attacks but little in the way of defence or healing, while Azzan the Mystic is all about careful planning and clever tricks that can snatch a victory in a single turn.

Like many competitive games Dungeon Mayhem really needs at least three players to shine. Forging alliances and planning out your target for each assault is half the fun, and if there’s only two of you staring across the battlefield it can get a little samey after a few rounds.

Even then, however, it’s never truly dull, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the beautiful art from Kyle Ferrin. Each and every card radiates character, with Lia the paladin’s blend of wholesome excitement and manic violence being a particular highlight.

You’re unlikely to find yourself playing Dungeon Mayhem all night long or even remembering much of your finished games, but it’s a great way to kill time while waiting for the rest of the party to arrive for your D&D session or to cleanse the palette between more complex boardgames.

★★★★☆

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