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Dungeon Twister is a captivating and original game for two players, where their groups of characters try to escape from the dark rooms of a labyrinth filled with unforeseen dangers. As each player directs his own group of adventurers, their meeting will be inevitable!
Asmodee North America
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 11 and up
Est. time to learn: 30+ minutes
Weight: 676 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 8 square rooms
- 2 starting zones
- 2 quick-reference screens
- 2 sets of game pieces (8 characters and 6 objects per player)
- 2 sets of 8 figurines and 16 plastic bases
- 2 decks of 16 cards each
- 20 broken/open protcullis markers
- 10 markers to count game actions
- 1 rule book
Average Rating: 3.8 in 3 reviews
Dungeon Twister (Asmodee Editions, 2004 -- Christophe Boelinger), while produced in 2004, didn't make it to America until 2005. Thus, I stand by my declaration that this is, so far, the best game I've played in 2005. While the name conjures up images of an ogre trying desperately to put their left foot on green, the game is much different. In fact, it's hard to describe to people without mentioning "chess" and "dungeon crawl", and the two are so different that it's hard to imagine them in the same game. In fact, the true meaning of Dungeon Twister just might be the fact that it manages to "twist" several genres into one game.
But, oh, what a game! The back story to the game involves an all-powerful wizard dropping random contestants into a dungeon with twisting floors, and forcing them to play games for his amusement (and their freedom). With very little luck (besides the semi-random setup) and an excellent combat system, Dungeon Twister retains the theme of your classic dungeon, while acting as a tremendously tactical two-player game. I love the options the game presents, and the idea of more expansions with even more selections really has me excited.
Each player takes eight character tokens, six treasure tokens, eight character stand up counters, four action cards, nine combat cards, and three "jump" cards. The eight rooms provided in the game, each a grid of twenty-five squares and filled with pit traps, wall, doors, and decorations, are placed in a two by four formation, randomly face down on the table. At the end of this two column row, each player places a row of ten squares with four spots designated for their "starting team". Each player secretly places four of their characters on these spots face-down, and then, in turn order, places the other four characters and six treasure items face-down on the eight rooms (some restrictions apply). The four character tokens on the starting lines are revealed, and players replace them with the cardboard standup figures. One player is chosen to go first, and the game is ready to begin.
On a player's turn, they must first play one of their action cards face up on the table, showing how many actions they have this turn. Once the action card is played, it stays on the table until a player has used all four of the action cards, in which case they are all returned to his hand. (Action cards give 2, 3, 4, or 5 actions). The player then proceeds to take those actions. The actions available to a player are:
- Reveal a new room: If a player's revealed character is next to an unrevealed room, the player may flip the room over, as well as the tokens on that room. The player decides where all tokens go, except for items in their color, which the other player places in empty spots in that room.
- Move: Each character has two numbers, an attack and a move number. Characters can move spaces equal to their move number but can't move through walls, doors, enemy characters, or pit traps. If moving over an object or wounded character, the player can pick it up and continue moving.
- Rotate a room: If a character is on the central gears to a room, they can rotate the room 90 degrees in the direction indicated on the tile for one action each. Alternatively, a player can rotate the room that is the same color as the room they are standing in - there are four pairs of two rooms each.
- Attack: If a character is adjacent to another character, they may attack them. Both players play one attack card face down then reveal them simultaneously. The number on the attack card (0 - 6) is added to the character's attack value. The character with the lower value loses and is "wounded" -- their character is incapacitated, cannot move, and must simply stay in their spot -- with the only thing they can do is defend against future attacks. A wounded character may not be attacked on the same turn they are wounded; if wounded again, they are killed and removed from the board. Either way, both attack cards are discarded from the game, except for the "0" card, which is always returned to a player's hand.
Players can use the items in the game to their advantage and may also "jump" over pit traps by discarding one of the "jump" cards. Gameplay continues until one player gets five points. A point is scored by either getting a character to the other side of the board, the character is removed, they have "escaped!", or killing an opponent's character.
Some comments on the game...
- Characters: Here are the eight characters in the game,
and my take on each of them.
- Goblin: He's the weakest character, having no special abilities. His true usefulness is the fact that if he "escapes", he's worth two victory points. A lot of my strategies revolve around getting the goblin to escape -- it's a real boost towards winning the game.
- Warrior: A very useful fighter, the second strongest in the game -- he can also break doors down for one action, allowing access through them. His best usefulness comes from fighting the enemy, and I usually use him as a roving attacker, protecting the weaker folk, like the Goblin and Wall-Walker.
- Thief: The thief is the fastest character in the game, can unlock and open doors, and move over pit traps. Perhaps the best character -- it's dangerous to run her off the board too quickly, as she can help get some of the other characters off. She's a natural for the speed potion.
- Wizard: The wizard can levitate, moving over pit traps and enemies, but his true usefulness comes when he gets the fireball wand. Then, the Wizard becomes a powerhouse -- able to kill off an enemy (hopefully the Troll).
- Wall-Walker: As weak as the Goblin, she's still quite useful, as she can walk through walls for 1 action. She's easy to kill, but I've found that her ability can get her "escape" more often than not. She's also handy to deliver items to different users.
- Mekanork: I'm not sure about this guy. He's a decent fighter, but his special ability is that he can turn rooms in either direction. While this is useful, I haven't found that it has helped me win many battles. I'm sure that he's a terrific addition; I just don't use him much.
- Troll: The troll is a monster in combat and can regenerate from being wounded. This makes him exceedingly dangerous. The problem is that he's as slow as a snail and often only really useful as a defender against "escapes".
- Cleric: Perhaps the most valuable support character, the Cleric is the only character that can heal other wounded characters. He's very useful and to lose him early is devastating. I think that the characters are well-balanced, and it's hard to choose which one is my favorite, although I would lean towards the cleric and thief.
- Objects: The objects that can be picked up have various
- Armor: Gives a player +1 when defending in combat.
- Sword: Gives a player +1 when attacking in combat.
- Rope: Allows a player to move over pit traps.
- Fireball: An essential thing for the wizard to have. With it he can fell the mighty Troll. And this is a lovely thing to see.
- Treasure: If a character escapes when carrying this, they score an extra victory point. My goal is to get the goblin to escape with the treasure (although you can be sure the enemy will be gunning for him!)
- Speed Potion: This is possibly the most powerful item. It costs one action to use but gives it's bearer four action points. This can be totally devastating; and when used at the right time, the player can do a lot of damage with one character, especially one who is fast, like the thief.
- Components: All of the components in the game consist of mostly cardboard tokens that are nicely illustrated and are of good quality. Of course, many people won't enjoy using the stand up counters in the game, which is why you can purchase miniatures from Asmodee for each character. Not only that, but three-dimensional rooms and wall packs will be sold, to give the entire 3D experience. Now as much as I would love this (and I was able to play using such a board at Origins), it's really too expensive for me, and I also stink at/hate painting miniatures. But for those who like the visual effect, this option is available. For me, I'm glad that everything fits easily inside the nice, thin, sturdy box. Besides, the board just looks very good, evocative of dungeons.
- Rules: The rulebook is fifteen pages full of detailed rules and examples, with a rules summary on the back. Although that may seem long, the game is very basic, and the only thing that may cause forgetfulness are the special abilities of the characters. However, two screens are included with the game, each detailing the special abilities of the characters and the objects. This is an easy game to learn, although hard to master, since there is a great deal of strategy involved.
- Abstract: The game could easily be compared to an abstract strategy game, since there is very little luck (the randomness of the starting setup), and the tactical options that are presented. Yet, because of the combat system, which is very similar to that found in Lord of the Rings: Confrontation, and the very differentiated characters and items, it just doesn't fit the mold of an abstract game.
- Dungeon crawl: At the same time, the game feels like a dungeon crawl, since it has all the trappings of a dungeon, with the different heroes and monsters found therein. There is combat and treasure seeking, but all of this is there for a game, not for an RPG-on-a-board. So the game isn't really a dungeon crawl either.
- Chaos: With bits of an abstract game and a dungeon crawl put together, I have seen people a little thrown off by what they have termed as "chaos". And yes, there is certainly a lot going on in the board at any given moment. But I don't mind this, because it feels like controlled chaos, where a player can decide to rotate rooms, or carry armor, etc. Since players can keep track of combat cards that are discarded, combat can be easily measured, and players know exactly what card they must play to win; and it then becomes a matter of bluffing.
- Slowness: In a tournament of Dungeon Twister, a two-minute turn limit is imposed; and after playing with some slow players, I can see how that would be very useful. Since there are so many options given to a player, they have eight characters that can move in many directions, rotate rooms, fight, etc. that a player can get really bogged down in a room. And since a player can't take back a move when they rotate a room, they must visually study the board, to make sure that they really want to rotate, before they do it. All of this leads to that most dreaded of diseases, "analysis paralysis". But, as I said, a timer will clear that right up.
- Expansion: The designer told me that he had over a dozen expansions planned for the game -- at least one of which is already out. Each expansion adds more rooms, more characters, and more objects. The expansions also allow the game to be played with more than two players (although I think it's perfectly fine with only two). If you're looking for a game that will provide endless opportunities, then Dungeon Twist is the way to go.
- Fun Factor: I think the reason that I enjoy Dungeon Twister so much is that it provides the strategic depth of a good solid game, while adding in the trappings of the fantasy setting. When you've won a game of Dungeon Twister, you can rest assured that it's because of your skill, and nothing else. I don't like perfect information games like Chess, because the better player will win a vast, vast majority of the time. But in Dungeon Twister, there are so many options and tactical moves a player can attempt, that I doubt anyone could ever become undefeated at the game.
I don't think Dungeon Twister is for everyone -- some may be turned off by the dungeon theme, others may not like the dizzying array of choices each turn. Still others may not like the odd merging of fantasy and strategy. But for me it was a tremendous pairing, a dungeon game that I could tout as having a lot of strategy; fun, but full of depth at the same time. I'm looking greatly forward to each expansion and can't wait to see how the new characters interact with the old; but even with just the base set, the game is one of the best gaming experiences I've had this year.
"Real men play board games"
After reading reviews and thinking of the many options available and no luck involved and moving maps, I was nervous to purchase this game thinking the brain factor would mean it had no fun factor.
But, having now played, you can have fun simply playing the game with a mindset to have fun. I was able to play it with my 'advanced beginners' group from the office and it worked great.
Game prep: One thing you do want to do before jumping into a game is to make sure everyone knows a few very key things:
- What you can do to get by/through a portcullis.
- What you can do to get by/through a Pit Trap
- What to do with a wounded character.
- Stress the importance of combat card play and that you only get to use each one time.
Of course the overriding answer to all of these is that these is a TEAM of characters and if you go traipsing off haphazardly you will very probably find yourself in a lot of trouble!
We found that after we started the game we started to collect our players into small squads. Your Healer is critical to keep safe to be readily available to heal your bashers who are protecting you... who are being led by the Thief who is picking the locks on the Portcullis' or the Warrior who is bashing them down, and the rope carrier or thief helping you pass by traps and someone else to rotate the room to provide an escape as needed.
I will also point out that the game is kept moving and avoiding too much thinking by the limit on the number of actions you can take per turn. With only 2 or 3 actions in a turn, you end up focusing on one thing at a time, and while the others are taking their turn you can be planning what your next area to focus on is.
Conclusion: More fun than expected. And for players who are looking for simply a fun time, it DOES work.
This is not a bad game by any means, I kind'a enjoyed moving the little pieces of paper around the board. I like board games that doesn't always require dice rolling (no dice rolling in this game). I enjoy that little luck is involved and that strategy is the main factor in winning.
Heck, I like alot of things about it, but one thing that I don't like is crappy stand up pieces of paper that represents characters. I'd be fine with forking up another 10-20 bucks for the game to get nice solid miniatures. What I will not do is buy 1 set of miniatures for one team for 30 bucks from the company that made it.
I enjoy the game, it's playable in under half an hour, but some of the crappy components killed it for me.