Review: Dungeon Mayhem

Dungeon Mayhem is a competitive card game for 1-4 players, and while the box says ages 8+ I’m going to wager you could bump that down to 7+. The game features the unique and energetic artistic style of artist Kyle Ferrin (Root, Dungeon World) and manages to perfectly capture the youthful and playful tone the game does so well mechanically. Each deck represents one adventurer, there is a paladin, a barbarian, a rogue, and a wizard so that covers the “core 4” rpg archetypes, although they are all really damage focused due to the competitive nature of the game.

The gameplay is light and simple, but complex enough that you’ll usually want to go back for another game or two, and requires almost zero setup. Another great thing is that there’s no nuance needed for D&D, you could play Dungeon Mayhem with your Grandma, and I highly recommend you do. The core mechanic each turn you must draw and play a card from your hand. Each player’s character has 10 hp, and the last one standing will be declared the winner, games last about 5-15 minutes.

There are five types of cards: attack (crossed swords), defense (shield), draw (card), healing (heart), play again (lightning bolt). The attack and defense cards are exactly what you’d expect, respectively dealing and mitigating 1 damage for each symbol shown. The shield cards are played and left out in front of you like creatures summoned in MtG. Hearts of course heal lost health, and the play again cards let you play 1 extra card for each one shown. You need to be careful when using these energy cards though because if you spend too many you may find yourself with a nearly, or completely empty hand. Which puts your options to a minimum, especially since you must play 1 card every turn. A good way to counteract that is by playing the draw cards, which allow you to draw extra cards for each symbol when played. This can help you stock up your hand, as there is no hand-size limit.

The shields come in the form of spells, henchmen, monsters, and gear but it’s all simply flavor as there are no unique rules for each type unless a card has a special ability that says otherwise. In a 2 player game it’s obvious who is going to be the target of your attacks, but in multiplayer games it’s more of a free for all, which is fine, but if you’re playing with folks who like to single out certain people – the game may breed arguments (see: sinister  siblings, quarrelsome cousins, fragile friends, etc.)

Each character has at least 2 special abilities referred to as Mighty Powers, these are represented by various unique icons on some of their cards that are keyed and explained on each character’s quick reference sheet. These come up rather infrequently for obvious reasons, as they can completely change the tides for a player. I won’t go over them all here but we’ll use the rogue, Oriax the Clever, as an example. Because rogues, that’s why, gentle reader.

Oriax’s mighty powers are: destroying a defense card in play, stealing the top card from any player’s deck and playing it as his own (pickpocket), and disallowing any of his opponents cards from effecting him until his next turn (clever disguise).

Production values are what you’d expectfrom WotC. Card qualty is pretty good, the art is great, and the cardboard tokens serve perfectly considering the price point, although I’d really have preferred a translucent cube to track my health, but that’s just because I love translucent cubes, my dudes. Mechanically there isn’t a ton going on, but there doesn’t need to be, but there’s certainly enough to build a little tension and work in a few ‘gotcha’ moments. Also, the flavor text of some of the abilities such as ‘even more daggers’ or ‘all of the axes’ are chuckle-worthy. I’ve mainly played this game with my 9 year old daughter and she really enjoys it, she said its one of her favorite games, aside from Kitten Clash, of course.

Dungeon Mayhem is a welcome addition to our game collection. Having recently played 5 Minute Dungeon, and One Deck Dungeon, I was hoping there would be some sort of alternative coop mode where players could team up to defeat the various monsters and henchmen throughout the other decks, but alas, no such option exists. Not yet at least. I think that Dungeon Madness could definitely become a product line for WotC if they would want to expand it to include more characters, more modes of play as expansion packs. Regardless, Dungeon Mayhem is a great addition to any board/card game collection and it will only set you back $15. It’s especially great if you’ve got young people in your life and/or are a fan of games that you can take and play just about anywhere.

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