Pen and paper dungeon crawling.
Back in the day, tabletop games and classic pen and paper RPGs where how I spent my time. I may now have moved onto videogames for my entertainment, but part of me still remembers with fondness a simpler, more creative time. The fact that I spent my youth swiping exercise books at school and drawing ever more complex dungeons on the gird paper is what instantly attracted me to Gambrinous’ upcoming Guild of Dungeoneering.
It is the presentation that first hits with Guild of Dungeoneering. Hand drawn monsters and heroes with an overwhelming cuteness, and dungeons drawn onto squared paper. The use of colour is minimal, giving the game a pencil on paper style. It really is great to look at, check out the teaser trailer for yourself -
But Guild of Dungeoneering is not just a fun looking game, it is also great fun to play. The player is set as the Dungeon Master and are looking to build a mighty guild of heroes. The final game will include the ability to add rooms to your guild, unlock equipment and invest in your heroes. However, in the early version of the game which I was able to play, I was limited to playing through a single dungeon, although the nature of the game meant that each time I played it was different.
So, your hero is dropped into a room, which has been drawn on the grid paper. The rest of the paper is blank aside from two other rooms, one containing a chest and the other a boss. The boss is going to take 10 turns to reach full strength, so it is in the players best interests to reach the boss before those 10 turns are up. To do this, the player will have to play cards.
Each turn, the player is presented with five cards. These cards can depict differently laid out dungeon rooms or corridors, which cannot be turned so have to be placed in the right position as the dungeon is built. Some of the cards will represent different monsters, which the player can place in the dungeon, or treasure. The thing is, the player has no control over the hero and so must tempt them to go where they want. Sometimes this can be as easy as placing some treasure which the hero will be drawn to, or a monster that the hero knows will drop something nice.
There is a lot of lovely randomness in drawing the cards and building the dungeon. If the right cards don’t come out, taking that detour to the treasure room may mean not reaching the boss room in the 10 turn limit, something which happened to me more than once. At this point, the boss zips across the screen and attacks, which always resulted in my death. But then, rushing to the boss room could also spell disaster as it is through combat that the hero becomes stronger and more capable.
Combat is also card based, and the equipment that the hero gathers through the dungeon plays an important role in how combat plays out. In each turn of combat, the player is presented with three cards, offering three attacks. These attacks could do physical damage or magical damage, they might be unblockable or block damage from the enemy, or something else completely. Once the player plays a card, it is replaced with another card from the deck, ready for the next turn. This goes on until either the enemy or the hero runs out of life points.
Each turn, the player can see the card that the enemy is playing, so can act accordingly to defeat them. However, the cards available to the player are randomly chosen from the deck, and the deck is dictated by the equipment that the hero is using. There is no deck management, but by equipping different weapons, armour and trinkets, new cards offering new attacks will be added to the deck. The hero has four slots for equipment of different types, and the equipment is dropped by defeated enemies or found in treasure chests.
However, despite careful placement of monsters and gathering the best equipment that they can find, not all heroes are destined for greatness and some of them will make bad decisions. Still, the joy of being a guild master means that there are plenty more fish in the sea, or heroes in the tavern, and it doesn’t take much to grab another hero and drop them into a dungeon. Maybe this one will be the one that defeats the boss and brings all of that lovely wealth and renown back to the guild?
Guild of Dungeoneering is due to hit Steam for PC and Mac sometime in mid 2015, and a tablet version of the game is set to follow. Although the version of the game that I played was very limited, Guild of Dungeoneering shows real promise with an almost nostalgic visual style and an interesting take on the turn-based dungeon-crawling gameplay. I certainly can’t wait to take charge of my guild and send more hapless heroes into the dungeons.