I’m always in awe of truly minimalist game design – and many titles that emerge from Japan follow this kind of ethos, with tiny numbers of components and short sets of rules, cleverly maximising gameplay opportunities despite this.

Welcome to the Dungeon is a slight re-implimentation of Japanese card game Dungeon of Mandom. Adding extra characters and equipment to the original game, Welcome to the Dungeon still only has 13 monster cards (just like the original), player aids (which also track player health), 8 success cards and 28 tiles (only seven of which are in use at any given time).

In Welcome to the Dungeon, players take turns drawing from the monster deck and deciding whether or not to add the monster to the dungeon. If they do, the Dungeon gets itself a new monster and the next player takes their turn. If they decide they don’t want to add the monster to the dungeon, they can instead remove a piece of equipment and keep the monster face down in front of them. If a player doesn’t want to risk adding a monster or taking a piece of equipment away, they can pass, taking them out of the process until all but one of the other players have passed.

When only one player remains without passing, they must face the dungeon that everyone’s been building! One by one, each card is turned over and the monsters either dealt with – most monsters have a weakness to a piece of equipment, so if it remains without having been taken away during the dungeon building phase, the monster can be removed – or damage dealt to the player if the monster can’t be slayed. Then the next monster is drawn and so on. If the player runs out of health before the final monster is defeated, they take a wound. If they defeat the final monster, they take a success token.

Get two wounds and you’re out. Get two success tokens and you win! It’s really straightforward, though admittedly the bidding process is unique and takes a little getting used to.

Once everyone knows what they’re doing though – which’ll take a round or two at most – it’s addictive, fast paced and hilarious fun. Everyone does their best to bluff about what’s going into the dungeon and what’s been removed from the dungeon, without actually saying anything – but also, in the knowledge that they could themselves be the one to face the dungeon.

So you want to make the dungeon dangerous, but not too dangerous, because you could end up trying to beat it yourself if everyone suddenly decides to pass.

A whole game is usually over within ten minutes or so – and in my experience, players are itching to play again as soon as one game is done. The extra characters and their accompanying equipment add quite a bit of variety in the tactics of actually dealing with the dungeon too, which stops the game from feeling too repetitive.

Welcome to the Dungeon is a really neat little card game of bluff and pushing your luck; it’s family friendly, easy to learn, has lovely artwork and doesn’t cost the earth either. Ever reliable publisher Iello have another winner on their hands with this one – highly recommended.

You can buy Welcome to the Dungeon here.

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