When I first saw Guild of Dungeoneering, I’ll admit, I wasn’t interested in the slightest. By taking one look at a screenshot it almost looked too simple to me. Despite the common saying of not judging a book by its cover. 10 hours later and the developers at Gambrinous have completely proven me wrong with an early build. Guild of Dungeoneering appears simple from the outside, yet it gives you a fun tabletop card game to play with its own unique twist.
You take on the role of Dungeon Master and have to recruit a rag-tag band of Dungeoneers to restore the glory of your Guild of Dungeoneering. Venture out into the world as you build on top of a foundation the developers have made. Each dungeon has a few levels and an objective on each for you to achieve. Hopping into a dungeon, you’re given a slate of five random cards each turn that can include map tiles, monsters, and gold coins.
The trick to Guild of Dungeoneering is that you’re not the Dungeoneer and instead have to weave a path for your Dungeoneer. This essentially means, your Dungeoneer can go off and do incredibly stupid things like attacking a monster three times their level. Depending on the cards you get and how you use them, this may or may not happen! The goal is often to engage in a few battles with low level monsters so as to gather loot and upgrade your Dungeoneer. This often prepares you for the objective which can be slaying a nasty Rat King or even the Black Knight. And yes, the Black Knight has no arms; but it’s only a flesh wound anyway.
The developers at Gambrinous have taken to keeping a silly vibe throughout the Guild of Dungeoneering. From their subtle Black Knight reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail to irritating your Dungeoneer by poking them repeatedly. Just poking them for absolutely no purpose until they spurt out, “What if I were to poke you instead!?” As you play, the Dungeoneers will make comments each turn of the game. It varies between puns and comments on the monsters in the dungeon. Every so often the music kicks in and tells the tale of dungeoneering with a humorous melody.
Knowing where to place tiles, what monsters you’re making them fight, and where to place gold coins controls how the dungeon goes. Early on, the dungeon is rather empty aside from the objective. This allows you to fill in the cracks and persuade your Dungeoneer where to go with shiny gold coins. Since you need to fight enemies to get equipment, you have to know what you’re up against and if you’re prepared for them. This makes you get crafty on the path you make as well as trying to prevent your Dungeoneer from making mistakes. Otherwise, it's back to the Guild of Dungoneering, but instead to the graveyard.
A significant part of your Guild of Dungeoneering adventure lies in the combat. While exploring the dungeon you have built turn by turn, you will often engage in battles. The only way to get stronger is to fight those creatures lurking. The combat occurs in turns where you’re given three cards to use against your opponent. The game shows you their card and gives you the chance to react accordingly. The combat is fairly basic as it focuses on physical and magic damage. Everything revolves around this with a few twists along the way.
Your opponent might use a card that deals physical damage and blocks magic damage. This forces you to not waste a card that deals magic damage while trying to block that physical damage. Depending on the class of Dungeoneer you choose, each battle can go down a completely different way. For example, the Shapeshifter is one of my favorites as they have a wide variety of cards. They can deal damage and heal themselves simultaneously. This is an efficient way to block anything while still poking the enemy.
There are silly Dungeoneers as well such as the Mime which uses imaginary weapons. The Cat Burglar isn’t just a thief, they have the ability to throw cats at their foes. Who knows, maybe Gambrinous found the original meaning of the Cat Burglar. Stealing cats to later throw at people. The more you play the Guild of Dungeoneering, you tend to get a feel for how each monster plays and what class best suits you. As you complete levels or fail miserably at them, you’ll gain glory which is used to build new rooms of the guild. This can unlock perks, items to loot, and new Dungeoneers to play.
Something interesting about the Guild of Dungeoneering is the RPG aspect of the game. Your Dungeoneer levels up in and outside of each dungeon. Their level outside of the dungeon is purely cosmetic or for bragging rights. Whereas, while in the dungeon, it serves a purpose in making them stronger and giving you an idea of where you’re at. Once you complete that dungeon, that level does not stay with you. This means you’re starting a clean slate each dungeon, which isn’t such a bad thing.
In a game where the developers are constantly out to kill you, this is a plus. Granted, you’re the one making the dungeon and killing them after all. Dungeoneers constantly die leaving mass graveyards with new ones pouring in at the chance of glory and fame. You would think they’d learn not to enlist in a guild where their Dungeon Master has a cemetery filled with graves. I won’t question it.
Guild of Dungeoneering pulls me into the board gaming scene without actually needing a massive table for all those tile pieces. I recall playing Betrayal at House on the Hill at PAX East 2013 and having a blast doing the exact same things. Tile after tile while trying not to completely screw myself over by monsters. Welp, fell into a hole and can’t do anything, damn. 10 hours later, I have learned that Guild of Dungeoneering’s pen-and-paper art style only adds to the pleasure.