What's Eric Playing? #195: Dungeon of Mandom VIII
Alright, with this, I’ve written up reviews for 12 different Oink games (and published at least 11), meaning I’ve finally matched my Ludicrous Dominion Streak for Most Pointless Thing I’ve Managed To Do Consistently On This Blog. Why did I do it? No idea, but we’re here now, so keep on reading. Just makes me wish Oink had more of a consistent social media presence. Alas.
Anyways, in Dungeon of Mandom VIII, you play as … well, I’m not sure. You sort of build dungeons and intrepid adventurers go into the dungeons, but only one player gets to be the adventurer, so let’s talk about it from that perspective? The narrative is getting away from me. Sure, you’re an intrepid adventurer with six legendary pieces of equipment. Boasting of your success, you cast aside some of it to descend deep into the Dungeon of Mandom, hoping to seek your fortune there. Will you find riches below? Or only peril?
So, for setup, you’re going to want to get out the Adventurers and their equipment:
Set that aside. Also, shuffle the Special Monsters:
Draw two, reveal them to all players, and put them into the deck with the regular monsters. Shuffle those cards:
Take one of the Treasure cards and place it by the deck:
Finally, give every player a player aid:
It’s double-sided for a reason I will cover … later. Once you’ve done all that, you’re essentially ready to start! Choose a player to be the Start Player:
Dungeon of Mandom VIII is played over a series of rounds. Each round will begin the same and you’ll check for the victory conditions at the end of the round, so let’s just go through it in order, starting with the start player.
PREPARING THE DUNGEON
Before you can enter the dungeon and prove your valor you must … build it? Is this like a Field of Dreams thing? I have no idea. Not going to dwell on it. Either way, players will now semi-cooperatively work to construct a dungeon. But first the Start Player will choose a victim:
Place the adventurer and their equipment near the deck, in view of all players. Now, you’ll begin to prep the dungeon.
On your turn, you must choose to either Draw or Pass. If you pass, you’re out of the round! You don’t have to face the dungeon, but you are also ineligible for its bounty. Furthermore you won’t be able to participate in this phase anymore.
Let’s say you choose the more interesting option, and draw. Take the top card of the deck. Now, you may either add it to the dungeon (placing it face-down on top of the Treasure card) or you may remove it, at a small cost; namely, you discard one piece of the adventurer’s equipment. They may be able to avoid facing this monster, but they’ll lose one of their powerful items to do so.
Once you’ve resolved that, play continues until every player has passed except for one. That (un)lucky player will take control of the adventurer and lead them to glory, or likely death!
INTO THE DUNGEON
So, you’re controlling the adventurer and you need to face what’s in the dungeon. Well, before you get there, certain equipment might ask you to declare a strength level. What’s a strength level? Well, it depends on the monster. What monsters can you fight?
- Goblin (Strength 1) x2
- Skeleton (Strength 2) x2
- Orc (Strength 3) x2
- Vampire (Strength 4) x2
- Golem (Strength 5) x2
- Lich (Strength 6) x1 (spelled “Litch” in the game, but, I mean, I know what they mean)
- Demon (Strength 7) x1
- Dragon (Strength 9) x1
Every monster of that strength is said to have that identity (all strength 5 monsters are golems, for instance). This matters for certain items that kill vampires or golems or goblins. There are also some special Monsters:
- Mimic: This monster’s strength is equal to the number of equipment items you have when you face it. That said, its identity is unknown (if it has strength 5, it is not a golem; you cannot beat it with a weapon that kills golems).
- Egg: Choose a random card from the cards that were set aside. The Egg hatches into this card and takes on its identity. If no cards were set aside, nothing happens and this monster has 0 strength.
- Shapeshifter: This monster turns into a monster with strength X, where X is the number of monsters you’ve already encountered. If it turns into a monster with strength 8 or strength >= 10, its identity is unknown. Otherwise it becomes one of the regular monsters.
- Ooze: This monster has 0 strength; it just wants to eat one of your items. Discard one of your items. If you have no items, it just leaves. Note that if you discard an item that gives you additional HP (+HP), treat that as you losing the corresponding amount of HP. So if you have a +3 HP item and you’re at 6 / 10, you’d go down to 3 / 7.
- Vampire Lord: If you already have one treasure, the Vampire Lord is strength 8. If not, it is a Vampire (strength 4).
- Fairy: The Fairy has 0 Strength. You just kind of push it over and move on.
- Ally: The Ally isn’t really a monster, or at least that’s what he kept screaming. The other monsters saw what happened and were freaked out. Discard the ally and defeat the next monster you draw for free.
So, when you encounter a monster, you will likely have some equipment. This equipment either will let you defeat the monster or something else weird. I’m not going to enumerate over all of it because there’s a lot and that feels tedious. Especially the Minstrel. Regardless, if you cannot defeat a monster with the equipment you have, you take its strength as damage (unless otherwise stated). If you take more damage than you have HP, you … “retire”. Something about a nice farm upstate. Either way, the round ends. If you defeat all the monsters and reveal the Treasure below, claim it! Take the Treasure card and put it in front of you.
So, at the end of the round, if you didn’t enter the dungeon, nothing happens to you, generally.
If you did enter the dungeon and you “retired”, flip your player aid to the red side. If it’s already on the red side, you’re out of the game. Eliminated!
If you did enter the dungeon and claimed the treasure, great! As mentioned, you should have the treasure card. If that’s your second treasure card, you win the game immediately! Wonderful.
Oh, also, if you are the only player left in the game at the end of a round, you win by default!
Otherwise, the player who entered the dungeon is the new Start Player and you restart the round. If that player just got eliminated, then the first player on their left that is still in the game is now the Start Player.
Continue playing until someone wins or everyone else loses!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
Pretty much all you do at higher player counts of this is gradually lose information — at two, you’ll usually know about half of the monsters in the dungeon. Three, maybe a third. Four, you’ll have no idea. It might mean that players will be more conservative at higher player counts, but I imagine that the metagame for it will change a bit depending on who you’re playing with and how frequently you play. This game’s already a bit much for my low, low risk tolerance, so I’d probably recommend it inversely with player count (best at two, least likely to play at four). Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but rather, I just prefer to have a better grip on the information.
- Remember what you’ve put in the dungeon. That will be critical to trying to evaluate whether or not you should continue to press your luck. If you don’t remember, you’re done.
- The Minstrel has some weird combo potential. It’s possible, if they fight two goblins early on, that they can breeze through the dungeon and take 0 damage, provided they have all of their equipment. Keep an eye on that and don’t let other players take advantage of it.
- Generally, if you’re going to burn some equipment early, it’s best to burn damage reduction and resurrection items. They’re hard to value since their value depends on the “difficulty” of the dungeon, so burning them early means that you’re not likely to trigger a cascade of passes (or at least less likely to do so than if you do so later).
- Decide reasonably early if you’re willing to risk doing the dungeon or not. Certain things change if you are willing to do the dungeon; for starters, you’re less likely to want to burn equipment (unless you want to get rid of particularly nasty monsters, like the dragon). If you’re not willing to do the dungeon, then focus on making sure the player who does get stuck with it meets with an unfortunate accident.
- Fight your risk averse tendencies. I can’t do this, so I tend to lose this game pretty badly. Or, rather, I tend to let other players win. You’re going to need to essentially play chicken with other players on who gets stuck, so, try to keep a level head and power through.
- Plan for the special monsters. If you get lucky and choose for the Vorpal weapons to be effective against 4s, you might be able to kill two Vampires and the Vampire Lord. That’s three monsters, basically for free!
- If you’re going to tank equipment, don’t use the monster it’s effective against to tank it. Don’t discard the Princess’s Dragon Leash with the Dragon; let another player put the Dragon in the dungeon once you’ve done that. It’ll be fine, probably, I think.
- Watch out for prisoner’s dilemma situations. If it’s down to two players, one of whom has a treasure, you need to make sure that player doesn’t win. Ideally, they’d go into the dungeon and lose, but if you get stuck with the dungeon you might lose (and may be out of the game!). This is rough, so you’re slightly incentivized to make this someone else’s problem.
- It’s better to take a hit (if you can stay in the game) than it is to let another player win the game. This is practically obvious from how the game works but it’s important to internalize; you’d much rather go in yourself and lose than have another player win the game, since the game ends. Therefore, you’re kind of incentivized to overload the dungeon a bit and risk taking the hit yourself, if you can. That’s not bad; it’s just worth considering when you’re trying to decide if you draw or pass.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- The art is very nice. It’s got a neat, distinct style. I’m a fan. I particularly like the color schemes and the monster cards — they’re all pretty great.
- The box is quite striking, as well. The shiny black and the gold embossed lettering are a really nice combination. Impossible for me to like, photograph in an easy or straightforward way, but hey, we all have our challenges.
- Super easy to transport. A staple of the oink games line, which I appreciate. Makes it easy to take a lot of them anywhere.
- Fewer tiny bits than your normal Oink Game. I think Insider or A Fake Artist win this one, but it’s nice to not have a bunch of tiny pieces that you can drop and have them go anywhere (as Troika or The Pyramid’s Deadline or others have). Sure, you can drop the equipment, but they’re smallish tiles.
- Reasonably quick. It’s a bit meatier than the other (non Modern Art) Oink Games that I’ve played, but it still plays within a lunch block.
- It’s got a good bit of table talk associated with it. There are laughs and groans and it allows for a fairly lively amount of socializing (as the other players kind of are the audience for the player that does enter the dungeon), which is pretty nice. I tend to see player commiserate with the player when they lose, even though they’re not on the same team. Plus, everyone likes to know what would have happened if they had chosen differently.
- It’s really pushing the form factor conceit. The text on stuff is really small and some things don’t even have English explanations (outside of the rulebook). It probably would have benefited from a double-size box (similar to Modern Art), but I imagine that was a special case.
- The name is weird, but I want to assume it’s unintentional. Is it supposed to be a like, masculinity thing? It’s hard to say. The charitable assumption is that they picked a randomish noise and that’s what we got. The VIII looks weird until you notice that there are eight characters. Either way, game names matter, and it pays to be a bit more … intentional with what your game’s name is supposed to imply about the game, lest people (like me) just get confused.
- Definitely one of the more complicated Oink Games. For a series noted for its simplicity, there’s a lot of things you need to read on very small cards. It’s not as needlessly complex as Twins, sure, where you need an advanced degree to understand the gameplay progression, but it’s definitely not the first Oink Game I’d get for someone.
- This is a rough game if you’re fairly risk-averse. I struggle with this game (and Medici: The Card Game, speaking of press-your-luck games). I think it’s the player elimination part of it. I hate being out of a game, so I’d much rather play conservatively, which I think ends up being my downfall. It’s a tough habit to break, so it’s gonna be tough for me to break this game out as much as I’d like. I have fun with it, but man, it’s a tough one to play.
- It’s a bit too long for player elimination. Anything more than 15 minutes is long if you’re eliminating players, in my opinion, and the build-up part of the round is particularly not fun to watch. If you’ve got antsy players, you may not want to risk them just twiddling their thumbs after losing. All the more reason to not lose, I suppose, but this is why I’m risk-averse.
OVERALL: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Dungeon of Mandom VIII is pretty good! Sure, the name’s a bit weird and I’m not a huge fan of the player elimination bit, but if you’re a fan of that as a mechanic, it’s pretty tastefully implemented, here. There’s not really a surprise to it; you know that you run the risk of getting eliminated after your first defeat and if you choose not to play conservatively then your risk increases. It’s a game of risk management and pressing your luck, and that’s an area that I haven’t seen much of from Oink (other than The Pyramid’s Deadline, but that’s a completely different context). Either way, as far as reimplementations of Welcome to the Dungeon go, this one is pretty super. If you’re looking for a small box press-your-luck dungeon crawling experience, you may want to delve into the Dungeon of Mandom!