I received a free review copy from the publisher.
The game: Dungeon Rush by father and son team Rustan and Eli Håkansson, published by Lautapelit.fi in 2016.
Elevator pitch: Slapjack in a dungeon. Turn over monster cards and slap the ones your heroes can beat.
What’s in the box? Bunch of cards: 10 oversized hero cards and 110 cards representing monsters of various difficulty levels and tough end game bosses.
The card art is by Finnish comic artist Tuuli Hypen. It’s quite lovely, funny and there are plenty of little easter eggs.
Also, while the theme is standard fantasy, there are no chainmail bikini warriors: all player characters are double-sided with female and male sides, females wear armor that is actually useful and the characters are attractive without being sex objects.
What do you do in the game? Each turn all players take two monster cards and reveal them simultaneously. Then everybody must slap the monsters they want to attack. You have two characters and two hands, so each hand corresponds to one character.
If your character can beat the monster, ie. has enough symbols on the card, you get the monster card. Most of them add more symbols to your characters, making them more powerful. Some just give you points. If you fail to beat the monster, flip it face down and get -1 point.
This is repeated nine times, three for each level of monsters. The monsters get more difficult to beat towards the end, requiring more symbols. Rewards are higher, too.
In the end, there are two end bosses. If you can meet their symbol requirements with your two characters combined, you score the points. Count your points, highest total wins.
Lucky or skillful? Some luck, but lots of skill. Players with the fastest eyes and hands will collect more monsters, but if you’re unlucky, the revealed monsters don’t match your skills and there may be nothing you can slap.
Abstract or thematic? Quite abstract, could be anything really, but the card art is really lovely and helps to bring the game alive and the game sure feels like a dungeon crawler.
Solitaire or interactive? Fastest player wins, you’re trying to slap cards before anybody else can reach them. There’s no way to be mean to another player, you only have time to get what you can, no matter what the other players do.
Players: 3–5. The more the merrier, I suppose, and with more players the chance of not matching any monsters is lower.
Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+. That’s about right, but in this game, the age of the players isn’t that critical – it’s more important that the players are of a comparable skill.
Length: 10–15 minutes.
What’s to like: The card art is lovely; the game has good depth and variability for what it is; you really have to do some quick thinking before you slap.
What’s not to like: As always with reaction test games, it’s quite possible the game just doesn’t fit your group.
My verdict: Dungeon Rush is a fine example of a challenging genre. I’ve always enjoyed all sorts of speed games, pattern recognition challenges and reaction tests, but they are always really, really hard to get on the table.
Dungeon Rush suffers from the same problems. If you have a group that enjoys speed games, this is one of the better ones, with loads of good things about it, and well worth a closer look. If you know you won’t have success with reaction test games, Dungeon Rush won’t change those fundamentals in any way.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Dungeon Rush gets Suggest from me, though I have some reservations about it.