Friday, September 02, 2005

Dungeon Twister

At Origins 2005, the standout game was without a doubt, Dungeon Twister. Sure at first glance it looks just like a typical dungeon crawl, and yeah, it's pretty firmly rooted in the whole fantasy/D&D shtick. But even if that's not your thing, read on to see why you still might love this game.

General idea is to be the first to get four points. Points are acquired by either moving one of your characters off the opponent's side of map for one point, or killing an opponent's character for one point. Each player has a team of eight characters made up of your typical D&D set of fighters (warrior, cleric, mage, theif etc.). They all have their own movement, attack/defense rating, and a special ability. So far, this is pretty typical dungeon crawler stuff here. But let's get into the meat of the game.

There are eight square sections of boards placed randomly face down to in two rows of four. This is the map of the dungeon. Then, four characters from each player are simultaneously chosen to be in a defensive position right off the board at the other player's exit, ready to jump in any time. The other four are then placed on the facedown map tiles one at a time. Along with the characters the players are placing items such as spells, ropes, and treasures that boost points for escaping characters. Once everything has been placed, the game begins.

You have four action cards, a 2, 3, 4 and 5, and you get to decide which card to use on your turn. That is your number of actions for the turn and you can't use that card again until all are used up. Actions include flipping over adjacent rooms (then the flipper decides where the items on that tile go), moving and fighting, rotating the room (if you are in the appropriate spot), and other special abilities that the characters might have. You also have a deck of cards for fighting. Simultaneously the players choose a card from their fight cards numbered 0 - 6 (I think) and that number is added to the character's fight rating. Highest number wins. In this case you don't get the cards back even if you use them all. However, you do get your Zero back every time. So for fighting what you have is a lot of bluffing and second-guessing -- very similar to Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.

The main thing you'll notice missing from this game is dice. It seems odd to have all of these fantasy characters and ideas without the pile of dice to go along with it. What you end up having is a pretty strategic game, with little luck involved. They brag that there is no luck, but I'd argue that the rooms being flipped is a random part of the game that can really screw you at the wrong time.

Most of the game is making the most of your actions. You're constantly having to balance between offensive and defensive actions, and there never seemed to be an obvious turn. There's always so much you want to do it's hard to figure out which is the most important. I'd recommend implementing a timer since that could lead to seriously long turns with the wrong people (like me).

Okay, so even though it is a great strategy game it is still very much fantasy based action. If you have a serious aversion to anything D&D-like, then I doubt this game will change your mind. But if you can look past that, I can't recommend this game enough. Lots of thinking and planning, interesting choices, bluffing and second-guessing, and plenty of lasting appeal. Of course I'm saying this only playing one demo game at a con, but I should be acquiring my own copy shortly enough, so I'll return if/when any of this might change.