Dungeon Twister is roughly in the genre of Talisman or DungeonQuest, the Game That Hurts. A couple teams of classic adventurer types loot an abandoned ruin. It’s nice to leave with the treasure, but it’s pretty good just to make it out alive. I’m ridiculously hopeful about this genre. I buy or try game after game, but they all share a series of problems: low interactivity, excessive randomness, and low replay value. Talisman can be played solitaire without much loss of fun. Frankly, it can be played with no players at all. DungeonQuest is equivalent to a coin flip. Heads, the dragon eats you. Tails, you get the treasure and then the dragon eats you. Edge, you make it out OK.
Dungeon Twister has very little randomness: only the initial board setup is random. There’s a little bit of hidden information in initial placements, some of which may not be revealed until late in game (Where’s the enemy Troll? It’s got to be in one of those two squares, but it can’t hurt me if I don’t wake it up…). Everything else is visible, planned, and interactive. The game framework is a race. You start at point A. Your opponent starts at point B. You want to be at point B, and he at A. Half of your team is under your control at the beginning. The other half is scattered in the dungeon to be discovered in play. Each of your characters has a special power: the Troll can regenerate, the Wizard can fly and use the fireball wand if he finds it, the Cleric can cure, and the Warrior can bend bars/lift gates. The Goblin’s special power is “Worth 2 points if he and his one hit point make it across the victory line.”
Five points win you the game: one point for each character across the enemy line, one point for each enemy you kill, one for each of the Treasure objects, and one extra if your Goblin lives.
There’s a nice microgame of action point allocation, and a further complication in that the rooms can be rotated—either from their own center or from the center of the room of matching color. The strategy involved in allocating action points so as to twist a room and run in or out while the doors line up is neat. And it’s a wonderful teaching tool. You learn very quickly that the enemy’s gate is down, and to keep your eye on victory points. Running around to pick up armor and weapons doesn’t get you points. Murdering the enemy Goblin doesn’t get you many points either, and neither does healing your own people.
Kat and I have greatly enjoyed a few games. We may try the timed or handicapped games next, but so far this is scratching a great itch. It turns out to not be a dungeon-crawl game like I’d expected. It doesn’t share enough of the flaws to really earn its place in that genre. It’s a suitable “Dragon Chess” game, though: a little bit of randomness, a little bit of hidden information, a lot of choices and planning, and a dungeon theme.