Dungeon Mayhem Review – The Newest D&D Game On The Block
Wizards of the Coast are well known in the gaming world for a couple of reasons, both of which are legacies in their own right. The first reason is because of Richard Garfield and Magic the Gathering. Garfield created Magic the Gathering and it was released to the general public in 1993, going on to not only (more or less) invent the CCG, but also to take the world by storm and become one of the most popular games ever played. The second reason is because, in 1997, Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR, who where the brains behind Dungeons and Dragons – the world’s largest tabletop role playing game.
It is off the back of Dungeons and Dragons (also known as D&D) that the game we are going to be talking about today was created. Dungeons and Dragons is a legacy, and there are several games set in the wider D&D world. These include Lords of Waterdeep and Tyrants of the Underdark, amongst others. One such other (said he, transitioning so smoothly) is the recent 2018 release Dungeon Mayhem.
What is Dungeon Mayhem?
Dungeon Mayhem is a Dungeons and Dragons themed take-that style card game designed by Jordan Comar and Roscoe Wetlaufer. With art by Kyle Ferrin, Dungeon Mayhem gives the players a deck to play and a character to own for the duration of the game. Players get a 28 card deck representing a race, class, and character in D&D. These are:
- Sutha the Skullcrusher – A Half-Orc Barbarian
- Azzan the Mystic – A Human Mage
- Lia the Radiant – An Elf Paladin
- Oriax the Clever – A Tiefling Rogue
Each characters set of cards is unique to them. They also have a player aid and sheet with 10x hit points depicted on it. The goal of the game is to be the last player standing in a chaotic bout of combat and magic.
Dungeon Mayhem is a game for 2-4 players and takes 10 minutes to play.
How do you play Dungeon Mayhem?
Dungeon Mayhem is a remarkably simple game to play. First, you take your character deck and you shuffle it. You also take your player guide and hit points counter. You then draw three cards to form your starting hand. Each turn you draw a card from your pile and you play a card.
The cards have different symbols on them representing different actions. If, for instance, the card has three swords then you do three damage to your opponent. If it has a shield then you put that card in front of you and it absorbs damage from your opponent before you take it yourself. If you get hit for two, but you have a two shield card in front of you, then that shield will absorb the damage and get discarded. If you have a three shields then you take two damage on the shield, but it stays working. If you have one shield then that two damage hit will do one damage to the shield, discard it, and one to you.
If the card has a card symbol on it then you will draw a card. If there is a lightning bolt then you get to play an additional action, and a heart heals damage.
Finally, each class has a few unique actions known as “mighty powers”. For the Half-Orc Barbarian, Sutha, those powers are a heart with an axe in it, showing that she heals once per opponent and then damages each opponent. She also has a shield destruction action and an action that forces characters to discard their hands.
Oriax the Clever, the Tiefling Rogue, has the same shield destruction card as well as an immunity for a round card, and the ability to play the top card of an opponent’s deck as his own. You get the idea.
The game really isn’t complicated, and this is reflected in the complexity score on BGG being just over 1/5. Simple. Easy to pick up. Quick to play.
What is Dungeon Mayhem like to play?
Dungeon Mayhem is an incredibly quick game to learn and play. In fact, I am actually staying with my folks whilst writing this review and taught them how to play in the middle of this sentence to experience a three player game.
Now, quite literally, twenty minutes and two games later I am back writing this. One game was won by my ol’ man playing the Half-Orc Barbarian, and one was won by my dear Ma playing the Elf Paladin.
So, Dungeon Mayhem is quick. That much is clear. Since the spread of winning characters also seems pretty even, it is a balanced game.
But what is it like? Well, to be completely frank, it’s a standard take-that style of game. You draw a card, play a card, and resolve the effect. Those effects vary slightly, with each character having their specials but they are fairly standard nonetheless. The game play is not mind blowing (my girlfriend actually referred to it as “from the school of Fluxx” with the draw one, play one mechanic), but does it need to be?
Well…no, not really. Dungeon Mayhem is a good game and it is a quick. It is enjoyable, tongue in cheek, and wholesome fun. The rules are basic making it quick to learn, and I actually think the fact it can be played in 10 minutes makes it a game that will make it to the table fairly often. You may not always have 25 minutes to spend on a game like Guillotine, but you probably have 10 minutes to spend on a game like Dungeon Mayhem.
The characters are slightly different; however, there isn’t a huge amount against how they play. None of them require much mastery, and the differences are often more cosmetic than practical. Each character has a slightly different balance, which seems about right; however, a few more special abilities wouldn’t go amiss.
There isn’t a huge amount else to say about how it plays because, to be honest, Dungeon Mayhem probably plays how you think it plays. It is a nice game with a couple of tricks up its sleeve, but generally speaking it’s simple and…well…fun.
You know though, in a way, I kind of get it. In the past, the games released around the D&D mythos have been targeted at a more adult gaming market. Lords of Waterdeep can be played with little prior D&D knowledge, but a lot of the rest can require more of a D&D investment.
Dungeon Mayhem is not like that. It doesn’t require any previous D&D experience, and it is also for ages 8+. This makes it an accessible entry point into the mythos, with accessible game play and accessible art. I can get that, respect it, and am thankful it exists. It may be too simple for a lot of the more serious gamers, but it is a good introduction for bringing people into the genre.
TL;DR: The Good, The Bad, and The Chaotic Neutral
So, let’s break down this Dungeon Mayhem review into the base facts. What are the good, the bad, and the neutral points about the game?
- Dungeon Mayhem plays incredibly quickly. This is a huge plus as it is one of the few games we have that can be played in only 10 minutes.
- The game acts as an introduction to the D&D mythos without going overboard.
- Dungeon Mayhem is a good family game or “airport game”. It can be played on the go.
- It only cost around £12.
- The artwork and design is somewhat comedic. This is a nice touch and actually reminded me of my early D&D days.
- Dungeon Mayhem is an incredibly accessible game.
- The unique powers are a nice way of differentiating the characters.
- The components feel cheap. There are cardboard tokens and they are flimsy. Likewise the cards don’t feel high quality. That being said, the game was cheap.
- The game is so simple that it may not have enough depth for more serious gamers.
- There could be more done to make the characters feel more unique.
Dungeon Mayhem Review: Conclusion
So, what can be said to conclude this Dungeon Mayhem review? Well I, for one, like this game; however, that comes with a big caveat. I like this game because it alludes to D&D which is a game I absolutely love. If I weren’t so much of a D&D fan then I suspect Dungeon Mayhem would hold little appeal when there are other mechanically similar games out there. That being said, if I didn’t play D&D but was open to it then Dungeon Mayhem would be a pleasant excursion into that world.
Although I haven’t played with a younger family, I imagine Dungeon Mayhem would be a great game for kids.
As adults though – it’s fun. If you like the theme it would probably be a nice little game to investigate more of. If you don’t then I don’t think the mechanics will save it for you.
So, what do you think? Is Dungeon Mayhem the kind of game that appeals to you? Or, would you rather not play it and invest elsewhere? Let me know in the comments below.