You've surely heard of the social (or should that be anti-social?) parlour game Snog, Marry, Avoid (at least that's the relatively polite version). There have even been board game iterations, including Marry, Date or Dump? (Imagination Games / Parker Brothers). Nerdy Pup's Dungeon Date borrows elements from the parlour game in an entirely inoffensive fantasy setting .
Dungeon Date is essentially a tableau building set collection game. The 2-4 players are using 'treasure' cards to outfit themselves with armour and equipment that gives them icons. The icons in turn are used when encountering monsters. Match the monster's Romance icon and you add it to your Romance pile; likewise with the Befriend and Slay icons. You'll score for each monster you add but you'll score more if you collect sets of matching colours (4 points for a pair; 6 points for three matching colours; and 6 points for each set of four different colours).
The monsters are seeded by difficulty (ie: you encounter the easier ones first) at each of four locations: Doors A, B, C and D. Only the top monster card is face up. Also at each location is a face-up treasure card, so you can see the reward you'll get for that if you're successful at that encounter. Players each have a set of six action cards, four of which correspond to the door locations. You choose the card corresponding to the action you want to take and each round these are all revealed simultaneously.
If you're the only player who chooses, say, Door A, then you get to encounter that monster. If you have the requisite icon, you assign the monster to the appropriate Romance, Befriend, Slay pile beneath your individual player board and you take the treasure card from Door A and either equip it or (if you don't have room for it) you place it in your 'backpack' pile. The idea tho' is that you'll hopefully be adding to the icons on which you can call and so be able to successfully encounter more monsters next round. However, if two or more players choose the same location then they fight to determine who encounters the monster. This is done by comparing fight icons. Losers get compensated with a 'spite' card that gives them additional fight icons for use next time they are in a fight.
Players also fight if a Backstab action card is played. If you play that card on another player and win the fight, you get to steal one of their monsters.
Finally, there's the Stylomancer action card. Play that and you can choose either to draw two treasure cards and choose one, or you can add a 'personal style' icon that gives you an extra way of scoring points.
By now, and from our Board's Eye View 360, you've probably guessed that Dungeon Date is a light-hearted game. It benefits from cute cartoon art by Mikayla Buan, Tan Ganguly and designer Michael Addison, and you can expect most games to run to around 30 minutes, which feels about right for what is quite a light game. That's not to say there's no depth: there's fun to be had in trying to work out what locations other players are likely to choose, not least because, assuming you have the requisite icons, it's usually best to be the only player choosing a location as there's no risk of you leaving empty handed. Tho' there's definitely a 'take that' element, especially with the Backstab steal action, players are more likely to laugh than sulk when they're on the receiving end.
There are a few extra twists to the game that make use of the Romance, Befriend, Slay categorisation to score extra points but these don't overcomplicate matters: Dungeon Date can certainly be played as a family game. And publishers Nerdy Pup haven't skimped on options for jazzing the game up. There are character cards that give each player an asymmetric power, and pet cards to add a companion with a further special power. Just be warned that these can give rise to grumbles from players who feel their special powers aren't as useful as those of other players. You can step up the game's difficulty too by adding 'Eldritch' monsters to the mix. These add an extra monster colour, so make it slightly harder to collect colour sets.
Also included in the box are solo rules and a deck of Quest cards for use in solitaire play. These can also be used to transform Dungeon Date into a fully cooperative game. That's not only additional versatility for the game but it's also an excellent way of teaching it: it's always much easier to teach a fully cooperative game where you can trickle feed the rules than a competitive game where you probably have to cover the rules in their entirety before you start play.
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