It’s every kid’s dream to go to school to learn how to kill monsters! Right? Okay, I thought so. Well, now you can do that in the comfort of your own home, at any age. Your weapon? A pencil! The dungeon? Dice! Steel yourselves, students: it’s time to slay.
Dungeon Academy is certainly classified as a “roll & write” game, but overall I’d sell it to y’all as a real-time route building dungeon-delving monster-slaying romp. Players are given two characters that will have health and mana stats, as well as some sort of character benefit or power. These stats are your driving ability to get in and out of the dungeon in one piece! Choose one character to keep and you’re ready to delve. Rather than a tile setup for a dungeon, or even printing it on paper, Dungeon Academy takes things to a super changeable level by having a 4 x 4 grid of dice as the dungeon’s layout! Every die has a range of monsters and potions on it, and every round of the game has a new layout rolled up. Sweet, sweet variety.
Depending on the difficulty level your group of adventurers desires, you can change up the time limit for each round and can choose to add some advanced dice in for later levels. No matter what, each round will be players taking a look at the grid of dice and then drawing a path on their player sheet from their perspective that will guide them into the dungeon to face monsters and grab potions and hopefully make it out the other side. Players who finish up quicker will grab a 1st place, 2nd place card etc which will allow for a better pick of loot cards once everyone’s done – if you don’t make it out in time or – worse – end up knocked out in the dungeon, you won’t end up with any points or loot! So, be careful.
Unlike some other real-time games that can leave me screaming and frazzled, this is actually a really fun intense experience, having the spatial puzzle of route building mixed with tracking your health and mana off the top of your head to make sure you can make it out undefeated. I imagine inside my head sounds a little something like okay in we go there, and kill that big red dude and let’s go this way to kill the little blue guy and then up we go to get these potions and … well, you get the drift. Everything goes quiet at the table except for the scratching of pencils and then we all go through to check our work and make sure we didn’t mess up! And oh, you’ll mess up. Sometimes, you can’t help it. There’s no going back on your route, no just stopping in the middle of everything – you have to get it just right. It’s not so punishing as to be not fun, though! You will likely only fail at one level, but you get to hop right back in the game the next level (unless you tap out in the 4th!).
I get a similar vibe from Dungeon Academy as I do from Looney Quest. If you’ve not tried the latter, it’s a fabulous spatial puzzle where players, similarly to Dungeon Academy are looking at a map layout and then drawing a path on their own (clear) player sheet with a dry erase marker. It’s then laid over the map to see how you did – and hilarity ensues. No matter what you think you’re doing, where you think your path is going, it’s never truly right. Something special goes on in one’s brain when looking at an image and then attempting to draw something related to it on a separate surface. Honestly, I think I need more of this in my life!
On top of being a great game for a group of up to six, there’s enough variability in the game to keep things fresh. Different characters and abilities, loot that changes up each level and the main event – the randomness of your dice rolls for the dungeon. I do really like that you can scale the difficulty, too – add the labyrinth die for a chance at some path blocking, or even the boss die for a big challenge that reaps great rewards. Or, leave ‘em out! Keep things simple. Up the challenge for seasoned adventurers by having a super quick time limit – or maybe just let the players be their own timer in the order of folks taking place cards once they’re done. I think this is the right kind of silly roll and write that needs to see more tables; you really can have a delightful time in the shared camaraderie of trying to make it through the 4 levels of dungeons and hope to make it out with the most gold. Sharpen those pencils, friends!
Dungeon Academy is a real-time roll & write game for 1 – 6 players that takes approximately 20 minutes to play. Designed by Julian Allain with art by Régis Torres, it is published in North America by The OP! Thanks to Ross at the OP for setting us up with a review copy for this dungeon adventure.