It has to be said, gaming is quite a commitment. Trying to get your friend(s) around to play in a dedicated 3 hour session spot isn’t as easy as it sounds; especially as you get older your priorities change. Your location, job requirements and general family commitments can make for some real tight deadlines trying to fit in a social game. It’s no surprise that the rise of solo gaming has taken the world by storm. Play in your own free time without requiring commitments from your mates.
What is it?
One Deck Dungeon or ODD as it is known is a card game that plays in about an hour. Choose your hero, choose a boss, create the dungeon and dive right in to the adventure.
What do you get?
In the base game of ODD, you get 6 bosses, 4 heroes (+2 free ones online) and enough cards to comfortably go through the game several times without feeling like it has limited play. Some of the Heroes feel a lot weaker than others but each has a special strength that maybe takes a few play-through’s to fully understand. After about 30 games, I’ve only beaten 3 of the boss’ and I have clear favourite characters. This statement alone speaks volumes about its replayability. The artwork is colourful, the dice are clear (generic D6 colours) and the game is presented well in a small box.
How does it work?
Your character essentially creates a pool of dice essential to fight monsters and traps. Using strength, magic and agility as different dice the game clearly sets up challenges requiring you to put those flavoured dice onto enemy stat cards. If you cover up the stat, you have defeated that aspect of the enemy. Of course, most enemies have numerous patterns to defeat and most will have some specialised areas harder to hit with larger numbers. Drawing from the pile you need to defeat the deck 3 times to descend far enough to take on the boss. Defeating enemies as you go grant experience and abilities for your characters to utilise. Each level downwards towards the boss also progresses some in game difficulty, just to make sure you are never over powered.
Is it any good?
ODD heavily relies on luck. Any mission enemy can punish you severely and end a good run prematurely. This isn’t a negative to the game, more a statement of what it is. Expect to lose several times over questing for any boss before you get a good enough run to really push for glory. Starting out any quest is actually the most likely time you will lose because you have very little in the way of changing your stats or abilities. This is a good point in my book as it’s quite handy to restart quickly and try again. There is no shame to losing, but next time you will just hope that the dice gods favour you just a little more.
I’ve not mentioned yet, but ODD does in fact play up to a 4 player game. The 3-4 player requires 2 decks, or the expansion which is equally excellent (if not better). I’ve played several 2 player games of ODD and it’s good. Not my ideal 2 player game but certainly one that travels well. 2 Player interestingly really spices up player abilities as they boost each other abilities, offering rerolls and the likes. As a multiplayer game, it’s worth noting the playtime is still the same which is a big positive.
ODD has to be one of the smartest compact games going. It packages itself as a dungeon crawler but once you get into it you realise this is a real simulation into puzzle games. The luck aspect as you get more experience can be countered, controlled and manipulated through items and skills making for some very interesting character exploration.
I really rate ODD but there is something missing that prevents it from being the best game of all time. If I am to hazard a guess as to what that is, it’s the extra elements of a dungeon crawler that make them so popular. There is a campaign structure included but its honestly very tacked on and not worth playing in its current form. It’s the story, the narrative in the dungeon and the rewards and unexpected elements. Sure, you could argue that that is all told in the cards but it isn’t enough to really have you tell the story to anyone. It could very easily have an expansion that adds this element to the game, questing through a map with an adventure book companion. Of course, what I’m suggesting here would fundamentally change the game for better or worse (probably better!).
I can’t wait to see what the future of ODD has to offer. Forest of Shadows gave us a glimpse of new mechanics and ideas. I want more. I want to see what the world has to offer even if it’s in a bigger box and it’s no long one deck, but DECK DUNGEONS! Keep it going though, I’ll be first in the line for the next expansion whatever it is.