Buzzworthiness – Delve: The Dice Game

I’m not really into the PnP aspect of our hobby.  For those who don’t know, PnP stands for Print-and-Play, games that are made available online in a fashion that allows people to print them out and craft their own components.  They are frequently free, and companies will often use PnP games to give players a taste of what they’ll get in the full experience.  For me, I’ve never really been willing to invest the time and ink in printing out these games, and I know that I’m missing a lot because of it.  However, this is one that I have printed out:

image by BGG user matildadad
image by BGG user matildadad

Delve: The Dice Game is a 2009 game from designer Drew Chamberlain.  It is only available online (and I think the only files are at BoardGameGeek).  Delve is a one-player game that takes around 20 minutes to play.  All you need for the game are six dice, and some way to track monster and hero health.  There are two official dungeons (I think), each with the health of each monster and hero printed on it – you can laminate the sheets and just cross off the health as it goes.  There are also some sheets with lists of different creatures and heroes that you can use.

The object of Delve is to get through a certain number of challenges with at least one party member still standing at the end.  You’ll have four adventurers, each with its own abilities.  In each room of the dungeon, there will be a different challenge to defeat.  You will roll all six dice, and then you have two rerolls to try to get what you want (Yahtzee style).  You’ll then allocate the dice to your heroes and assign damage to the monsters in the room (cross off shields).  Then you roll for the monsters – one die for each shield they have remaining.  Monsters can hit on different rolls, and damage is assigned to your party by marking off shields.  It is your choice where damage is assigned.  If all of your adventurers are killed, you lose.  If you make it through all the rooms, you win.

To give you a better idea of how things work, here are the heroes for the starting adventure:

  • Fighter: Does one point of damage per 6 rolled, and only two 6s can be used per round for this ability.
  • Rogue: Each 1 rolled does one point of damage, but all 1s can only be used on a single monster.  Alternatively, a full house (two of a kind plus three of a kind) can be used to do damage equal to the number on the sixth die.
  • Wizard: Four of a kind does one damage to each opponent or four damage to a single opponent.  Five of a kind does damage to each opponent equal to the number on the sixth die.  Six of a kind kills all of your opponents.
  • Cleric: Straight of four heals two damage for the party.  Straight of five heals the amount on the sixth die (though if the sixth die is a 1, everyone is healed completely).  Straight of six completely heals everyone.

And the rooms for the first dungeon:

  • 3 Orcs: Each orc has two hit points, and hits on a 5 or 6.
  • 12 Kobolds: Each kobold has one hit point, and hits on a 6.
  • 1 Monstrous Spider and its 3 Offspring: The monstrous spider has three hit points, and each of its offspring has two.  The spiders hit on a 5 or 6, and stun on a 1.  A stunned adventurer cannot fight for the rest of the encounter, and if everyone is stunned, you lose.
  • Treasure Chest: In the treasure room, you roll a die to determine what you get.  A 1 gets a Dwarven Throwing Warhammer, which allows the fighter to use any number of 6s against the upcoming giant.  A 2 gets a Black Arrow for the Rogue, which can kill the upcoming dragon with three 1s in a round.  A 3 gets the Ancient Staff, which allows the wizard to use one less die for each ability.  A 4 gives the Cleric a Holy Symbol, which cuts the amount of damage needed for each skeleton in half.  A 5 is a Divine Blessing, which allows you three rerolls instead of two for the rest of the game.  And a 6 is a Blast Glyph, which kills one of your adventurers.  So don’t roll a 6.
  • Giant: The giant has nine health, and hits on a 4, 5, or 6.
  • 6 Skeletons: Each skeleton has one hit point, but you need two hits at a time to take out one shield.  The skeleton hits on a 5 or 6.
  • Dragon: The dragon has 15 health and hits on a 5 or 6.  You only roll six dice for the dragon, but you roll all six as long as it is alive.  So its attack is not weakened as its health goes down.

COMPONENTS: It seems weird for me to talk about components for a PnP game.  The art looks pretty good, and it’s fairly clear what each monster does.  The rules aren’t the best, but it’s not that tough to figure things out as you play.  There are charts for selecting your adventurers and encounters which are helpful.

THEME: It’s a dungeon crawler, and there’s not much thematically to set it apart from other dungeon crawls.  There are some fan rethemes out there (including a Doctor Who retheme).  I do like how each monster has something different it can do and has different configurations – it helps the theme along.  The heroes are also different, and their abilities and hit points are pretty well linked thematically to their hero.  So I’d say it’s a solid theme, even if it isn’t all that new.

MECHANICS: Delve has a Yahtzee-style mechanic with the three rolls to get your total.  But, on top of that, you get a dice allocation aspect as you decide how to distribute your results among your heroes.  You can shoot for healing, or you can try for maximum damage.  On top of that, there isn’t much in the way of mechanics.  It’s mostly a lot of dice rolling.

STRATEGY LEVEL: As I’ve mentioned, the main (in fact, only) strategic decision to make is how to distribute your dice.  This becomes an important decision as you are trying to figure out the best way to make it through the dungeon.  There is a high luck factor in the game, and I would say that it is more luck than strategy.  However, I’d also say that for what it is, there is enough strategy to keep it interesting.

ACCESSIBILITY: Delve is a very easy game to learn, and it’s not so impossible that people will be turned of by its difficulty.  With minimal instruction, I think anyone could play this game.  The similarity to Yahtzee will mean that people will have an easier time figuring it out.  And it’s a fast game, so people will be able to get through it quickly.  Highly accessible.

REPLAYABILITY: There is a lot of variety out there for this game.  There are not too many official adventures out there, but there are charts of different monsters and heroes so you can customize a game however you want to.  There’s even a way to roll dice and choose them.  Additionally, there are some rethemes and fan-created scenarios out there.  The nice thing is that the game is free, so you’re only limited by how far you want to (forgive the pun) delve into the system.

SCALABILITY: Delve is a solitaire game.  I think some two-player variants have been discussed on BGG, and it would probably lend itself to playing cooperatively.  But it is a one-player game, and is probably best played thus.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I really like Delve.  It’s random, sure, but I think it works well, especially as a basic dice allocation game.  I like the variability and difference between monsters, as well as the different ways the heroes work.  I’d definitely recommend you check it out.  You don’t even have to print anything out – just pull up the map, grab some dice, and go to it.  It’s a game that I think would benefit from a mass-produced version – include some dice, hit point trackers, and cards for the heroes and monsters, as well as some included scenarios.

I actually discovered Delve as an iOS game.  It includes eight heroes and five different dungeons.  If you have $2 to spend and an iPhone, I’d recommend you check it out.  Some of the monsters are pretty funny.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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