Thanks to PNP Arcade Publishing for providing review files for this game.
Today’s review is a print-and-play dungeon crawl known simply as
Dungeon Pages is a game designed by Jason Greeno and Jason Tagmire, published by PNP Arcade Publishing. If you don’t know PNP Arcade, it’s a website that really is THE repository of PNP games. Some are free, some you have to pay a small fee for, but there’s a lot of great stuff there. Dungeon Pages is basically a dungeon crawl system in a roll-and-write style, where you are trying to basically solve the puzzle presented.
The Core Set comes with six pages, each featuring a different adventurer and dungeon. You’ll need to provide six dice (three white and three black), as well as something to write with. To setup, all you do is choose a page and a dungeon on that page. Each dungeon is basically a 6×6 grid, with the exception of the Boss dungeon – that one is a lot bigger.
At the start of a dungeon, you’ll add dice to your pool. The white dice are your good dice, while the black are evil (though I will say that you can reverse that, or use whatever colors you want – don’t feel like you need to stick to traditional color designations). You’ll get one good die at the start of the game, and hopefully add to that. Each dungeon has different numbers of evil dice that you’ll be rolling for that dungeon.
In each round, you’ll first roll all of your dice. The next thing you’ll do is check for a Wandering Monster attack. You won’t have to worry about this unless you have more than one evil die, but if you rolled doubles with any of the evil dice, the Wandering Monster attacks you for one damage. Then, you check to see if any of the undefeated monsters in your dungeon got their target value on any evil dice. If they do, they each do damage equal to their damage value.
After this, it’s the explore phase. You’ll be writing down all the numbers that were rolled (good and evil) in different squares. Every number has to be written down, within range of the door or any previously written numbers. Range is determined by the weapons you have, as are the directions you can go.
You’ve got several objectives as you play. The biggest one is that you want to connect the door with the treasure chest. When that happens, the round is over. If the path from the door to the chest is an unbroken sequence where each number is either +1, -1, or equal to the one next to it, you’ll be able to gain XP, which is vital for gaining new items and abilities. There are also monsters to attack, and you’ll need to write numbers in adjacent spaces that bigger than their defense to hit them. Some monsters take more than one hit to beat. There are also coins and potions to collect, which is done by putting identical numbers at their sides.
So, basically, you complete four dungeons, then tackle the Boss. And try not to die.
A few years back, I got very into PNP games. Specifically, the one-page variety that I could stick in a plastic sleeve, put in a binder, and play whenever I wanted. I haven’t done anything with it for a while, but games like this make me want to get back into it. Dungeon Pages is designed so you can have single standalone adventures on a single page, with different heroes, different monsters, different challenges. It’s also a system, where you can use the same ruleset for different dungeons and have different experiences, even though you’re playing generally the same way. Along with the Core Set (which comes with six heroes), PNP Arcade is also releasing weekly quest sheets – one a week, every Friday for all of 2023. That means you could have 58 pages at your disposal at the end of 2023. That’s a lot of game.
Mechanically, the game plays a lot like a traditional roll and write. That’s not to say that all roll-and-writes are the same, but there are a lot that similarly are grid-based and involve writing numbers in spaces. What sets this one apart is the thematic nature. You’re trying to make a path from the door to the treasure, and you want that path to be sequential. But then, there are also branching paths you can take to fight monsters (and thus reduce your chance of getting damaged randomly at the start of the turn) and get treasure.
In the end, a lot of the game can boil down to the luck of the dice. It’s very possible you step into a dungeon for the first time and get hit right away by each of the five monsters flying around. And there’s nothing you can do about it. As you play, you’ll start gaining new equipment and skills that allow you to mitigate your dice rolls – increase a die by one, or ignore two points of damage, things like that. Still, it is a dice game, and there’s every possibility that you’re going to get raked over the coals by bad rolls.
As of yet, I’ve only gotten to take a look at the core set. But even those six sheet have a lot of variation. Each hero has its own special ability, you’ll get to see different kinds of monsters and traps (each with its own different degree of annoyingness), you’ll possibly get access to different kinds of weapons and skills that will help you be victorious, and the dungeons themselves are laid out in different ways.
Leveling up is critical to your success in this game. There’s nothing to stop you from just drawing a path from the door to the treasure and being done. But unless you’re collecting those experience points to level up, health potions to get more health slots, and coins to help change dice rolls, you’re not going to get far. So, you want to make sure your path contains only numbers that are +/-1 from the ones next to them so you can unlock the ability to collect XP. You want to fill up columns with numbers, which gets you most of your XP. You want to defeat monsters by writing numbers higher than their defense, which will also earn you XP (and also keep you from getting hit as much at the start of turns). You want to put identical numbers on the sides of coins and potions. And you want to try to disarm traps with a 6, though sometimes you’ll need to just dive right in there.
The game does have a few oddities. There’s no way to actually heal yourself – health potions just give yourself more hit points. Damage is forever. It’s also a little weird to be drawing a path through a dungeon with numbers on a fairly small grid. But its quirks lend themselves to a pretty interesting experience.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? This game hits a lot of notes – fans of puzzles, roll-and-writes, dungeon crawls, and print-and-play games will probably be very interested in this one. For my part, I find it to be a very engaging and fun experience, with a lot of variety and challenge on one page. I highly recommend you check it out – the game is available now at PNPArcade.com.
Thanks again to PNPArcade for providing the review files for this game, and thanks to you for reading!