Think of any escape type exploration game you may have played. Now pretend it was designed by the guys from MST3K and RiffTrax.
Dungeon Crawlers have been coming on strong over the last 18 months or so. It has gotten to the point that it is easy to dismiss a lot of games now as ‘Just another Dungeon Crawler’. This oversimplification is pretty unfair, as the term itself has started to become so generic that some truly unique ways of approaching these adventures are being overlooked. Sentient Cow Games has decided to tackle this in a way that tickles my fancy with the newly launched Kickstarter Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce.
Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce is the first in a planned trilogy of games that all seem to be carrying very similar themes, with the second game being on the Moon and the last being adventures through Time. But that is jumping ahead of myself – let’s talk about this game a little bit.
The premise itself is nice simple – players play cooperatively to escape the top-secret Dulce base (essentially Area 51) so that they can find their freedom. You explore the base and conquer level by level trying to find both the route and equipment required to complete the challenge. This is done in a 3D environment with actual levels that are explored. The vertical board seems to have plenty of room and is a great way to allow large amounts of exploration while keeping table space requirements low – always a welcome design.
While the player boards look like walls of text, the rules themselves are also simple and straightforward. While there is an experience system to allow character growth and a variety of enemies and situations you can find yourself in, there are a minimal number of mechanics and caveats to remember as almost everything is shown on the boards themselves. This means you can have new players in a game within about 5 minutes as you can expand or clarify rules as you play.
On top of streamlined rules, the humour in this game is amazing. For example, player characters range from the cryo-frozen Amelia Earhart to the mutated nuclear Smith family, all the way up to Snippy Von Bell – a two-headed cow with heavy weapons. All of the characters seem to be parodies of sci-fi characters, some popular and some a little more niche.
Also, replayability seems to be quite high as well. There are stand-alone or campaign missions, and all tiles are double sided allowing different combinations to be used to create new bases each time. The component quality looks great even at the prototype level, and the miniatures all look amazing as we expect these days.
At its core, this is a fun dice chucking game with dungeon crawler elements and looks like it will be a fun addition as well as probably a gateway type adventure. While there are many great and deep games coming out, Sentient Cow Games seems to have gone back to what makes gaming fun in the first place – a fun experience where everyone can enjoy themselves all the way through without having to worry too much about rule interactions in situation X.
Until next time,