Van Ryder Games new solo game Final Girl now on Kickstarter

Final Girl Cover

The theme might not be for everyone, but the system is Hostage Negotiator system is sound and improved!

I have spoken about Hostage Negotiator a few times. I am still awaiting Hostage Negotiator: Career, but as is everyone with all that has been happening.

If you haven’t read my musings on Hostage Negotiator, it’s a solo hand management game where you are at the mercy of dice rolls. There are different Abductors you can expand the core game with, each with different objectives and triggers. Skill tests are made with two dice, and conversation cards let you try and talk down the Abductor to release Hostages.

And I know that a lot of people have already tuned out. This is a pity because Hostage Negotiator is an enjoyable puzzle that the random nature of dice rolls makes eminently replayable.

Why am I droning on about Hostage Negotiator? Because yesterday the second game to use the system has launched on Kickstarter – Final Girl.

Final Girl Kickstarter
If you don't like horror films, this game won't change your mind

Why would I be interested in Final Girl?

Final Girl won’t be for everyone. This time, I think the theme will either make or break it for most. Now, you play scenarios that are heavily inspired by horror movies.

You get a stereotypical ‘killer’ and a location. These can be mixed and matched for variety. The location is the first significant deviation from the traditional Hostage Negotiator formula.

Final Girl Scenarios
The inspiration is pretty obvious, even for non-horror fans

You then select your Final Girl – this is the character that will have the big showdown with the big bad. In true horror movie fashion, your last health has the potential to be an adrenaline rush, giving you one more chance to win.

Hostages are replaced by Victims in Final Girl. These victims are positioned around the location, and you must weigh up saving victims or letting the killer do their thing.

Umm, OK. That doesn’t sound very interesting.

This is a problem with the game system. Until you play a round or two, it’s hard to talk about the feeling the system elicits in you.

Each round, you need to try and save up enough to buy cards for the next round. These cards will let you move, fight, alter dice rolls – there are a lot of choices. There is also the luck factor – if you fail checks, your turn can end immediately, making future turns harder.

The luck mitigation in Hostage Negotiator was brutal. You could sacrifice two cards from your hand to create success but at the cost of other abilities that turn.

Hostage Negotiator App Screenshot 14
Winning in Hostage Negotiator takes a lot of patience and luck

Hostage Negotiator has crushed me and elated me because of a die roll. You now have more chances to convert cards into success, but this only makes me more curious as to what extra obstacles I will have to encounter.

This still doesn’t sound that interesting.

Me just writing about it doesn’t help. As you know, I am currently starting the path to update site content. Right now I can’t play a round of Hostage Negotiator to show you what the game is like to play.

Luckily, some others have had the chance to play with the prototype of Final Girl. Hopefully, they will be able to show you better than I can describe it!

If you want to try the original game, grab it on Android or iOS. The graphics aren’t great, but the mechanics are very faithful to the source. This is the best way to find out if these sorts of games are for you.

And you will want to know if it is for you, because of the price…

Wait, it’s how much?

Yep. Van Ryder Games come at a premium, and it’s harder to justify that cost compared to games like Frosthaven based purely on components.

It really depends on the sort of gaming you do. If you are a solo player, you will have literally hours of fun with Final Girl. I know I have close to two hundred hours of Hostage Negotiator under my belt. And that is without touching half of the extra abductor packs I have to extend it even further!

I have gone all-in and flipping up on getting the 3D minis as well. Meeples work well, but it’s only a little extra. I will sleep on it. Comparing the cost to Frosthaven is fair, but so is the number of playable hours you can get from the game.

But if you have made it this far, give Final Girl a look over on Kickstarter. I have yet to have a Van Ryder Game fail me in terms of immersion and value for money!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon Box Art
One Deck Dungeon Box Art
Released 2016
Designer Chris Cieslik
Publisher Asmadi Games (Website)
Players 1 – 2 (4 with special rules and 2 copies)
Playing Time Physical: 30-60 minutes
Digital: 20-30 minutes
Category Fantasy
Dungeon Crawl
Light RPG
Worker (Dice) Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who could have guessed playing an RPG with one deck of cards was so fun!

I love playing RPGs. Playing in a new world, enjoying the camaraderie both in-game and around the table, it’s a great time. The downside is RPGs need a group of friends. Not the people themselves, but trying to get everyone together at the same time is a massive undertaking.

There are plenty of board games that recreate a lot of the fun of RPGs. Dungeon Crawlers are especially good at this. Exploring an area, fighting monsters, and collecting loot. Some even have a basic levelling system. Almost all of them have one fundamental flaw – setup and teardown.

Mansions of Madness 1st Edition was a great example of this. It would take me 40-50 minutes to set up a game. And I had to try and do it before anyone showed up. There are plenty of other games that I can set up and play in that amount of time.

True, those games don’t have the same feel as an RPG, but it’s quicker to get into. But what if it didn’t have to be?

I have had One Deck Dungeon, and it’s stand-alone expansion Forest of Shadows, for a while now. I have even taken it interstate and overseas on work trips. Somehow, things just never seemed to align themselves for me to sit and learn how to play it.

Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago, and boy have I been playing it!

One Deck Dungeon Boxes
Both game boxes. Standard gel pen for scale. These are small!

One Deck Dungeon – What is it?

The best way I can describe One Deck Dungeon is a solo or co-op light RPG dungeon crawler. I know this is a very jargon-heavy description, but it’s really the best way to describe it.

You play as an adventurer making their way through a dungeon. During your dungeon run, you fight various monsters until you take on the boss. The monsters can give you new weapons, skills or experience to level up. Hence, light RPG dungeon crawler!

You get five different bosses in the box and five adventurers. Each boss has different conditions for their dungeon, and combined with the five adventurers means there is plenty of variety. More on that later.

One Deck Dungeon Components
A Deck of cards, some tokens and character boards, and a lot of dice. What more do you need?

So how does it work?

This is where the solo and co-operative part of One Deck Dungeon comes into it. You can play solo with one or two adventurers (the way I have come to prefer to play), or play with someone else using one adventurer each.

Each adventurer has three different stats – strength, agility and magic. Fairly standard fantasy RPG stuff. These stats are represented by different coloured dice. Unlike most RPGs, instead of rolling a dice and adding stat modifiers, you use a certain amount of dice depending on your stat.

So for example, if you have 3 agility, this means you roll three agility dice. Nice and simple! There is also the fourth colour of dice in the box – black hero dice. Hero dice can be earned with experience levels or skills, and are used as any coloured die (wilds).

One Deck Dungeon Adventurers
Each adventurer has pros and cons. Playing one adventurer or two is shown with 1p and 2p on each side.

Shuffle the 56 cards, and put it on the table. This deck of cards is where One Deck Dungeon gets its name. Each card is a different room with a monster or trap, but it’s also almost every other thing used in the game. They are also equipment, skills, experience markers and the game timer. It doesn’t sound obvious, but it works really well!

Each player turn, you burn (discard) 2 cards. This represents time in the game. The very first turn, you spend the first turn exploring. All this means is you draw cards and place them in front of you until you have 4 rooms to explore.

From now on, each turn you can choose to explore or enter a room. Entering a room means picking a card and turning it over to see what’s in it. This is where the card layout hopefully becomes a little clearer.

The card will either be a trap or combat, shown by the icon next to the card title. Below the title is a picture of the room’s contents. To the right of that shows what is needed to clear the room.

One Deck Dungeon Game Start
This is setup. Pick a coupel of characters, shuffle deck, set things out. Done.

You will also notice other parts to the card. On the left shows the extra skill dice you will roll if you choose to take an item from the room. On the bottom shows a skill you can possibly learn, and top right is the amount of experience (XP) you can earn.

If you decide to try and clear the room, you roll all of your dice. To beat the challenge, you need to place your dice onto the various squares on the right of the image. If it’s a square, you need to put a die of the same colour with the value equal to or higher than the number on the card. If it’s a rectangle, you can put any number of dice on that area, as long as the total at least equals the value shown.

One Deck Dungeon Sample Encounters and Rewards
It just looks like four cards, but each card serves 5 functions.

If you cover all the squares, you win! If you can’t cover all of the squares, you still win! You lose some time (discard more cards) and/or health, but you succeed. This helps you build your character even at the start of the game.

And that is basically it! There are some additional rules like mandatory extra requirements depending on which level of the dungeon you are on, hero dice and some other things. But what I have outlined is all you need to know about playing the game. 

That sounds rather simple. Why wouldn’t I play Yahtzee instead?

Simple isn’t always dull. Not that I am saying Yahtzee is dull, but for me, Yahtzee is at it’s best when playing in a group. 

The amount of depth and immersion in One Deck Dungeon cannot be understated, especially if you are a fan of RPGs or Dungeon Crawlers.

Yes, the mechanics are streamlined, but for a game designed to play solo and quickly do you want a lot of bookkeeping?

There is also the sheer variety of the dungeons. Initially, I believed I would get bored of One Deck Dungeon once I saw all of the enemies. Straight up – I was wrong. I have almost 20 games under my belt now, and I don’t think I have seen all of the cards yet.

One Deck Dungeon Dungeon Bosses
The bosses aren't just different battles, the rules for their dungeons change as well

Forcing you to burn cards during the game pretty much guarantees you will always get new choices each game. Do you take the powerful skill, or use that XP to go up a level and be able to carry more items and get a hero die each round?

That is the challenge and immersion of One Deck Dungeon. Each game is different. Dominate last game mashing a particular skill? You might not see it again for 10 games. Your character can be a relatively weak hitter, but take damage like a champ. Or you could be a glass cannon, dealing damage left and right but only take one hit to go down.

One Deck Dungeon Upgrade Decisions
When setting up a shot, I realised I had not seen the skill on the mage OR the room card before.

But each game, don’t you start again at level 1?

This isn’t as cut and dry. Yes, you start each game at level 1, but this isn’t always the case. For starters, you can choose difficulty level in One Deck Dungeon. Playing on Novice starts you on Level 2 each run.

On top of this, there is also a progression system. While you don’t keep your levels from game to game, you can start with skills, carry more items, heal between levels, all sorts of things.

Like any RPG game, you will need a few games to build up your adventurer. But you will get more powerful, and that old game grind becomes a different experience. You can also level up different groups of benefits and change at the start of each dungeon to tailor your run.

One Deck Dungeon Progression SHeet
You earn different symbols by playing harder dungeons

OK, so what’s the catch?

So the game is ultra-portable and a blast to play. But using cards for everything as well as tiny dice makes for a fiddly experience. For someone like me with large hands, I find myself spending as much time cleaning up my play area as I do playing the game.

I found a perfect fix for this, though. 

I’m Listening

Some of you may be wondering why this review appears in both Board Game and Video Game Reviews. That’s right – there is a digital version! And it’s a perfect translation from the physical copy. In fact, because it’s digital, it takes advantage of being able to move the level challenges to the room you are facing. This means you only have to look at one area to see all of the dice and values you need to clear a room.

There is also the added bonus of getting a sixth adventurer for free! Mist from Aeon’s End is a promotional card that you need to hunt down or buy for the physical version. Mist comes for free on the digital version, or at least on Steam.

You aren’t restricted to Steam either – you can also get One Deck Dungeon on your mobile. I am not buying it, as I am honestly worried about how much time I would spend playing it when I should be working 🙂

One Deck Dungeon Digital Character Selection
No knocking dice, no covering cards accidentally - let the game manage the fiddly bits
One Deck Dungeon Digital Progression
Everything works the same as the physical version
One Deck Dungeon Digital Boss Fight
Rolling a bunch of physical dice is so satisfying, but the app manages everything so well

Overall Thougths

One Deck Dungeon got a lot of love when it came out a few years ago, and today I can say it deserved it. While not the perfect game, it scratches that Dungeon Crawl/RPG itch for me in a solo experience.

The portability of the game is excellent for throwing my bag on trips. The digital version means a small install on almost any PC as it has meagre graphics requirements. Basically, if you can run Windows 10, you can play One Deck Dungeon. Don’t take a PC with you? Grab it on mobile!

While the dry explanation of gameplay can make it sound like another dice game, actually playing One Deck Dungeon throws that idea out the window. I can highly recommend One Deck Dungeon to everyone that enjoys an adventure.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to set up and learn
  • Incredibly customisable experience
  • Replicates the feel of Dungeon Crawling/RPG very well
  • Can play solo very quickly
  • Portable both physically and digitally

Cons

  • Using cards can be awkward mid-game
  • High random nature of exploration may put off some players
  • Hard to describe how fun it is unless people can play it

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Elder Dice: The Colours Out of Space will liven up your game nights

Elder Dice Kickstarter

If you are already tempting the Dice Gods, why not tempt them all?

Dice are one of those tools that many gamers don’t give a second thought to, and some obsess over.

I enjoy playing with quality dice, but I don’t have a bag of dice that betray me.  So I guess I am in the upper middle of this demographic?

Rolling a nice die and a cheap one is like being driven in a Limousine, then a Golf Cart.  Both do the job, but one is more relaxing and fun than the other.

There are always fun things to be done with dice as well.  I have written of Polyhero dice in the past, dice that take a fun form of the character you may be playing.

Infinite Black has created some lovely looking ‘standard’ polyhedral dice with some customisation, but also add more for your gaming pleasure.

Elder Dice Brand of Cthulhu
As if you needed incentive to not roll 1's already!
Elder Dice Eye of Chaos
Truly if there was ever a set that suited me, chaos would be the one
Elder Dice Star of Azathoth
Do not mention Lovecraft's note to himself!
Elder Dice Seal of Yog-Sothoth
Yog-Sothoth sees all and knows all

But as well as being gorgeous looking dice, they also come in their own clever book-like case with a magnetic clip – very thematic and handy!

There are also a number of stretch goal designs and add-ons being unlocked as the campaign continues.  These range from new dice and case designs to playmats and even a gorgeous looking GM screen!

Backing a project like this is always a very personal thing – it clicks with you or it doesn’t.  These dice won’t make you a better role player or increase your chances of a critical success, but they do look great.

If these designs appeal to you check out the Kickstarter campaign and have a look see.  The pledges, bundles and add-ons are a little confusing on the surface, but the team from Infinite Black are active in the comments if you need a hand.

Elder Dice Lower Library Miskatonic Playmat
My favourite playmat design, and the design shown on the GM screen

If you love the look of the dice but can’t wait, the original Elder Dice designs are still for sale on their website for quicker gratification 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD