There are a few mechanisms that every gamer should learn. Near the top of that list is card drafting. It’s a simple mechanism to teach and offers a way of narrowing multiple choices in actions or resources between players. It mitigates some randomness from drawing from a deck when giving players a starting hand.
By some opinions, it’s an almost over-used element in games. If you’re looking for a quick buck, find a unique, engaging theme, create a card drafting game around it, and watch the gold roll in. Not quite.
It was only a matter of time before a publisher put the words “dungeon” and “draft” together to make a game. We’re talking about fantasy creatures, heroes, and equipment. And guess what, players use a card drafting mechanism to obtain points.
Designed by Justin Geary who co-created Ascension, Dungeon Draft is for 2-5 players and takes up to 45 minutes to play. It plays best with 3 or 4 players.
During a draft phase, players receive a hand of cards. They choose one to keep for the play phase and pass the rest clockwise or counter-clockwise as the round number dictates. Repeat until all cards are selected.
During the play phase, each player plays cards from the hand of cards they created during the draft phase. Players may use the cards to build up their tableau, complete objective cards (requiring a certain tableau of cards), or defeat monsters (usually granting gold or points).
The two resources in the game are gold and attack power. Each Hero or Equipment card played grants gold or attack power used to defeat monsters. Usually, heroes or equipment require some amount of gold to play the card.
After four rounds of drafting, the game ends and the player with the most victory points from cards or acquired from monsters wins the game.
It’s a drafting game with a light dungeon theme. There are, at the very least, three different design implementations for this idea. However, the designer chose the simplest one and it shows.
Other reviewers might praise this game for its simplicity which encourages new players who may be intimidated by more complex drafting mechanisms. Unfortunately, what results might as well be themeless. There is no inspiration or engagement here beyond simple choices. As gamers, we’re always ready to move beyond the basics after our first play. The way the “dungeon” theme has been architected, there’s really nothing more to explore.
This is not to say that all games should push the envelope. Indeed, this reviewer very much appreciates some simplistic games that just provide fun. However, in this case, the designer was probably pitched the idea by the publisher and the result is a weekend’s effort of design. This reviewer can’t appreciate that beyond the average score it deserves.
One basic, huge miss is that all cards to be drafted are shuffled together. The cards are not separated by round number providing some kind of progression of tension. There is also no mention of separating out cards so that you’re only shuffling as many cards as are needed for the number of players. This is lazy design.
One could argue that this is a drafting game meant for D&D gamers waiting for the requisite number of heroes to show up for game night. That could be true, but even after 3 games of this concept, most playtesters were ready to be done for good.
Strictly for those new to drafting or in desperate need of a dungeon theme instead of civilization building or sushi selection, Dungeon Draft treads an already well-worn path. There’s nothing new or inspiring here and seasoned gamers need not bother if they’re looking for interesting mechanisms. Dungeon Draft is not a bad game, but most gamers will be surprised this design comes from such an experienced designer.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – A game of card drafting with a light dungeon theme that doesn’t try anything adventurous.
• Good card design and layout
• Very easy to learn
• Nice art for heroes and equipment
• Nothing new in terms of game design
• Dungeon theme is very mild
• Unambitious and lazy game design