I’ve mentioned in many reviews in the past that I’m always a fan of when designers try and reimagine classic games with a new spin. Like Bruno Cathala did by taking Mancala and building Five Tribes around it. The latest game to grace our tabletops in this vein is Keepers of the Questar. This title blends the gameplay of Battleship with Dungeons and Dragons. Yup, you’ve read that correctly. The classic hit-and-miss game meshes up with a dungeon crawl. But is it a hack and slash good time? Let’s find out!
In Keepers of the Questar, two players will each create a mini-dungeon for the other player to explore. You’ll have three levels of monsters and traps to populate your dungeon with, as well as 8 unique adventurers to split between the two of you.
To begin, you’ll fill your dungeon—behind a screen—with tokens to represent monsters and traps. You’ll also need to place the entrance, exit, and the Questar token. Then you’ll draft four of the eight adventurers to form your party. They will fall into familiar fantasy tropes such as a barbarian, wizard, or bard.
Once ready, it’s time to go exploring. The goal is to be the first player to find the Questar and make it out of the dungeon. You’ll be given a map that matches your opponent’s map (except empty of tokens) and be told where the start space is. On your turn, you’ll get one action point for each of your adventures still alive. You can use an action point to either move orthogonally on the map, or explore an adjacent space (revealing its contents without moving in and encountering it). If you move into a space with a monster or a trap, you have an encounter. Alternatively, you can rest for the turn to heal an adventure for one point.
To defeat a monster, you need to pick a number between 1-4 (1-6 for higher level monsters) and if you guess right the monster is killed and you get an experience point. If not, one of your adventurers takes a wound and you try again until you guess the right number. Experience can be spent to unlock a hero’s powers. Traps work in a similar way, except you are guessing one chosen letter out of T-R-A-P.
Players will move their marker around the grid, having encounters and hunting for the Questar until they find it. Once they do, they must search for the exit and try and be the first out.
Keepers of the Questar was certainly an interesting idea. Battleship, while not the most engaging of gameplay, works well for what it is. It’s a grid hunting game that lets you use information gleamed to expand out in search of things. If you get a hit, you know that there must be more of that ship nearby. In theory, grid searching should work well for this dungeon crawler. You move around the grid, looking for the object while dealing with traps and monsters.
However, in practice, Keepers of the Questar suffers from a couple of issues. The first being is that searching the grid can get tedious. Depending on how ruthless your opponent is playing, chances are they’ve hid the Questar in some out of the way nook or cranny. So you’ll need to meticulously search every square of the board until you find it. If you happen to miss a space and not notice, (as happened in one of our games) it could throw you all off and basically lose the game for you.
The other issue is that the mechanics are a tad uninspiring. Traps are basically a 25% chance to take damage or have a bad effect. Monsters are about the same, with the higher-level ones having a 1-in-6. But most of the time it’s take a damage or lose a turn. There is nothing that differentiates a skeleton from a goblin from a zombie.
That all being said, Keepers of the Questar actually has some potential to be a fun game. That’s because this is ripe for homebrewing. Everything is here and it would be very easy to make your own monsters and traps. Since they all just use generic tokens, you can easily make Token 1 be an owlbear, centaur, or even a flumph. You just need to come up with an effect.
The game even encourages you to come up with your own narratives. There is a pad of paper where you note your traps, monsters, and even name your dungeon. So in that regard, the rules definitely support house ruling and making the game your own. One house rule that you will probably want to adapt is some kind of line of sight rule. Having to meticulously search every square is grueling. While games will be easier and quicker if you can see farther, it would also be a lot more fun to not have to be so exacting.
As a me versus you dungeon crawler, Keepers of the Questar just falls on its face. The rules are a bit too ambiguous at times, the gameplay descends into a rough slog of searching squares, and the monster and trap fighting is pretty uninspired. Yet, not all is lost.
If instead, you are looking to be Dungeon Master and a player at the same time, Keepers of the Questar gives you the tools to do that. Creating your mini dungeon is actually kind of fun, and if you are comfortable coming up with your own monsters and traps (or maybe wait for the community to do so) everything you need is here for a quick, little DnD-lite experience. A dungeon master isn’t an enemy of the players, but someone to run the story and provide the opposition. And that is who should be the ideal person for this game. Someone looking to run a narrative adventure as a quick diversion, rather than the commitment of a full RPG campaign.
Final Score: 3 Stars – As a 1v1 dungeon crawler, it’s forgettable, as a DND-lite experience, it has potential.
• As a vs game, it’s not very fun
• Searching the grid can be tedious