Big Dungeon Experience in a Small Box in ‘One Deck Dungeon: Forests of Shadows’

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Do you like dungeon crawls, but don’t like the hassle of having to set up a large board? Do you like rolling lots of dice, but don’t want to manage stat and damage charts? Do you sometimes want to take on all the bad guys by yourself? Then do I have a game for you—One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows.One Deck Dungeon cover

What Is One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows?

One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows (FoS) is a standalone sequel to One Deck Dungeon. The game packs a dungeon crawl experience into a single deck of cards. While it plays the same as its predecessor, with plenty of dice rolling and critical decisions, the game introduces new heroes, encounters, bosses, and even a new poison mechanic. It’s for 1-2 players, plays in 30-60 minutes, and is for age 14+; however, the game’s straightforward mechanics and age-appropriate artwork make it accessible to younger children. Published by Asmadi Games, One Deck Dungeon: FoS MSRP’s for $25.

What’s in the box?

This is a small box game (approximately 5.5″ by 4″ by 2″), so it won’t take up much space on your shelf and is easy to travel with. The box itself is sturdy and all the components easily fit back in.

One Deck Dungeon box
Big dungeon experience in a small box. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Inside the box you will find:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 5 Hero Cards
  • 30 Dice (8 Pink/Agility, 8 Yellow/Strength, 8 Blue/Magic, 6 Black/Heroic)
  • 1 Turn Reference Card
  • 1 Campaign Sheet Pad
  • 57 Card Deck (44 Encounter Cards, 4 Level Cards, 5 Dungeon/Boss Cards, 2 Basic Skill Cards, 1 Stairs Card)
  • 15 Red Wooden Damage Tokens (shaped like hearts)
  • 6 White Wooden Potion Tokens (cube-shaped)
  • 8 Green Wooden Poison Tokens (shaped like circles, because I guess that’s what poison looks like)
  • 1 Poison Reference Card
  • 1 Basic Potion Card
  • 1 Hordes of Shadows 4-Player Difficulty Enhancement Card
One Deck Dungeon dice
Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Overall, the components are good quality, but nothing to rave about. The wooden tokens are solid, thick, and easily discernible from each other in shape and color. The dice are colorful and translucent, except for the black ones. And while there isn’t anything flashy or custom about them, the colors (pink, yellow, and blue to match the hero abilities) compliment each other well. Also, they are smaller than your typical dice, which is okay since you have 30 total and are often rolling a handful of them later in the game.

The cards themselves, while not super thick, are sturdy and have a nice, glossy finish. I have played several games now and have not seen any wear or tear on the cards. Most of the cards are standard size with the exception of the Hero Cards and Turn Reference Card, which are larger. Since this game is all about the card deck, the designer packed a lot of information and versatility into each card. The Encounter Cards not only give stats for the various perils you will happen upon, but they double as rewards that heroes can use after defeating them. Many of the cards are double-sided. For instance, the Hero Cards have different stats, depending on whether you are setting up a 1-player or 2-player game; the encounter cards all look like doors on the back, being representative of opening up a room; and the Dungeon Cards list the dungeon level information on one side while the reverse displays the dungeon boss.

The use of the double-sided cards, smaller dice, and limited tokens allow the game to have a small footprint on the table and on your game shelf.

One Deck Dungeon tokens
Wooden Tokens. Photo by Michael G. Pisitolas

How to Play One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows

If you have played One Deck Dungeon, this plays the same with the exception of a poison mechanic, which I will touch on later. The objective of the game is to battle through three levels of the dungeon in order to confront and defeat the dungeon boss. However, if any party member loses all their health at any point, it is game over.

To best understand how to play the game, it is important to understand the different types of cards.

Hero Cards

One Deck Dungeon hereos
Hero Cards. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Each hero has different stats displayed along the left side of the card: strength (yellow sword), agility (pink winged boot), magic (blue diamond), and health (red hearts). They also have one heroic feat and one skill listed at the bottom of the card. The number of symbols for each start is the number of that colored dice that the hero has access to. Throughout the game, you will add items to your character by sliding won Encounter Cards under the Hero Card, with the edge sticking out. These items will increase your stats, and thus, your dice, allowing you to beat more difficult creatures in preparation for the final battle. Similarly, you can gain additional skills that give you access to more dice or abilities. Since no two heroes have the same starting characteristics, playing the game with a different hero immediately changes the play experience.

Encounter Cards

One Deck Dungeon encounter cards
Encounter Cards are either monsters or traps. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

The Encounter Cards represent the monsters and traps that you will face while exploring the dungeon. In addition to unique artwork for each peril, cards contain colored challenge boxes with a number and other various symbols listed inside. These represent the type and amount of damage that you must inflict in order to overcome that peril. During an encounter, you will roll your available dice pool and then use the results to cover as many boxes as possible with a matching colored die of equal or greater value. Black dice can be used as any color. Some boxes will require using multiple dice to meet its value. The various symbols represent consequences that you will suffer for failing to cover that box. This might be loss of life, loss of time, or poison. Note that you do not need to cover all the challenge boxes to be triumphant, you just need to not die.

The Encounter Cards double as rewards once defeated. In the case of a monster, the player can claim the cards as an item, adding the stats shown along the left edge; a skill, shown along the bottom; or as experience towards leveling up, represented by the symbols in the upper right. Trap cards work similarly, except your bonus is determined by the path you chose to overcome it. Or if that doesn’t appeal to you, you can use it for experience. Encounter Cards are slid under the Hero Cards if used as an item or skill, or under the Level Card if used as experience.

Dungeon Cards

One Deck Dungeon boss card 1
Dungeon Card. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas
One Deck Dungeon boss card 2
Boss Card. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

The Dungeon/Boss Cards represent the dungeon setting. The five different dungeons in the game box have a difficulty level of 1-3, indicated by the dots located to the right of the title. For instance, the “Realm of Venom” shown above is a level 2 dungeon. On the dungeon side of the card is a list of additional challenges and limitations for each level. These are applied to each encounter, and like the challenge boxes on the Encounter Cards, must be covered with dice or you suffer the symbols shown.

The flip side of the card is the overlord for that dungeon. The card is similar to other monster cards, except for the skull symbols. Each time you cover a box with a skull symbol, you deal wounds equal to the number of skulls to the boss. Each boss also has an ability listed at the bottom of the card that will trigger each round. In the boss battles, it quickly becomes apparent that it is kill or be killed.

Level Cards

One Deck Dungeon level cards
Level Cards. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Lastly, are the level cards. You begin the game at level 1 and may increase up to level 4. You do this by applying experience towards your current level. To go from level 1 to level 2 will require 6 experience. Once you meet or exceed the required experience, then you level up. Each level increases the number of items and skills your hero can have while also giving you other bonuses. Leveling up is a necessity in order to strengthen your hero for the final fight.

Setup

Now that you better understand the layout of the cards and what each one does, let me explain the game setup. Begin by selecting a hero and a dungeon to explore. Then, set the table by doing the following:

  • Shuffle the Encounter Cards together into a single deck and place the Stairs Card at the bottom. This represents the first level of the dungeon.
  • Organize the Level Cards in order with level 1 on top.
  • Place the Turn Reference Card on the table with the Dungeon/Boss Card slid under it so that only the first level is revealed
  • Finally, place a single potion token on the Turn Reference Card.

That’s it. Yes, it’s that simple

Game Setup. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Start Delving

At the start of each turn, you must discard two cards from the top of the dungeon deck. This represents time passing and speeds along the process of churning through the deck. During a turn, you can either explore the dungeon or enter a room. To explore, you place encounter cards from the top of the deck onto the table, keeping them face down, so that the door sides are shown, until you have a total of four. These represent closed rooms and you can only ever have a total of four rooms on the table.

To enter a room, you flip over one of the cards, revealing the encounter. After entering a room, you must decide whether you are going to fight or flee. If you flee, then the turn immediately ends and the room remains opened. You can return to it on a future turn to attempt to defeat it. However, if you stay, then you will gather and roll the dice available to your hero.

One Deck Dungeon monster
Encounter Card. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas
One Deck Dungeon battle
Encounter Card after rolling dice. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

After rolling the dice, place the dice on the matching colored squares, trying to cover as many of the boxes as possible. As previously mentioned, you can only successfully cover a box by placing dice that equal or exceed the number shown in that box. Then suffer the consequences of remaining boxes.

One of these consequences might be poison, which is a new mechanic introduced in Forest of Shadows. If a hero is poisoned, place a poison token on the Hero Card. Each time you choose to explore, you must roll a resist poison check by rolling a single die and then comparing the result to the number of poison tokens you have accumulated. If the number rolled is greater, you successfully resist the poison and can remove one poison token. Otherwise, the hero still removes one poison token, but additionally suffers two wounds.

At the end of the encounter, if you are still alive, claim your treasure by sliding the Encounter Card under your Hero Card as an item or skill, or under the Level Card as experience. But note that you can never have more items or skills than your current level allows.

One Deck Dungeon hero
Hero Card with additional items and skills. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Then move on to the next turn. You continue this process of exploring and entering rooms until you draw through the deck, revealing the Stairs Card.

one deck dungeon stairs
Stairs Card. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

At this point, you have reached the end of level 1. Reshuffle the cards from the discard pile and place them on the Stairs Card again to create level 2. Also, reveal the next level of the Dungeon/Boss Card. You will go through the deck again until you reach the Stairs Card, at which time you will reshuffle and reveal the final dungeon level. Once you expose the Stairs Card the third time, flip over the Dungeon/Boss Card to reveal the big bad.

Boss battles play out similarly to monster combats. You roll dice, using them to cover the challenge boxes. For each skull successfully covered, the boss monster takes a wound. But any uncovered boxes will hurt the heroes. You repeat this back and forth until either the boss is dead or the heroes are no more.

Why You Should Play One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows

I was originally drawn to this game because I liked the idea of a simplified dungeon crawl. I have been on a dungeon crawl kick lately, playing games like Descent, Sword & Sorcery, and Zombicide: Black Plague. But all of these games have lengthy setup times, boards that require assembly, and a slew of cards to organize. The idea of getting that same experience, albeit diluted, with only a deck of cards and some dice really appealed to me. Now, I admit that I miss the cool miniatures and maze-like dungeon layout that those other games provide, but One Deck Dungeon: FoS still provided a simple, yet challenging game at a fraction of the time. To date, I have played the game several times, trying a new hero each time, but have only won once! I appreciate a challenging game that requires multiple plays to decipher the best strategy for victory. And although the play can be a bit repetitious, the variety of heroes, dungeons, and bosses give One Deck Dungeon: FoS a lot of replayability.

Another plus in my book is that I can play it solo; yet, it is not so difficult that my almost-eight-year-old can play it too. The mechanics are simple to teach and easy to grasp. Additionally, the game provides interesting decision points every turn. Which door do I open? Do I boost one or two stats at the cost of being weak in the third, or try and balance all three so that I have a fighting chance in any situation? Do I claim that new skill or use the experience to level up? Each of these decisions will make your hero unique and ultimately determine whether you survive.

Lastly, I appreciate the designer’s choice to make all the heroes female. This is important to me because I have three little girls and each of the heroes represents a unique, strong character that they can play. While many games do an excellent job of providing both male and female characters, I cannot recall a game in which the entire cast is ladies.

In summary, One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows is a fun, light complexity game for both adults and kids that is quick to get on the table and doesn’t take all night to complete. Additionally, there are aspects of the game that I have not even delved into yet. You can play it as a campaign, stringing several games together, and earning talents that provide additional bonuses. Or with a second copy of Forest of Shadows, or combining it with the original game, you can play 4-player. So if you desire that dungeon delving experience without all the extra fuss, One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows just might be the game for you.

This game came from my personal collection and is a game I purchased. 

 To subscribe to GeekDad’s tabletop gaming coverage, please copy this link and add it to your RSS reader.

Click here to see all our tabletop game reviews.

Advertisements

Get the Official GeekDad Books!