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The Dungeon and Monochrome Inc.

The Adventure Games line from KOSMOS seeks to capture the flavor of adventure video games, with exploring, puzzles, and combining objects to find solutions.

Make your way through a dungeon or pull off a daring heist. Read the story yourself or use the app to have it read to you.

Gameplay

Gameplay in Adventure Games: The Dungeon is fairly straight-forward. There are a deck of room cards and a deck of adventure cards, each with numbers or letters on their backs so that the game can easily instruct you when to draw one. The game starts with only one room card face up on the table, and each player places their character on that room.

Players take turns. On your turn, you move your character and take one action. You may also exchange adventure cards with other players. Each room will show a series of locations with three-digit numbers associated with them. You can move to any of these three digit numbers that is currently visible on any room card currently face up on the table. An action you can take is to look up the number in the story booklet, reading the relevant passage. Players are always allowed to revisit locations.

Alternatively, each adventure card you draw during the game also shows a two digit number. You can you use your action to either combine the numbers of two cards (looking up the resulting four digit number in the booklet) or combine an adventure card's number with a location's number (looking up the resulting five digit number in the booklet). Various passages in the booklet will have you draw more adventure cards or reveal additional room cards. Sometimes a passage may have you return an adventure card to the deck or even remove it from the game and place it back in the box. If you attempt to combine two numbers and do not find a corresponding entry in the booklet, it means these two things were not meant to be combined, however this does still take up your turn.

In The Dungeon, each player starts the game with a certain number of health cards. If you take damage during the game, you turn one of your health cards face-down. If all your health cards are face-down, you instead return one to the box. It is possible to heal during the course of the game and you can never lose your final health card. The amount of health remaining will be used in determining your score at the end of the game.

Monochrome Inc. plays in much the same way, with a couple of key differences. Players are exploring a building that has multiple floors. To move from one floor to another you must use elevators. Your movement can include using multiple elevators in a single turn. Players may only exchange adventure cards with players that are on their current floor, and may only do so at the start and/or end of their turn.

Each player also starts the game with a handicap card; this card has a symbol on it. Every location number has a symbol attached to it. If you explore a number whose symbol matches your handicap symbol, the alarm in the building goes up one level. If it reaches the fifth level, a major alarm sounds. Depending on your choices throughout the game, it is possible to obtain additional handicap cards, which ramps up the difficulty and can cause the alarm to increase by multiple levels if you have more than one of the same handicap card.

Both games are divided into three chapters, with each chapter taking roughly ninety minutes. Players can save the game at any time to pick it back up another day.

The Dungeon Components

Review

The Adventure Games line is an interesting one, with a lot of clever twists and mechanics. We love the idea of taking a video game genre that hasn't really been touched in board games and adapting it into something new.

Giving each player turns, in which they are ultimately responsible for their own decisions, is a great idea that allows everyone to feel involved and make choices, made even better that some choices are permanent and will affect the stories in different ways, almost like a Choose Your Own Adventure game. This also ensures that while everyone can discuss and share ideas, you cut back on the likelihood of any one player taking over the entire game.

The app is also a great addition, and we appreciated the fact that it can handle the story reading for you — it saves a lot of time on having to constantly flick through the storybook.

However, we did find the games to run a little long. With three ninety minute sessions, the games can wear out their welcome a bit by the end, even if you do save between each chapter, particularly in the case of Monochrome, Inc. Also, these games are not as quick to jump into as the Exit series, as you must read the rules and understand the game system for each game prior to starting.

Monochrome, Inc. Components

Monochrome, Inc. has an interesting storyline but perhaps a little more niche than The Dungeon, and we found it to be a lot more difficult. There were a lot of red herrings and side-items, and the handicap mechanic, which seemed neat at first and a great way to give each player their own strengths and weaknesses, turned out to be frustrating. The fact that you can accumulate more as you play and make mistakes can really drag down the gameplay as you progress, to the point where several players were left with hardly anything they could do on their turn without constantly raising the alarm. Since our group didn't want to raise the alarm, these players ended up basically doing nothing useful on each turn. Ultimately, we ended up just discarding some of these handicaps because they became too tedious.

Additionally, the game became so difficult that we really struggled to figure out how to reveal more rooms or make progress at all by our third session. We also found the hint system to be a little problematic, and it didn't help us get past our roadblocks. You can look up items and locations (which have a numeric code), but it's not possible to look up specific rooms or how to reveal them (which are identified with letters and can't be looked up). Sometimes the text in the hints is also a little unclear, pointing more towards how to get an item than what to do with it once you have it. It would have been useful if these hints were made clearer, and since there is already an app integrated with the game, this could have been done without adding any extra content to the box.

However, The Dungeon was more of a hit for us, with a really immersive and accessible storyline that plays in to the adventure genre really well. The visuals of the game are spot on and work nicely with the theme. We also found the difficulty level to work a lot better for our group.

The Adventure Games are something unique and different, but probably fit better for a less casual audience than, say, the Exit series. The difficulty level may appeal to fans of some of the more notoriously difficult adventure video games, or for players looking for a longer multi-night activity.

Pros: Turn-based gameplay ensures players get to make their own decisions, original game system, very thematic

Cons: Confusing hints, spike in difficulty between games, runs long

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.