One Deck Dungeon simulates roguelike video games in card-game form. You’ll take your character and use her abilities to face encounters with a dice-fueled system. You have multiple hit points, but you only have one life—lose it, and you’ll have to start the game over and try again.
The deck of doors is shuffled at the start of the game with a face-up stairs card at the bottom. You have to spend some time each turn, which is represented through discarding cards from the doors deck. Then, you can either explore or encounter. Exploring just means finding some doors. You’ll deal them face down so that there are four on the table.
To encounter, you’ll take one of the dealt doors and face it. If you flip it face up and don’t like your chances, you can flee, which basically means spending your turn to do nothing. The card will stay face up, taking up a spot among your four doors. You can choose to encounter a face-up door later when you feel you’re ready for it.
If you don’t flee, or if you chose to encounter something that was already face up, you’ll be facing whatever is on the card, which will either be a combat or a peril. This is where the game’s multitude of dice come into play.
Grab the dice that match up with your character’s statistics: Swords give you yellow dice, boots give you pink dice, and runes give you blue dice. Combat cards have a bunch of boxes on them, each with a number. After you roll your dice, you’ll be trying to cover as many of those boxes as you can with your dice. A die can cover a box if its color matches and the die’s value is at least as high as the box’s printed number.
If you happen to have black dice from your character’s special ability, or from being a higher level, it can be used on any box. In addition, you can spend any two dice as a single die of any color, but you have to use the lower of the two dice values.
When you’ve used up all the dice, you’ll suffer the penalties of those boxes you left uncovered. Any pictured hearts will inflict damage, and any pictured hourglasses will cause you to lose time (discard from the top of the door deck). As long as you’re not dead, though, you managed to overcome the combat.
Perils work similarly in that you’ll be rolling a bunch of dice and covering boxes, but instead of rolling all your dice, you’ll choose one of the two statistics the peril can be overcome with. Only roll your character’s dice that match that statistic. The peril’s box will be a long box, meaning you can spend any number of dice that add up to the printed number. Combats can have long boxes, too, but perils always have them.
Unfortunately, no encounter, combat or peril, is as simple as what’s just on the card: The dungeon itself will be out to get you. Depending on what floor you’re on, one, two, or three rows of the dungeon card will be visible, and each of those rows will make overcoming combats and perils more difficult, adding additional dice boxes that will need to be filled.
When you do finish an encounter, however, no matter how many penalties you suffered, as long as you’re still alive, you get to claim the card as loot. Loot comes in four forms: items, potions, skills, and experience points. For items or skills, slide the card underneath your character so that the correct edge is showing on the matching side. For a potion, do the same thing, but underneath the Turn Reference card, and similarly, slide the card under your level card for experience points.
Items give you additional dice, experience points will allow you to level up and increase your bonus dice and capacities for items and skills, and skills give you extra special abilities for while you’re facing a combat or peril, including dice manipulation. When you gain a potion, also gain a potion token; each potion token can be spent to invoke any of the potion abilities you have.
When you’d have to spend time but there are no cards left in the deck and the stairs are visible, you’ll start taking damage at the rate of 1 damage per 3 time that should have been spent. But when you end your turn with the stairs visible, you can descend to the next floor. This means reshuffling the discarded doors and the ones dealt out on the table. You’ll also slide the dungeon card out a row from the Turn Reference card so the next floor’s penalties are visible.
After you’ve cleared the third floor, you can descend to the next level, which is the boss—just flip over the dungeon card to find it. Boss combats play out like other combats, but what would have normally completed a standard combat is but one round against the boss. Each box you cover with a skull symbol means dealing damage to the boss, and you’ll continue playing out rounds until either you or the boss is defeated.
Interesting decisions in One Deck Dungeon come both in the form of which boxes to cover during encounters and when you need to decide how to claim your loot. Having that breadth of decisions in a dice-based, single-player game is impressive, so for an intense and thematic experience, don’t let this one slip by.