A fun, challenging dungeon crawler available on your tablet
Android & iOS (Tablet only)
# of Players
One Deck Dungeon is a card based, dice placement, roguelike dungeon crawler from Handelabra Games. Players control a hero (or two) and explore three levels of a dungeon full of peril in the form of monsters and various traps. Heroes gain skills, abilities, potions, and XP along the way, building up to a final dungeon boss fight. Should you be fortunate enough to survive until the end, a game will take about 25 minutes, although many games will end much sooner for your poor hero.
Players begin One Deck Dungeon by selecting from a handful of heroes which include some standard fantasy archetypes: warrior, mage, archer, rogue, or paladin. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses to consider. Players then select which dungeon they will attempt to conquer, each of which having their own special rules and boss which work to scale the difficulty. Players enter the dungeon trying to improve their hero through encounters and also must work against a set number of time units available per dungeon floor. Most actions drain the time count, and once the time is up you will need to descend to the next floor in the dungeon or take extra hits if you stick around too long. You want to get the most out of each floor before the time runs out so your hero can be as strong as possible for the next set of encounters that awaits.
The game is played through encounters which are revealed after opening a closed door. Behind the door can be a monster or some kind of trap. You can immediately choose to flee the encounter if it seems too difficult. If you choose to fight an enemy, you roll your dice and must hit certain requirements to cover the spaces on the enemy’s card. A space will have a color and number on it, such as a pink 5 which requires a single pink die with value 5 or greater in order to satisfy the requirement. Some spaces will allow for multiple dice to be played to hit the number, and there are black dice which can be used as any color in most cases. Enemies have bare minimum spaces required to unlock the post-encounter loot, these are marked with a green shield. Any additional spaces are simply there to bring you pain, as leaving them uncovered will result in time and/or hit point penalties (dubbed consequences) marked on the space. Often you will find yourself meeting the minimum requirements for loot but leaving multiple other spaces empty, this is an empty victory if there ever was one as you watch your hero take multiple hits and significant loss of time units. The loot comes with three choices: skills (extra die and/or HP), abilities/potions (can be used for dice manipulation or healing, among other things), or XP (used to level up to increase your capacity for new skills). The specific choices will depend on the encounter card with more difficult encounters offering stronger loot.
Encountering traps works in almost the same way, except to begin you get to choose between two options, one has you fully clearing the trap with no penalty (if you have a successful roll) while the other requires an easier dice roll, but also carries a time penalty simply for choosing that option. It’s basically “run through the trap at the risk of injuring yourself” or “take your time and disarm the trap at the risk of injuring yourself.” Thematically, these options make a lot of sense and always provide a tough decision which will be based on your current dice counts for particular colors.
You churn through the dungeon, encounter after encounter, until it is time to face the dungeon boss. I don’t want to spoil all of the fun of your first boss encounter, so I’ll just say that they are quite difficult. They have some special rules and you have to attack their HPs like they are attacking you. If you are unprepared a single bad roll could doom you. One of the most impressive aspects of One Deck Dungeon is how difficult the boss fights are. Other games in the genre allow characters to get so strong that the bosses are almost an afterthought once you reach them, that is certainly not the case here. The timing mechanism ensures no hero is too strong before facing the boss.
Should you accrue too many hit points, you die and the game is over. Defeating the boss results in a win.
One Deck Dungeon is all about choosing your loot wisely and knowing when to flee. Fleeing hurts because it results in wasted time, but there will be some fights your hero simply isn’t equipped to win. One bad encounter can absolutely crush you in this game as hit points are on the order of 5 or 6 hearts to begin, and you can easily lose over half, or all, of that in one encounter, so you must know when to fight and when to flee. As for loot, early on you will be very limited in the number of dice you can hold, so you face the question of whether you should level up early or max out level one and then level up later. Do you load up on specific color dice to become very powerful in one area while negating another? Do you try to run a balanced hero? Skills are also very important as they offer you chances to manipulate die rolls which will inevitably be the difference between a successful and failed encounter. Other skills will allow you to avoid consequences after an encounter which can be vital to keeping your heroes alive and your timer from draining so quickly. The balance of choosing loot, in my opinion, becomes the most important strategy once you settle in with how the game plays.
One Deck Dungeon packs a big punch. The game is brutally tough and really makes you agonize over each and every decision. One wrong move can swing the game wildly out of control. The theme plays out strongly as the dungeon crawl is treacherous and each decision you make feels like life for death for your hero. I have a soft spot for dice placement games and I really like how ODD balances the tough die roll requirements with the ability to manipulate your rolls and the eventual consequences of failing to meet that requirement. The game can seem downright overwhelming at first, but it rewards repeated plays as the strategies reveal themselves slowly. But don’t fret, there are tougher dungeons to tackle should you be worried the game was getting too easy.
Barrier to Entry
One Deck Dungeon includes a thorough text/screenshot rulebook along with popup explanations as you encounter things for the first time while playing the game. The rulebook is a bit dense, but certainly conveys all of the information. The in-game popups act as a tutorial and they will keep showing up as long as you are encountering new corners of the rules you haven’t experienced before. All in all, the game does a good job offering up all of the rules.
Learning the rules and learning how to play the game well are two different stories, however. Much of ODD comes down to risk mitigation, you have to weigh each encounter’s potential reward versus potential consequence. Understanding this balance is vital in One Deck Dungeon and it will take a handful of games to really get a feel for when to fight and when to flee, so expect a lot of swift, painful deaths early on.
Learning to play
Beware the Glooping Ooze!
Look and Feel
One Deck Dungeon is an incredibly polished app. The game looks great, controls work exactly how you would want and expect. The game is somewhat light on the visual frills as it mostly presents the dungeon and encounters rather basically, with only a few notable animations, but everything works well and looks good doing so. Dice rolls in apps are always tricky, but are handled well here; simply press a die and they all go flying. Placing them on the encounter spaces is a simple drag-and-drop as you would hope, with the game having a nice visual indication when you make a valid placement. Overall, the app looks and controls great.
There is no online multiplayer for One Deck Dungeon. You can play with two heroes locally which could qualify as pass-and-play if you have a friend join, but many decisions are made together and in practice, having two players place dice on a tablet simply doesn’t work all that well. The rules for a two hero adventure are slightly different as most everything is split between the heroes, with choices to be made on every encounter as to which hero will take which damage/loot/roll/etc… Two hero mode provides a fun twist on the game that plays should definitely explore, but in our opinion it doesn’t work all that well having two humans controlling those two heroes.
The initial game modes are limited to New Game and Quick Start. New Game allows you to choose your hero(es), dungeon, and difficulty level. Quick Start simply allows you to quickly start a new game with your last used New Game settings. In addition to the specific dungeons adding difficulty, you can choose between four difficult settings when starting a game, although you will likely be busy on Novice for quite a while. Speaking of difficulty, there is a Gauntlet Mode which unlocks after you defeat each of the core bosses in a normal game. Once unlocked, Gauntlet Mode challenges players to defeat each boss in as few plays as possible. Game records are kept and you can restart the whole run whenever you want.
The great addition the app provides is a progression system which allows you to unlock abilities for each hero over the course of multiple plays. This option can be turned off, but will provide crucial hero abilities as you try to master the dungeon on tougher difficulty levels as some of the abilities are quite strong. You earn points for each game (if you make it far enough) which are used to go towards unlocking these abilities, it will take a handful of plays to unlock even the most basic abilities.
We are big fans of detailed stat keeping and One Deck Dungeon delivers. A variety of stats are kept, so you can see exactly how evil the dice are by checking the count of how many one’s you rolled or cringe at your overall (or hero-specific) win/loss record. There is also a nice collection of achievements to unlock for the completionists.
Select your hero and dungeon
Ready to roll the dice
Get used to this screen...
The game, in mobile form, is currently tablet-only (it is also available on Steam). The developers have stated that the crowded screen real estate (with so much information needed at all times) wouldn’t work well if they simply released the current game for smaller devices. It’s easy to wish for them to rush a phone version, but if you’ve played Sentinels of the Multiverse you can appreciate the work they put into the different layouts to make them both complete and playable. It should be noted that, as far as I’m aware, Handelabra has not officially announced that a phone version is coming.
Currently, the app offers up a new dungeon as an in-app purchase for $0.99. More are sure to follow. On a bigger scale, the standalone Forest of Shadows expansion will also be coming to the app at some point. It offers a similar amount of content as the base game, so this will be a major expansion when it does hit.
The Wrap Up
One Deck Dungeon is a surprisingly deep dungeon crawler with vital decisions to be made at every turn. The app offers massive replay potential with the various heroes, dungeons, and difficulty levels, players who dive in will find enough content to keep them busy for a long time.
Downsides are tough to find. The app implementation is top notch, everything just works. Some players may be turned off by the entire game relying on dice rolls, but that group should know to avoid this game from the start. Players on the fence about this will enjoy the die manipulation aspects and being able to see the dice requirements before entering an encounter.