Swish, hack, whack, parry, advance swishhhh, turn and backhand….crrrrcchhhhhhh! D’oooooooooohhhhh!. My authentic replica foil covered string and cardboard Long-sword! Just look at! It’s all tattered and torn, so it is. Curse you, you clothes-maid, dressed up to look like a Lych.
Not to worry, I have my selection of soft baked ninja throwing biscuits….. take that you fiendish adversary!
(for a sinister dungonesque ambient background, press play)
As I remove my junior adventuring kit, fully equipped with toffee knee guards and liquorice chain-mail shirt, I move to a comfortable grassy knoll to recant my tales of dungeon exploration and epic adventuring in a most roleplay fashion… but decide to remain standing as an inopportune thistle has done things to a young dungeoneer’s hind quarters that should not be spoken off.
Whats All The Fuss About?
Tyke’s Dungeon is the wee little chap to whom I refer in this little dialogue. Aimed at younger exploring dungeneers, I will say from the off that this is no watered down, slimline infant game. This is a game that can be accessed by all level of players, never failing to offer a challenging and exciting game. This is not just a crawler game… moving from set tile to set tile, resolving static encounters. This is a comprehensive randomly generated affair, with a high level of roleplay purposefully woven into the game.
This is not a roleplay game either, with pages and pages of generated stats, nor is it a miniature hack and slash. This is something that will give us the thrills of a roleplay, the excitement of a dungeon crawler but with a fraction of the upkeep.
So, without further ado, and a determined effort not to use the word Rolepley again, …well, not too often, let us proceed.
Immersion or Subversion:
No beating about any bushes! This is partly because there is a distinct absence of them in a dungeon, so I will blurt out with it… there is a shed load of immersion in this game. I know it is aimed a younger players, but this is not a whimsical, infantile affair. This has the true building blocks of RPG and dungeon crawl built into a single package. The gameplay, imagery and narrative text coherently meld to offer a deeply rich dungeon crawl, with plenty of RPG story telling that will entertain both young and older players alike. It is about mechanics as much as imagery, that immerse us into an engaging adventure of exploration.
…more on elements that make this immersive will follow in subsequent segments.
As we plunge into the dark, dank and donk of our deepest dungeons, we discover a host of mechanics lurking around each corner, like the denizens of said dungeon. Many, if not all, are simple, but over-complexity is not required for this game to offer us a challenging solo experience.
Essentially we take our hero dashboards, marked with the hero’s individually abilities and traits, of which most primarily consist of simple iconography indicating the appropriate die required for various skill tests/attacks. Our meeples then meander their merry way, as they see fit, throughout the maze of tunnels and rooms. The room tiles are drawn blind from a deck, as players explore. Each can usually be laid as players see fit, dependant on the direction they choose to explore (North, South, East & West), orienting them to fit. The tiles all come with a large narrative on the reverse, which can be used to guide our adventure, setting the scene that awaits us within the room, like a role play game, from which point we continue the story with our hero actions. The tile reverse also guides us in populating the tile with encounters, which cunning little chaps, must be successfully overcome before we continue. There are tiles that have reference to special events as well, at which point we do have to reference a section in the rule book.
The random nature of tile distribution, breathing life and vibrancy to each new game as the connecting narratives develop, will offer new story lines. As with any style of roleplay and dungeon crawl, we find traps and treasures to uncover, as well as a multitude of baddies to contend with. These are to be found in two decks that, other than the final big, bad guy, are randomly shuffled each game.
The combat system, just as all attribute tests, employs a selection of custom dice. Each skill or attribute to be tested indicates what dice are available… and, as we would expect, vary in strength and cost.General Skills, As well as the special skills, incur a cost to use. The more powerful an attack is, the more it costs us and so when we do get to hack and slash element of the game, we really have to think of the bigger picture…sub-optimising is often a useful tactic…waste too much energy early on and it may be difficult to take on the final bad guy.
Equipment and various goodies we find along the way certainly make life a little easier for us, adding bonuses to various situation, or enhancing skill tests.
There is nothing overly ground breaking here, but the familiar game mechanics/features/gameplay have been constructed in such a way that it offers something that, to me, feels different to most games of this genre. It is primarily aimed at young players but has plenty of depth and involvement to keep older players thoroughly engaged.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
All components in my photos are prototypes or place holder items for use with the preview. Much of the art, especially for the tiles is approaching finality, but I believe the graphic presentation will be addressed by a professional. That said the potential here is great, with custom dice, tiles, meeples and the like. When this goes live on kickstarter there will no doubt be a better indication of final components and art work.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Shawn Hescock
- Art: tba
- Graphic Design: tba
- Writing: Shawn Hescock
- Publisher: Geeks Collaborative Games
- Playtime: 20 mins
- Gangs of One: 1-4
- Age of Consent: 7+
- DOB: 2017
As a cooperative game, we often imagine a title would simply transfer to a single player, operating X number of protagonists. Tyke’s Dungeon has taken some of this element into consideration and has a streamline game that is as workable with four as with one live player. It relies heavily on cooperative skills, and as such demands at least two heroes be operated by us, the soloist. We can be brave and opt to operate up to four, which doesn’t really add any great burden on our operational skills, and most certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of play. The encounters and, especially the final Lych, scale according to hero count, so even with two heroes, we should expect the same level of challenge as with four….
…not over whelmed, but nicely kept on our toes.
I particularly like the ability to use the descriptive material as the basis of a roleplay narrative. The tiles give us instructions but also background details which help us expand our adventure with sumptuous details, that we can take further into each hero’s action segment. It makes the game feel more like a story rather than mechanical obstacles to over come before a final dice fest.
As a cooperative, I have enjoyed playing solo. Having to think about placement of my characters, how best to get them to support each other and when to expend energy to negate potential tricky encounters. There are a lot of interesting decisions to be made and at no point did it feel strained or a ‘kiddie’s game’. A perfect game for younger adventurers but nice to have in a collection when a solo crawl itch develops and needs scratching.
Bots and Wotnots:
As this is fundamentally a cooperative exploration game, there is not a bot or AI in the conventional sense. It is a game of us pitting ourselves against a more static enemy. Instructions on special tiles govern special events and there is a simple card pull mechanic to populate each newly explored, moss-covered cell, room or void. The ‘good’ stuff has instructions for use and the ‘bad’ stuff has iconography to indicate how the encounter will affect us. The rules governing combat are simple and dictate turn order so we have very little to encumber us with regards AI logistics and book-keeping. Each encounter has to be completely dealt with before exploratory progression is mad, so it remains an uncluttered and simplistic play area, with incomplete tasks easy to identify.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This is a difficult game, made to test players of all ages, but that said, it does allow for scaling and house rules to accommodate much younger novice gamers. It is a game that definitely requires team work to succeed and careful planning with regard resources as pretty much all we do has a cost. Hard to win, but achievable.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: These have been a rough working document to date, but they explain procedures well, with understandable terminology and clear explanations of iconography. I will say that it is likely an older or more experienced gamer is probably going to be required to explain the game, at lest for a first play. It is currently sitting at an un-formatted twenty five pages, but many of these are linked to additional information, narrative and detailed workings of the Special Encounter tiles, found in many a darkened corner of this dungeon.
- Lucky Buggers: Ahhhh! The dreaded dice! Skill testing, combat and even choosing which flavoured jam to have on our butties, is die controlled. (by the way folks…jam is the fruit conserve, not jelly. (jelly is the rubbery stuff put into deserts like trifle… or consumed by kids accompanied by ice cream). The game uses icons to dictate what is placed where and all encounters be they good, bad or indifferent, have all the information/icons contained within to aid us. There is little upkeep from the game’s point of view, so everything is down to simple dice throws… the greater the effectiveness of our dice ( choice of three), the more cost to ourselves in exertion. This gives us opportunity to choose how much we wish to spend to negate any luck element
- Lows and Highs: I imagine there can be a sense of crushing defeat having spent an entire game nurturing our heroes through their escapades, only to fall at the last hurdle. But even in this situation, the game will have been about the journey… the story told to that point. In the big picture, this is about teamwork and story telling. We have thrills and spills along the way, but always accompanied by a sense of achievement and positivity. So very much a game of highs.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: As an ever-growing, sprawling dungeon that can be completely different every game, the only constants are the decks of cards and the player dashboard. I have played many games and have usually managed, through some creative tile laying contained the came within a metre space… but it is not a small footprint.
- Set It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: Once player count has been established…and by that I refer to the number of heroes we use, as our player count will invariably be that of ONE. This dictates which Lych is chosen as part of scaling difficulty. All decks are shuffled and once a couple of identified tiles have been removed from the dungeon room stack, we are pretty much good to go. If tokens are bagged separately after each play, they can be added to the plat area quickly without the need for separation. I doubt if more than five minutes, maybe six or seven at most, will be required to get right in to the thick of the action. Packing the game away is really just a matter of moments, so we have a very portable and quickly accessible system here, with a fraction of the more complex crawlers…but still a great game experience.
- Pay Per Play: I have no idea of the intended cost point at the time of writing this preview, but there is certainly a lot of game for the size of box and a huge amount of replayabity. So, from a value point of view, at this stage of the game’s development, it looks very promising.
Me, Myself and I:
This is no kids game….well, I s’pose in real terms it is because that is the target market, but that said, it is not some weak, watered down game with poor, immature graphics and Disney-esque images everywhere, this has a proper dungeon look and a proper dungeon feel. It actually plays in a very mature manner.
I must admit I had a few reservations when Shawn asked me to look at the game, not being impressed with some of the child focused games I have come across in the past, but his description sounded intriguing, nonethelessless. My reservations were unfounded, as this played no differently than an ‘adult’ game, and was as much fun to play as any dungeon crawl I, Me or Myself have experienced. it is simplified in comparison to the ridiculous complexities of certain titles out there, but the play style is not compromised by this fact. It is more like a streamlining to facilitate a smoother, more succinct game, with very little down time. There was plenty of swag and variety of bestie-bad guys to keep it fresh over multiple plays, and I could see this being the basis of several exciting expansions/adventures.
Yay or Nay?
Even in its current prototype state, I have to admit this junior title actually stands up and doesn’t look out of place amongst its competition (and remember they are for a far more adult audience). Tyke’s Dungeon hacks, slashes and explores its way around the BSoMT 1d8 die, and uncovers a valuable (7)
Young or old, hardcore or light gamer, for a thoroughly entertaining dungeon crawl with shed loads of roleplay elements, this title is one to keep an eye out for when it comes to kickstarter. (links will come once the project goes live)
…right! Enough blathering on about nowt at all…. time to don my knee-length salopets and buckle up my elastic rubberised horesehair breatplates, shine and polish my cardboard trilby, and add a touch of sharpness the the edge of my tinfoil coated cardboard bastard sword.
There is a Lych in these here parts, and I am gunning for his downfall…. as long as he isn’t too scary. Then it might be “change of underwear” time….
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Tyke’s Dungeon website:
Geeks Collaborative on Twitter: