Remember when I really liked Dungeon Twister? No? Maybe that’s because it was seven years ago. Then I played Dungeon Twister Prison and it put me off the game completely. Now I played the Dungeon Twister Card Game and don’t even want to hear the words ‘Dungeon Twister’ because it makes me a little sick to my stomach.
The original Dungeon Twister was pretty great. It was a little contemplative, but it was brilliant and tricky and fun. Then Prison made all those tiles that wouldn’t let you get off the map, and after that it was horribly frustrating. Then the Dungeon Twister Card Game came out and tried to recreate the experience with just a bunch of square playing cards, and now it’s almost impossible to play because it’s so dad-gum confusing. But at least you can get your guys off the board now.
In case you don’t want to go back and read the original review (IT’S RIGHT HERE IN CASE YOU DO), I’ll sum it up real quick. The idea is that you have a handful of rowdy knee-breakers that have been kidnapped by some twisted wizard and forced to run through a crazy French dungeon and spin rooms, and your opponent has the same thing, and the first one out wins. Plus you can kill people. There’s no luck, just lots of planning and outmaneuvering and blocking and bluffing.
I really enjoyed the original. I played Dungeon Twister lots of times, with lots of different people, because I loved the combination of lean, brain-heavy mechanics and blood-soaked rumbles. It could get a little slow when you were trying to plan a turn, but it made your brain hurt trying to calculate a long-term strategy and put it into effect over the short haul. It was an exercise in strategy and tactics that could have challenged Napoleon.
But that experience simply does not translate to a card game. It seems like it should, but there were some incredibly enormous flaws that absolutely ruined it.
Let’s start with how the designer turned Dungeon Twister into a card game, and see if you can spot the bad parts. For starters, every room is on a square card, and every card has four ro0ms, each with a symbol like a triangle or circle or spinning wheel. Then you have character cards, and each character card has those same symbols. Then you have object cards like rope and keys and weapons, and those are also on square cards and those also have those same symbols.
So to move from one room to another on the same card, you take your character card and spin it. Let’s say, for instance, that your assassin is in the triangle room, and wants to get to the wheel room, but there is a pit between her and she does not have a rope. In order to move her, you play a jump card (you get three, and when they’re gone, they’re gone), and that allows you to spin the character card so that the side of the card with a wheel on it is now pointing at the room card.
New scenario. Now say there is a rope in the room where your assassin is starting. You can tell the rope is there because there’s a card out to the side with a triangle pointed at the room card. The assassin is out to the side of that, and her card is also turned so that the triangle points at the room card. So you slide the rope under the assassin, then spin the rope card and the assassin at the same time, to indicate that both are now in the wheel room. Meanwhile, nothing actually moves.
One last scenario, and if you can’t see the problem after this one, I can’t help you. Now your assassin has a bow and is in the triangle room, which connects to the square room through an arrow slit. Your backstabber is also in the square room, along with your opponent’s colossus. Your wizard is in the circle room, separated by a closed portcullis from the wheel room. This is represented by having all the cards out to the side of the room card, and arranged as follows:
The bow is underneath the assassin, with the triangle side of the card pointed at the room card.
The assassin is out to the side of the room card, with the triangle side pointed at the room card.The backstabber is out to the side of the room card, with the square side of her card pointed at the room card.
The colossus card is out to the side of the room card, with the square side of his card pointed at the room card.
The wizard card is on the floor, because it has fallen off the table after trying to fit next to the other four cards sticking out from the side of that one room card.
Nothing is actually on the room card. That’s important to keep in mind. The colossus is not on the room card. The backstabber is not on the room card. The assassin – you know what, you get it by now. The point is, there’s no actual representation of location, and that makes it incredibly difficult to keep track of where all these cards are supposed to be. When there are three characters and two objects on the same room card, it can be almost impossible to hold them all in your head long enough to figure out where everyone is located.
My first game of the Dungeon Twister Card Game was a nightmare. We kept walking right past each other, never remembering what rooms were occupied, moving through walls accidentally and having to backtrack over and over and over. The second game lasted five minutes before we said, ‘oh, Hell no,’ swept the whole thing back into the box and decided never to speak of it again.
I applaud the creative solution that was employed to make the Dungeon Twister Card Game work as purely cards. I understand the desire to make the original more portable and affordable. But you know what would have made this work even better than the original? Tokens. Meeples, maybe. Coins. Pieces of paper that said ‘ROPE’ on them. Any way to mark on the map where the stuff was actually located would have made the card game version fun. But if you play this one the way it was designed, the way it came out of the box, you are going to get mad at it.
The ironic and somewhat horrible thing is that if I did have tokens instead of the cards, I might actually like the card game version of Dungeon Twister more than the board game version. It would actually be faster and trickier and simpler. But this slavish dedication to getting rid of the counters makes the card game absolutely unpleasant to play. I can guarantee I will not play this again, and I hope to purge the memory of the time I did.
Some pretty clever solutions let you play Dungeon Twister as a card game
The clever solutions will make you want to punch your kidneys through your spleen
Coolstuff is out of this one, probably because once it sold out, nobody thought it was good enough to reprint. But here’s a worthless link anyway: