Dungeonology: The Expedition – Ares Games – Review

Not all the dungeon dwellers in Dungeonology are pleased with the scholars’ presence. A large, angry satyr roams the caverns, searching for the intrusive scholars. Who knows what he'll do if he finds them?

Jeremiah & Kara

MeepleGamers

8/10

Theme and What is it?

9/10

You are a scholar at a prestigious university, renowned for its Dungeon Studies course. The time has come for you to write and publish your thesis, and what better way to research information than by delving into the dungeon depths to discover its secrets firsthand? Unfortunately, other scholars at the university have had the same idea. You’ll have to act quickly and do whatever it takes to make sure your thesis is stronger than your opponents!

In Dungeonology, players take on the roles of scholars trying to explore the dungeons and collect information about its inhabitants. Players will study, scheme, and steal precious information from their opponents as they try to create the most well-written thesis the university has even seen! But not all the dungeon dwellers are pleased with the scholars’ presence. A large, angry satyr roams the caverns, searching for the intrusive scholars. Who knows what he’ll do if he finds them?

Gameplay Mechanics

7/10

In Dungeonology players explore a dungeon, searching for valuable information about a secret clan living in the dungeon’s depths. Once they’ve collected enough information, players will race out of the dungeon to publish their completed thesis. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.

The game is played from turn to turn until the game end is triggered. Each turn runs through a series of phases, but the bulk of each turn happens during the movement and action phases. During the movement phase players will move around the dungeon, discovering new rooms, finding information, and avoiding the dungeon boss. When a new dungeon tile is revealed the player explored it moves onto it and resolves any effects it might trigger. Maybe you’ve come across a secret passage to the other side of the dungeon! Or maybe you’ve accidentally awoken the dungeon boss. So of the fun in Dungeonology comes from exploring the dungeon and discovering what happens to your character.

During the action phase, players can attempt to collect information cubes from the tile they’re on, or they can try to steal unguarded information from their unsuspecting opponents. In either case they first have to pass a stealth test. Each tile has an ‘awareness’ value, and a player’s ‘stealth value’ must be higher than it if they want to collect any information cubes. Players can increase their stealth value by playing cards from their hand, but their opponents can also increase the awareness value by playing cards from their own hands. 

The mechanics in Dungeonology are simple, but with enough depth to keep the game interesting. In order to really have fun though, players have to be willing to steal from each other, raise the awareness value of their opponent’s dungeon tile, and generally get in each other’s way. If they don’t the game might not be challenging enough to keep players satisfied.

Initial Impressions

6/10

I was so intrigued by the beautiful artwork and incredible miniatures. The theme seemed unique and I really enjoy dungeon crawler games. Unfortunately, the rulebook for this game is an absolute beast. Not a nice friendly beast — one that will smush your brain a little and make you want to cry at night.

The rulebook is super convoluted. For example, the rulebook goes into great detail about the different functions of the “trick cards” (how to play them, what they do, what the icons mean, etc.) pages and pages before the player turn is explained and you find out that playing a card is an action you can take. Another example is that the very end of the rulebook tells players how to calculate their final scores, but the scoring example is given at the very beginning of the rulebook. It’s a terrible mess that will leave you squinty-eyed and stumped. 

Game Build Quality

10/10

The component quality for Dungeonology is phenomenal. The miniatures are hyper-detailed which makes them so fun to just look at! The tiles are thick, the player boards are dual-layered, the cards are linen-finished, and the game comes with a Game Trayz insert with spaces to store everything. Everything is top-notch quality — you couldn’t ask for better.

Artistic Direction

7/10

I have mixed feelings about the artwork in Dungeonology. There are some things I love, and other things I wish the designers had done differently.

I love the bright colors and the unique illustrations on all the dungeon tiles and character cards. It’s so satisfying at the end of the game to look at the sprawling, vibrant dungeon you’ve created. I also appreciate that most of the action cards tell you exactly what to do … mostly.

Each action card has an ability, and for most cards you have to pay a cost. The cost is usually something like sacrificing a student, or drawing a student from the university bag. Something I don’t like is that many of the icons used in the game are identical, just with different colored backgrounds or numbers that indicate the different effects. Because the icons are so similar, players have to continuously refer to the rules to double check meanings which really slows down gameplay.

Fun Factor

8/10

Our first play of Dungeonology was a 2 player game. Our characters meandered around the dungeon in opposite directions, casually collecting information cubes and generally minding our own business. The game passed by uneventfully and at the end we were left feeling a bit bored.

The second time we played we added a 3rd player, and it was so much better! The dungeon was more crowded, information cubes became scarce — we had to steal from and meddle with each other just to squeak ahead. At the end, all 3 of us raced back to try to publish our thesis first.  We had a great time exploring the dungeon, digging secret tunnels, and snatching coveted information cubes out from under each other’s noses. The game felt tight, competitive, and so much more satisfying.

The fun in Dungeonology definitely increases as the number of players increases. This is why I would definitely recommend always playing with at least 3 players.

Age Range & Weight

9/10

Players are limited to a single action on their turn–collect cubes from their tile, steal information from an opponent on a neighboring tile, or play a trick card. Usually the only ones available will be to collect cubes from their tile or do a card action. Even though the rules were really complicated and there are a ton of slightly different icons to remember, the game itself is very simple. The game is probably suitable for players 14+ simply because of how much iconography is involved.

Conclusions

8/10

Overall, Dungeonology is a fun game with a unique theme and terrific components. It’d be especially great for people looking for a medium-lightweight dungeon crawler game with opportunities for take-that style interactions. It definitely takes a while to get a handle on the rules, but if you can get through those, you can get through anything. We enjoyed the times we played, and although it’s not one of our favorite games, it’ll probably make it to the table again in the future.