By Ben Herbert - @athroneofgames
WBG Score: 6/10
Player Count: 1-2 players
Published by: Crystal Dagger Games
Designed by: Steven Shields
Alone in the dark dungeon, I’ve been going deeper into the darkest depths for some time now and been able to equip myself with new weapons and armour. The earlier spiders and crypt crawlers were no match for me, but the Goblin Guard protecting the sword I was here to find put up a fight. I will need to find a potion of healing soon if I have any chance of defeating the Dragon which guards the exit to the crypt. That is if I ever find the key I need to escape! Every chest I open risks triggering another trap.
Crypt of Chaos from Crystal Dagger games is a light, thematic, tile laying, dungeon crawler for one or two players that plays in about 30 minutes.
Players take on the roll of one of six classic fantasy archetypes and explore the crypt on a mission to discover the Lost sword, find the key, and make their way to the exit alive. Many traps, obstacles, and monsters lie in the way of our champion, including a Dragon which guards the exit to the crypt.
Set up of Sorcery
Set up of this small box game is easy and done in a couple of minutes. Start with getting yourself a fairly decent sized table so you have space to build the crypt out in any direction.
Select a champion from the six options available: Barbarian, Forest Elf, Mage, Warrior, Orc or Dark Elf. Take the appropriate number of health tokens, and take note of their base attack and defence score, plus any special ability the character may have.
Next, stack the three levels of the dungeon deck to form a draw pile. Separate out all the other components such as the treasure cards, attack cards, health tokens, monster markers and pawns.
Place the conveniently titled “Start here” floor tile in the in front of you and place your pawn on it.
You are ready for the adventuring!
Rules of Reckoning
Each action you can do one of four things. There are no between turn phases to slow things down so you just keep taking actions one after the other.
Explore – Take the top tile from the dungeon deck, flip it over, and place it adjacent to an existing tile and add any monster of treasure chest tokens. Placing two tiles with their entrances touching means your champion will be able to pass between them. You cannot place a floor tile beyond a tile that contains a living monster. Thematically this is because the monster is stopping you form exploring in that direction, so you must kill the monster to progress.
Move – You can move your champion’s pawn onto any connected floor tile. But if there is a monster in any tile you stop at or want to pass through then you must fight it. If there is an obstacle in the way you cannot pass that tile without the correct equipment.
Again, this simple approach to movement is thematic and keeps the action moving. I can imagine peeking around a corner, seeing a monster and then quietly back tracking to try to find another route.
Fight – Combat is a case of flip the top card of your champion attack deck and add that number to your base attack and any bonus from your weapon. This is the amount of damage you do to the monster you are attacking. If you kill the monster with your first strike they are gone! But leave with them at least one health and they always get at least one retaliation on you. Again, flip the monster attack card, add that number to its base attack and do that amount of damage to your champion minus any defence bonus you may have.
If you kill a monster, then flip the monster token over rather than remove it as (spoiler alert) they can sometime come back to life!
Search – Your last option is to search a treasure chest. You flip over the chest token to reveal the item and put it in front of you as a reminder (if it’s good). A chest may contain a new weapon, adding to you attack score. Or you may find armour, adding to your defence bonus. With all the armour equipped I did feel a little overpowered as some weaker monsters didn’t have much of a chance against me.
Other chests contain potions to heal you, but others contain traps dealing instant damage or bringing dead monsters back to life!
Searching chests is essential to your progress in the game. Some contain the equipment you need to get past obstacles and others contain the sword and key you must find to complete the game.
Variations of Vanquishing
Crypt of Chaos can be played as a two player cooperative game with players taking it in turns to take actions. I like how you don’t share items so you have to both find and fight you own path.
Then there is Chaos mode, what the rule book describes as a “faster and more difficult challenge”. Faster yes, but more difficult? In chaos mode the main difference is you have no treasure chests to search. You instead start with the eight items marked on your player card. These include a weapon, armour, a potion, the equipment to get past obstacles, and the sword and key.
What makes a standard game tricky is haveing to search chests what you need. This means fighting monster and triggering traps. In chaos mode, you have everything you need. Admittedly you only get limited items but that is outweighed by the benefit of being able to bypass almost all the monsters. In chaos mode I twice reached the dragon having only fought three spiders (the weakest monster), and once I reached the dragon with all my health intact.
Game play of…Gateways?
If you haven’t guessed it yet, this game is very straight forward, read the rules once and you are good to go. There’s only issue, apart from a couple of spelling mistakes in the otherwise very readable rule book. The rules fail to mention that the sword you need is in a yellow chest, the key you need is in a purple chest and equipment is in the green chests. A vital detail when playing for the first time and deciding if you need to keep searching a certain colour.
Crypt of Chaos does an excellent job of making a straightforward tile laying dungeon crawler feel thematic. Shall I fight that monster or should I turn back, maybe there’s something I need in the treasure chest, but maybe it’s a trap!
As you progress through the dungeon you enemies get tougher, the risk/reward of searching chests increases and you can get dangerously close to death by the time you have what you need. The dragon at the end hits hard and has a lot of health to burn through. You better be ready, or very lucky!
With six champions to choose from and a different dungeon layout every time, Crypt of Chaos is never the same twice. Saying that, I felt after a few games, although the dungeon layout changed, how I approached the game was the same every time.
Components of Composting
Component quality is good for its price point and will absolutely stand up to repeated plays. Graphic design is good and clear, but text is small in places. The art on the tiles and tokens is decent enough. The art used for the champions on the box and character cards is sadly generic. Good, original art can be expensive, so small publishers can keep costs down by not commissioning an artist. But it is undeniable that box art sells games and poor art risks losing sales. Hopefully if you are at the reading a review stage then you can let this issue slide.
Final Thoughts of Fantasy Retorts
I enjoyed my plays of Crypt of Chaos. I liked its quick set up and play time and I am a fan of it’s thematic dungeon crawl feel. I felt like I was making the decisions I would make if I were a real life fantasy adventurer. Crypt of Chaos makes a good filler. I’ve played it a lot in the evening after work when I want to play a game but don’t want to think about what I’m doing or spend much time setting up. It fits that remit perfectly.
You do need to approach Crypt of Chaos knowing that luck plays a huge roll. You are making choices in the game but it is clear that for the most part, the outcome of the game is controlled by the order of the card draw. For this reason, this will not be the right game for some gamers.
Play as efficiently as possible to reduce your risk and hope you draw the cards you need in a good order to stay alive and reach get what you need. Whether you win on not is largely out of your hands, but you will have fun finding out. The feeling of tension when both you and the monster you are fighting are down to their last couple of health point and everything rests on the flip of a card is intense. Crypt of Chaos is a game I have genuinely enjoyed playing and will continue to play after this review if written.