Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
Designer: Richard Launius, Pete Shirey
Main Game Mechanisms: Tile Laying, Roll to Resolve (Dice), Storytelling
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Game Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Gameplay Overview: Delve is a game where you are going through a dungeon – while building that dungeon! There are a number of tiles that you are using in order to start working through the dungeon. The only rule for tile placement is that the corridors (hallways) have to connect – the rest of the setup is free game!
Just like Carcassonne, you can claim an area with a face down Delver – but as long as you’re adding a tile to the dungeon, you can lay a Delver on there. When the room gets completed (you cannot add any more tiles of the same color to extend the room), one of two things can happen – if there are multiple Delvers from different factions in one room, they duke it out to see who gets the lion’s share of the loot! If there is only one Delver, they draw an encounter card and have two choices to pick from so that they can resolve that card.
Speaking of Delvers, you can be one of four factions of Delvers – Forestfolk, Kobolds, Sellswords, and Wraiths. Each of them have their own special ability that can give them advantages in different areas of the game; each of them have a different team of five Delvers that you can use.
There are four classes of Delvers, and each faction will have at least one of each, and 2 of one of the classes. There are three different types of dice in the game, and each class of Delver will have a different set of dice to roll. Red dice are combat heavy, purple dice are Spoils (Rings) heavy, and white dice are balanced. Here is the breakdown, with what faction has 2x of that class in their set.
- Mages (Wraiths x2): 2 white dice and +3 to attack in a room with a magic pillar.
- Leaders (Forestfolk x2): 1 red die, 1 purple die.
- Brutes (Sellswords x2): 3 white dice
- Thieves (Kobolds x2) : 2 purple dice.
So, when you’re placing Delvers in the dungeon, be careful to pick the ones that will be well-suited for the task at hand. Work toward getting loot. Move quickly through the dungeon, roll dice to resolve combat and encounters, and just have fun with it! The game ends when the sun sets – who ever has the most loot (points) wins!
- Length of Play. This hits the tile-laying sweet spot of 30 to 45 minutes consistently. Even though I have not played with 4 at the time of this review, there was not too much of a time diference between 2 and 3 players. So, it plays quite quickly and you always feel like you have to pay attention to what may be going on in the dungeon.
- Ease to Learn. We learned the game in about 10 minutes the first time we played it. We had to look at a few things multiple times, just to clarify that we were doing it right, but that’s standard for any game. By our third play of it, we really only had to go back to the rulebook to make sure that we correctly remembered combat resolution and how to divvy up the treasure. We taught my brother how to play the game in about 5 minutes, as well. So yes, the game is really simple to learn.
- Game Balance. I feel like Launius did a great job of balancing this game. Each of the factions has fairly balanced abilities (except the Wraiths, who I feel have the weakest faction ability, but make up for it with having 2 mages). Even the random encounters seem fair based on what is going on in them – no spoilers, of course, but there are some that will blow your mind with how many dice the bad guys roll!
- Lots of Fun! Sarah and I have had a ton of fun playing Delve over this past week, and we do really enjoy cracking it out and reading encounters to each other. Some of the game is just goofy, and there are times that one side or the other gets slaughtered, but it is tons of fun in that (very crowded) box!
- Not very friendly for visually impaired/colorblind people. Oh my gosh, I don’t know if this was a printer issue or what but I can’t see the freaking corridors worth a lick. They are so close to the color of the brown (yellow? tan? I don’t freaking know) rooms that I have to stare intently at the tile to figure out what the heck I’m looking at! Also, the dice symbols on the tiles and the encounter cards can be difficult to differentiate – purple and white are very close. This is, really, my only major complaint, but the other two cons are still a little valid.
- 2 Player vs. 3-4 Players. The 2 player version is absolutely fine. We have a blast playing it, but because of how tile-layers go, you have to make a conscious decision to go ahead and try to split the treasures/gold in a room by doing combat. The first game that Sarah and I played, Sarah was on one side of the dungeon, and I was on the other. I got my butt kicked because I thought I could get by that way. When we played a three player game with my brother, the board was a lot tighter and fighting with other faction’s Delvers was a more common occurrence – and we didn’t need to be deliberate about it. So, this isn’t so much a con as a “make sure that you keep this in mind” when you’re playing with 2.
- More Meat, Please! With the expansion and promos and whatnot, there is a lot of content, but after 5 plays, we are already starting to see some of the same encounters from other plays. So, what I’m hoping is that, as time goes on and the popularity of this game increases, that we will get more expansions with more juicy cards, tiles, and overall content.
Value: We got Delve for $45 as a part of the Kickstarter. That included the base game, all promos, and the Peril Awaits expansion as well. That means that we got a lot of stuff to start with, including mass amounts of fun content, extra treasures and gold, and more encounter cards.
That being said, the base game is currently being sold on CoolStuffInc for $27.49. That is a great deal for how much you get in the game. A gateway + game like this actually has a lot of stuff in it and you will definitely get a number of plays out of it. $28 for the base game is a solid, solid price.
Try, Buy, Deny: This is a very solid try for the majority of gamers that are out there – People who like deeper strategy games may get bored by it quickly, but you may not, so tread lightly and try it out before you drop the cash for it.
If you are looking for a step up from base Carcassonne in terms of complexity, here is one option, and you will enjoy it. I would call it the same weight as Carc + some expansions (Inns and Cathedrals, Traders and Builders, maybe Princess and Dragon?). So for you (like for us), it’s a buy.
We love tile layers, and while this won’t replace Carcassonne for me, it is a potential alternative if I want to crack out a different tile layer or I’m in the mood to do some dungeon brawling instead of zen-like country-side building. The story element is great, too – I like hearing the encounters and telling the stories of the dungeon dive!