When Wizards of the Coast released Dungeon Mayhem in 2018, they had an instant hit on their hands. The premise behind the game was that a somewhat typical Dungeons and Dragons adventuring party had all turned on one another, each hoping to be the last man standing with their dungeon loot. Cards contained different types of actions and could be chained together for greater impact. The game was fast paced, had simple rules, and was easy to learn. It was also their first foray into games designed for a younger audience. The result was a great little game that could be played in 20 minutes or less but had enough “gotcha” moments to keep players coming back.
Join the Mayhem
The basic game came with four decks of cards each representing a different character. The decks are fairly similar to keep the rules simple, but each deck has a set number of unique cards representing the abilities of that character’s class (Wizard, Rogue, etc.). The standard cards have a combination of symbols that determine what they do: crossed swords for a single attack, a shield that adds armor, a card for drawing a card, a heart for healing one point of damage, and a lightning bolt which allows for another card to be played. The object of the game is to reduce your opponents’ health from 10 to 0 and be the last person standing. Chaining a string of cards together using the lightning bolts will allow your turn to be more devastating.
The unique, deck-specific cards are heavily themed and allow the personality of that character to shine through their mechanics. For example, Sutha the Barbarian can fly into a berserker rage and attack everyone at once. Azzan the Rogue can steal a card from another player and use it. The artwork and titles on all of the cards are clever and humorous adding to the fun of playing this adventuring party gone awry.
2019 saw the release of a two-deck expansion called Battle for Baldur’s Gate. This expansion coincided with the release of the latest campaign book for Dungeons & Dragons – Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. The two decks represented classic characters from the Baldur’s Gate video game series: Jaheira, the shapeshifting Druid and Minsc, the evil-slaying Ranger (with his “miniature, giant space hamster” named Boo!). These two decks added diversity to the game. Jaheira can take on different animal forms allowing for different bonuses on further cards played. Minsc’s abilities as a Ranger allow him to choose a favored enemy and scout out opponents. Of course, the true enjoyment of playing Minsc is shouting some of his classic lines like “Butt Kicking for Justice!” and “Go For the Eyes, Boo!!” as you play his cards.
A Mash of Monsters
Now, the latest expansion doubles the choices with six decks themed around iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters. These decks have the greatest variety of game play yet, leaning heavily into the personalities of these anthropomorphized monstrous characters:
- Blorp – a Gelatinous Cube, literally an intelligent cube of corrosive goo that longs for companionship. Blorp’s abilities showcase its digestive abilities. For example, it can devour an opponent’s armor and heal itself. However, the tragic bit here is that this card is called “Hugs!” Blorp’s card art is fantastic. Pay attention to his little gnome friend!
- Mimi LeChaise – a Mimic. Mimics are devious predators that are able to take on the form of any common object and ambush their prey. Mimi’s shapeshifting is less than convincing with cards like “ A Potted Plant (Honest!)” and “Definitely Just a Mirror”, a card which allows you to copy an opponent’s armor card and protect yourself.
- Hoots McGoots – an Owlbear that is quite the circus performer! His cards feature him performing juggling acts and shooting himself out of a cannon. Hoots’ abilities include “To the Face!” a card that uses an enemy’s armor as a weapon against them.
- Dr. Tentaculous – a Mind Flayer mentalist who uses his psionic powers to attack his opponents and also provide them with mental counseling! His abilities include manipulating enemies’ hands and using their own cards against them
- Delilah Deathray – The Beholder Diva! Delilah’s attacks are deadly but more so is her wrath if you don’t compliment her when she demands it!
- Lord Cinderpuff – Of course, there’s a dragon in the box! Lord Cinderpuff is a refined gentleman of a wyrm and shrewd businessman. He would never release his dragon rage unless it was in a “Hostile Takeover” – a devastating attack that hits all opponents and singles out a couple for extra damage.
Besides the variety and cleverness of the new decks, this expansion comes with some most-welcome additions for rounding the full game out. The box is oversized and includes dividers and an insert for organizing all 12 decks so far. There is also a smaller storage box for the various tokens needed for keeping track of health and damage. This fits neatly alongside the organizer slots. There are also optional rules for five and six players. One set of rules, “The Vengeful Ghost”, allows players who have been eliminated early to continue to have an impact on the game. This helps offset the sting of those inevitable pile-ons that happen in free-for-all games.
Family Tested, Kid Approved
To properly review this game, I enlisted the very best playtesters I could find – my two sons, Emmett and Elliott. These guys adore Dungeon Mayhem and have taught it to as many members of our extended family as they can at the holidays. It’s a staple quick-play game in our house, a go-to when we want to play something but don’t have the time for anything more complex. Emmett looks for the best action chains possible while Elliott relentlessly attacks a single target (often me!) until they are obliterated. Here are our thoughts on Monster Madness:
Emmett (age 8): “I like Hoots McGoots. His cards are powerful. His ‘For My Next Trick’ card lets me use my attack cards to attack all of my opponents at the same time. That’s why I think he’s cool.”
Elliott (age 6): “Blorp’s ‘Burped Up Bones’ card is an armor card that lets you hit the person who destroys it. I like Blorp!”
High praise! As for my thoughts, this is a great addition to a game that our family already adores. The new character decks are inventive and full of personality. The abilities don’t add additional rules, they use the basic rules in new ways. This keeps the game simple and easily playable. As the game geek dad, I was excited to see an organizer insert finally to keep the decks separate but playable. At the same time, I kept the original box so I can transfer four decks into it for portability.
We love the addition of Monster Madness to the Dungeon Mayhem family and hope that there is still more to come!
Dungeon Mayhem: Monster Madness is available now at your local game store and wherever Dungeons & Dragons products are sold. More information on this product can be found at Wizards of the Coast.