In Stay Out of My Dungeon!, players are working together, as a team of goblins, to keep a wildly-varied group of adventurers from ransacking their dungeon. Stay Out of My Dungeon! (henceforth: SOOMD!), while being cooperative, includes the risk of one or more members of your team secretly being traitors. There are a lot of games out there on the market with this idea, but SOOMD! has a neat twist that we haven’t seen before: At the start of the game, players draw one of seven loyalty cards, of which four declare you to be completely loyal, one makes you an enemy spy, one makes you a selfish jerk, and one you an anarchist. As such, there are several shades of loyalty, from pure “I’m on your side” to pure “I’m trying to let the adventurers in”.
Each round of SOOMD! plays out a little like a worker placement game. If your meeple started out in the goblin keep, you get a card draw, and then, in turn order, you pick an area of the board to go work on. The three most important jobs are the defenses around the dungeon: the poison traps, the moat, and the giant flamethrower. Completing these three areas’ objectives will probably result in a victory for the loyal players. Being the person who completes the final bit of construction on one of the defenses will also get you a special power, and if you have the selfish jerk loyalty card, and you collect two of these special powers, you will be the winner instead.
These three main defense areas are also at risk of attack from enemy adventurers. There is an invasion deck, and the players draw one card from it every turn. It may be a random event, with various forms of bad news, or it may be an adventurer who heads to one of the three areas. If you’re in one of those areas you’ll have to fight off that adventurer before you can get any construction work done. If you beat them, you may get a reward. If they beat you, you may lose a turn recovering in the infirmary. If they are unopposed, you risk the invasion track moving forward, which is the win condition for the spy player, and the lose condition for everyone else.
There are other places you can send your goblin every turn, though. You can go work on one of two side-projects: the armory and the forge. They’re much easier to complete, but give smaller benefits to the team. You can spend your turn healing up in the keep (rather than risk getting killed and being forced to lose an entire turn). And finally you can head to the council chamber, where you’ll have the option of accusing someone of being the spy.
Accusing is risky. If you hit the wrong player, they lose their cards and the invasion progresses a step. The anarchist player is also actively angling for someone to be falsely accused, so long as it doesn’t result in the adventurers succeeding in their invasion; that’s how they win. If you hit the right player, however, you head off any backstabbing they may have done, and make them waste some turns escaping from jail.
This is one place where the game falls down. The rule book is painfully opaque about how an accused spy escapes, and about how they voluntarily reveal themselves during combat (essentially acting like an extra invader for one turn). And even if you think you’ve figured that out, there’s a further problem in that the spy has almost nothing to do once they’re revealed. They have a one-time move where they call in extra reinforcements, represented by some extra pulls from the invasion deck. If they collected any of the construction bonuses from working on the defenses, those will give them a special one-time bonus as well. And finally, they get to filter the random invasion card every turn, drawing two and picking one to play. And that’s it.
Regarding your hand of action cards: You get several at the start of the game, one more every turn you begin in the keep, and possibly extras for beating adventurers in combat. Some of these cards will be typical action cards, playable as combat bonuses or rule-breakers. Some will be armor or weapons that you can equip, giving you an ongoing benefit. Some of them will be construction cards, with a value from one to three, that you need to complete the moat and the flamethrower. Players working on those defenses secretly play construction cards face down into a pile. Once the pile reaches a certain threshold, it is shuffled and flipped up. If the total is high enough, construction advances. If, however, the stack has been poisoned with too many ones and twos, the attempt will fail. The stacks are small enough that a traitor can easily sabotage an attempt here, but that also means that they can only get away with it a few times before people can deduce who they are.
So, gameplay continues until either the three defenses are completed or the invasion succeeds. At the end of each round, players return to the keep (unless they’re healing up in the infirmary, or working on the poison traps, which require a one-turn investment to advance). This will go on for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, which is probably a bit too long for lighthearted game where you’re getting attacked by ninja cats, kamikaze pigs, and grumpy old wizards.
With a huge invasion deck, lots of different action and equipment cards, and variable player loyalty, every game of SOOMD! will be a different. And we didn’t even mention the player sheets, which are all unique, give you a special power, and tell you how good you are at fighting and building, and how many hit points you have.
Even in pre-production, SOOMD! is a pretty game. We look forward to seeing more art as it is completed.
SOOMD! is a sound entry in the cooperative/traitor genre. The Kickstater campaign for Stay Out of My Dungeon! is currently live so go check it out.