Dungeon Drafters is part card game, part dungeon crawler, and part roguelike. While card-based systems are common in a genre tuned to the “one more round” rhythm, this game places an even bigger focus on building the right deck. You’ll spend a good amount of time poring through cards that let you trigger abilities across the game’s many dungeons and its punishing runs. As a tactical deck-builder, Dungeon Drafters lets you pick from one of six heroes that offer a unique combination of cards and strategies.
From a minion-raising bard to an owl monk and a rabbit wizard, the game offers plenty of options. While each of them adapts to Dungeon Drafters’ levels with their own quirks, I was drawn to the Shinobi ninja with cat ears. Her deck focuses on moving around obstacles and dealing damage in short bursts. While some hero decks offer quick results, the monk’s utility cards reward a more methodical approach. One card even let me switch the health pools of two characters on the field.
But before you get dazzled by the possibilities, remember that heroes can only cast cards that tie into their archetype. Red and Blue archetypes focus on direct and indirect damage, while Green and Yellow tie into movement and defense respectively. Each hero has access to two of these four types, meaning that a ninja can’t switch from shurikens to spells.
As for obtaining new cards, Dungeon Drafters introduces the concept of booster packs. Opening booster packs in Dungeon Drafters took me back to my Pokémon Trading Card Game days. Each pack contains an assortment of cards that don’t necessarily pair up with your chosen hero. I sunk hours into the task of swapping cards to boost my options against the game’s cutesy but deadly enemies.
Failing a run before reaching a shrine meant you had to start over without gaining any resources. This makes booster packs all the more valuable as a ticket to retribution. New cards offer more ways to shape the battlefield to your whims, and rebuilding my deck was a nostalgia-laden pastime I had almost forgotten.
Taking out existing cards for new ones meant that I had to weigh my current setup against what the new cards brought to the table. Picking cards based on my experience across Dungeon Drafters’ regions made me realize that there was no perfect deck. Each region had unique modifiers like icy terrain that made certain cards less effective, if not useless.
Don’t let adorable pixelated graphics and a cheery soundtrack trick you into believing that this game is simple. While your enemies neatly slot into fantasy tropes, their abilities can pack quite a punch if underestimated. One wrong assumption can turn a level’s grid against you. While you can view an enemy’s list of potential actions, it was usually pride that ruined my runs. Dungeon Drafters’ punishing difficulty meant that booster cards provided some much needed relief and helped reset expectations for my next run.
The game’s pastel color scheme hides a rewarding experience for those willing to optimize their decks. Completionists will need dozens of hours to find every card out there. But as a player who just wanted to survive runs, each new card brought with it an opportunity to surprise me and my opponents. Dungeon Drafters blends card collection with dungeon-crawling to great effect. Booster packs, while hard to earn, offer players the flexibility to sit anywhere between competency and mastery. It’s dangerous to go alone. Here, take this card deck.