Publisher: Splattered Ink Games
Designer and Artist: Darryl Jones
Player Count: 2-4 Players
Play Time: 40-90 min
A prototype copy of Dobbers: Quest for the Key, was provided by Splattered Ink Games for preview. I would like to thank Darryl Jones for his support of Jambalaya Plays Games. Dobbers Quest for the Key hits Kickstarter on April 16, 2018. I will post the link at the bottom of the preview.
Dobbers: Quest for the Key
When I was a young man, I would wake up early summer mornings to watch as many cartoons as possible before the bus picked me up for the YMCA Summer Program. At around 10 A.M, a show came on Nickelodeon called, David the Gnome. It had one of the most beautiful opening songs ever, which I could recite mostly it by heart now. The whole show was centered around David the Gnome, who narrated the show and traveled around fantasy forest. There were forest creature, talking animals, wizards, and fairies that would take David the Gnome on little daily adventures. It also had its share of darkness mixed in there, which I believe came from the presence of Trolls and predatory animals. When I stumbled up Dobbers: Quest for the Key, I began to reminisce about my love for that kids show and what it would be like to play a game with a similar theme. Something about the beautiful art and the sense of adventure connected me to this project. After reading more about the origins of the Dobbers and the creator Darryl Jones, I was all in on this project. I’m so excited to share my thoughts on my experience with the game.
What is Dobbers: Quest for the Key?
Dobbers are gnome-like creatures who live in the Alwaysgreen Forest. There is a suddenly wave of rot hit the crops. A Wood Sprite is attempting to unleash the power of the Shambleman from prison. If the Wood Sprite is successful in finding the key before one of you, the Shamblemann will spread death and rot that cannot be stopped. You play as heroes competing to be the first to reach the magic key. If you are the first hero to reach the magic key, you will lock away the source of evil and bring peace to the Dobberton Kingdom. The gameplay in Dobbers: Quest for the Key has very familiar deck building and action point allowance mechanics, but the competitive encounter building makes the game shine.
Gathering Your Things
Each player will choose one of the four heroes, along with ten cards, and a little meeple to travel across the board. Each character has their own bonuses to certain actions in the game. During play, every movement and challenge attempt action is completed by using action points to resolve them. The blue action points are for movement, orange is for challenges, and red is a universal for both movement and challenges.
In player’s area, you can equip cards to assist you with growing a larger base of action points on every turn. You may have one item, one weapon, and one piece of armor in your player area. Each player’s beginning deck has a Wooden Sword and Travel Kit to get you off to a humbling but respectable start, when you draw them. As players are building better decks and creating challenge stack locations, you still need to pay attention to building a solid combination of armor, items, and weapons for yourself. Better equipment means more action points for travel and challenges before you play any cards. You can make your journey easier by creating a diverse deck that will allow you to change equipment on the fly.
Quest for the Key
There are two phases to each turn, the Main Phase and Draw Phase. In the Main Phase, players can play any number of cards with influence (Bottle caps) from their hand for purchases on the Adventure and Challenge rows, play equipment to their player area, play equipment to locations, and spend action points to move and/or solve challenges. In the Draw phase, you discard all remaining cards and draw five new ones. You can shuffle the deck if you need more cards to complete your hand. Each player’s meeple will begin their journey in their own corner. They will travel from location to location until one player reaches the final magic key spot. If there is a challenge stack to overcome and the player survives, they win the game.
Purchasing from the Adventure and Challenge Rows is set up like a standard deck builder display. The Adventure row has a mixed variety of weapons, equipment, items and effects available for purchase. Player’s will acquire cards by paying bottle caps and they can purchase as much as they can afford. In true deck builder fashion, newly acquired cards go to your discard pile. Everything you see is very familiar, but some cards have an alignment bonuses where you can gain additional benefits if you have matching icons in play. It’s a nice little touch and it creates more strategic playing experience.
Creating an Adventure
Above the Adventure row is the Challenge row, where you can buy Location and Creature Cards to add to the available slots across the board. Now, the cool part. Every game of Dobbers: Quest for the Key will be different because players are building the adventure as they go. When a Location or Creature Card is purchased, you do not reveal any of the stats of the card until a player attempts to resolve the challenge stack they want to pass through. Challenge stacks are created from a combination of locations, creatures, and multiple pieces of equipment to bump up the difficulty for opponents. The Location Cards have a set amount of red action points to complete, but adding creatures and equipment with matching alignment bonuses sets up some pretty challenging situations. Creature cards add a little nastiness to the challenges beyond extra action points. Some of them eliminate action points from equipment items and cause status effects to you in victory and defeat. After playing a couple games of Dobbers: Quest for the Key, I feel like the replay value comes from the challenge stacks that are created each game. The fact that any player can contribute to any location space they want and create a challenge stack to stop someone who may be running away with the lead is huge. The game is light hearted enough for anyone to sit and play, but every game has a good dose of strategy to it. I don’t want to sell this as a medium to heavy game, it’s made for families and lighter gaming crowds.
I Shall Pass!
I’ve been talking about challenge stacks for awhile, but I haven’t explained how you resolve them. In order to complete a challenge, you must:
- Pay the travel points equal to or above the points indicated on the space before the location.
- Pay challenge and red action points equal to or above the combination of Location, creature, and equipment cards.
- If the player has an item equipped that matches the modified location icon on the Location Card, then action points are reduced.
If the player successfully, the receive something for their victory. For example, the reward for the Castle Walls location is the player will be able to draw one extra card next draw phase. Next, you read the results text, which can be positive or negative based on the type of location. At worst, they have a temporary negative effect on you for a round or you lose a piece of equipment to your discard pile. Additionally, you have the choice of keeping any equipment that may have been at that location for the challenge. If you are not victorious, there are usually bad things from both the Location and Creature cards. Most of the time, you will lose an something and moved backwards one or two spaces. THAT STINKS! Once a Location card is resolved in victory or defeat, the card will stay at that location and a new creature with equipment can be added to create a new challenge stack in the previous one was defeated. Once again, the challenge stack create little thematic moments throughout the game, that make the whole experience fun for anyone who enjoys fantasy adventure games.
Why should I back Dobbers: Quest for the Key?
- A solid introduction to deck building and fantasy adventure gaming
- Enough strategy to make the gameplay rewarding and fun for all
- The challenge stack building has so many variations, which makes the replay value high
- I love the blend of bright fantasy art with a twist of darkness
- There is more to the world of Dobberton beyond this board game
- Gameplay may feel too light for more seasoned gamers (One look at the art)
- Some games can get too one sided based on the range of player experience
Dobbers: Quest for the Key is a joy to play. I wish my son was a little older to grasp all the text, but I think it’s more suitable for kids around age 10+ to be able to grasp everything going on. The basic deck building mechanics are more welcoming to families and casual gamers. It’s an easy game to learn, but it won’t take players too long to create strategies that shows off the true potential of the gameplay. Depending on the range of skill at the table, you could have a bit of a cake walk through the game, but I don’t think that will happen too often. Win or lose, everyone I played with said they enjoyed the game and that’s what it’s really all about. I would like to see more from the Dobberton world if this game is successful. If this game is successful, the lore that’s already in place could easily produce a line of fun family games. I’ll link you to Splattered Ink Games so you can find out more about the Dobbers. I can’t tell you what to do with your money, but if you’re looking for a fantasy themed adventure game to play with the family, Dobbers: Quest for the Key is definitely a project you should take a look at.
I hope this preview was informative and will help you decide if Dobbers: Quest for the Key is something you want to pledge for on April 16th. Please ask any questions below.