Dobbers Quest for the key

Dobbers: Quest for the Key

  • # Players 2-4
  • Best # of Players: The more the merrier
  • Publisher: Splattered Ink Games
  • Designer: Darryl T. Jones
  • Age Range: 11+ 
  • Coming soon to Kickstarter

You finally have enough influence to acquire Flame, the fire-wielding sword from the Adventure row! Yes! You place it in your discard pile to be shuffled into your personal deck and sit back with satisfaction, knowing it will soon be in your hand. In your revelry, you failed to notice the new Location card, Castle Walls, on the board, directly in front of your hero! And there’s a creature under it with a weapon. How did your opponent sneak that out there? What creature is under it? Your only hope is that Flame gets to your hand as soon as possible.

Special Thanks to Darryl T. Jones, designer for Dobbers: Quest for the Key, for writing the narrative for this review!

Overview

Dobbers: Quest for the Key is a competitive deck building adventure where you are trying to be the first Dobber, gnome-like creatures who inhabit the forest, to reach and claim the magical key used to imprison a great evil. What sets this deck-builder apart, though, is that you are the one creating the challenges other players face.

Positives:

  • A good introduction to deck-builder for new and younger players.
  • Due to the nature of both the deck building and challenge building aspect of Dobbers, the game has a large degree of replayability.
  • Dobbers’ art and theme are both delightfully playful, and sure to inspire the imaginations of younger players.
  • There is enough substance and design in Dobbers to keep older players and parents entertained as well.

Negatives:

  • Requires at least on hour to play, depending on player count.
  • I would have liked to see the theme explored more during gameplay.

Analysis:

Dobbers Quest for the Key is a deck-builder at its core and as such, you play cards to perform actions, gain resources to buy a new card, and to remove unwanted cards from your deck. However, Dobbers: Quest for the Key sets itself apart from a standard deck-builder in a couple of ways.

The first is the feeling of motion, accomplished by the inclusion of a game board. Many deck-builders feel motionless. You draw a hand, buy new cards, kill monsters, then rinse and repeat. You don’t really have a sense of movement, things are coming to you. Dobbers makes you go to the challenges. You have to move your game piece through the forest as you face challenges that other players are putting in your way. In other words, Dobbers actually feels like you are on an adventure.

The other area that Dobbers sets itself apart is with the inclusion of challenge stacks. Challenge stacks are the monster and enemy encounters of the game. What sets them apart is that they are player built. Every combat/challenge in Dobbers is constructed by a player for their opponents. A challenge stack always has a location, usually has a monster and sometimes has equipment. In order for you to progress along the path to the key, you have to defeat any challenges in your way. Challenge stacks are built much like your player deck: you buy the components with influence. However, instead of placing them in your player deck they are placed on an empty Challenge location on the board. This adds to the game in two ways. First, it makes the game harder for your opponent(s) since they now face a tougher path. This can, however, backfire on you, since you may have to travel the same path as your opponent. Second, because you use the same currency to buy challenge components as you do to buy new cards, the game becomes a balancing act. Should I buy this card that will help me in the future, or do I make it harder for the other players to reach the key is the question constantly going through your head.

I do have a few issues with Dobbers, however. First, there are not many ways that you can directly hinder your opponents. This leads to my second issue, once a player has built up their character, either through equipment bonuses, or effect cards, it is nearly impossible to stop them from winning. This may just be a problem in the beta prototype I played though, since the designer has made it clear he is still tweaking aspects of the game.

My last issue involves the theme. I love this theme, even though it is slightly cliché. It has all the elements needed for a great adventure: heroism, monsters, treasure, and a dark and sinister villain, the Evil Wood Sprite… Who, sadly, is just another creature for your challenge stack. The Wood Sprite doesn’t factor into gameplay any more than any other creature you face in game. Personally, I think this does the game a disservice.

My Verdict

Despite a couple of little Issues, Dobbers is a great introduction to both deck-builders and adventure games for children and new gamers alike. It is simple enough that children 8+ should be able to pick it up with little difficulty but is complex enough that older siblings and parents will enjoy it as well. That being said, Dobbers Quest for the key is not a game for “serious” or “hardcore” gamers. That isn’t what Dobbers Quest for the Key is about. Dobbers is a game for a rainy night in, around the kitchen table with the family and friends talking with one another and having a wonderful time. And honestly, that is worth its weight in bottle caps and gold.

Another Family Night game I would highly recommend is Forbidden Island by Gamewright Games.

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