Review of One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows

A tabby cat resting next to the Forest of Shadows box

The first review I wrote was a positive review of One Deck Dungeon (ODD). The game is now part of my collection and I play it when I feel like some old school fantasy adventuring and have less than an hour to spare.

Update September 2019: I ended up getting rid of ODD. In this article I explain why. My opinion on the relative merits of the base game and the standalone expansion haven’t changed, though.

One Deck Dungeon: The Forest of Shadows (FoS) is a so-called standalone expansion. A standalone expansion is a game that’s based on a previously released game, and it can either be played by itself or integrated with the original game. Just like the original game, FoS was designed by Chris Cieslik and released by Asmadi Games.

In this review I will take a look at FoS from a solitaire gaming perspective only, completely ignoring the fact that it makes ODD playable with up to four people instead of up to two. If you enjoy ODD cooperatively and want to play it with more than two people, you should probably get Forest of Shadows. But don’t take my word for it; I’ve only played the game solo.

This will be a brief review where I’ll attempt to answer a few specific questions. I’ll look at whether and when it’s worth getting FoS to expand the original game, and which one you should get if you have neither in your collection. If you’re new to ODD you might want to check out my review of the original game for context.

What does Forest of Shadows offer the solo gamer who already owns and enjoys One Deck Dungeon?

Although the heroines, the dungeon cards and the bosses in FoS are new, and some new mechanisms are introduced, playing FoS by itself feels more or less like playing the original ODD. It’s fun, all the dice-rolling is exciting, and developing and improving your character as you face increasing difficulties is a rewarding experience.

All the contents in the Forest of Shadows box.
The box and the contents.

Combining the original with FoS also feels just like playing good old ODD.

The addition of a poison mechanism, according to the box, means that you’ll “have to weigh spending time tending your wounds against the ever-pressing need to battle and find loot.” In reality it just adds a few new tokens to move around between the cards – it doesn’t make playing the game more challenging or interesting. The change is too small to be meaningful.

The added exile mechanism means that some dice or cards will be completely removed from the game on rare occasions. This is interesting but far from interesting enough to feel like a breath of fresh dungeon air, and it tends to be more frustrating than fun when it happens since it feels contrary to the whole idea of character development. Once again, the change is too small to make any real difference.

Another change is how the potions work. In FoS they have a weaker effect but they are more versatile and able to deal with both poison and wounds (and other things). To me this is no improvement, just another step away from the cleaner design of the original game.

The six heroine cards.
The six heroine cards are my favorite part of Forest of Shadows.

The new heroines, on the other hand, are pretty different from the old ones, and playing them is a lot of fun.

FoS also comes with new campaign sheets that offer a few more ways of improving your character over time.

So I shouldn’t get Forest of Shadows if I already own One Deck Dungeon?

No, probably not. Unless ODD is one of your favorite games and you play it so much that you need the variation of additional foes and perils. Also, if you really like ODD just getting the six additional heroes might be worth the cost of the entire expansion box. But FoS is probably not a worthwhile investment if you already own ODD and just play it occasionally. If you play the game campaign-style regularly, though, combining it with FoS for a hybrid dungeon experience is probably a good idea.

Apart from the new heroines, FoS offers nothing of relevance to the solo player who already owns ODD and only plays it once in a while. Combining cards from the original ODD and FoS doesn’t make the game feel new. Adding the new mechanisms doesn’t add any excitement. It feels like the same game.

A cute tabby cat sits on a table next to the Forest of Shadows box.
My gaming partner.

Personally, I don’t play ODD so often that it gets repetitive. For this reason I don’t need to mix in new dungeon cards. And to be honest, the new dungeon cards are not that different. It’s more of the same. The game still feels like a small game with lots of dice. Expand it with FoS and it’s still a good game, but not a better one.

For most solo players I’d say that FoS is a good game but a mediocre expansion. A tiny, cheap expansion pack with just the six heroines would have been better.

I haven’t played One Deck Dungeon. Should I get the original or Forest of Shadows?

They are very similar. You would probably be fine with whichever one is available at the moment. Both ODD and FoS are good solo games by themselves. I definitely recommend that you try one or the other. ODD was released in 2016 and it’s already a solo gaming classic. With good reason.

I personally like ODD more than FoS since the new exile, poison and potion mechanisms don’t excite me enough to warrant adding more rules, tokens and fiddliness. My experience is that the new additions clog up the design, obstructing the flow of the game a little. But in the end the difference isn’t very big.

To be fair, playing FoS means having to deal with a few more choices. That can be seen as a positive. Some people will like that, no doubt. It could also be argued that FoS is a little bit more challenging because of this. But it’s still the same kind of challenge and I prefer the slightly smoother experience of the original game.

You’re awfully assertive making these recommendations, aren’t you?

I sure am. If you want to get a second opinion, have a look at this review by Kenton White, who likes combining ODD and FoS for a Two Deck Dungeon experience.

Why do you always point the reader to other reviewers?

Because I’m insecure, subservient and humble.

I see. Bye! Have to run. Got to pick up a copy of Forest of Shadows.

Thanks for reading! And thank you, Raz, for the useful feedback! I know the review is still shorter than you’d prefer, but I’ve added a few things based on your advice.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the review, Arvid! I come back to your site every once in a while, and this time around found this article particularly helpful. Though I enjoy ODD, I only occasionally play it – just the case you described.

    Also, let me add that I really appreciate the links to others’ reviews and perspectives on the same game in your reviews.

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      I’m including other’s opinions in an attempt to make the site a more useful resource.

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