Up until now, I think that every drinking related board game I’ve played has been strictly a party game, usually with a real focus on drinking and very little actual game. Drunkgeon, whilst undoubtedly linked to the consumption of alcohol (the clue is in the name), aims to flip the traditional drinking game upside down.
In Drunkgeon, each player chooses a beverage and draws themselves a beer mat depicting one of the four coloured keys, which they will use to take their starting move. A large grid of beer mats showing empty spaces, monsters and treasure will then be dealt out onto the table at random, creating the game board.
When taking their first move, the players will insert the key mat that they begin with into one side of the board, pushing the other mats outwards so that one pops out of the other end. The objective of Drunkgeon is to collect one of each coloured key before your health — represented by your drink — runs out.
As drinking games go, Drunkgeon is already relatively complex, but because players will only ever have one drink throughout (or perhaps two, if a refill spell is obtained) it’s unlikely that anyone will end up drunk. Wounds are usually taking in fingers worth of your chosen tipple, so a pint of beer might give an advantage over a small glass of wine, although it is clearly possible to modify the rules to take such matters into account.
The game itself is very simple to play. On their turn, a player may simply take the following actions (the first two of which are mandatory); insert a dungeon map, move their drink or purchase a spell mat. Inserting a mat works just as I’ve described above, with the player adding the card that they are holding into any existing row, pushing out the card at the opposite end which the player then takes.
Moving a drink is self-explanatory, but there are some rules to consider. Firstly, the mat you are placing into the board in the previous phase need not be anything to do with where your drink is or where it will end up. These two steps are entirely separate. When moving your drink, you’ll first flip a special event mat (in the style of a classic beer mat flipping game) to determine how far you’ll move. You must then move your glass in a continuous line, unless a wall prevents you from doing so.
Depending on where your drink ends up, you may need to take one action or another. Finishing on a key space will mean you can take a key of that colour, whilst finishing on a monster will mean you need to fight that monster. Fighting, whether monsters or other players, is done by flipping one or more event mats and then counting the number of hits shown based on where your fingers are on the mat.
When fighting a monster, you’ll need to score a number of hits equal to the strength of that enemy, otherwise you’ll take damage. When fighting another player, it’s a case of who deals most damage to the other player. What’s interesting here is that many monsters need more hits than can be scored on a single event mat, so you’ll need to collect trophy mats and spells to increase the number of mats you can flip. Unsurprisingly though, flipping more mats is harder, from a dexterity perspective!
Ultimately, the player that collects all of the coloured keys and then defeats the dragon will be the winner, although having played Drunkgeon about ten times, I’ve only seen the players win about half of the time. More often than not, everyone dies sooner or later, simply because the act of flipping enough event mats to be effective against tougher enemies is practically impossible — and even if you succeed in catching three mats, you might still only score three or four hits.
Even so, that doesn’t mean that Drunkgeon isn’t a lot of fun to play, and it is actually quite time consuming. There’s a slight problem in that the more players are involved, the game becomes proportionally longer, meaning that at four players, there can be a bit of waiting around. With permadeath being a feature, those who die early might be in for a long wait with nothing to do.
Thanks to its length and the fact that it isn’t really encouraging drinkly (frankly, it encourages the opposite) I don’t have any moral concerns about Drunkgeon, despite the provocative title. There are hundreds of popular drinking games that encourage people to drink more in a shorter period of time, so this simply isn’t a concern for me. As a simple game to support an evening where you might be drinking anyway? It’s a nice alternative to a more traditional game, and it’s interesting to introduce your drink as a component in the game.
Drunkgeon isn’t going to win any game of the year prizes, but it’s simple, durable components, easy to remember rules and quick setup time win it some brownie points. It brings a novel and slightly more “gamey” way to introduce a drinking game to your evening and I think it bridges the gap between gamers and non-gamers.
Anyone can play Drunkgeon, and it’s pretty good fun for all concerned, except those who die early or those who really do want to get through their drinks at a faster rate. In a four player game, you can easily need to nurse your pint or glass of wine over the course of an hour long game, which can be a bit much even for a very casual drinker. Still, on balance, I liked Drunkgeon and I’ll probably play it again, even if it hits the table on very rare occasions only.