So you wanna go on a dungeon crawl or play a really good session of D & D, but you’ve only got an hour. What do you do? Do you just do the intro, maybe really just getting into it when you have to leave? Well finally there’s a solution. We now have Wakening Lair!

Wakening Lair is being released this month (March 2018) from Rather Dashing Games and it is a doozy. Ive heard it described as an RPG in a box, or a slimmed down Dungeon Crawl. Both of these are pretty accurate. But mostly, it’s just a 45 minute good time of dice rolling and Monster killing fun.

Let’s dive in:

The first thing you should know about Wakening Lair is that there is a timing mechanism built in. Somewhere in the bottom portion of the Monster Deck is a card that says “the Monstrous Terror awakens”.

And the Monster Deck isn’t that big, so about 45 minutes into the game, you are going to start the final battle. But starting out, you are not prepared for that. Oh no intrepid young adventurer, you are certainly not ready yet.

Think of the beginning of the game as starting out as a Level 1 character with basically a wooden sword for your weapon (or something equally effective).

Basically, you aren’t going to do much damage. You will only be rolling 1 D6 against Monsters that will have 3 to roll against you, so we are really going to have to work together. But….Luckily your damage carries over. And when you do manage to slay them…you get rewarded with an item, which usually helps quite a bit. Now that you are somewhat leveled up, let’s take on the next foul beast in the Lair. Oh…look your weapon has granted you a special ability and boosted your dice roll when in Ice rooms. Now you are a bit stronger against this monster, and he dies easier. Oh look, another item. This one is even better because it matches your Character’s traits and gives you a huge bonus. Now you are rolling 3 D6 every time. YOU are as strong as these monsters now. This place is going to be a cakewalk. Just another easy monster here…and the creature drops a magic amulet this time. That should help too.

But wait, what is that sound? Something big is coming. It’s a giant Spider!


Quick we have to kill it, before it escapes the Lair. But, it’s bringing all the monsters still alive with it as it drives its way towards us and out of the Lair. We had better be quick. I’m not sure we are going to make it out of this one…..

Ok. So….that’s basically how the game feels. You do start out with almost nothing. You have a basic attack to fight the creatures, but at the beginning of the game, it really doesn’t feel like enough. And then, just when you feel like you are getting the hang of things and really knocking out some of the monsters and beefing up your characters, here comes the Monstrous Terror to wipe you all out. Sometimes you make it out alive, sometimes you are spider food.

A Quick bit about the gameplay:

So, before every player begins their turn, the are going to roll 2 D6 to see which level of the Lair is revealed and how many monsters will be in that room. Roll a four – reveal the fourth card up and then put as many monsters in play as it says on that card (1 or 2).

Roll another four later on, then you add another monster to the room, with a maximum of 3 to each room at a time.

Now you have to go and kill the monsters. On your turn you are going to get 3 actions. Basically you are going to move and attack. You can move through any number of unoccupied rooms for 1 action, but if you want to move on past a room with monsters to a different room, that will cost you another action. Attacking also costs an action. And, starting out, attacking a monster will probably not kill it, so you may have to spend a couple of actions doing this, or even a couple of turns (but it gets better). The first monster you kill is always the hardest, right?

Let’s talk a little about the attacks. Each monster, and each hero for that matter, has a series of numbers on their card that represent their health. Monsters have 3 numbers. Heroes have 5. Monstrous Terrors have way more than that. To damage a monster you must roll at least the amount of each of these numbers in order from left to right.

So if a Monster had 4 4 3 as its health numbers, you must roll a 4, 5 or 6 to damage them at all. After that a 4 or higher, and then a 3 or higher. Now the monster is dead and you get a reward. So, you can see that the first monsters your team fights can take a while to get rid of. After all, if you are only rolling 1 D6 each time, it would take you all 3 of your actions to kill them, and that’s assuming you hit with all 3 rolls.

Luckily for your team there are items. Each item card is divided into two sides, a Weapon side and a Magic Item side. When you acquire the item, you get to decide which side to use.

If you already have a fantastic weapon, you may want to use the Magic Item side Instead. Already have everything you need? You can choose not to equip it and pass it on to one of your teammates if you are in the same room. You don’t have to keep the same items for the entire game, but once you have replaced something, it goes in the trash. You cannot remove an item and then give it to a teammate later, so plan ahead and work together.

Weapons bonuses are really, really helpful. Some weapons will give you bonuses when fighting in certain rooms. These will boost your dice roll. Whatever you rolled, you will add 1 to it, making it a more powerful attack. Other weapons will match your characters attributes and really boost your attacks.

These will give you extra dice to roll, which is what you really want. That way you have the chance to take out monsters in one action. Also if the attack type you use matches the Monster’s weakness you get to press your attack. If you score at least one hit, you get to roll the dice again and count the attack again without spending another action. Now your really cooking.

Magic items allow you to manipulate monsters, rooms, dice and heroes. These will allow you to better attack or avoid certain monsters and even shift the dungeon around to even the odds.


But this also isn’t a friendly dungeon, so the monsters are going to attack you as well. Any and all remaining monsters in the room with you will attack you at the end of your turn. The monsters roll a number of dice equal to the number of hit points they have left and try to roll higher than your health numbers to hit you. If you ever die, you had better have a friend with a Resurrection Scroll, because if anyone dies – everyone loses.

So you keep opening rooms and fighting monsters until you draw the Monstrous Terror Card and the Monstrous Terror appears. When they do, it’s trouble. The Monstrous Terror will move one room closer after each players turn and bring all the monsters and players with them. After EVERY players turn. The Monstrous Terror doesn’t hit you themselves though. Until all the other monsters are killed, they all attack you, and the Monstrous Terror just hangs back looking menacing. Of course, you also cant attack it either till its minions are gone. This is where you have to be careful. You want to be in a position to attack the lesser monsters on your turn, but you don’t want to be swept along with the mass of monsters and players for 2 or 3 turns getting hit each time by all of the monsters every time until it is your turn to act again. But…you have to take them out, or you will never even get to hit the Monstrous Terror.

Thus the challenge.

So…kill all the lesser monsters and then start hacking away at the Monstrous Terror. Each of the terrors has their own special power which you must struggle against as well. This game is not one that you are going to win every time you play. It is a real challenge.

The part about whether we like the game or not:

Basically…we love this game. But, it is definitely not easy. There are times, and some playthroughs it’s the entire game, that you feel there is no way you are going to win.  Getting the Items definitely eases your mind a bit, but it’s still no cakewalk.  Monsters are coming at you left and right and you have to choose carefully which ones you are going to attack and which ones your teammates will.  You can freely trade items between characters, but not after they have been equipped, so it’s a good idea to only equip the ones that match your character’s class and special symbol, thus giving you the most powerful attack.  And then the Monstrous Terror comes out and everyone is in trouble.  You want to keep close so that you can attack, but you don’t want to stay in the room with the Terror, because you will inevitably be attacked on every one’s turn making for a not very fun but quite quick death for your character.  The first time we played, our only hope was to allow the one character who had the appropriate weapons and skill symbols to attack the Terror in the last 3 rooms (it took us that long to take out all the other monsters).  No one else could even damage the Terror.  We almost won, but that was because our teammate kept being able to press the advantage and keep damaging the Terror.

Even though it is hard (i mean you want some challenge, right?), the gameplay is fantastic.  You get the feeling of playing a dungeon crawl without having to roll up characters or spend 5 hours talking to NPCs.   This boils down my favorite parts of any RPG and presents them in a 45 minute format.  It doesn’t feel too light either, it’s a really good mix.

Now…it will eat your table.  You are supposed to set it up with all 12 rooms laid out and then have space for 3 monster cards on the right hand side of the rooms.  The Monstrous Terror will move down on the left hand side.  If you have a regular dining room table, this may present a challenge. But it looks great on the table.  In fact, there isn’t much about the game that doesn’t look great.  Even the inside of the box itself is gorgeous, not to mention the artwork on the cards.

Rather Dashing has outdone themselves with the artwork.  It is just cartoony enough, and you have your choice of Male or Female characters for each character class.  The monsters are campy and fun, and the Monstrous Terrors really stand out, especially when you realize how much damage they can take before may wanna bring out some more D6 dice though, cause the game only comes with 3, so you have to keep passing them around (which I guess is the only vaguely negative thing I could say).

Wakening Lair is a very well balanced game that has a very clever timing mechanism to keep it from overstaying its welcome.  It looks great on the table and the gameplay provides you with real choices and, once you get going, a real chance at victory.  You won’t win every time, but when you do, everyone will stand and cheer.

Definitely Ninja approved


Wakening Lair was sent to us by  Rather Dashing Games in exchange for an honest review, which is exactly what we provided.