For some time now, board games have been a niche form of entertainment,
taking a back seat to the television and video games. There
exists within the board game world an RPG genre. Combining elements
such as leveling, item management, exploration and questing
with rolling dice and moving around on boards, this subgenre
of games usually play out as faster, simpler versions of their
D&D counterparts. Often the board game may involve cards,
as well as tokens and maps, to help facilitate gameplay and
add the random element necessary to keep things fresh during
multiple playthroughs. Since I usually spend most of my free
time drawing and playing video games, RP board games usually
appeal to me much more than traditional D&D sessions due
to their time-saving element and ease of setup alone. So, when
I received a preview copy of Dokapon Journey, I could
not wait to fire up my DS and give the spinner a whirl.
"Unfortunately, this mechanic tends to reduce battles to
pure chance, minimizing the effects of character statistics,
development and tactical decision making."
The beginning options in Dokapon Journey are extremely
flexible. There are several modes of play to choose from. Story
mode is essentially the main board game which features quests
given by the king throughout the adventure. Completing these
objectives results in huge gold bonuses, which seems to be the
primary, overall objective. Greed mode lacks these missions
so that players can focus on earning gold without the king’s
interruptions. The player sets the time limit (in number of
game weeks) and the one with the most gold at the end, wins.
Finally, battle mode allows you to set more specific objectives.
The gamer can choose three or four players, and set each one
up to be run by computer AI or human player. Finally, they chose
a class and a name before the game begins.
The game starts with each player at the main castle. On the
player’s turn, a spinner numbered from one to six is rolled
for movement around the board. There are several types of spaces
that the player can land on. Normal, empty spaces usually result
in a random battle with a monster. These battles are great for
garnering experience needed to level up. Leveling up allows
the player to raise statistics needed to take on tougher opponents,
such as those guarding towns. Speaking of towns, these are also
spaces that players can land on. Assuming the player can defeat
the monster which has taken over the own, they will earn the
loyalty of the town people, resulting in immediate and future
gold rewards via taxation. There are treasure squares which
are not only safe havens from attack, but award a random spell
or item to the heroes. Weapons, armor, items and magic may be
be purchased from stores littering the game board.
One thing gamers will notice immediately is the sheer size
of Dokapon Journey’s board world. There are plenty
of areas to explore. Similar to most old-school RPG’s,
each zone has a certain level range of monsters. Wander too
far from the initial territory, and the player will quickly
be killed by a higher level monster. While there is not direct
method of knowing where these zones begin and end (aside from
trial and error), players can get a general idea by researching
the level of the boss monsters guarding the towns in those various
Once a player engages in battle with a monster, they generally
do so to the death. Each turn, the player gets to choose one
defensive and offensive action. Attack order is determined randomly
when the player chooses one of two cards presented at the beginning
of each encounter. Normally, there are three defensive and three
offensive moves the player may choose. These moves have a paper,
rock, and scissors relationship, which can drastically affect
the outcome of battle. For example, if the player chooses "Counter"
and the computer chooses "Strike" (The equivalent
of choosing scissors over paper), the player will not only completely
negate the opponent's attack, but unleash a biting counter attack.
Making the right choice in battle can easily make the difference
between victory and success. Unfortunately, this mechanic tends
to reduce battles to pure chance, minimizing the effects of
character statistics, development and tactical decision making.
In fact, random events seem to be a major theme in this game.
For example, if the player frees a town the king has pointed
out, not only will the king handsomely reward the hero, there
is a chance that the player will win a free town, or another
large cash reward from another randomly chosen player. This
reward can be substantial, and since it is funded by another
player, it can easily switch the current leader in the game
to last place. Events are also liberally scattered throughout
which can quickly double, or halve, the players gold with a
virtual flip of the coin, or via a luck based mini game such
as rock, paper and scissors. One's enjoyment of the game at
any particular moment may be directly tied into how lucky they
are, since these events, and luck itself, plays such a huge
factor in the game.
I consider myself a casual fan of this deprived subgenre of
video game RPGs. Having put over a dozen hours in so far, I
can state that Dokapon Journey’s simplicity and
easy accessibility (for this type of game) are certainly strong
points. However, its heavy reliance on random factors to determine
battles and distribute gold could certainly prove frustrating
if it continues to play such a huge role throughout the entire