Side Quests

Chocobo’s Dungeon: The Board Game Review

Chocobo's Dungeon The Board Game Review featuring Chocobo surrounded by cartoonish monsters

Chocobo’s Dungeon: The Board Game is a light cooperative board game that captures the feeling of the video game series through its charming visuals and dungeon-diving course of play. For those whose hearts have been foraged by this tenacious avian, Chocobo’s Dungeon is sure to scratch that chibi artwork itch while inspiring soft knowledge cooperative play with up to four people. No one but a chocobo in your friend group? No problem! There’s a solo variation of Chocobo’s Dungeon without diverting too far from the core multiplayer gameplay.

The theme suits the board game aesthetic well, as Chocobo has to dive to the bottom of a dungeon to fight a big baddie. Of course, enemies try to stop him along the way. Not only that, the nefarious Reaper is ever-present and hot on Chocobo’s heels. Like most cooperative games, players have to manage resources, keep their tools sharpened, and race to the end before one of the several loss conditions triggers.

Each player has a hand of numbered cards ranging from 1 to 100, all with tracks (strength) ranging from one to five; a cute picture of Chocobo is prominently displayed on each card depending on how strong the card is. Choosing cards simultaneously, players flip over their cards to reveal a numbered card, determining the order of play and strength of the action as it falls in sequential order. At the side of the tiled dungeon is a wheel that rotates each round with a few actions on display. Some actions are bad—such as moving the Reaper forward—while most of the actions are good and allow Chocobo to eat veggies, attack enemies, or move. Without stating exactly what cards they are playing, players are free to discuss some strategy before selecting cards, such as, “I have a good mid-range card to play, but I can’t do anything about the Reaper.” To complicate decision-making further and make planning a little more challenging, every round involves flipping a random bonus card off the top of the deck.

At its core, players work together to command Chocobo. With four floors, Chocobo needs to eventually reach the end of the first three floors to fight the boss on the fourth. Simply moving forward isn’t always the best option, though, as hazards lie all over the map. In addition, some good tiles, as rare as they may be, encourage players to take it slow in order to accrue some rare healing or quick veggies.

Chocobo can store up to fifteen veggies, and while stockpiling is fun and all, the real purpose is to eat them with commands on the wheel. In order to replenish players’ hands, Chocobo must eat veggies at an exchange of one veggie per card divvied up how players choose. If anyone cannot play cards on their turn, the game ends immediately, so ensuring everyone has a healthy stock keeps the game going. Also, if anyone lacks variety, the bonus card may force players into an unfavorable situation, such as not having enough tracks to finish off a random enemy or forcing someone to play a card that’ll move the Reaper forward considerably.

Two enemies spawn every round, with the first floor producing normal enemies and the deeper floors producing elites. If players don’t beat these enemies, not only will they hurt Chocobo—who has a health bar of nine—but they stick around and build up for the next round. While healing is rare, players may strategically opt to take some hits in order to prioritize movement and eating. Beating enemies isn’t just about staving off wounds, though: every enemy has rewards ranging from veggies to earning a spell.

Players can have three spells total as a team, which is an important limitation so that players can’t blitz the boss at the end or save up for the deeper floors. These spells can help players out in a jam, often by providing light movement, healing, or tossing a giant fireball at an enemy for a quick kill. As might be apparent by now, managing resources—movement, veggies, enemies, and spells—is essential to victory.

Our group had some wins and losses and only on the easiest difficulty. To add some variety, two final bosses change up the finale a bit, though every game can feel similar, with the only change being what cards players get, how the enemies turn up, and what spells flip over. Despite a relative lack of variety, Chocobo’s Dungeon: The Board Game is a fun romp to table every once in a while, and while it can be hard to play, we’ve found it accessible for young kids.

My five-year-old daughter can usually stomach one game and only loses interest a bit by the end. The box says for ages 14 and up, but if you’ve got a young child with a mind for strategy (and a love for chocobos), then this is an easy recommendation for the family. Communicating is the hardest part of the game as players can’t specifically state what they’re playing, and a kiddo with a limited vocabulary and lack of understanding of nuance may add to the difficulty, but the rules are yours to change as you see fit.

Aesthetically, Chocobo’s Dungeon is charming with its cute artwork of fan-favorite enemies, like the Lamia, Tonberry, Ahriman, and Cactuar. The components are no slouch, either, and while they aren’t anything to write home about—basically just cardstock and cardboard—the quality and colors definitely signal care and thoughtfulness in presentation. Make no mistake, though: this isn’t a kid’s game, and winning on the highest difficulty may be more a matter of luck than pure skill.

Cooperative games tend to be on the chewier side in the board game world, with heavy calculations, risk management, and complex systems to navigate. Chocobo’s Dungeon is definitely on the lighter end of that and a perfect entry-level game for an older child or young adolescent. If you’re a fan of the series and don’t mind a relaxed yet difficult exploration of the underground, then Chocobo’s Dungeon is an easy recommendation. Those looking for something chewier may be left a bit hungry; many wouldn’t sustain themselves on veggies alone.

This article is based on a free copy of the board game provided to RPGFan by the publisher. This relationship in no way influenced the author’s opinion, and no compensation was provided in relation to coverage. Learn more on our ethics & policies page.

Jerry Williams

Jerry Williams

Jerry has been reviewing games at RPGFan since 2009. Over that period, he has grown in his understanding that games, their stories and characters, and the people we meet through them can enrich our lives and make us better people. He enjoys keeping up with budding scholarly research surrounding games and their benefits.