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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Oct 26, 2012

Review – Dungeon! Board Game (Tabletop)

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Product Information

MSRP: $19.99

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Age Range: 5 and up

Game Type: Board Game

Set Up Time: <5 minutes

Game Time Length: 30-60 minutes

 Players: 1-8

I was born in 1988 which means unfortunately I wasn’t around when Dungeons & Dragons first got its start. There were a lot of great ideas and products roaming around in the 1970s, and some of them have made their stand all the way through today. Back in 1975 TSR released a board game called Dungeon! that took simple rules for dungeon exploration and put them into a board game dynamic. The rules were easy to learn, and it made for a great game for anyone in the family. The game was published and ran for a while before ultimately succumbing to the times and became lost for a while. Now, 27 years later, Wizards of the Coast has come aboard, reprinted the game, and made it look better than ever. I finally got to sit down and devote some time to the game, and after my experience I fully believe everyone should own it. Because of that I wanted to offer up a quick review on how my experience went.

Out of the Box

Dungeon! surprisingly comes in a smaller box than it appears. Taking the contents out you’ll notice that there’s not much to the game, which initially threw me off. Inside you’ll find:

  • A game board
  • One sheet of chits
  • A rulebook
  • One set of 2 six-sided die
  • 1 set of monster cards
  • 1 set of treasure cards
  • 1 set of spell cards

Everything inside the box was wrapped up nicely, and I was surprised by the amount of chits there were for use. All together you’ll find counter tokens, cleared tokens, lose turn tokens, and the character standees all on one chit sheet. Honestly it’s not that bad because there isn’t a lot to deal with, although there are a TON of cleared tokens. Overall they take over one-half of the chit sheet. Once I got to playing, though, it made sense to have so many. I’ll get into that in a bit.

One issue I immediately found with the chits came when I was assembling the character standees. Each standee is made of two pieces that interlock to make it stand up correctly. In order to put these together you need to punch out a slit in each piece and then lock them together. As soon as I went to punch out the slit on my first standee it ripped and part of top layer of the standee came off. As a gamer who likes to keep his games in perfect condition this bothered me instantly. I assembled the other standees and it happened on one more, but thankfully the rest were fine. It’s a bit unnoticeable, though it still gets to me a bit. I wish the standees had the plastic bottoms or something better to use. I may end up using D&D minis as characters, though, so it’s not so bad.

The game board is sturdy and folds up easily. The best thing about it is how bright and vibrant it is. There are all sorts of color and each area is easy to distinguish. The rulebook included in the game was a bit hard to read at first, but once I went through it a couple times it was much easier to pick up. The book itself consists of four pages, folded back-to-back with rules printed on each side. All of the specifics are there, but what’s neat is that the game board itself has some of the more referenced rules printed directly on it. That makes for easy access to information whenever you need it.

Playing the Game

Now I haven’t played the original printed version of Dungeon! from 1975, so I don’t know if the rules were different back then. What I do know is that this version is fast-paced, and fun to play. The main idea of the game is simple: choose a class, battle monsters, and make it out of the dungeon first with as much treasure as your class needs to win. It’s a race, really, but it’s more dynamic than that.

To start the game you choose from one of these classes:  fighter, wizard, cleric, and rogue. There is a male and female version of each class, though there are no stats or anything to worry about. The male and female versions are simply for player preference. Each class has a certain treasure amount they need to acquire in the dungeon in order to make it out to win. The rogue and cleric both need 10,000. The fighter needs 20,000 and the wizard comes in at needing 30,000 to win. How do you acquire this treasure, you ask? You defeat monsters of course!

Once each player has chosen their class they start off in the Great Hall, which is right in the middle of the board. From here players adventure out through the dungeon, searching rooms and chambers for loot. The dungeon is divided into levels which vary in difficulty. The levels range from 1-6, and the higher number a level has the more difficult the enemies are that inhabit it. That also means, however, that the treasure is going to be in higher value. Depending on your class you’ll need to venture throughout different levels of the dungeon that suit you. The classes have a suggested “difficulty” that lists what levels they do best in. This is how you will go about planning your strategy into where you’ll explore.

The core gameplay comes in the form of players taking turns, as usual. During a player’s turn they can move, encounter an enemy, have combat with that enemy, and then gain loot. I’ll go over each one of these actions in a bit more detail.

  • Move – Players can choose to move up to five spaces on their turn. These moves include going down hallways, entering chambers, passing through secret doors, and entering rooms. Once you walk into a room or chamber that has not been cleared, you immediately encounter an enemy and must fight them and your movement stops for this turn.
  • Encounter – If you move into a room or chamber that has not been cleared you must encounter an enemy. To do this you determine what level of the dungeon you’re in and draw the top card of the monster deck that corresponds to that level. You then engage in combat with the revealed enemy.
  • Combat – When you encounter an enemy you immediately fight them. To do this you look at the icons underneath the enemy’s picture on their card. Each class has a symbol that corresponds to them, and that symbol is listed on the card. With that symbol on the monster card there will be a number which is the number you need to roll on two six-sided dice to slay the creature. There will also be symbols for spells that wizards can cast as their attacks that follow the same rules. If you roll equal to or higher than the listed number you defeat the enemy. If not, the enemy attacks back by rolling the dice and depending on their roll a different effect will take place. Most of the time you’ll end up dropping some treasure you’ve picked up, but if the enemy rolls a 12 then your Hero is knocked out and you must choose a new one to start over with.
  • Loot – Once you defeat an enemy in a room or chamber you place a cleared token in that area and draw a treasure card that corresponds to the level that you encountered. You also immediately pick up any dropped treasure that’s in the room. You’ll sometimes even pick up Magic Swords that will allow you to add to your attack rolls, which is totally awesome.

Gameplay progresses this way, with each player taking their turn. Once you’ve amassed the amount of treasure you need to win you’ll need to hoof it back to the Great Hall to exit the dungeon and win the game.

Through my playtime with the game I found that the fighter is the best class. The rogue is a bit too small for combat, and the cleric has a hard time defeating enemies on their higher level. The wizard would be my second choice because of their ability to cast spells, and they don’t have to be in the same room with an enemy to attack them. They only need be outside and adjacent to the room. They are able to restock their spells, so they become powerful quickly. Each class is enjoyable in their own right, though, so it’s fun to play as a different class when you can.

Conclusion

After sitting down with Dungeon! I am a bit sad I never got to play it during its prime. I am thoroughly glad that Wizards of the Coast took time to reprint such an amazing game. It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and a perfect game for friends or family. It’s also a cool way to introduce new players into the D&D world, with similar yet basic mechanics. For just $20 this is an amazing game at a great price. If you’re looking to get something to get your friends into the tabletop universe, this game definitely takes my vote.

The Good

  • easy to learn
  • compact
  • fast-paced
  • fun for many ages
  • great family game

The Bad

  • the chits can be a bit flimsy, so you need to be careful putting things together

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