By Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Year: 2012 (Re-issue)
Game Type: Fantasy-themed Board Game
There are few things in the world as enjoyable to old-school gamers than opening a new game. I remember getting into Magic: the Gathering years ago, during the Unlimited edition and the advent of Antiquities, and discovering the joys of smelling games. Opening a pack of M:tG cards back in the day was like crack. It was almost like the smell of the cards was part of the experience of playing. The same holds true of gaming books. Go to your local bookstore, and find a Pathfinder book from Paizo and open it and stick your nose in and breath deep. There’s nothing like it. Opening Dungeon! gives you that experience. It smells great, and immediately induces a heady sense of nostalgia. But olfactory delight can only take you so far in gaming, so let’s look at what you get in box and how it actually plays.
• In the box you get a surprisingly good quality game board with a handy reference key at the bottom.
• 165 cards consisting of Monsters and Treasures from 1st to 6th Level. The cards are necessarily small, because there are so many different stacks, but that makes them almost impossible to shuffle without bending them. You’ll need to be a bit careful with them.
• 139 decent quality cardboard die-cut tokens which are used throughout the game to mark a cleared room, to show an enhancement bonus to a magic weapon, or to show that someone has lost a turn.
• 8 cardboard Hero “standees”: 2 each of Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard, so up to 8 people can play. This is a plus because the game is more fun with more people.
• 2 6-sided Dice.
• 1 Rulebook.
The game is really easy enough to get in and start playing quickly. Board setup takes about five minutes. Choosing your Hero may take a bit more time, but the thing is, it shouldn’t. There’s little difference between the classes, except for the Wizard who gets to choose spells to assist him in the game. He can choose from Fireball, Lightning Bolt, and Teleport.
After Heroes are chosen, everyone starts in the Great Hall, and rolls a d6 to see who will move first. Gameplay itself is straightforward, simple, and fast-paced. The goal is to search rooms and chambers to collect Treasures, if you are able to defeat the Monsters you encounter along the way. Of course, if a Hero fails to defeat the Monster, the Monster gets a chance to attack the Hero, possibly even forcing the Hero to drop his accumulated Treasures, lose a turn, or start the game over. When you’ve obtained the amount of Treasure to meet your Hero’s victory conditions, you race back to the Great Hall.
Dungeon! provides a fast-paced introduction to the concept of the dungeon crawl. The original rules were released back in 1975, and have had several iterations since then. The rules haven’t changed much since the original; this actually provides a positive and a negative. The game is great for nostalgia, and a good introduction to people who’ve never played anything genre related. An additional plus, the price point is friendly enough to be able to try out the game. However, if you’re a hardcore board gamer who enjoys tactics, skill, and a little more control, this game may be a good compromise to play with your non-gamer friends, but it will not hold your attention much longer than that.
+ Good introduction to dungeon crawl
+ Simple rules, easy to learn
+ Playing time about 30 to 45 minutes so you can get in more games, experimenting with different Hero classes
+ Nostalgia-factor for those who remember playing in their youth and want a game to share with their kids
+ Good for all ages
+ Price Point: $19.99 MSRP
– The card quality is a bit iffy, so you’ll definitely want to get an organizer, or something to store them in. Of course, this may mean that you can’t store them in the game box because the box itself is so slim.
– Not enough variation in classes, with the exception of the Wizard.
– Tactically challenged. The tactics mainly involve plotting out your path through the dungeon itself, but this is nerfed by the roll of the dice and who goes first. Additionally, the only time you will interact with other players is laughing at them when they fail. Although we all may enjoy that, it means that you’re not actually pitting your skill against other players.
Here’s the thing: even with the negatives listed above, there is something to be said for having fun. And when our group got together to play this game, we had fun. No, it’s not necessarily for the serious wargamer. But when you’re watching your Rogue buddy lose all his Treasure at the hands of a persistent Gnoll that just refuses to die, you can’t help but enjoy the experience. And though each of us had specific thoughts about how to improve the game, it brought us together for an entertaining evening.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars