Something a little different this time. A mini-review of the re-released Dungeon! board game, by Wizards of the Coast. I’d played the original (Jedko Australian Edition) many times as a young’un, back in the 70’s(?), 80’s and 90’s as my older brothers were into D&D briefly back in the day. I’d also picked up the 1989 (giant board!) edition from TSR when it came out, though I may be missing some pieces from that one now.
So when I saw this one for the low price of AU$24 from Games Empire,* I grabbed it within a few days.
This edition carries the full Dungeons and Dragons branding on the box, something that neither of the other versions I played have, despite the historical links that both games have. The components and cards have some nice artwork on them. Certainly far better presentation than the 1989 edition, though the tiny line art of the original holds a special appeal to me. The cards are a little cluttered though, but still easy enough to work out what’s what. The cards are tiny though, and to keep costs down, you no longer get a “full compliment” of monsters for each room and chamber. I’ll explain in a moment.
They’ve changed the classes again. In the original you have an Elf, Hero, Superhero and Wizard. In the 1989 edition you had named characters such as “Floid the Warrior” and “Madeline the Paladin” – the characters in the ’89 edition are Elf, Warrior, Thief, Dwarf, Paladin, Wizard, so there’s some expansion in there . With the new edition, they’ve been updated to more modern D&D tropes.
We have the (Halfling) Rogue, (Dwarf) Cleric, (Human) Fighter and (Elf) Wizard – pretty much analagous to the original four in that order.
I honestly don’t know what the playing pieces for the orignal were – we always played with miniatures from Minifigs’ fantasy range. The ’89 edition has 6 plastic versions of Ral Partha metals of the day. The 2012 edition has card standees. We just used some appropriate GW Fantasy figures instead of the standees.
The rules are quite simple and well laid out, in a full-colour folded pamphlet. They’re also available as a free download on the WOTC website.
In order to cut the costs of production down, they’ve changed a few things. The board for this edition is much smaller then the ’89 edition. About 75% of the size, with about 70% of the play area. The cards are the same tiny size that they ever were, but due to the shrinking of the board, you no longer lay out the dungeon before playing with treasure, then monsters, then play. Now you put the monster and treasure cards into stacks, and as you enter new rooms and clear them, you add “coffin” chits to represent cleared rooms. When you get your butt kicked, you put a numbered chit next in the room instead and put the mob at the end of the board at that number point, along with the treasure they looted off you. It actually works well in order to speed up setup by about 90%, but there’s a bit of danger of forgetting to lay in the coffin chits. Along with this, they’ve cut down on the number of included monster cards – no longer including enough for each room and three for each chamber. Now you just use them till you run out, then reshuffle the discard pile.
The board artwork for this edition is miles better than the ’89, which featured some pretty ugly-but functional room layout. I was honestly shocked when I opened the ’89 version back then and saw they’d changed it. The new one looks good – like a reworking of the original, but can be a bit hard to work out what’s going on – mostly because of the shrinkage. If I could get hold of a 1st edition set, I could compare, but I don’t think I’ll see my brother’s set again after all these years…
Playing it for the first time in many years, I’ve got the following thoughts. It’s a really, really simple game. Something like the Castle Ravenloft boardgame plays like Descent 1st edition by comparison. It’s really more of a D&D-themed kids/family game. It’s also pretty heavily based on the luck of your dice rolls. Having said that, it’s still fun as a light-hearted and (as of this edition) pretty quick game that you can pick up and play with people who aren’t really into more complex miniatures, war and board games. The premise and gameplay are simple and easy to get into. There’s a little bit of optional rivalry – such as when I ran towards the monster that stole my wife’s magic sword and secret door card so I could kill it and steal her loot – which proved to be the edge that just won me the game later on.
Overall, I enjoyed the newest edition of Dungeon! Some of that is clearly a childhood affection that remains, but given it’s low price and accessibility to non-grognards, I’d still give it a recommendation. It’s a good game to play before diving into something deeper on a games night, or a light game for an afternoon or evening.
I also asked my wife, aka Marouda for her opinions on it, since she hasn’t played it for years either.
The game was pretty straightforward and fun with just 2 players. There weren’t too many rules so would be good for very young players, families and when you just want an easy game. I played a cleric during my first game as a cleric only needs 10,000 gold to win the game and not 20K or 30K as for the other classes. However I found my cleric found the level 3 monsters tough. Depending on your class the various monsters for each level will be tougher or easier to defeat. It did not help when I lost my magic sword and secret door treasures. I will probably play a character that requires 20,000 gold to win as I will be able to gather more loot in the lower level dungeons, anyway that’s my strategy.
*Note* I have no affiliation with Games Empire, I just find them to be a great local AU place for boxed boardgames, card games, FFG, heavy stuff, etc. FoW stuff is about the same price as going to the UK. Mostly stuff is 20-25% off usual retail with no need to jump through hoops or a complicated discount scheme. Some things are a couple dollars more than going to the UK, or sometimes a little less. $10-15 postage depending on how much you buy. When all else is equal (or close enough to equal) I’m fine with paying a little bit more to support a local retailer.
On that note – they’re much friendlier than similar places located in Bentleigh and handily, not surly/rude bastards on the phone like places located in Bentleigh. Oddly, since they’re interstate, I also get stuff much, much faster than places located in Bentleigh. So local isn’t quite as local as I’d like, but service trumps distance. c’est la vie.