The board game Dungeon! has a long history, having been first introduced in 1975 – the year following the publication of Dungeons & Dragons, the role-playing game from which it draws its creative DNA. This simple but fun game of heroes, monsters and treasure went through several editions, the last of which hit shelves in 1992. Now, with a new edition of D&D expected on shelves within the next two or three years, Wizards of the Coast has reintroduced the game for a new generation.
I first played Dungeon! during a sleep-over at a friends house when I was eleven years old. Me, my buddy Jason Thornton and his sister stayed up late playing the game while we watched Friday Night Videos and drank copious amounts of Coca-Cola. I believe that the plan was that we’d stay up all night. I don’t think that we made it until dawn, but I’ve still got great memories of tossing dice and flipping over monster cards over mouthfuls of half-flat Coke. Now its 28 years later (Damn, where does the time go?) and Dungeon! has returned.
I was pretty excited to get a review copy, but a little hesitant to open the lid and check it out. As much as I enjoyed the game as a kid, I was afraid that it wouldn’t hold up to my expectations, or that Wizards might have tried to make the game’s simple smash the door down and kill the monsters formula more complicated. I was pleased to see that my worries were unfounded. The only thing that has changed is that the game is nicer looking than it was in my heyday, and far better constructed.
A quick explanation is in order For those uninitiated in the mysteries of Dungeon! (which will probably be most of you): It’s a simple board game for up to eight players, each of whom choose a hero (Wizard, Cleric, Rogue or Warrior) and venture forth into a monster-populated maze in search of treasure. The first player to earn a set amount of treasure and escape the dungeon wins. The players don’t fight each other, but they don’t cooperate, either. It’s really more of a race.
The rules are extremely simple: players roll two dice to determine how many spaces they can move, and if they can, they enter a room which will contain either a monster or trap. The contents are determined by drawing a card from a deck. The player then rolls the dice and either kills the monster or not. If the monster is slain, the player pulls a treasure card from another deck and it’s on to another room. If not, the monster may or may not slay them or wound them. Wounded characters lose some of their treasure. Dead players lose all their treasure and start over with a new hero. Throw in a bunch of spells, magic swords and secret doors and you’ve pretty much got it.
It’s a simple, simple game, but tons of fun. Dungeon! is the kind of game that you can set up in moments and play for an hour or two, and a great way to get your fantasy fix with little to no preparation. The simplicity and fast pace makes it perfect for families with kids, too. I’m not eleven anymore, but it’s clear to see that Dungeon! is just as fun now as it was then.