I have been running a regular Wednesday night Dungeons & Dragons game with my kids and a few of their friends. I was a little under the weather last Wednesday and was not going to be able to talk for the normal two hours. I felt like cancelling, but the kids still wanted to meet up with their friends at the local FLGS. (That’s Friendly Local Game Store for you muggles. Our FLGS is Matrix Cards & Games ) Since it was only my voice that was out, and I had to meet the Redding Writers Forum president for RWF business, anyway, I took the kids to the game store to play whatever pickup game they cared.
The kids broke out Munchkin, I finished my business, and I started browsing the store. So many cool new games out there! Such bigger price tags than I was used to for games.
Then I saw a new edition of a game I had not seen since the ‘80s: Dungeon!
I remembered this as a simple board game based upon the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. It was very simple. You move around the dungeon. You enter rooms. You roll dice to fight the monster. If you win, you collect the treasure. The first one to reach his/her character class’s goal for gold wins.
Wait. This sounds kinda like the RPG, too, doesn’t it?
Not quite. Role playing is a large part of RPGs, which affect interactions with everybody else in the game. With the board game, you enter the room, draw a monster card, and then role higher than the number on your card matching your character class. That’s it. Easy. If you don’t make the roll, the monster gets a shot back at you for whatever consequence you may face.
I remembered some good times with this very simple game. I also remembered that this FLGS had an open copy of Dungeon! on the loaner shelf. I asked the group if they wanted to give it a shot after their current round of Munchkin. They did.
It is such a simple game that they picked up on it quickly.
This modernized Wizards of the Coast version had some improvements over the old TSR version of the ‘80s. You can play a character from one of four classes: rogue, cleric, fighter, or wizard. You wander around the dungeon map looting rooms until you have reached your class’s treasure goal and get that treasure back to the Great Hall. This goal is only 10,000 gold pieces for a rogue, but 30,000 gold for the wizard. This might seem uneven, but the rogue is designed to do fine in the upper levels of the dungeon, fighting kobolds and orcs. Treasures you might find at these levels are a jeweled ring worth 500 gold. The wizard character is designed to do well in the deeper dungeon. The monsters are much more dangerous down here, but the treasures are much more valuable, as well.
This would be a great introductory game for grade school or middle school kids. Adults might get bored with it pretty easily…but I always maintain that it depends upon your gaming group. My kids and their game group are late teenagers and have been playing West End’s Star Wars RPG for years, as well as Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, and Munchkin. My son, Josh, is familiar with several flavors of Risk and a few other board games from my ancient collection. They are familiar with fantasy settings, but the others have limited board gaming experience. They made this playing of Dungeon! fun, especially around the werewolf who refused to die and the player who spent the game trying to get to the kitchen…for whatever reason.
I saw two things to improve with Dungeon!
1. The cleric really seems to serve no useful purpose. In D&D, the cleric is a spell caster (but not quite as good as the wizard) who can also fight hand to hand (but not quite as good as the fighter). The cleric is a good general ability character to play, who becomes especially important with the ability to heal injured party members. Clerics in Dungeon! do not cast spells. They are weak fighters who are magic-less. Why are they here?
2. Players cannot attack each other. This did not seem like a big deal to me at first. This focus’ combat ‘out there’ instead of drawing a game out by sniping at one another. Until the end game, when the player who has reached his treasure goal and is running for the great hall. At this point, there is nothing to stop this player, or to even slow him/her down. The game can get anticlimactic at this point.
That said, everybody who played had a fun time, which is the real bottom line when you are discussing games, isn’t it?
And one plug for the FLGS…when a store has a place to play, and open games available to try out before a patron buys, I think everybody wins. Yes, I bought a copy of Dungeon! before we left that night.