Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It…
Dungeon is plain and simply a dungeon crawl. Pick a character, go in, grab the loot and get out before anyone else.
A Bit More Detail…
Dungeon was released by TSR (and then released at least twice if not more.) TSR of course no longer exists but was bought out by Wizards of the Coast. TSR were the name behind the biggest Roleplaying game ever made, Dungeons and Dragons and like every company since, they produced Board Games to entice new people to try roleplaying. Dungeon was just such an enticement.
The game featured 6 levels, filled with iconic D&D monsters such as Beholders, Black Puddings, Gelatinous Cubes and more. If you don’t know what those things are then you’ve clearly never been a teenage boy. The character classes were taken right out of the 1st edition of D&D, where Race and Class were not a distinction, thus you can play an Elf, a Dwarf, a Warrior, a Wizard, a Paladin or a Thief.
Lets take a look in the box.
In the box you’ll find:
6 Plastic Figures
2 Six Sided Dice
1 Rules Booklet
A Massive Board
A Deck of Class Cards
A Deck of Spell Cards
6 Decks of Treasure Cards
6 Decks of Monster Cards
Component quality was pretty good for the time, but it wouldn’t stand up at all to todays board games. That said, my copy is nearly 20 years old and is still in perfect condition, well apart from the Level 2 cards being printed the wrong colour.
The six figures aren’t anything to write home about really. They originally appeared as metal minis in DragonQuest, but have since appeared in various types of plastics in both Dungeon and First Quest.
I should probably say I am referring to the reprint of the game from 1992 called The Classic Dungeon, although I did also own The New Dungeon from 1989 and the two games are almost identical, apart from the art.
Which is my next point, the reason I kept The Classic Dungeon instead of The New Dungeon was simply because the board and cards looked nicer.
The Rulebook contains two rulesets, although the complex set isn’t that complex and I always use it. It’s pretty well organised, although it lacks the prettiness of modern day rules, but it fulfils the function that is intended.
So, how do you play? Firstly you need a character. Are the characters all the same? No! Are they all equal? Hell No! Winning the game is based on amassing a certain amount of gold. Elves and Dwarves need 10,000 gold, Warriors and Thieves need 20,000 and the Wizard and Paladin need 30,000. However, the paladin is the same as the warrior in every way except he can miss a turn to heal. THATS NOT WORTH NEEDING 10,000 EXTRA GOLD!!! While you miss your turn the Wizard has killed another monster and nabbed another 6000 gold pieces.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. As well as determining how much gold you need to win the character card will give you other info too. It tells you how many spaces you can move, how easily you can find Secret Doors, on what number you can be ambushed and on what colour you fight (I’ll explain that in a minute)
Ok, on your turn you move a certain number of spaces, usually 5. As a general rule you want to end your turn in a room or a chamber otherwise it’s a waste of a turn.
If you land in a room you draw a monster card face up and treasure card face down. If you land in a chamber you draw a monster but no treasure. Each section of the dungeon is colour coded so you know which level monster to fight. The easiest is level 1 the hardest is level 6.
Each monster has 6 numbers on it in six colours. Grey, Yellow, Green, Red, Blue and White. As a general rule Grey and Yellow will be the lowest, then red, then green, then blue and white. This number is the number you need to equal or beat on 2 dice depending which colour you fight on. Grey is Lightening Bolts and Yellow is Fireball, Red is Fighters and Paladins, Green is Wizards and Thieves, Blue is Dwarves and White is Elves.
I quite like this mechanic, it allowed monsters to have immunity against spells (by not having a number in either Grey or Yellow or both) and to be harder to kill for the less martial classes. If you kill the monster you take the treasure and place it in front of you. Once you have enough gold to win you must race back to the entrance.
If you didn’t kill the monster you rolled both dice again and consulted a chart. Double 1 was instant death, 3-6 was injured, this meant flipping your card over to show the wounded side. If you were ever wounded again you died, which made the game pretty brutal.
There were a few other rules, such as ambushing characters and using secret doors but you get the general gist.
Erm, no. Unlike some D&D based board games, such as Dungeons and Dragons the Board Game (based on the 3rd edition rules) Dungeon is not a stepping stone to D&D in almost all ways.
The ways it does succeed is that it familiarises you with classic monster types and generally how strong they might be, it introduces classic archetype characters such as the Elf and Dwarf to players and it gives you an idea of the theme of the roleplaying game.
However, it does not introduce player stats, polyhedral dice or the concept of levelling up. It does not involve any roleplaying whatsoever, nor does it introduce players to the concept of development choices for their character.
In fact, despite being reprinted in 1992 this game is very stuck in the 70’s. The concept of Dungeon Delving being based on amassing the most treasure for yourself is a very out dated idea indeed. Static and unbalanced characters would probably turn more people off trying roleplaying than enticing them.
In all fairness, DragonQuest, which was released in the same year was a much better game in terms of familiarising players with what D&D could be, this reprint was more for fans of the older edition that was then out of print, but I still think it could have been altered a little to fit with the changing landscape of Roleplaying.
So, it’s not D&D lite and it’s not a perfectly balanced strategy game either, but is it fun. I guess so, but I don’t much care for it. I did when I was younger but I outgrew the game rather quickly. Despite there being 200 or so cards in the game, you quickly learn the best power level your character has a chance of beating where he will earn the most treasure. This drastically lowers the replay value. Plus each monster is simply a different number you have to beat, which makes the game rather theme-less after a while.
So, if you are a twelve year old boy then yes the game is a fun romp to gather as much treasure as you can carry. If however, you have ever wanted to play a proper roleplaying game, there are better entry points than Dungeon.