It’s time once again for another installment of Tabletop Co-Op. We'll go on an adventure into a network of monster filled rooms in search of treasure. Horrible ogres and foul skeletons bar your way, but gemstones, magic swords, and bags of gold await! Join a group of friends on a trip into the Dungeon! board game. Dungeon! is a very old game. The board game, designed by Gary Gygax himself came along only a few short years after D&D came along and changed the gaming lansdscape forever. Dungeon! plays like a cross between D&D and more traditional board games like Sorry or Parcheesi. In many ways, it is a “lite’ version of D&D, great for introducing fantasy RPG concepts to young children or non-gamers. Many versions of Dungeon! have been released through the years, and last month, a slick new redesign hit the shelves of local game stores everywhere. Before we get too, er... deep into Dungeon!, one thing must be noted: The default ruleset for the game is competitive in nature. Players delve into the various dungeon levels on their own, without assistance from others. The goal is to be the first person to recover a set amount of treasure. While the game works just fine in competitive fashion, I much prefer the cooperative variant posted on Wizards of the Coast’s recent variants column.
Variant Rule: Instead of playing the game against each other, you are all working together to defeat the Monsters and claim treasure. At the beginning of the game, add up the gp amounts of Treasure needed to win the game for all Heroes, and divide the total by 2. That number is the collective amount of winning Treasure for everyone. During the game, you can play with your Treasure cards face up. Once the Heroes have enough Treasure to win, each Hero must return to the Great Hall. The Heroes lose the game if one of the following things happen:Two Heroes are killed during the game. You have a number of revealed Monster cards in the numbered slots on the side of the board equal to the number of Heroes +2. A party of heroes working together to survive the dungeon, cooperating to get rich together, feels much more like D&D than a race to accumulate treasure. Of course, the cooperative variant is also much more in tune with our take on gaming here at Co-Optimus.
As the game begins, players pick a hero, with male and female versions of each included. Rogues and clerics are the “weakest” heroes, and are encouraged to visit only the first few levels of the dungeon. Fighters and wizards, with better stats and spell use, can function well on lower levels. To balance this seeming disparity, the amount of treasure needed to win is different for each class. Rogues and Clerics add only 5000 gold to the cumulative total, while Fighters tack on 10,000. The powerful Wizard requires an extra 15,000 gold to the sum. It’s a crude way to balance the game, but you have to keep in mind Dungeon! was designed nearly four decades ago.
Turn order is simple, which keeps the gaming flowing along at a nice pace. On your turn, you move up to five squares, exploring the various dungeon levels. If you enter a room, draw a card from the corresponding deck. If you run into a monster, a battle begins, resolved by a quick roll of the dice. If you win, draw a treasure card. If you lose, bad things happen, depending on your roll. You might lose a turn, drop a treasure, or even die outright. Occasionally, you will encounter a trap instead of a monster, and these can really ruin your dungeon delving day. The most recent release of Dungeon! looks amazing. The layout of the board is very similar to that of previous releases, but the graphic design has been given a total overhaul. The art will look familiar to D&D players, since some of it is recycled from other products. Still, it looks great, particularly the monster cards and the game board itself. The only real issue I’ve had with the game is the slightly flimsy hero markers. I plan to replace these with some old pawns or maybe some miniatures at some point. But for the $20 suggested retail price, it’s hard to complain about the quality of the components at all. When I heard about the rerelease of Dungeon!, I was very excited. It isn’t the most challenging game, and it certainly doesn’t involve much strategy or tactical thinking, but that’s okay. Not every game needs to be a two or three hour long, brain-burning affair. Dungeon! is a simple, thematic, roll the dice and push your luck game, and is particularly great for sparking the imagination of young gamers in training. I plan to purchase several copies to give as gifts to young people I know. If you are interested in making sure the next generation of gamers are fans of swords and sorcery, as I am, pick up a copy of Dungeon! and give it a try.