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Review: 'Dungeon!' (Board Game)

ICv2 Stars: 2 (out of 5)

Published: 11/15/2012 03:37am
Dungeon!
Publisher:  Wizards of the Coast
Release Date: October, 2012
MSRP: $19.99
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Playing Time: Approx. 90 minutes
Age Rating: 8 and up
Product #: A12900000
ICv2 Rating: 2 Stars out of 5
 
Some years ago, when I was new to the adventure gaming hobby, I had a favorite board game that I played for hours and hours (usually solo).  That game was Dungeon.  Sadly, I no longer have my original copy, but the good news is that this is no longer a concern:  Wizards of the Coast has once again returned this classic board game of dungeon exploration to print in a new edition.
 
Summary:  One to eight players are presented with the classic, "old school" scenario:  a dungeon full of dangerous evil monsters lies waiting to be searched.  The heroes descend into the twisting corridors, throwing open doors to fight the monsters hidden within, and grabbing valuable loot when victorious in battle.
 
In the game, each player has a hero character that moves around the dungeon.  Combat is resolved by rolling two six-sided dice and comparing the result to the monster’s strength.  Different types of heroes have different strengths, which in turn are balanced by their victory conditions: stronger heroes must amass a larger pile of loot before returning to the surface to claim victory.
 
Pretty simple and straightforward.  The game rules are easy to learn and the strategic and tactical decisions are limited.  As such, this is not a "meaty" game for hardened gamers.  Rather it's a light-weight game suitable for casual players, or families with children.
 
Originality:  Considering that the original Dungeon design is now nearly forty years old, its originality lies mostly in the past.  It was, however, innovative for its time, and many games on the market today owe their roots to this simple little game.
 
Presentation:  As always, WotC has taken pains to present a gorgeous game.  The box has a stunning cover illustration by Michael Komarck, surrounded by highly-thematic graphic elements so it looks as though one is peering through an opening in a dungeon wall.  The game board is illustrated by the accomplished Franz Vohwinkel, and is decorated with delightful little details that further enhance the atmosphere.  The box is compact, yet sturdy and offering a satisfying heft.
 
Sadly, the pieces inside are not as well thought-out.  The playing pieces are cardboard punchout standees rather than sculpted miniatures.  The game cards are too large to fit in the spaces on the board, forcing players to use place-holder tokens to mark which monsters can be found in which rooms.  Sadly, the result is a game that looks beautiful, but which feels poorly implemented.
 
Quality:  Considering the sub-twenty dollar price tag, it should come as no surprise that Wizards of the Coast chose to skimp on component quality.  While the board is excellent, the game cards are thin and flimsy.  The "feet" on the cardboard standee figures do not fit, so they constantly fall down during play.  The playing tokens are okay, but poorly die-cut leaving them with rough edges, and care must be taken when punching them out to prevent them from being torn.
 
Marketability:  This game is a classic, no bones about it.  And I, for one, am glad to see that it is once again available.  It's Wizards of the Coast, and it is packaged gorgeously with a very attractive price point.  As such, it should perform well for stores that carry fantasy-themed games, and offers a good entry-level, family-friendly alternative to other pricier and more modern alternatives.
 
Overall:  I approached this game with fond memories of the original, and I must say that it pretty much exactly matched my recollections.  On the one hand, this is good:  I can relive those experiences almost exactly as I remember them.  But, I must confess that I was rather disappointed.  The game would certainly benefit from an update.  Indeed, I think it deserves one.  But Wizards of the Coast made no effort to correct any of the game's fundamental flaws, and failed to include any gameplay options or advanced rules to raise the game above the pure luck-fest that it has been since the mid-1970s.  (They have posted a few variant rules on their website, however.)  Dungeon is a fine, if limited, game for younger and less-experienced players.  But for those with more experience, this new edition has little to offer aside from nostalgia.  I give this game 2 out of 5.

--William Niebling
 
 
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