Dungeon crawling family fun
Dungeon is a board game in which players compete with each other to be the one that loots the most treasure from a deadly dungeon the quickest. It’s for 1-8 players and is published by Wizards of the Coast (the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons) so while it doesn’t follow the same rules as the famous tabletop role-playing game, it is set in the same universe meaning that you get dungeons, monsters and some familiar heroes and villains.
It’s a game built for the whole family with enough depth to keep the adults engaged but uncomplicated enough that kids as young as 6 can keep up (though we’d say this game would typically be enjoyed by children of about 8 years and older). It also leans nicely into the dungeon-crawling and looting of the classic D&D experience making it a nice segway into the universe.
What’s in the Box
The box is roughly the size of a standard Monopoly box and despite the fact the game was first published in 2014, the box art looks like it’s fresh out of the 80s with a classic, fantasy cartoon look. Inside the box takes on a different artstyle, the board is colourful yet forboding, the characters each look unique and suitably cartoonish and the monster cards both appear menacing but not too terrifying for a young child. It’s a well presented item with solid visuals.
The game is made up of a single, large board, 8 card characters that stand well on their bases and 6 levels of enemy and treasure cards. You also get a bunch of icons to help keep track of various events, buffs and effects. The cards are small so it does mean there’s little scope for detail but also means the play area isn’t overwhelmed with the dozen stacks of different cards.
Dungeon can be played by up to 8 people (there’s even a single player option for those that want to go solo). The game starts with all players in the centre of the board. There are 4 character types; rogues, clerics, fighters and wizards. Each is named after a famous character from D&D lore such as Jarlaxle or Isteval. Players pick their character and take turns to explore the dungeon. Each room has a single enemy inside with some treasure. Defeating that enemy will reward the player with some loot while failing to do so gives the monster a chance to retaliate and the potential for a negative setback.
Each room is part of a larger segment of the dungeon each with its own level. Higher level areas have tougher monsters, but also better loot. To make sure players don’t all charge into the easier parts of the dungeon, different classes of character are better suited to different creatures requiring different scores to defeat them, rogues and clerics tend to be better suited to low level areas while fighters and wizards are up to the challenge of tougher areas. To balance this out, fighters and wizards need to get more loot to win the game.
Combat is resolved by rolling 2 d6. Equalling or exceeding the required number on the monster card will lead to killing the monster, under that, and the monster will have a turn to attack you. Each character requires a different amount to defeat different creature types. Some monsters will be more vulnerable to the fire spells of a wizard while others will be more susceptible to a cleric’s holy incantations. This variety gives rise to opportunities to grab dropped loot from under the noses of the other players.
If defeated, a character may receive certain negative impacts from missing a turn to dropping loot or dying and having to start again. While there is some amount of strategy, much of the success of the players will be down to luck. It does mean that combat can be suitably suspenseful, but also means there’s a limit to the tactics involved in such a game. And this is really the gist of the game, it’s a fun romp, especially with the kids, but ultimately, it’s limited by its over-reliance on player-fortune meaning it does have an expiration date as an enjoyable experience.
Dungeon is a fun dungeon-crawling, loot and run experience for the whole family. It lacks some of the depth needed to be a great game but it certainly is a fun experience to be shared with children and offers enough depth to remain interesting to adults. If you’re looking for something to be played with the family, then this is easy to recommend, if you’re looking for a great grown-up night in, we’d probably suggest looking elsewhere.