Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dungeon! Memories

Among the other treasures from the early days of my gaming I've recently recovered is my copy of TSR's Dungeon! boardgame. This is not the copy with which I learned to play and was thus introduced into the hobby but rather a later version I picked up for myself, the one with the awesome cover by Jim Roslof:
My daughter has been eyeing the box with some interest, in part because of the (Willingham?) illustrations on the side, depicting the various character options:

It's interesting that only the illustrations of the elf and wizard change from side to side. It's also interesting to see that Dungeon! preserves the "hero" and "super hero" terms that first appear in Chainmail and baffled me as a kid. My daughter is similarly baffled, especially after she noticed a monster card called "Evil Super Hero." "Wouldn't that be a 'super villain'?" she asked. Speaking of monster cards, here are a selection that made a big impression on me as a young person:
Though these aren't the same cards as those included in the version of Dungeon! I played back in 1979, they contain several of the creatures whose odd names stuck with me. Black pudding (pictured upside down above -- ugh!) is one I remember thinking notably peculiar, though green slime and purple worm also left a mark on my imagination.
As the years wore on, my friends and I continued to play Dungeon! To spice things up, I created new monster cards, based on creatures from D&D I thought should be included. I typed them up -- back in those days, I used a typewriter for everything -- cut the pieces of paper to the appropriate size and then used double-sided tape to affix the paper to existing cards I wouldn't miss (I felt there were too many vampire cards, for example, so a lot of them were re-purposed for new monsters).

Dungeon! remains one of my favorite boardgames. I actually think it holds up very well, despite its age, and could serve as an excellent introduction to D&D for younger players. That's why I'm heartened to see that Wizards of the Coast is reprinting the game in the Fall. Here's hoping they haven't tinkered too much with the rules, since a big part of what makes the game work is its simplicity and ease of play.

23 comments:

  1. This was a bit before my age (which is why I played HeroQuest instead), but boy do I miss those old dungeon crawl boardgames...

    Those "hero" and "super hero" terms are really confusing here. Even if you're not familiar with Chainmail, you'll probably assume that the "hero" character is an inferior version of the "super hero" character...

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  2. Right on, James. I picked up this exact copy at a hobby shop recently and I was not let down. Speaking as a guy in his 20s, I'd say it's aged quite well, and I have no compunctions hauling it out alongside any of the other well-known modern board games.

    When I played it last week, I introduced a whole table of people to it and they got the hang of it real fast. I was actually quite surprised that the girl playing an elf won - I inferred to them that playing an elf was basically "hard mode."

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  3. It's pretty much as you say, but the hero requires a lower amount of gold to win, so you have a chance to get to the goal while the super hero is still working on getting down to the lower levels.

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  4. I had the same one when I was a kid. No idea where it went too. I now have a "1st ed" one, the one that came in a purple box with the paper map and a "3rd ed" one, which is a brown box and has more varieties of monsters. I am looking forward to the new one coming out in the fall.

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  5. My Grandmother bought Dungeon for me when I was 8. This is the game that got me hooked. I remember many nights hanging out with my friends playing Dungeon for hours on end. I haven't played it in years, but I'd love to try it again.

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  6. I had the opportunity to see the original Dungeon! board and cards when I played the game at a session run by Dave Megarry at Gary Con IV--on Dave Arneson's ping-pong table no less. Hearing Dave talk about the history of the game was quite interesting and I've been meaning to aquire a copy of the game myself to replace my long-lost board.

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  7. My group plays this while we wait for people to show up for the session. Updated mini's and a dice tower heighten the fun. http://twitpic.com/6frdeb

    Really looking forward to the reprinting!

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  8. I had a lot of fun with dungeon back in the day as well. If I remember correctly the wizard was a bit over powered. I just re-aquired a copy of Dungeon, though with different artwork (later printing?) for $20 at a local used book store. Score.

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  9. I played this at Garycon and wished I'd owned this years ago. It's elegantly simple, yet addictive.

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  10. i have the not so old blue box one, with the knights and such. dows it plays too diferent from this version?

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  11. So it's basically a choice between a long, safer route and a shorter, but more risky one? Neat!

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  12. Christian LindkeJuly 19, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    Ah Dungeon! Between this and Mystic Wood, I have become doomed to collect and play dungeon crawl board games. I'll be picking up Descent 2 today... It never ends. Of course, neither does the fun of great games like Dungeon!

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  13. i have the same box and recently found it again in really great condition. funny thing is, i don't even remember buying it or from where. early 80's amnesia.

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  14. Really: a long risky route for a powerful character or a short safer route for a weaker character. All the different PC's are effectively at different "levels" but are balanced by needing increasing number of gold-points to declare victory.

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  15. I've got a few copies of this and later versions myself. The one pictured is not only my favorite edition, but my favorite game in general. It's especially fun with newbies!

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  16. Now I'm looking forward to the reprint - though I fear this core gameplay element clashes with WotC's current "everything has to be perfectly balanced" philosophy...

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  17. Well they didn't alter the AD&D reprints at all. Though I would expect it to be closer to the Ravenloft & Drizzt board games. Or using a d20 at least.

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  18. Matthew BottiglieriJuly 20, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I used to play this game as a young man. I cheated egregiously.

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  19. There were some extra characters and monster cards which were featured in Dragon magazine. The articles are reproduced on the game's entry on boardgamegeek.com

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  20. Early 80s amnesia? What a feeling. You probably bought it in the heat of the moment.

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  21. Bought this in the late 70's (along with the LBB's and one of the basic boxed sets w/B1). Played it many, many times - a few solo as other have done. What a blast!


    Played it for a couple years until my friends parents decided Dungeon! was the work of the Devil. No really. No more Dungeon! after that.


    Three years later I (well, the game) was asked to leave and not return to another friends house after their parents saw the cover of the DM guide. The Devil, you know, was in the game and would get in you if you played it. I was pissed at the time because I was running the game, the players (all 5) had just finished creating characters for the first time and I had just finsihed explaining the game and demoing combat.


    Ah, Ghod, I hope you're happy with all those D&D free kids who never joined Gary's Devils & Demons game club.

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  22. I guess they didn't alter AD&D because a) it's a lot more iconic to a lot more people and b) it has a lot more rules.
    A d20 would be neat, but I think WotC has enough Ravenloft-style board games around.

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  23. I played tons of RPGs in the early 80s ... D&D, AD&D, DragonQuest, Star Frontiers, Traveller ... I could go on and on ... but somehow I never played Dungeon! Not sure why. It slipped past me. Maybe I was turned off because it seemed more "board game" than RPG.

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