Friday, May 13, 2011

Is this a new Dungeon! board game?

Heir to Dungeon!?
Now I'm not certain, but this sorta' looks like Wizards of the Coast is looking to release the heir-apparent of the old Dungeon! board game from way back when. In case you were living under a drawbridge, you likely already know that about a year ago Wizards launched a new series of board games based on the 4E D&D system: Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and the forthcoming Legend of Drizzt.

Full disclosure: I own the Ravenloft game and it's quite fun (once you mind-read your way through the obtusely written rulebook). The three games have compatible but different components (dungeon tiles, player and monster pieces) so that you can mix and match an adventure of your own creation.

Enter Dungeon of Dread, which seems to not be based on the RPG directly, but rather an even more basic set of rules. At least it appears that way at first glance (more on that in a second). I'm not yet sure how "Dread" fits into the whole Wizard's playbook. The old Dungeon! game was a way to get families to have fun playing a swords and sorcery adventure game without having to learn all those bothersome RPG rules. It was a quick and easy game to learn that was part entry-product to the world of TSR Hobbies, and part "yeah, we realize you may not like RPGs but would you play this?".

As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of the old Dungeon! game, it having performed exactly what its makers set out to do--to get me interested. The ancestral connection seems even more apparent with the artwork playing tacit homage to Jeff Roslof's wonderfully evocative cover art for the game:

This new entry seems to play that part, but it's not clear yet if it's meant to be compatible with the more expensive and expansive sets, or really is the "kiddie wheels" version. Here's a brief description from Wizard's site as it stands today*:
Dungeon of Dread
D&D Boardgame
RPG Staff

Fantastic treasure lies deep within the Dungeon of Dread, but to find it you must survive a deadly gauntlet. Heroes band together to form adventuring parties and face off against monsters and villains in the dungeon—but the adventure doesn't end there!

Dungeon of Dread is an exciting, cooperative board game experience in which heroes unite in battle to achieve a common goal and defeat the enemies standing in their way. If they succeed, glory and fortune will be theirs for the taking. If they fail, all could be lost!

This cooperative board game experience is designed for 2-5 players, ages 10 and up. One player is the Dungeon Master who runs the villains and monsters; the remaining players are the heroes. The game includes 4 adventures, each one featuring a unique villain.

This game includes the following components:
  • Game board
  • Pawns for heroes, villains, and monsters
  • Hero and villain character sheets
  • Deck of 100 cards
  • Dice

Now the original Dungeon! was a player-vs.-player game where you basically "cleared" rooms of monsters in an effort to accumulate a certain level of treasure (e.g., 30,000 gold pieces) and race back to the start to win the game. This version makes it clear that it's a cooperative game (much like the RPG) and that there are "adventures" (styled after modules with end-goals in mind).

This would make it appear to be more RPG focused, but just without the extra accessories. (Ravenloft, et al, has a TON of miniatures, game pieces, tiles, etc.).

Honestly, I'd rather have a new rendition of Dungeon! that played more like the original (an update would be fine by me too) than a Slim-fast version of the 4E games. Which, honestly, seems like an entirely disposable product. Is it really all about being able to offer a cheaper price point and shelf spot?

Here's another piece of evidence that the game is more 4E centric, as noted on Amazon's pre-order page:
Dungeon of Dread: A Dungeons & Dragons Board Game (4th Edition D&D)

(Red text is my emphasis.) It should be noted that this extended title is not on the WotC site, and perhaps it's a mistake anyway.

In any case, it's just interesting to see the past repeating itself. As to whether the game is any fun? Time will tell I suppose--it's set to release December 13, 2011.


*WotC has a way of revising their pages that sometimes makes it hard to track how a product has changed.


Tim Brannan said...

This would be awesome! We have a couple of different versions of the Dungeon game at home and it is a big hit. This one would even be cooler.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

The thing I like about Magic Realm is that it can be played competitively or cooperatively.

I bought ravenloft and ashardalon, too.

They're no Dungeon!

bliss_infinte said...

To me it doesn't sound that much different than Castle Ravenloft in concept with the exception of adding a 'dungeon master' to the mix (why?). The great thing about Dungeon was that it wasn't D&D. It took the D&D concept and just made a decent family board game out of it (which was perfect, btw). Simple all around, and competitive.

I agree with you on Ravenloft, fun game but what's up with those rules?!?

Jay said...

@Tim, I have a few different versions as well, by the time it went out of print they'd refined the rules well. Though my favorite actual board is the one that comes with the photo pictured in this post.

@Paladin, man I forgot about Magic Realm! I keep meaning to go over the rules links you sent. THAT is going to become a priority this summer!

@Bliss, yeah, it does come off as CR light doesn't it? After two tries we finally figured out what we were doing wrong, but I really wish Wizards would come out with a revised rule book.

Of course, I wish Wizards would do a lot of things. ;)