DungeonQuest – Board Game Review

DungeonQuest is a game produced by Games Workshop in 1987, as an English translation of the Swedish board game DrakBorgen (“Dragon Fortress”, 1985). GW also released two expansions – “Heroes” and “Catacombs” in 1988, breaking the single Swedish expansion (1987) into two parts, presumably to make more money that way.

I got the base game and the expansions early in 1989. My friends and I played this quite a lot 1989-1990, again in 1996, and 2007 – evidenced by the “top scores” sheet that I’ve kept and updated on occasion.

A second edition was released only in Sweden, and then Fantasy Flight Games got the license and produced a Third edition (2010) with new combat mechanics and standardised cards, and then the Revised edition in 2014.

DungeonQuest GW, 1987

My interest in the game has been re-ignited because I’m currently painting all the figures for the game. (I’ve done ten of sixteen, so far.) The 3rd edition rules, and notes I’ve seen on the revised version made some minor rule changes to improve play, and included optional rules. I’m planning to write up all the original rules and incorporate some of the changes/additions and hopefully play the game a bit more.

The aim of the game: to enter the dungeons under Dragonfire Castle, find the dragon’s chamber and escape from the castle with treasure before the sun sets. (1-4 players, Ages 10+)

In each of the 26 turns, you pick a adjacent square on the board to move to, draw a random tile and move into that “chamber”. Each tile (in full colour) has a mark to show the entry location, and has from 0 to 3 exits. Tiles may be empty chambers, passages, have a cave in, chasm, bottomless pit, darkness, trap or even rotate. In most cases you draw a ‘room’ card to see if anything special happens. Most rooms are empty, but you might be attacked by a monster, find a trap, have your torch blow out, find a crypt/corpse, a potion or minor treasure. Instead of moving you can search – which is the only way you might get out of a dead end.

This isn’t an actual game, but tiles have been drawn and laid as if it was.

The base game comes with four characters – Adventurer, Barbarian, Knight and Ranger. Each has four characteristics: Strength, Agility, Armour & Luck, ranging from 1-10. In most cases you have to roll your stat or less on a d12 to lift a portcullis, move through a cave in, avoid a pit, etc.

Combat uses cards and is basically scissors-paper-rock. Heroes have 6-19 Life points, monsters have 1-8. There are options to escape and sometimes a monster will flee.

If you reach the treasure chamber in the middle of the board you get to take 2 treasure tokens, and then pick one of 6 cards to see if the dragon wakes. (5 show him asleep, 1 awake) The card chosen is NOT replaced until no-one is in that chamber, so the longer you stay to grab treasure the more likely he wakes. If he wakes, you lose all the treasure you picked up, take 1d12 damage and move out of the chamber!

Character card, Room and Corpse cards visible. Turn track on left edge of board.

Since tiles are random, it can be hard simply to get to the treasure chamber. Rotating rooms, doors, and portcullis may make it difficult, or impossible for you to return the way you came. The time limit, monsters and traps, in addition to the dragon, make it very hard to get out with treasure. In fact the game rules suggest you only have a 15% chance of surviving. You could choose to make this a bit easier, by taking out some monsters and traps.

No game is the same. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses. The base game has 115 room tiles, 68 counters, and 174 cards.

The first expansion “Heroes”, gives you 12 more heroes to use – four are “copies” of the original characters, but it also adds an Adventuress, Chaos Warrior, Dwarf Berserker, Elf (with baby dragon), Gladiator, Ninja, Sorcerer & Thief. “Catacombs” gives an alternate path under the dungeon. It’s a little bit safer, but you can’t control when you will find a way back up again. Both expansions also have extra tiles, room cards, etc. We use all the extra cards and tiles, but no-ones really been interested in actually going into the catacombs.

Overall, it’s a tough, but really fun game with a lot of replay-ability. If you do get out with treasure, it’s a great feeling. It can be played solo, but is much better with multiple players. It’s meant for a max of 4 players, but if you agree to “share” staring positions, you could have up to 8. A typical game takes an hour. Lots of fan produced content exists, with copies of cards, character sheets and alternate rules for combat and rooms.

My main complaint with the original is that the room cards are quite small (4 x 6.5cm, or 1.5×2.5″) and all the other cards (Corpse, Crypt, Door, Trap, Search, Rings, Amulets) each is a different size and shape. It looks like the FFG versions used a standard card size for all of these, with unique graphics on the card backs to tell them apart. Gameplay can become annoying with so much being random, but it’s easy to house-rule some changes to make the game a bit easier, or play more smoothly.

Suggestion: With 2-4 players, run through a number of games, and have each player add together treasure gained in each game for a final score.

RATING: I’d give this 5/5 for it’s replaybability and challenge, but only 3/5 overall because there’s a lot more luck than skill involved.

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