Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This dungeon looks familiar

I hate to admit it, but Fantasy Flight Games sort of tricked me into buying DungeonQuest. We're big fans of their Runebound game, and the Fantasy Flight edition has a Runebound logo on the box. I picked up the box at my local game store thinking it might be a new expansion for Runebound, but upon closer inspection, realized that the logo on the cover says "a game set in the Runebound universe." It's actually an entirely different game, and a reprint of an old Games Workshop board game originally published in 1985.

So what does "set in the Runebound universe" mean, exactly? Well, in fairness, DungeonQuest does include extra components that allow the use of its six player characters in either Runebound or Descent, which also takes place in Runebound's mythical land of Terrinoth. It also means they can re-use artwork between the three games, as well as in Rune Age and Rune Wars, much as they often draw upon the huge library of artwork from Call of Cthulhu: the Card Game for use in their other Lovecraft themed games.

It is also an excellent example of the value brand recognition. If I had thought it was just another dungeon crawl game, I probably wouldn't have even looked at DungeonQuest. As it is, the Runebound connection intrigued me, and I took a chance on the game.

As it turned out, we really enjoyed the game. DungeonQuest is similar to Runebound in that it is a race to the finish with minimal direct player interaction, so it's not very confrontational. Each player explores on their own, and whoever escapes the dungeon with the most treasure is the winner.

Players start in opposite corners of a blank board, drawing random tiles as they explore, revealing rooms, corridors, and the occasional bottomless pit, cave-in or giant spider-web. Cards are drawn to reveal different types of encounters such as exploring a room, searching the dead body of a previous adventurer, or raiding a tomb. Some tiles or cards reveal stairs to the catacombs, a dark sub-dungeon that is explored via its own deck of cards, with periodic exits that cause the explorer to pop up in a random part of the dungeon.

The goal of the game is to gather treasure, either by finding it along the way, or by making for the dragon's lair in the center of the board. The lair offers up much more valuable treasure, but it also has its own dangers: every turn a player stays to loot the dragon's treasure increases the chance that the dragon will wake up.

It's not all happy-go-lucky exploring though; there is a time limit. Each round, a sun counter advances along a track at the edge of the board. When it gets close to the end, the players have to start rolling a die to see if the dungeon doors slam shut, trapping everyone in with the dragon. This creates a lot of drama towards the end of the game, as players grapple with their own greed while deciding whether to keep looking for treasure or get out while they still can.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) DungeonQuest is a relatively simple game that gives players plenty of decisions to make, but with enough randomness that the game doesn't ever get boring.

Date played: January 12, 2014

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