Welcome Back to the Labyrinth

"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."

"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."

"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"

"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"

Monday, March 21, 2011


I pretty much lost this past weekend to playing the old TSR boardgame, Dungeon!  This is the first time I ever played and, I must say, I've really been missing out.  This game is a gem.

Ever since my daughter was born, I've been hunting around for a fantasy board game for young children that was similar to Dungeon!, but no such thing seems to exist.  I recently discovered that my wife had this game as a child and it was still at her parents' house.  It was a little the worse for wear, and the rules were missing, but after a quick Google search I found a PDF download of the rules, so we were good to go.

All it took was one quick game to turn my five-year-old into an addict.  She absolutely loves the game, and I'm not far behind her in enthusiasm.  This is great because a steady diet of Snakes and Ladders, Candy Land, and other 'vanilla' preschooler games was wearing pretty thin.

Each player gets to select a character.  Hero or Elf, and if you're playing the advanced game, Superhero, and Wizard as well.  You wander around the dungeon fighting monsters and collecting treasure and the object of the game is to make it back to the entry chamber with the gold you need to win.  Heroes and Elves need only 10,000 gold pieces, while Superheroes need 20,000 and Wizards need a whopping 30,000.  There are six levels to the dungeon with corresponding monster and treasure cards that are progressively deadlier and more lucrative.

The game, designed by David Megarry, is an elegant distillation of Dungeons and Dragons that is quick, easy, and best of all, FUN!  The artwork was produced by such notable TSR artists as Jim Holloway, Erol Otus, Harry Quin, Jim Roslof, and Stephen D. Sullivan.

I think that in many ways, Dungeon! was a game way ahead of its time.  Although it was intended as a gateway into D&D for younger children, I'm not sure how successful this was.  My wife, who spent countless hours playing this with her sisters when they were kids, had never even heard of D&D until she met me.  I suspect the game would be a bigger hit today, now that so many of us who grew up playing D&D now have families of our own.

I think it probably works better as a gateway to D&D today.  My daughter was wild with excitement when she defeated a dreaded Purple Worm, and she's learned all about the perils of Green Slime and Black Pudding, and she's become quite a dedicated little monster-hunter.  In a couple more years it will take only a slight nudge to push her into D&D, and it will already be a familiar concept to her.

Given the popularity of Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin, which is really a very similar, but board-less version of Dungeon!, if WotC brought this game back into production, I think it would do very well.  More's the pity since the only other way to get a copy, without pillaging your in-law's basement, is to turn to Ebay, where copies can sell for up to $100.


Tim Brannan said...

We are huge Dungeon fans here! I have the original Dungeon game (purple box) and the "New" Dungeon game. So the bookends to the one you have in your pics (i used to have that one too, but it is lost).

The kids love to play it and it is great for a rainy afternoon.

Kiltedyaksman said...

My mum bought me this boardgame back in the day. I have the entire thing but was also minus the rules. We played this game at recess in primary school. I can't wait to bust it out when my kids get a year or two older. I plan on using some of the wotc prepaints though, instead of the pawns.

Sean Robson said...

@Kiltedyaksman: I use the WotC prepainted miniatures, too. They aren't good enough for my campaign but they do just fine for Dungeon.

I can email you a pdf of the rules if you like.

Shane Mangus said...

I never had a copy of Dungeon!, which is too bad. It looks like a lot of fun. I can't get my wife to play D&D, but I could probably persuade her to try a game like this.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Dungeon is a great game, I also like Death Maze, which is like dungeon but you build the board each time from little cardboard counters, representing rooms and passages. I played the heck out of Death Maze in middle school.

Sean Robson said...

Oh, man! Death Maze was my very first fantasy adventure game! I bought this some time before I discovered D&D. I used to spend hours playing this by myself.

I'd completely forgotten about it; thanks for the reminder!