Back when I was a kid, I’d say that a majority of the vacations our family took was to visit other members of our family. Every so often we’d make the long drive down from Indiana to Texas to see our aunt, uncle, and four cousins, which was just fine with us. Not only did we like having cousins to play with, they had great toys — an NES (which was amazing to us NES-deprived Olivetti kids) and a closet full of board games.
One Thanksgiving in particular (I forget which year), we all got hooked on playing a particular fantasy board game that was in my cousin’s room. It was a bit like D&D, just more simplistic and fast-paced. We raced around a dungeon, fought monsters, grabbed loot, and enjoyed the fantasy of it all. There weren’t a lot of board games that me and my brothers all liked to play together, but this one seemed to fit the bill.
Years passed and I forgot about this game as I did about so much from childhood. However, something this year triggered a faint memory of the board game, and out of curiosity I tried to track it down. I asked my brothers, but seeing as how they were younger than I when we played it, they have no recollection. Or as my brother Jared said, “You were always more into that fantasy roleplaying stuff than we were.” True that.
Many, many Google searches later, and I finally found the title of my mysterious dungeon-themed board game. It was… Dungeon! Probably should have started with that, but oh well. I found it! I know it’s silly, but reclaiming parts of my long-forgotten childhood is important to me, especially when I can pass it on to my own kids.
Anyway, Dungeon! is a very old game, dating back to 1975 in its original incarnation. It’s kind of like a gateway to D&D proper, containing the stripped-down mechanics of dungeon crawling and looting. It got reprinted a few times, and the pictures above are the ones that I saw when we played it.
In Dungeon!, you pick a starting hero (human fighter, elf wizard, dwarf cleric, halfling rogue), each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They then start to explore and conquer a sprawling dungeon made up of six levels. Earlier levels contain weaker monsters and lesser treasures, but it gets tougher when you move up in levels.
There’s a bit of dice rolling involved during combat encounters that offer something different than just whittling down hit points. For example, make some bad rolls, and you could lose treasure or even die and have to grab a new hero. There are some items and spells that can be used during adventures, and the whole aim is to gather a set amount of treasure (which varies depending on the class) before anyone else.
Nothing super deep, but it was fun — and I did ask for it on my Christmas wish list this year in the hopes that I can try it out on my fledgling household heroes.