Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fantasy Boardgame Fun-A-Rama

So we've been playing Talisman (the edition by Fantasy Flight Games) and its been lots of fun. When we picked it up a few months ago the guy at the game store described it as "D&D meets Candy Land" which sounded just about right to my wife and I as we'd tried to play The Fury of Dracula over Christmas and found it a little frustrating (likely due to the fact that I'd not carefully gone over the rules). We want games that are fun, not too complex, and which are playable in under three hours. Our Talisman games have been running about three to four hours, but there are several ways to speed up play which we might want to do from now on.

I've been curious about Descent for a while now, but I've read enough descriptions that make it clear that the game can often take four or five hours. Unfortunately, my wife and I aren't really up for a five hour game. After reading a bit of stuff online it has become clear to me that there are lots of older dungeon crawl boardgames that would serve us better. I used to play TSR's old Dungeon boardgame when I was younger but now I think I'm looking for something with just a little more complexity. Milton Bradley's Heroquest (which was licensed from Games Workshop) might be fun, but everything I've read indicates that the sweet spot for dungeon crawlers was really hit with Games Workshop's Warhammer Quest. The bad news is that Warhammer Quest is long out of print and copies of the game go for ridiculous amounts of money on Ebay.

Lots of people cried in horror that 4e was becoming a boardgame and while I sympathize I actually think 4e is almost more interesting as a boardgame or as a boardgame/rpg hybrid (which is what it seems to be). I prefer older editions of D&D, but I can see that for the type of game that it is 4e is pretty damn good game. I've got a bunch of WOTC dungeon tiles and some of their figures, and it had occured to me that a slightly sripped down version of 4e might be lots of fun if you essentially played it as a boardgame. Ideally, you'd be able to play without a DM as it is discussed in the 4e DMG. I read a post over at En World a while back suggesting that WOTC should sell 4e in big box with a slimmed down rulebook, lots of minis, a nice set of dungeon tiles, power cards, encounter cards, and advancement rules through 10th level. And they should sell it at Target and Toys R Us. I know I'd buy it.

Anyway all of this has led me to consider trying to cobble together my own dungeon crawl boardgame. It occurs to me that older versions of D&D might also be easily adapted to this sort of play. I downloaded the Dungeon Bash pdf a while back which is game that adapts D20 as a boardgame, but it also wasn't what I was looking for.

I'm going to need to think on this.


  1. Hey Nick, good post! I'm in much the same situation; my wife would like to play a fantasy boardgame but we can't decide on what, and yes, we'd like something that doesn't take more than a couple of hours!

    Have you tried Runebound? It looks - and just looks, I haven't played it - like a slimmed down version of Descent. It's by FFG, too.

  2. Runebound looks closer to Talisman than Descent. It isn't a Dungeon Crawler per se. It's a "fantasy adventure" game. Runebound's gameplay is supposed to be very good--especially with some of the expansion packs.

    We also recently got the Reaper expansion for Talisman which is great too.

  3. Definitely check out "Cutthroat Caverns". Terrific game of dungeon crawling, which forces you to be both competitive and cooperative at the same time.

  4. I'm a little wary of Talisman, just because of the EXTREME play time that I remember from my youth. (The Endless Quest Game, was our preferred name for it.) How does the new edition speed up play?

    I'd suggest you persevere with Fury of Dracula, but it's more fun with 4 or 5 people. There's a nice vibe around the table as the hunters track down Dracula (usually me!). Not managed to survive a game yet, of course. ;)

    Will have to see if I can try Descent before I lay out the $90 for it!

  5. Oh I forgot to mention; I think it's out of print, but Games Workshop's DungeonQuest, while it's not really a hack 'n' slash dungeon game, is a lot of fun.

    The board is created by tile-laying, so it's not the same twice. The characters enter from the four corners and have to try and get into the centre of the board, where the dragon's hoard is.

    What's strangely fun about it, is that it's highly, highly dangerous. There's a lot of traps and things that'll kill you; I think the rulebook says there's a one-third chance characters will make it out alive.

    The good thing is though, it plays in under 90 minutes, so you can re-play if you all perish. :)

  6. You might also see if you can snag a copy of SPI's "Death Maze" game. Sort of an early cousin of Dungeon Quest.

    Also look for "Cutthroat Caverns" by Smirk and Dagger games in your local FLGS. It's more about the individual encounters than building the dungeon, but it's a terrific game. I got to play it at a convention earlier this year.

  7. My friends and I play Dungeon about four times a year. It's a lot of fun, but it is fairly simplistic. They've recently asked to go for something more complex--I had thought that Swords and Wizardry was a way to go. As a result I started working on "my own" game that's sort of a midpoint between SW and Dungeon. Who knows when that will be finished, but it's been a blast to play around with!