Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dungeon! The 2012 Reprint: A Review

I picked up the new reprint of Dungeon! earlier this week.  I have only played the game once before this. It is a very simple game and I remember the rules well enough that I feel like I can make a fair comparison.  I think in some ways is compare very favorably with the old one and in some ways it is better.  For the nostalgia factor, the old one wins hands down.  The art on the old printings is a little more DIY looking and the cards look like they were hand stamped and cut in Gary's basement (though they weren't).  This one is more polished and the counters included in the game make set up and clean up much faster than with the original game.  The board also has the table to tell you what happens when the monsters take a whack at your character, making reference back to the rules a rare occurrence.  

I played this evening with my 7 year old daughter and we had a great time with it.  Dungeon! definitely delivers on the fun factor.  Nearly 40 minutes after the game was over she was still telling her mom about the trouble we had with the green slime.  So, yes, we like it.  At $20 retail price for the game, you can't go wrong.

The box, board and components are well constructed though won't stand up to much abuse.  The characters are printed card stock standees.  They are not a heavy card stock.  As long as the person handling them are not rough then they should be fine.  The treasure and monster cards are the same weight as the standees but should handle years of use.  The board and box are very sturdy.  The whole package is fairly small, making it a decent game to throw in a suit case for pick up game at a convention or similar venue.  

Most of the differences between this reprint and the earlier printings are cosmetic.  The art on the standees, monster and treasure cards are in line with Type IV D&D standards.  While not my favorite game art, my 7 year old daughter liked it well enough.  The original game had very little art and what art it did have was rough line art.  The board set up in the original game had you putting cards for monsters and treasure in each room.  When you entered a room and defeated the monster, you discarded the monster card and took the treasure card.  The new version has you making stacks of cards for each level.  When you enter the room, you take the top card from the stack, defeat the monster, take a card from the top of the treasure stack and leave a counter in the room telling you that the monster was defeated.  It also has a set of markers so you can that a room has a revealed monster or treasure that a defeated adventurer dropped, without having a lot cards cluttering up the play surface.

The rules are basically the same and the play is, as far as I can tell, identical to the original.  One thing is for sure.  The game does not reward being hard headed about a monster you have to roll high to beat.  It also does not reward being fool hardy.  I took my wizard straight to level six without collecting any magic items on lower levels where the monsters were less tough.  That was a mistake and I got trounced early on.  I also had a series of bad dice rolls that were hard to come back from.  You might do OK in this game with a bit of bad strategy OR bad dice rolling but if you suffer from both, you can get into trouble.  My daughter played a conservative game, keeping her cleric in levels 2 and 3 most of the time and made it back to the dungeon entrance with the required amount of loot before I could come up with a third of what I needed.  She loved it.   This is a fantastic way to introduce the little ones to the concept of dungeon crawling without burdening them down with a character sheet a lots of decisions to make.  It is a straight forward game and a lot of fun.

A few other bonus's is that it can be played with up to 8 players.  I wouldn't want to play with eight 2nd graders but a few kids and several adults would be fine.  There are also suggestions for how to play the game as a solitaire style game. All in all, I have to say this is a $20 well spent and I highly recommend it.  I put a even higher recommendation on it for anyone looking for a fun family game to play with kids.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fun and Games In the Aftermath of Societal Collapse

The group that plays at my house is three sessions into a new Swords and Wizardry Complete campaign.  I have been compiling and tinkering with materials for the setting for some time.  Here are some of the ideas that have been built into the setting.

- The "world" is a lot of islands.  Most are no bigger than Crete or Sardinia, though a few are the size of New Zealand.

- The characters come into the world about 150 years after a major societal collapse 

-The societal collapse is caused by a number of factors including: crop failures bring about famine, violent internal societal strife between important politically connected people, pestilence and barbarians dealing the coups de gras.  Behind it all are the demons of Chaos using guile to corrupt the rulers over a period of centuries which weakens the rule of Law.

- The barbarians stomp the rulers weakened by internal strife, famine and disease.  They kill anyone that stands in their way, enslave women and children, carry off any thing of worth that will fit on their boats and sail off to their home lands.  This goes on, with the barbarians making repeat trips, until all that is left is a smoking pile of rubble and a few survivors.

- There were no civilizations preceding this one.  This culture invented civilization though they did a bang up job of it...right up until the Chaos demons started teaching the rulers how to party in a proper sword and sorcery style.  Once the purple lotus powder and pleasure slaves displaced that dour discipline of the lords of Law things slowly went down hill. 

- Prior to the collapse, political and financial power was concentrated into a small number of hands.  Nearly everyone was either a ruler or little more than a slave.  The only people falling in between were merchants, mercenaries, criminals and the lowest in the religious hierarchy.

- When the collapse happened, the ruling class was completely wiped out along with a very small number of religious authorities... leaving merchants, mercenaries and criminals to exploit everyone and everything around them expanding the collective misery of everyone.

-The population contracts down to less than 10% of what it was before.

- The weak figure out they are on their own and band together into small communities for mutual protection.  Everyone fights everyone for the bits of whats left and what can be salvaged together.

- 150 years go by and while life sucks it seems to be stabilizing.  Scavengers (adventurers) are starting to explore the ruins that were abandoned only a century ago to bring back anything that might be useful to the small cluster of civilization that has survived.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dungeon! to be released October 16th

Wizards of the Coast announced last spring that they would be producing a reprint of the classic board game first published by TSR in 1975.  This was particularly exciting to me since I had recently had the great honor of playing the game with its creator giving suggestions and rules clarifications at Gary Con IV back in March.  I reserved a copy this evening at my FLGS and from the photo off of WoTC's web page, it looks pretty cool.  I'm looking forward to playing this with my daughter.  She's just the right age for this sort of game to be somewhat challenging for her but not claw my own eyes out boring that games like Mouse Trap are.  The price seems very reasonable as well.