Dungeon Dice

5 Mar

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I grew up in the early 1980s.  In that era, there seemed to be two main subjects boys my age would focus on:  baseball and fantasy.  I was firmly set in the baseball camp.  I collected cards, recreated classic games in the driveway with a wiffle ball and bat (I still curse Bernie Carbo’s name for striking out for me), and even played Strat-O-Matic Baseball.  I never got into the fantasy thing.  Things like He-Man and Dungeon and Dragons were not things that captured my imagination.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken some interest in going back and investigating those things that I passed by as a kid.  Now, I’ll still admit that I just flat out don’t get the appeal of role-playing games and He-Man.  Some of the other fantasy themed games of the era have caught my imagination in recent years.  I have a Dark Tower app on my Kindle, for example (there’s no way I can afford a real copy).  I’ve gotten great enjoyment out of Heroquest the few times I’ve been able to play it as well.

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One game that always escaped me, that I remember clearly from the era was Dungeon Dice.  I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it looked cool.  Just a few weeks ago, I finally was able to find a copy for a reasonable price.   I finally had it in my hands.  Dungeon Dice, the exciting game of trying to dig my way out of a dungeon, while trying to not get caught by the evil castle guards!  Was it worth the wait?

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The goal of Dungeon Dice is fairly simple.  You are trapped in a dungeon, you need to get out.  You do this by attempting to roll sets of dice.  The more matching tool icons you roll, the more cards you can draw.  If you are the first to get enough cards to build a tunnel all the way across the castle wall, and escape, you win!

Of course, you have to watch out for the guards!  Roll too many guards, and you lose all the progress you’ve made this turn.  You’ll even lose some of the progress you made on previous turns.  Guards are no fun.

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Poor guy is tunneling out by using his bare hands

Instead of taking a normal turn, you may take a challenge turn.  In a challenge turn, you choose an opponent (likely the one closest to the end) and begin rolling the dice.  If you roll 3 or more guards in three rolls, you steal a tunnel card!  You may then stop, or try to steal another card!  You can keep going until you choose to stop (and add the stolen tunnel cards to your tunnel) or fail, in which case they get their cards back.  Challenge turns are no fun if you are on the receiving end.

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We have a winner!

In the end, Dungeon Dice was a bit of a mixed bag.  At it’s core, it’s just a variant of Farkle / Greed / Cosmic Wimpout with a pasted on theme.  I’m generally not a fan of the Farkle family of dice games.  I’ve always found them to be tedious, mainly because if you want to score lots of points (or in some cases, points at all) you have to roll triples on 5 dice on one roll, and while I’m not a mathematician, I can tell you that is not an easy task.

That being said, I think Dungeon Dice does have a few things going for it.  First of all, it’s a very short game.  Four player games typically only take 15-20 minutes.  One thing that helps this out is that the triples / quads etc. don’t have to be rolled all at once.  That really helps the game from stalling when nobody seems to be able to roll triples.

Next, I like the art style quite a bit, though I wish there were more of it.  The art has a definite late 1970s “Schoolhouse Rock” vibe to it.   A great job was done designing the board.  I love the little plastic pit you roll the dice into, and the little wooden dice seem to have held up remarkably well for being 36 years old at this point.

It all comes down to nostalgia.  I didn’t grow up with this game, so I have no memories of it as a child.  Because of that, I feel a little bit let down in discovering that it’s basically a themed version of Farkle.  However, I bet if you grew up with this game, or have a young child just getting into exploring the fantasy genre a bit, this game would be a real winner.  I suspect that someone with a bit of artistic talent could whip up some more modern graphics to make the game appeal to a new generation.

 

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