Pretty much all of the Dungeony games I’ve played are all about a band of stoic and noble heroes with names like “Bimbo Slaggins” that battle through hordes of evil while being henpecked by a sadistic fuck of a Dungeon Master the entire journey. They are very serious games where players emit such inane and long dead words as “forsooth” and “huzzah” to get into the mood. These games contain magic swords with groovy names like Glamband or Lamisil, which are capable of cleaving through bone and armor as if they were a warm spoon through Chunky Monkey. Yes, serious games that take themselves very seriously, indeed.
Yes, dungeon delving has long been a serious affair, but not so with Dungeon Run, which has a skeevy goblin character named “Stabbins” who is a sneaky bastard that will steal your shit. No, Dungeon Run doesn’t even attempt to take itself seriously; even the FAQ and easy-to-read rulebook is funny. If anything, it could be described as Dungeonquest Plus, because at the beginning of the game, your party of ignoble adventurers are mostly working together, but only as an alliance of convenience.
By the end of the game, there will be no “huzzah”-ing, but there might be some expletives and nastified name calling, because at that point, it’s every sentient being for themselves and it gets downright ugly. Each of the characters in the game has their own weaknesses and strengths and there’s a ton of characters to play with, so while you have the option to test out some, you will probably end up with a favorite or two.
The idea of this game seems to be a mashup of Cutthroat Caverns, DungeonQuest, Talisman, and Ravenloft in a lot of ways. First, you are in it for yourself, but can help people not get killed if it’s opportune to do so. Second, you’re all running through a tile-based maze of creatures and traps that will all attempt to ruin your day, and you can buff your character up with skill points, special powers, and weapons. Finally, the endgame is such that the guy with the big shinyprecious becomes a great big target for everyone else, but he also has a super power to even the odds. Like Dungeonquest, though, this game is weighted heavily toward being a luck-fest in Diceville, and the game comes with well over a dozen to ensure you don’t run out. That’s part of what makes it awesome, though. That is not to say that it’s devoid of all strategy, because that’s not the case.
It’s just that the strategy is generally to be incredibly opportunistic, which leads to many cases of one person slaying a monstrous abomination only to have another player steal the goodies that the creature left behind while the victor is licking his wounds. I, personally, have revelled in the fact that if you time it right, you can act as if you’re running to the rescue of a fellow player, just to get there in the nick of too late and steal the treasure out from under the guy who was damned near bludgeoned to death by a creepy Raggedy Andy doll. While that might piss some people off, I believe it’s because they don’t understand the game’s core concept. It is truly all about being a backstabbity bastard whose sole goal is to pretend to be helping other people while keeping in mind that at the end of the game, only one person is leaving the place alive, and with the treasure, preferably you.
The art is incredible, too. While it has a bit of an Army of Darnkess, campy kind of vibe, everything from the illustrations to the fonts chosen fit this game to a tee. In fact, I think I’d prefer this art to that found in other fantasy games such as Runebound and Descent. It just screams fantasy, to me, I guess. Add to that the tile artwork, which is foreboding enough to make the dungeon seem dangerous and dank as it should, along with some of the coolest miniatures ever, sculpted by the indomitable Chad Hoverter, and you have a well-rounded package. All in all, it’s a great value for what you get, and the game play underscores that you don’t need 100 miniatures in a $60.00 box to make a great game.
All that said, there’s a few bitches that I have with the “package” of Dungeon Run that I would be remiss in my duties not to point out. First, there are not enough encounter cards, so three games in, you’ve seen all that it has to offer, generally. Further, the cards would’ve been better off half-sized because there’s not all that much info that is on them, and since you lay them on the tiles, they make it hard to see what’s on the tile itself, such as which ways you can exit. Finally, I feel there’s too few unique tiles in the box, which I also said about Ravenloft, and so the generic-to-unique tile ratio is maybe 3 or 4 to 1. Of these few failures, having so few Encounter cards is the single most important, with the size of them being more of an annoyance than anything else and the lack of a lot of unique tiles being the least important. None of these are in any way a deal breaker, but it would’ve been nice to have had more unique monsters in the deck and a lot less traps because most of them are really cool and I’d liked to have seen more.
Back to the game play, it’s perfect for what Dungeon Run tries to do, in a Bruce Campbell, campy sort of spoof-of-itself kind of way. It is one of the most fun beer-and-pretzels games that I’ve ever played, and even my skeptical-ass wife, who mostly hates these kinds of games, really, truly enjoyed it. I asked her to play again, back to back, and she said she wanted to retire a champion. That said, the next day we had 4 others come over and she was all about Dungeon Run. Only Red November and Pandemic have met with such unabashed approval with her, so this was a total win for us. One great aspect of the game is that it’s still fun with two players, although not as fun as with more, and with six players it’s completely nuts. Killings, thievery, and cussing all around. And it’s a blisteringly fun time.
If you go into it thinking you’re playing Warhammer Quest where you’ll spend 4 hours with your allies slogging through a Skaven-filled dungeon and deflowering the many treasure chests that reside within, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. This is a light dungeon game that’s much more like Dungeonquest than anything else, but is so much better in so many ways. Prepare yourself, though, to be absolutely trounced by your friends as I can see this game causing the same kind of hostilities that Cutthroat Caverns or Cosmic Encounter often do, although not with as much vitriol as Diplomacy can cause. It’s simply a fun game that takes one and a half or two hours to play with six, and pretty much anyone can enjoy it. If they ever put out an Encounter expansion that would be like the Summoner Wars reinforcement packs, I would be in hog heaven.
Why Dungeon Run Is Such Dungeon Fun:
– The art totally makes this game; between the miniatures and the cards, it’s simply beautiful
– The backstabbity, hateful game play is deliciously evil
– This is one of the few games that can be played by two to six players and is enjoyable in all cases
– Indecipherable names allow funnier versions such as Satanic Raggedy Andy to spring forth
– Lots of replayability due to many unique characters, random bosses, random tiles, and human opponents
Why Having “The Dungeon Runs” Should Be Avoided:
– If you don’t like games where luck is a huge aspect, don’t even think about it
– If you’re a pussy who can’t handle people beating you up for fun, go play Agricola
– There’s a lot of tiles, but not too many unique tiles, which is kind of a bummer
– There’s not enough Encounter Cards, and the cards would’ve been better as half-sized.
We loved this game so much that of the eight recorded ratings, none were below an 8.0. Most of the players were light-to-medium game lovers, myself included, so that may skew the score higher as well as the fact that we dig games with lots of skullduggery and betrayal. But as it sits, I now have to give this game to Doc Mabuse and rebuy it. And that pains me deeply because not only did I have to trade to get this, I got it from none other than the undisputed king of Ameritrash reviewing, the God-King Michael Barnes. I never would’ve seen that shit coming, but here we are. So, go try this game, at least, because if you’re not an anal retentive type that values depth and complexity over sheer fun, this game is a total blast.
And on the G*M*S Podcast some time back (Trivia: the same Podcast I made a segment for that was too dirty for their tastes so they shitcanned it), we learned that Dungeon Run 2 is in development. So, prayers really do come true.