Growing up, Dungeonquest was a favorite game in my house. Dad and I played this game many times, and I played it with several friends as well when I was younger. The goal was pretty simple: enter the dungeon and loot it for as much as you could before the day ended and the dungeon sealed itself. The clock ticks away in the form of the sun track (noting the passage of time) while working toward this goal. The big prize was at the center of the board – the dragon’s lair. Inside this forbidden and hard-to-reach room were the big prizes, the stuff that would really give you the edge to win… provided the dragon didn’t transmute you into charcoal briquettes via gouts of dragon’s fire if you woke it by delving too greedily into its hoard. It was a great game, and it changed every time since it was a tile building game. We braved the dungeon on many occasions and I have some very happy memories of it. Just thinking about it reminds me of countless adventures and battles against the forces of evil in the name of… killing bad guys and taking their stuff.
Like many childhood items, the game was lost to time. Dad can’t remember what happened to it (though I suspect it was sold as a used game to the Days of Knights) and it disappeared never to be seen again.
This past August, it was released again by a new publisher. Fantasy Flight Games has taken on much of Games Workshop’s intellectual property in latter years as GW has chosen to primarily fixate on their miniatures games only. I was excited to say the least that the old GW classic would get a fresh coat of paint, and when it came out, I plunked by sixty bucks on the table to get my copy.
I’ve played it a couple of times now. I have to say… why’d they make it so much damned harder?
I remember that the game more than often ended up with someone in the dragon’s hidden lair; the question was could the then get out safely? Now, I was young when I played. Maybe Dad dumbed it down for me. Maybe the rules were simpler. Combat was surely easier than the convoluted mess of what they have now in its place (Combat stacks, deathblows, counterstrikes – it used to be you hit or you didn’t). When you’re not having combat kill you, random things seem to do their best to try to shuffle you off the mortal coil or to at least hamper you to the point where you can’t move. Both one of my friends and myself suffered from torches going out right at the entrance to the dungeon (one tile in) and kept us immobile for almost half the game. Then a second friend encountered a trap where if she didn’t roll lower than a three on two D6 that she’d die outright. Not surprisingly, she failed and died.
They have created a game in which there seems to be no pretense of ever even getting close to that treasure room. At the end of a game, you can, humiliatingly, be defeated by cardboard (much akin to Arkham Horror, also made by FFG) incredibly easily. Last night there was a winner (yours truly) but I can tell you one thing right now. I didn’t even come CLOSE to getting into the dragon’s treasure hoard. I laid down maybe six tiles tops, looted and got the hell out. Not very heroic right?
However, there’s some optional rules in there for making the game a little more survivable. I’ll have to tweak things a bit and see what I get. And, I imagine the level of threat makes it that much more rewarding when you DO get to that room and get out alive, though that doesn’t make you feel like any less of a schmo when you’re killed by an almost impossible to escape death trap. But, what can I say – life is never under an obligation to be kind. And neither is Dungeonquest.