Analog Gaming: I’m Dying For DungeonQuest

That’s the cover to DungeonQuest, a game that came out in 1985. I bought it probably around 1987 or 1988, and it’s a game I really like.

In it, you are exploring a castle with all sorts of rooms and passages. At the center is a Dragon’s lair, where you can find treasure aplenty. Problem is making it there. See, not only are you building the rooms as you go along (by drawing tiles randomly, which means often going in the wrong direction) but you’re encountering all kinds of traps and monsters in your way.

The thing about DungeonQuest is that it is a crazy lethal game. There are cards that just plain kill your guy, period. For instance, there are some amulets in the game. Some are very good. Some are bad. The only way to know what the one you found does is to put it on, and hope it’s not the one that straight up kills you immediately.

And it’s not like getting to the treasure room means victory. There’s a dragon sleeping in that room. Whenever you grab treasure from it, you check to see if it wakes up, and if it does, you’re usually dead. The longer you stay in, the better chance it has of waking up. And if another player is in there with you, it’s an even better chance.

So let’s say you got to the center, grabbed some PH4T L3WT, and the dragon is asleep. Score, right? Nope. Now you have to get OUT of the dungeon. And you might not be able to get out the same way you got in, because there are ways for the rooms to close off behind you. (In addition, there are very few ways to gain lost hit points, so the damage you’ve already taken is still going to be hurting you.)

Did I mention that you’re being timed? You’re going into this hell-hole during the day, which is the only time it’s safe enough to do so. Every turn the sun is going down, and anyone still in the dungeon at nightfall is history.

How a typical DungeonQuest game ends: everyone dead.
How a typical DungeonQuest game ends: everyone dead.

Let me put it this way: someone I was playing with went in to the dungeon, found a treasure worth a measly 30 gold pieces in the first room, and then left the dungeon. He ended up winning because everyone else died.

At this point you are probably wondering why anyone would play this thing, but let me assure you that DungeonQuest is crazy fun. Sure, it’s a bunch of stupid luck and player killing, but it is an absolute hoot to play. And it doesn’t take that long, so you can go again and again.

It’s been out of print for a while, and its original company, Games Workshop, eventually put out Warhammer and, upon discovering that gamers would happily pay tons of cash for plastic models, never bothered to make much of anything else. This left DungeonQuest and other great GW games languishing in limbo.

However, recently there’s been a run on other companies taking over old GW properties. A lot of old dorm-room favorites from the ’80s are being polished up and put out by some of the more raucous game companies looking to satisfy fans of plastic and dice instead of wood and auctions. Finally, it’s DungeonQuest’s turn.

Here’s the new cover to DungeonQuest, which is being put out by Fantasy Flight Games and making its debut at GenCon this weekend. FFG has made the rules available on their website, and I have downloaded them and pored through them. It really does seem that they’ve streamlined the game and improved it. And the new edition looks fantastic; Fantasy Flight is known for overproducing components and giving their games a really stellar look. I can’t wait.

Hold on…wait for what? I already own this game! Not only that, the copy I own hasn’t been played since 2008! Why would I buy this? Yet I have friends going to GenCon who I’ve had to force myself not to ask to pick it up for me. (At retail price, even!) I have one friend who has not yet left for GenCon that I still consider asking! This is crazy!

And another thing: this original game had an expansion: DungeonQuest Catacombs. I have the Catacombs expansion and ended up removing it from the base game because I thought it made the game less fun. This new edition integrates the Catacombs into it, so in theory that should be even less incentive to grab it.

I should just take the copy I already have on my shelf, invite some folks over, and treat myself to watching a bunch of adventurers meet their makers over and over again. This would cost me nothing, and I could do it right now. But instead I’m pining for this other edition I don’t need, which costs $60 (and, for all I know, will sell out within five minutes because they only brought twelve copies to the convention, as is so often the case.)

What I need the new DungeonQuest like.
What I need the new DungeonQuest like.

I suppose that I should consider myself lucky to have “problems” like this.

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2 thoughts on “Analog Gaming: I’m Dying For DungeonQuest”

  1. With that kind of money, you could go find a copy of:

    $6 – Starbase Jeff – oop, definitely worth it.
    $8 – Enemy Chocolatier – oop, definitely worth it.
    $20 – Enough cardstock and foamboard to print out 18AL or 18GA, using the free files available from the designer.
    $26 – a Bricklink order of some Legos you’d need for some kind of dungeon tableau.

    or $60 in iPad applications.

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