Face the Dragon!


Yes folks, it’s Tuesday! That can mean only one thing, right? That’s right: #GamingTuesday! That hashtag is gonna damn well trend even if it takes me my entire life…

For today’s installment in this popular series, I’m getting out an old favourite: DungeonQuest! Yes folks, third edition DungeonQuest! I’ve had this game for years, and it’s one of the greats – and also, one of those games that takes more time to set up than it often does to play. Let me explain…

DungeonQuest is a push-your-luck, dungeon-crawling, tile-laying game for one to four players, originally a product of 1985 but released in its third edition by Fantasy Flight Games in 2010, where they placed it in the Runebound universe of Terrinoth. Each player controls a hero who is trying to raid the dungeon of the Dragon Lord Kalladra, and escape with enough loot before sunset. Along the way they must build the dungeon by placing tiles of dungeon rooms, which they can encounter with varying degrees of dread. If the heroes survive to Kalladra’s treasure room, they try to raid the room without waking the sleeping dragon, then they must make their way back through the dungeon with their loot. Given the amount of traps and monsters riddling the dungeon caverns, however, this isn’t half as easy as it sounds!


I initially bought this game because each of the six heroes included in the game had cards and miniature figures that could be used in Runebound (as well as Runewars and Descent 1st edition), so I eagerly tore open the wrapping for these features, then packed this game away for months. Probably three months, actually. Then, one day, I decided to see if it was any good, so took Brother Gherinn for a spin through Dragonfire Dungeon, and I was enraptured! This game is hilarious! One of the early preview articles on the website was entitled “A hundred ways to die“, and they weren’t wrong! (As an aside, I permanently store the DungeonQuest minis with my Runebound game, and use the ‘travel markers’ for the heroes in this game. Hence, no minis in these pictures. But the minis are great!)


The game is very different to pretty much any other boardgame I play, and a couple of points are just so weird that I have to really sit down with the rules and check I’m doing it right for a few turns. Firstly, the game is an example of the diceless combat genre. Instead of rolling off and adding stats, a large element of complete randomness is the order of the day, as heroes and monsters both draw from a common Combat deck of cards. Once you get used to the combat system, it is pretty easy to get through, but I’m one of these people so used to roll-offs that it completely throws me if I haven’t played this game for a while.


Something else where DungeonQuest does its own thing is skill checks. I feel like it’s pretty ingrained into me that a high roll on dice is preferable to a low roll, but here, you want to roll under your hero’s stat in any particular skill. If your dice roll exceeds the stat value, you fail, and bad things happen. And boy, can bad things happen in this game! Between the monsters and the traps, you’re lucky to make it to the treasure chamber!


There are five main monsters in the game – demon, sorcerer, skeleton, troll and golem – and they can attack you in any manner of ways. But there are also other monsters roaming the dungeon, such as bane spiders, razorwings and ferrox. As you explore the dungeon by placing a tile, you draw dungeon cards to determine what surprises the room holds. These cards either tell you the room is empty, that you are attacked, that you find a secret door (allowing you to place and explore another tile), that you can explore a crypt or the catacombs, or that you find loot! Loot is the name of the game, of course, as you’re trying to get as much of it as you can.


The catacombs, originally released as a separate expansion to the game in 1988, are a bit more dangerous than the main dungeon,  but therein you’ll also discover one of the most valuable bits of loot in the game, so potentially worth it! In fact, it’s probably entirely possible to skip raiding Kalladra’s chamber entirely, and rather just scour the dungeon along the edge of the board for loot so that you’re never too far from an exit! However, the treasure chamber is really where the fun begins.


If you’re luck enough to make it to the centre of the board, you must first check if you wake the dragon by drawing cards:


If he sleeps, then all is well. If he wakes up, then all is decidedly not well!


Once you’ve decided you’ve pushed your luck far enough, or if you incur Dragon Rage and manage to survive, you can begin to make your way back out of the dungeon. More traps, more monsters and more mayhem awaits! If you’re lucky, you’ll get out before sunset, whereupon the person with the most loot wins! I’ve been playing this for probably three and a half years now (though, obviously, not continuously!), and have only actually made it out of the dungeon once!


But, as usual for me, winning is never the issue. This game is just awesome fun, and I can’t help but enjoy it whenever I play, no matter how arbitrarily my hero’s death may occur! There is lots of fun to be had in Dragonfire Dungeon!

Something I particularly like about this game, however, is the amount of thought that has gone into making the experience really, really great. The rulebook has a whole swath of alternative rules and optional extras, and a couple of months after the game was released, FFG published even more official variants for it. Marvellous! However, the game was either phenomenally popular or else had a very short print run, because it very quickly became nigh-on impossible to get a copy of!


Then, in April this year, Fantasy Flight announced a revised third edition that is set for release sometime next month, I believe. Officially, the differences are outlined as thus:

  • Combat has been simplified: Combat has been redesigned to feature a streamlined combat system that harkens back to the classic editions of the game. DungeonQuest Revised Edition features a card version of the combat chart found in a previous edition. The new combat system delivers the same tension thatDungeonQuest players love, but allows combat to be played out much more quickly. For more detailed information on combat, please see the “Combating the Dungeon’s Monsters” section above.
  • Search once per room: In DungeonQuest Revised Edition, rooms in the dungeon can now be searched only once per game. This encourages brave dungeon-delvers to venture deeper into Dragonfire dungeon, and is easy to track by placing a search token on the board.
  • Move between towers: When a hero enters a tower room, he can now optionally move to any other tower room and continue his turn. This change allows you to shadow other players who have created successful paths through the dungeon, adding a new layer of strategy. This also prevents you from being stuck in the opening turns of the game.
  • Escape using Agility: This streamlined escape mechanic allows players to test Agility in order to successfully escape from a combat.
  • New rulebook format: DungeonQuest Revised Edition takes advantage of our new rulebook format. The rules are split into two separate, streamlined documents–a Learn-to-Play guide, and a Rules Reference book. This means that you’ll be able to begin exploring the dungeon as soon as you open the box with the help of the handy Learn-to-Play guide. The Rules Reference guide will answer any questions that you may have as you play the game.
  • A deadlier dungeon: Dragonfire Dungeon is deadlier than ever before, adding new challenges for seasoned dungeon explorers! Surviving the dungeon is a heroic feat, and only the bravest of the brave will make it out alive.
  • Torchilight Variant: When using the Torchlight Variant, when a player moves into an unexplored room, his torch casts enough light to make out what lies ahead. As a result, he also draws and places adjacent rooms that he has line-of-sight to. This variant adds an element of strategy to the game, as well as creates a much fuller and more complex dungeon throughout the game.

Now, I already have DungeonQuest, of course, but I love the artwork on that new box! I’m going to be hard-pressed not to splurge when it comes out, I’m sure! Though – a ‘deadlier dungeon’, seriously?! Hm! For people who can resist, however, Fantasy Flight have already released a ‘conversion guide‘ for owners of third edition, so you can have the new experience without spending the money on the game again. The most exciting thing about this new edition, though, is that it will give people who haven’t been able to get their hands on the game the opportunity to get to play – and love – it! Definitely worth the time in checking out, and it’s very much worthwhile going through the set up, even if you are killed by a Swinging Blade on your second turn! Check it out today!


Buy it from amazon:
DungeonQuest (third edition)
DungeonQuest (revised edition)

4 thoughts on “Face the Dragon!”

  1. Pingback: Lair of the Wyrm
  2. Pingback: Gaming Reflections
  3. Pingback: Runebound!

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