Published in: 1975

Dungeon (also seen as "Dungeon!") was a board game created by Gary Gygax and Michael Gray. It was sort of an alternative to Dungeons and Dragons for the crowd interested in the fantasy theme, but not wanting to get involved in all the complexities of role playing, and is especially suited to kids.

The game equipment consists of a board, 8 player tokens (2 of each of 4 different colors, each representing a different character class, 6 stacks of color-coded monster cards, 6 stacks of color-coded treasure cards, a stack of spell cards, a bunch of little cardboard gravestone markers, and a series of numbered cardboard tokens, two pieces of each number. The artwork on the board and cards is wonderful, with the board having a nice dungeon-like feel with it's yellowish hallways, color-coded rooms, eerily named chambers, and chaotic layout.

Gameplay is very simple, with the goal to get enough treasure to be worth your set gold piece goal, and get back to the starting chamber. Each player selects one of the player tokens, representing either a hero, elf, superhero, or wizard (only the hero or elf can be chosen in the simpler variant of the game). Each character type has a slightly different method of playing - the elf is slightly weaker in combat, but sees secret doors more easily. The superhero is stronger than either the elf or hero, but has a higher treasure requirement. The wizard is much weaker in combat, but has spells she can use (represented by spell cards) to fight monsters also. The hero and elf need 10,000 gold pieces worth of treasure to win, the superhero 20,000 gold, and the wizard 30,000 gold.

A player moves around simply by going from 1 to five spaces, fighting a monster, or searching for a secret door. Combat is done by entering a room or chamber, and drawing a monster card. Each monster card lists what each character type must roll to defeat it, then the player rolls two dice. If they roll at or above the required value, the monster is defeated - if not, they have to roll for the monster to fight back. Defeating a monster earns the player a treasure card, if the monster was defeated in a room, and a graveyard token is placed in the room to show that room has been cleared - nobody else can fight a monster there. Chambers have three monsters in them, killed one at a time, but no treasure.

Monster counterattacks are done according to a chart - anything above a 9 is safe, but lower numbers can cause you to drop treasure, and retreat spaces - or even go back to start (a roll of two kills your character, and you have to choose another token - if any are still unused - and start again). Dropped treasure is kept in the room, with the monster drawn still guarding it - that's what the number tokens are used for.

Wizard spells are selected before starting combat, choosing either "fireball" or "lightning", then drawing the monster. Some monsters are especially weak to one or the other, and others are completely immune. Spells are replaced after being used only by returning to the start space, the main stairwell.

Treasure for the most part consists of bags of gold, gems, and other various items of value fitting the theme, with a listing of their value in gold pieces at the bottom. The artwork is nicely done, making each treasure - especially the larger ones - seem like a fitting reward. The values vary according to the dungeon "level" (determined by the color coded rooms on the board) - first level treasure may consist of bags of 250 and 500 gold - but on the 6th level, the toughest, wonderful things await such as the Huge Diamond, worth 10,000 gold.

There are also a few special treasures, such as a magic sword that makes it easier to kill monsters, an ESP medallion that lets you peek at the monster in the room before entering, and even a Crystal Ball that lets you see what monster AND treasure await you in a room.

In 1989, TSR released "The New Dungeon", a revised version of the game with a few minor tweaks. The game board is larger, with larger rooms, allowing you to place a monster card in the room, instead of a grave marker. A couple more character classes were added, with new abilities. Players can now trade treasures - or fight each other to attempt to steal their treasure. The ability to be wounded was added, and healing chambers added to allow wounded players to recover. It is almost entirely superior to the original verison, fixing key problems, and making the game more enjoyable. In the mid 90's, it was released again, this time as "The Classic Dungeon" - same as The New Dungeon, with less cartoony artwork.

Source: The Board Game Geek Database, http://www.boardgamegeek.com