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Michael Erb
United States
West Virginia
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'Dungeoneer' a solid game of dark fantasy adventure

Staff Writer
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG – Grab a torch and your 51-foot rope, it's time to delve the dark depths of "Dungeoneer."

Dungeoneer, designed by Thomas Denmark and produced by Atlas Games, is a series of card games set in a grim fantasy world of heroes, monsters and magic.

Atlas Games was kind enough to give me three, four-player Dungeoneer sets to review, including the introductory set "Tomb of the Lich Lord" and the "Epic" set that makes the heroes, and monsters, more powerful. The basic gameplay is the same for all Dungeoneer sets.

The heroes of Dungeoneer are heroes in the loosest sense, and most are as frightening as the monsters they fight, with characters like the necromancer, a spellcaster that specializes in undead, and the darkling rogue, a shadowy, elf-like skulker. Each player controls one of these characters, who have stats for attack, magic and speed that change as the character completes quests, gets new skills and gains magical and mundane items.

One interesting aspect of the game is how you build the map. Players put down map cards to build the dungeon, and can spend movement points to play extra cards to "explore" more rooms. Players also receive quest cards that correspond with specific locations and can involve anything from defeating a monster to escorting a non-player character to another area of the map.

Without going into a great amount of detail on the game mechanics, I instead will point out what makes the game unique. There are two scores that constantly change during play and influence the cards you and the other players are able to use. Glory is a measure of your character's success, and allows you to purchase magic items, skills, beneficial spell effects or use special abilities. Glory is earned by defeating monsters, exploring and completing some quests.

The flip side is Peril, and this really is where the game gets interesting. Players earn Peril by exploring the dungeon, using monsters against other players, and, as with Glory, by completing some quests. A player's Peril is used against them, and a player can never spend their own Peril.

As you can imagine, the game is competitive, not cooperative. Though each player controls a hero, everyone plays the Dungeonlord, the unseen villain of the game. During each player's turn there is a Dungeonlord Phase where they are able to play cards against other heroes. Though there are a few safeguards built into the game to keep one player from immediately taking out another player, those situations can occur, and a game like this requires a bit of finesse and understanding to make it fun for everyone. One cool mechanic, though, gives players Peril for wounding an opposing character with a monster, meaning the more damage you do to an opponent, the more ammo you are giving them for their attack later on. It is a nice element that can cause a player to pause before unleashing too much trouble on any one person at the table.

The gameplay can, at times, be a little complex, but there are several variations listed in the rules that allow you to speed up or simplify gameplay. There also are rules that allow you to add more complexity and challenge to the game, so the sets seem to scale well with different styles of play.

You also can combine different sets to introduce new monsters, items, abilities and settings. Want to explore the forest before you reach the dungeon? There are rules on how to do that. This option also extends the replay value, as you can create "mini-modules," allowing you to play out a storyline or scenario based upon the sets you have.

Dungeoneer is a lot of fun, but probably appeals more to the experienced gamer than a casual one. That doesn't mean you should pass it up, though. The dungeon building process, dark artwork and sometimes subtle and quirky humor hidden in the cards can make for a very enjoyable game, regardless of how familiar you are with roleplaying or similar games. In fact, Dungeoneer can provide a nice, roleplaying-lite introduction to roleplaying games.

Contact Michael Erb at

Edit: A review copy of the game was provided for this article.
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