I realise that this system is already considered a dungeon crawler, but it's also a skirmish combat game that actually slants far more towards the skirmish combat elements than towards the dungeon crawl elements.
Another thing I don't like about this system is how your decision of which direction to move is meaningless. Regardless of whether I end my turn on this tile edge or another tile edge it makes no difference. The tile on the top of the stack will always be the tile that gets placed no matter which direction I walk.
What I want then is a version of this game system that slants far more towards dungeon crawling than towards skirmish combat, and which makes your decisions matter more. Also, I want a variant that doesn't require any additional components than what you just get in the box.
To that end I had the idea that rather than using the start tile as the first tile of the dungeon, use an + junction tile (so a tile that has four open edges) instead. Consider the 'down' exit (south exit) to be the dungeon exit that takes you back out to the surface, then the other three exits (up/north, left/west, and right/east) to be corridor entrances.
Now take all the tiles with only one entrance and one exit that you have, shuffle them together, then make three seperate piles of whatever size you want (shorter for a shorter game, taller for a longer game). Each pile now represents one whole corridor. Don't worry about the corridors splitting off, since you only used tiles with one entrance and one exit to make them it's impossible for that to happen.
Now take three door tiles which only have the door exit plus one entrance and one other exit (so three open edges all up including the door edge) and shuffle one into each of the three corridor stacks you've already made. If you don't have door titles (since they only come in the Wrath of Ashardalon set) you can just use tiles with three open edges instead. These are the room entrance tiles and they are the entrances to rooms in which combat encounters take place.
Now place one of the three corridor stacks beside the up/north exit, one beside the left/west exit, and one beside the right/east exit. As players make their way down a corridor, place tiles from the stack which corresponds to the corridor they are exploring. Once there are no more tiles left in a stack the players have reached the end of the corridor and must turn around.
To avoid the corridors running into each other, make sure that when you place a tile in the left/west corridor the exit faces either left or down, when you place a tile in the right/east corridor the exit faces either right or down, and when you place a tile in the up/north corridor the exit faces either up, left, or right.
While exploring the dungeon, encounter cards are drawn whenever a tile with a black arrow is placed. Players may search for traps before actually placing the next tile. If a player searches for traps, roll the d20 and succeed on 10 or higher (5 or higher for Rouges). If a player successfully searches for traps, they may look at the tile on top of the stack corresponding to the corridor they are exploring to see if it has a black arrow or not.
If it has a black arrow then they (or someone else in the party) may attempt to disable the trap before actually placing the tile. If a player decides to attempt to disarm the trap then they must roll the d20 and they succeed on a 10 or higher (5 or higher for Rogues). If they succeed in disabling the trap then no encounter card is drawn when the tile is placed, but if they fail then they accidentally set off the trap and an encounter card is drawn immediately.
To keep the players moving forward quickly, an encounter card is to be drawn after a certain number of turns. Decide on how many turns before you enter the dungeon, depending how difficult you want the dungeon to be (less turns before an encounter card for harder, more turns before an encounter card for easier). Before drawing the encounter card in this case though, the active player must roll the d20. If they roll 3 or less than instead of drawing an encounter card, the party must face a full combat encounter in the corridor instead.
Full combat encounters in the corridor work the same as full combat encounters in rooms (which will be explained below).
When players eventually find a room tile, they may enter the room next to the tile. At this point you'll have to build a room of suitable size for a combat encounter. Ideally the room will be at least 3 tiles by 3 tiles. Building the rooms can be difficult though because of the risk of taking up space that a corridor might need to expand into later. Any suggestions on how to build rooms without running that risk would be much appreciated.
Anyway, once the room is built, now decide on a challenge rating for the encounter (either by rolling the dice and having a range of numbers correspond to a challenge rating, or by pre-setting the difficulty of the dungeon before entering) and then keep drawing monster cards (starting with the active player and proceeding in a clockwise direction) until the XP value of the monsters equals or exceeds the challenge rating you decided on. As you draw each monster, place them on the designated space for monsters on the tiles of the room you just built, starting with the tile closest to the entrance and working backwards. If two or more tiles are equally close to the entrance then the player who drew and controls the monster being placed can place it on whichever tile they want.
Combat now plays out normally with monsters activating after the players who control them take their turns. This also solves the initiative problem we all seem to have with this system too.
Once the players find the third and final room in the dungeon it is the boss room. For this room, in addition to drawing the monsters for a combat encounter, draw a boss tile from the boss tiles included with the games, then also place that boss in the final room as well.
The players win once they have defeated the boss.
I realise this is a bit barebones so far, and I realise that a lot of times I have said general things like "after a certain number of turns" or "decide on a number" etc. At this point I don't have it all balanced properly and what not, but I had these pretty clear ideas that I wanted to put out there to get feedback.
Does anyone think this system would work if we could work out how to balance it properly? Is it a system you might consider using as an alternative to the regular one?
Let me know what you all think.