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DungeonQuest 85 -1000 Cardboard Cuts

AL Updated September 01, 2020
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
1452 0
1000 Cardboard Cuts - Dungeonquest 85

Game Information

Game Name
Designer
Players
1 - 4
There Will Be Games

Perhaps the most polarising of all decades, the 1980’s seemingly gifted us both the best and worst of all late-human culture as it shimmied seductively in spandex, with coiffed hair cresting the empathy-death ambition of cocaine dreams. It was also an interesting era for games, as the scene splintered and the offshoot roots of what would become hobby gaming plunged deep into the fecund untilled earth of ideas unplumbed.

Having once caught lightning in a crown-of-command-shaped-bottle and presumably having failed to set the world on fire with their 86 offering The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the brave and bearded lads at Games Workshop returned to the drawing-board the following year to plot what would surely this time be the ultimate dungeon-delving experience that board and card could constrain.

Holed up in their Nottingham laboratory, they diligently plumbed the deepest recesses of their psyche for ideas, brain-stormed new mechanics and play-tested endless iterations on their formula until it shone like a perfect gemstone, refracting a light of pure fun through a prism of unfettered imagination.

Just kidding- they ripped off a Swedish game and put shoulder pads on it.

Designed by Dan Glimne and Jakob Bonds and unleashed upon their native Sweden in 1985, Drakborgen (Dragon Fortress) was the culmination of 5 years of development that saw their sinister offspring embraced by an umlaut-laden community hungry for tiny tiles and rampant death. Subsequently licensed by Games Workshop it was rebranded with added spikes for the 87 release that we in the English-speaking world now know and fear as DungeonQuest.

Dungeonquest 01

Since those hallowed days, the game has passed into the voluminous sleeves of Fantasy Flight Games who have released two further curations culminating in 2014’s Revised Edition that both sought to iterate and improve upon the humble yet strangely addictive framework laid down by the original.

In addition to this, Fandrake games recently presided over what became the most successful Swedish kickstarter of all time – offering a deluxe reprint of the original game, and are now gauging interest in a possible English translation complete with a hardback restrospective tome and the usual associated ephemera that washes up on the cash-lashed isle of Crowdfundia.

In short, this game suffers no shortage of acolytes and historical pedigree, so I simply had to see what all the fuss was about.

Did I pick up the enhanced and reasonably-priced modern edition? Did I bollocks. I craved the vaunted halls of history. I needed the flimsy cardstock, edge-worn box and crap components of the real deal. I wanted to pay waaaay too much for an ornamental artefact. It was my journalistic duty.

And lo it came to pass, arriving weather-beaten and pre-loved into my arms to taunt me with its hoard of riches, swathe of fatal traps and archaic combat mechanics. The original 87 iteration, sitting smugly as it winked at me, draped in linework art and period-charm.

Dungeonquest 03

Moments later, it was on the floor. A straightforward affair, this took mere minutes to learn and set-up, leaving any depth on offer to the emergent fun that resides in its infinite capacity to generate random scenarios to fuck with you. Unapologetic in its famed brutality, the box itself boasts that during playtesting it achieved on average a 15% survival rate amongst players. This is a decidedly old-school mentality, a relic from the days when player elimination was a badge of honour, as challenge was entwined with punishment like a gnarled oaken wand and with each rap of it upon their alabaster buttocks, players were instructed to reply in earnest: ‘Thank you sir, may I have another?’

Filling the leather boots of Fantasy Archetype Squad 347, players seek to infiltrate the infamous Castle Dragonfire and retrieve the hoard of legend that lies piled within. Spoken of only in reverent whispers, the Castle has claimed the lives of countless would be tomb-raiders and should the players fail to navigate its arcane walkways, retrieve the treasure and emerge before nightfall, then unutterable horrors are certain to befall them.

This conceit takes the form of a handy timer that successfully rachets up the pressure as the players tick off each turn in the knowledge that each step brings them closer to doom lest they be fleet of foot and brave of blade.

Dungeonquest 03

Drawing the random tiles that will form your passage through the halls of Castle Dragonfire is a strange delight, with no two games playing alike as the thoroughfares snake and twist, turning in upon themselves, winding into dead ends, perilous pits, poisonous clouds and the demonic denizens that may lurk behind every new tile. Far from being a deal-breaker, this air of randomness that permeates every step is in fact the game’s greatest asset as the tension of every move is amplified by the sheer ineffable nature of what purports to lay in waiting. There is precious little capacity for contingency as your dinky avatar is buffeted by the winds of fate, adrift in the sweeping chaos that unfurls as they draw from the selection of oddly shaped and paper-thin decks that layer sinew upon the labyrinth’s brittle bones.

Upon their meandering path, players will encounter rockslides, deadly darts, rotating rooms, secret doors, the bodies of fellow adventurers (ripe for the looting) and a selection of suitably Warhammer-esque foes that seek to pummel them into oblivion. Combat takes the form of another fumbling step towards today’s more refined fare and yet has idiosyncrasies all its own that experienced players can learn to exploit, subverting the agents of random chance in a style that speaks less of skill and more of the familiarisation that sits atop former follies. Upon unearthing each beast to be bested the player must declare if they will attack, flee or wait-and-see, with the player to their right cross referencing their decision with the monster card drawn to see whether the fiend will stand fast, strike first or high tail it out of there.

Should swords then be crossed- a simple rock, paper, scissors affair ensues as players select from the three possible actions of Strike, Leap Aside or Stunning Blow. The player to their right does likewise for the brute in question and they again reference a handy table that will indicate who has come off second best. Kingdom: Death Monster it ain’t, and though not exactly taxing it probably forms the biggest blemish on the brow of what has otherwise held up remarkably well as the intervening decades have marched on in fancy tailored trousers, flaunting their custom dice and tactical treatises.

Dungeonquest 04

At the heart of the labyrinth lies the hoard of plunder that has compelled us to tempt fate, and should players be fortunate enough to breach its inner sanctum, the game throws up yet another deliciously simple roadblock that again amplifies tension as players press their luck in the face of ever shortening odds.

For you see, astride this mountain of bounty lies the formidable form of a slumbering dragon with a famed predilection for roasting would-be thieves alive in their jerkins. Each turn spent here allows a fumbling hand to lucky dip into a bag of loot, unearthing two artefacts that will be tallied up in value to determine the games eventual victor, like some sinister spin on Antiques Roadshow by way of the Running Man. With each trembling fistful however, the players must select one of several facedown dragon tiles. All but one will see them silent enough to successfully misappropriate their spoils, but always lurking within is the one card that instantly invites them to the shittiest barbecue ever.

Do they bless the hand of providence and spin for home? Or risk another dip, increasing their potential lead as their avarice dances on a knife edge with doom? It’s incredibly tense, and a condensed Aesop-level exploration of sinful greed all-in-one. Like all elements on offer here, its simplicity belies its capacity for compulsion.

Dungeonquest 05

In each of our play-throughs this bastard dragon card emerged with a frequency bordering on the uncanny, leading us to believe that our copy was in fact cursed and possibly sourced from the pragmatic estate sale of some gone-to-soon Grognard, whose angry ghost wailed aghast as his collection was parcelled up and scattered to the winds, arriving in the undeserving paws of smart-arse reviewers on strange antipodean shores.

Eventually, after many an untimely demise, the attrition of fortune emerged and my weary warrior was able to escape this accursed place with a paltry sum in his coffers and a renewed sense of the virtue of poverty with which to regale his long suffering wife back in the village. As for the dragon? His hoard undimmed, he slumbered the sleep of the just, curled cosy upon coins in wait of the next foolhardy band of plunderers, set upon their perilous path by cackling sexagenarian Swedes.

Unlike so many other offerings of its age, DungeonQuest wears its antique vestments with a modicum of dignity that still possesses the power to beguile. Lean into its demands and you’ll surely appreciate the giddy highs, terrifying lows and shameful joy it continues to elicit.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
3.0
Dungeonquest
AL
Andi Lennon (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Andi Lennon is Sydney based writer, musician and soap dodger. He graduated from Wizbang University with full honours and no teeth. When he isn't feeling conflicted about Morrissey he likes to play indie games with a dubious 80's aesthetic.

You can read more of his work by visiting Mongol Cult

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Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311843 10 Jul 2020 02:03
Seems like it's something of a rite of passage on this site to weigh in on ye old Dungeonquest. Feels good to get it out of my system.
Dr. Mabuse's Avatar
Dr. Mabuse replied the topic: #311844 10 Jul 2020 03:19
Great review again! This was my second hobby game purchase back in the 80s (Talisman 2nd edition being the first). I love this game and played a shit ton with my kids when they were younger (kept a record of their lootings). The combat system to this day is perfect, in my opinion. The focus being on exploration and not combat makes the game fly. When FFG reissued it, the combat system was long, overwrought, dull and pointless. I never played/owned the revised edition.

It's been a few years now since I last played it, but I still think it is a fantastic game.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #311845 10 Jul 2020 03:57
Fun review of an all-time classic game. I still think the current FFG version is the best, worth checking out if you get the chance.

I was playing a game called Miremarsh the other day that clearly wants to be DungeonQuest. And Miremarsh is pretty good (I'll be reviewing it at some point), and it tries hard to take the worst edges off the randomness with pools of custom dice.

But while it's fun enough, it's just not DungeonQuest. There's something magical about this particular mix of speed and variety and danger that just works. Something that's kept it in multiple editions across over 30 years.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311849 10 Jul 2020 06:40

Dr. Mabuse wrote: Great review again! This was my second hobby game purchase back in the 80s (Talisman 2nd edition being the first). I love this game and played a shit ton with my kids when they were younger (kept a record of their lootings). The combat system to this day is perfect, in my opinion. The focus being on exploration and not combat makes the game fly. When FFG reissued it, the combat system was long, overwrought, dull and pointless. I never played/owned the revised edition.

It's been a few years now since I last played it, but I still think it is a fantastic game.


Ahh the DQ alumni are here :)
Cheers man, I don't think I really brought anything new to the table but sometimes it's good to prop up the old guard amongst the cult of the new.
I enjoyed your take on it, in fact I've checked out a bunch of your write ups and your stuff is legit. Really enjoyable. Be cool to see you back in the mix :)

As far as the combat goes, between bare bones RPS and convoluted card play I'd rather just see it excised altogether. It's not an abundance of player agency that makes this one shine but yeah, it does hold up. Next on under the gaze of the wayback machine is Warhammer Quest so hopefully it too has been diligent with its dermatological regime.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311850 10 Jul 2020 06:45

Matt Thrower wrote: Fun review of an all-time classic game. I still think the current FFG version is the best, worth checking out if you get the chance.

I was playing a game called Miremarsh the other day that clearly wants to be DungeonQuest. And Miremarsh is pretty good (I'll be reviewing it at some point), and it tries hard to take the worst edges off the randomness with pools of custom dice.

But while it's fun enough, it's just not DungeonQuest. There's something magical about this particular mix of speed and variety and danger that just works. Something that's kept it in multiple editions across over 30 years.


More class of 85!
Cheers, I'm planning on grabbing the revision should it come up for trade or a modest sum and I can put my grubby hands on it whilst I retain the original as object d'art. Acquiring this one and WHQ doomed me to Ramen for a considerable period. I'll look into Miremarsh. I dig the name and I'm a simple fellow at heart.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #311851 10 Jul 2020 08:01
The RPS combat is one of the best things in this game I think. It just ramps up the schadenfreude that extra little bit.

I recently got the expansions to this but haven't had a chance to mess with them. I like the idea of all the new characters and stuff, but it also looks like they might add a non trivial amount of fiddly little rules to remember which definitely isn't what DQ wants.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311852 10 Jul 2020 08:46

Ah_Pook wrote: The RPS combat is one of the best things in this game I think. It just ramps up the schadenfreude that extra little bit.

I recently got the expansions to this but haven't had a chance to mess with them. I like the idea of all the new characters and stuff, but it also looks like they might add a non trivial amount of fiddly little rules to remember which definitely isn't what DQ wants.


Oh wow. The expansions are like hens teeth right? And with a receipt to match? I think as long as the new characters are no more in-depth than say the elf from the base game with his arrows variant then it would be cool to have that added variety. And the box art and all that comes with it is surely a treat.

Speaking of simple tile laying efforts where exploration takes precedence, there is a looming kickstarter for a game called The Night Cage that looks super cool so I'm keeping an eye out for when it launches later this month.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #311853 10 Jul 2020 08:54
I hadn't but the GW version back in 86, favoring Blood Bowl and Blood Royale instead, I do have the FFG version and it continues to be a hit. I gave it a little more life with custom character cards using the other characters from Runebound and expansions.

We still haven't had a person make it through with the two part treasure or get the big gem from the catacombs.

Your review has inspired me to dust this one off for some weekend plays. I think my wife leads me in total successful delves and money earned.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #311855 10 Jul 2020 09:46
RPS gets a bad rap at BGG, but it can become a bit of a mindgame between familiar opponents.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #311856 10 Jul 2020 09:50

Andi Lennon wrote: Cheers, I'm planning on grabbing the revision should it come up for trade or a modest sum and I can put my grubby hands on it whilst I retain the original as object d'art.


You may be interested in my review of the second revision, which details some of the improvements.
therewillbe.games/articles-boardgame-rev...vised-edition-review

For clarity, I once summarised them for someone who asked:
- Determination tokens mitigate the worst excess of luck.
- All the characters have a special power, for a bit more flavour.
- The Catacombs are much better, but as an entire concept it doesn't add all that much to the game - the best bit is the excitement of rolling to see where you pop up.
- There are a couple of magical treasures to be found in the dragon's hoard which are really fun but you'll only see them once in a blue moon.
- Random end game mechanic which suits the game and cranks up the tension a bit.
- Expansion tiles and cards are all in the game so all on the same reference sheets.
- Cards are all the same shape and size which makes it easier to set up and handle.

You might also enjoy The Ballad of Sir Roland.
therewillbe.games/articles-rants-a-raves...ballad-of-sir-roland
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311883 10 Jul 2020 18:09

the_jake_1973 wrote: I hadn't but the GW version back in 86, favoring Blood Bowl and Blood Royale instead, I do have the FFG version and it continues to be a hit. I gave it a little more life with custom character cards using the other characters from Runebound and expansions.

We still haven't had a person make it through with the two part treasure or get the big gem from the catacombs.

Your review has inspired me to dust this one off for some weekend plays. I think my wife leads me in total successful delves and money earned.


That sounds rad, I love homebrewing content and expansions. Good luck redressing the balance with your wife this weekend!

I played Blood Bowl 2nd edition back in around 91 or so at a friend's house and I remember being wildly enamoured of the foam pitch but if memory serves the gameplay itself involved a lot of looking up result tables that felt more like conducting an audit than a kinetic sports brawl.

I was recently offered a trade from a chap who will give me a copy of third edition with an extra team in exchange for my copy of Crossbows and Catapults and it's a bit of a Sophie's Choice scenario as I'm on an old school GW trip at the moment but C&C was a cherished childhood totem reacquired with great fortune.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311884 10 Jul 2020 18:15

Shellhead wrote: RPS gets a bad rap at BGG, but it can become a bit of a mindgame between familiar opponents.


Hahaha we actually had a recent session where my opponent was totally convinced he was both reading my cues and psyching me out during the combat phases, which he went on to discuss at great length with poker analogies whilst I held my tongue from revealing that I'd been 100% selecting my actions blindly and at random in a bid to speed things along. He's still out there now, walking around draped snugly in his mantle of soothsayer and tactical genius :)
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311886 10 Jul 2020 18:23

Matt Thrower wrote:

Andi Lennon wrote: Cheers, I'm planning on grabbing the revision should it come up for trade or a modest sum and I can put my grubby hands on it whilst I retain the original as object d'art.


You may be interested in my review of the second revision, which details some of the improvements.
therewillbe.games/articles-boardgame-rev...vised-edition-review

For clarity, I once summarised them for someone who asked:
- Determination tokens mitigate the worst excess of luck.
- All the characters have a special power, for a bit more flavour.
- The Catacombs are much better, but as an entire concept it doesn't add all that much to the game - the best bit is the excitement of rolling to see where you pop up.
- There are a couple of magical treasures to be found in the dragon's hoard which are really fun but you'll only see them once in a blue moon.
- Random end game mechanic which suits the game and cranks up the tension a bit.
- Expansion tiles and cards are all in the game so all on the same reference sheets.
- Cards are all the same shape and size which makes it easier to set up and handle.

You might also enjoy The Ballad of Sir Roland.
therewillbe.games/articles-rants-a-raves...ballad-of-sir-roland


Yeah after this went up the suggested links went crazy informing me of all myriad prior takes on this one here at TWBG! Yours was great and this is an excellent summary, cheers. I love the idea of variable player powers and the expanded playspace the catacombs might provide but I'm not a huge fan of the FF house art and design aesthetic. It's so bloody... competent.

As for Roland, I believe all session reports should be in ballad form.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #311887 10 Jul 2020 18:27
Few more written about games on this site. Maybe Talisman? And you get like 15 years of takes, sometimes even by the same person years apart.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #311888 10 Jul 2020 19:10

Andi Lennon wrote:

Ah_Pook wrote: The RPS combat is one of the best things in this game I think. It just ramps up the schadenfreude that extra little bit.

I recently got the expansions to this but haven't had a chance to mess with them. I like the idea of all the new characters and stuff, but it also looks like they might add a non trivial amount of fiddly little rules to remember which definitely isn't what DQ wants.


Oh wow. The expansions are like hens teeth right? And with a receipt to match? I think as long as the new characters are no more in-depth than say the elf from the base game with his arrows variant then it would be cool to have that added variety. And the box art and all that comes with it is surely a treat.


I got them in trade, bundled with the base game and minus the boxes and minis. Figured I can proxy the minis. Mint in box they're... Prohibitively expensive.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311889 10 Jul 2020 19:12

Gary Sax wrote: Few more written about games on this site. Maybe Talisman? And you get like 15 years of takes, sometimes even by the same person years apart.


Yeah it certainly speaks to the pedigree of this little box that could, right? Those crafty swedes were onto something.

Ahhh shaggy old Talisman. The game that started it all for me. I've played it in every decade since its arrival. Some of the sessions seemed to last a decade in themselves. I'll have to put pen to paper on it one day, if only to bemoan how the OP Monk can fuck right off.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311890 10 Jul 2020 19:16

Ah_Pook wrote:

Andi Lennon wrote:

Ah_Pook wrote: The RPS combat is one of the best things in this game I think. It just ramps up the schadenfreude that extra little bit.

I recently got the expansions to this but haven't had a chance to mess with them. I like the idea of all the new characters and stuff, but it also looks like they might add a non trivial amount of fiddly little rules to remember which definitely isn't what DQ wants.


Oh wow. The expansions are like hens teeth right? And with a receipt to match? I think as long as the new characters are no more in-depth than say the elf from the base game with his arrows variant then it would be cool to have that added variety. And the box art and all that comes with it is surely a treat.


I got them in trade, bundled with the base game and minus the boxes and minis. Figured I can proxy the minis. Mint in box they're... Prohibitively expensive.


That certainly sounds more feasible. One could probably finance a modestly sized private island complete with monkey butlers for the price of a complete set. Perhaps you could... Scan them? For historical archivists purposes only of course.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #311983 13 Jul 2020 15:44

Andi Lennon wrote:

the_jake_1973 wrote:
Your review has inspired me to dust this one off for some weekend plays. I think my wife leads me in total successful delves and money earned.


That sounds rad, I love homebrewing content and expansions. Good luck redressing the balance with your wife this weekend!


Here are the homebrewed files. My personal favorite is Steelhorns who is very strong and high on hit points, but also draws 2 Dragon cards in the treasure room....bull meets china shop.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311991 13 Jul 2020 18:22
Fantastic, cheers!
I'm actually off to the printshop today for another project so I'll check these out for sure.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #311992 13 Jul 2020 18:24
Wait, where are the files?
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #312015 14 Jul 2020 08:57