Dungeon Fighter, 2nd ed
- Designers: Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva, Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino
- Publisher: Horrible Guild
- Players: 1-6
- Age: 14+
- Time: 40-60 minutes
- Played with review copies provided by Horrible Guild
Way back in 2011, the original release of Dungeon Fighter hit the market. “In Dungeon Fighter, a fully cooperative board game, players take on the roles of heroes venturing deep into a three-tier dungeon. Along the way, they explore the dungeon, search its many rooms, and face endless hordes of vicious monsters. Best of all, your skill determines the ability of your character. Can you kill Medusa without looking into her eyes, defeat the Minotaur in the labyrinth, or resist the breath of the dragon? Will you be able to hit a target by throwing the dice under your leg with your eyes closed? You will feel truly part of a centuries-old battle between good and evil…with a touch of foolish stupidity.”
Cooperative games were still getting a foothold in the hobby (and definitely struggling in my local game group at the time) – but I remember this one being zany fun whenever we got it out. At the time, my group didn’t love cooperative games – remember that Pandemic had only been around for 3 years at the time; and the game faded from the table. However, Horrible Guild knew that had a hit on their hands, and they brought it back with all new expansions in a successful KS campaign in 2022.
The second edition of the game offers some streamlined rules, updated components and updated content. Furthermore, there are now 5 game boxes in the lineup; each one representing a different dungeon: the Labyrinth of Sinister Storms, the Chambers of Malevolent Magma, the Catacombs of Gloomy Ghosts, and the Castle of Frightening Frost. Each Dungeon comes with a different target board, a different set of dice (d6, d8, d12, even d4 dice), and then of course different special dice, extravagant throwing challenges, Dungeon cards, Heroes, Monsters, Bosses, Weapons, Armor, and Items.Each box can be played by itself and represents a complete experience, but if you own more than one you can combine them to create your custom dungeon, greatly increasing the replayability of the game. You can even mix and match the various parts and create unprecedented throwing combos!
In the base game, there is a target board which looks like a set of concentric white and red rings. There are 8 different hero sheets to choose from – each player chooses one and takes any associated tokens. Each hero has some special abilities which the players should read.
The Monster deck is created (4 different levels of Monster cards) and the difficulty level is chosen for the game; for more difficult games a marker is added to the Monster HP board to remind you how much strength to add to each Monster you encounter. The Dungeon and Loot decks are shuffled, and the team gets a starting amount of money, placed on the treasure chest. A Leader is chosen amongst the heroes, and now it’s time to explore the dungeon!
The game will be played in a series of rounds; each with three phases: Dungeon, Combat, Resting.
In the Dungeon phase, the Leader draws the top two cards from the Dungeon deck and chooses one to resolve; the other goes to the bottom of the deck. The shop icons in the top left corner tell you how deep you are going in the dungeon – for every 10 shop icons, you’ll get to go shopping; and you have to go shopping three times to reach the Boss of the dungeon. There may be an immediate action seen on the bottom left of the card. Next, the top Monster card from that deck is revealed – mark the strength of the monster (taking into account any modifiers in play) on the Monster HP board.
In the Combat phase, the Heroes take turns attacking using the three colored dice (red, green and blue). Each colored die can be thrown only once per combat. The active player chooses any of the available dice, and throws it such that it bounces at least once on the table before touching the target board. Make sure that you take into account any rules on the monster or your player board! Each hero has a different special ability associated with each of the three die colors; this effect is triggered if the special eye icon is rolled on that die by that hero. The players ideally should discuss which die should go to which player based on their special abilities that are in play.
Look at where the die lands to figure out the result. If the die lands in a target area, you will deal the number of damage printed on that area (interestingly, the bullseye on the board is worth 10 points of damage, but for some reason, this isn’t printed on the board!). If you get the special eye icon on the bullseye of the target board, you insta-kill the monster! If the monster is defeated (normally it has no more HP), the phase ends. Otherwise, the current player takes damage as shown on the monster card if the roll was a miss, and then the next player keeps fighting by repeating this process. If all the colored dice are used, the team can choose to use any bonus white dice they have OR they can take the 3 colored dice back to use again, but all heroes will take damage equal to the monster’s level. The colored dice can then all be rolled again. If a hero ever gets to the end of their life points, they “faint” and cannot participate in the rest of this battle. They will get a scar in the Rest phase.
Once the monster is defeated, the Heroes catch up in the Resting Phase. First, they get a bonus coin if the last shot on the monster brought it to -3HP or less. All of the Gold earned in the fight is placed on the Chest. Any Heroes that fainted will get a Scar token – this covers up one of the three sections of the hero’s life bar and converts that area from 3 spaces to a single one. That hero no longer can use the special ability of the color covered up with a scar. If a hero has 3 scars, they are eliminated from the game! The rest of the board is restored; players take and Resting phase actions they have. They can also trade Equipment amongst themselves as well as reset their Armor.
If there are 10 or more Shop icons on Dungeon cards at this time, they get a chance to go Shopping. The team can use their gold to buy Equipment, gain Bonus dice and heal themselves. To heal, the team spends a point, and ALL heroes each gain 1 life point per gold spent. The team can also buy a white Bonus die for 2 coins; you can not have more than 9 bonus white dice. Finally, the equipment display is made with 2 Equipment cards drawn each time plus one for each Hero. Red cards are weapons; they are used on every attack and apply on every Hit. Blue cards are Armor; they can only be used once per combat; and they mitigate damage taken if the player does not roll a Hit. The Green cards are Spendables; they are one time use cards that can be used at any time in the game.
If this is the first or second shopping trip, the game continues on and the players keep exploring. If this is the third shop, then it is time to face the final Boss of the Dungeon. The Final Boss cards are shuffled, and one is flipped over at random. The fight here is a little different than usual – the heroes can not retrieve the colored dice once used, they can only use white Bonus dice to fight after the colored dice.
The Heroes win if they are able to defeat the Final Boss. The heroes lose if they all faint during any Combat, or if they get to the Final Boss. If they win, you can actually generate a score to see just how well you did – but at least in our group, we’re pretty happy just winning, and that’s good enough for us.
My thoughts on the game
Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I have played Dungeon Fighter – and to be honest, I think my initial response to the first release was probably clouded by my (misguided) hate of co-operative games at the time. Though it seems like one out of every 3 games these days is cooperative; in 2011, that was not the case. Pandemic had only birthed the genre a few years ago, and I’ll admit that I was very resistant to the growing trend at the time.
In today’s world, the concept of the cooperative dungeon crawl comes as second nature, and it is one of my favorite settings for these coop games. And, in Dungeon Fighter, the zaniness of the rules and the dice delivery add a lot to the game! You literally never know what to expect from the game – the combination of the monster effects and the dungeon card effects always keeps you on your toes.
In the base game, you get the regular target board with the four holes in the central portion as well as the bone ends that are out of bounds (and prevent you from getting a good straight roll at portions of the board). The monsters seem as difficult as ever – in my revisiting of the campaign, my group is still having a pretty hard time even getting through the monster deck! There are ways to increase the difficulty if you so desire (such as simply adding +3 or +5 to EVERY monster you face for the whole game), but suffice it to say that I’m not ready for that!
The dungeon deck cards provide you with interesting choices on nearly every turn. Oftentimes, you will get one choice with a harder challenge (say, having to jump and spin before rolling the dice) that comes with more coins and more steps towards the shop versus an easier challenge that will cause you to have to face even more monsters before you shop. Every monster faced can be bad for your team because don’t forget that you take damage each time you need to refresh the colored dice, but you also take damage individually each time you miss; and our experience definitely tells us that 9HP doesn’t last very long!
Additionally, it’s vitally important to keep your HP up. The scars are doubly punishing. Not only do they permanently lower your HP by 2 points with each scar, they also take away your special ability in the color section with the scar. Also, depending on the monster you are facing when you faint; you might be forcing your still-alive compatriots to take additional risk of damage when they miss.
During each combat round, be sure to discuss amongst yourselves to decide which player in turn order should get which colored die. At the start of the game, most players will have a color they prefer, but as the scars start accumulating, you’ll definitely want to check in with everyone to try to figure out how to maximize your odds of having good things happen from your die roll. Sometimes it’ll be better to pass on your perceived best ability if it leaves the next person with a colored die that he at least has an ability remaining in.
I mentioned earlier that our group finds the game difficult – and, while we’re definitely challenged by the basic level of difficulty – this isn’t discouraging to us. The main reason is that the game is just so wacky and fun. Each round brings you new challenges to figure out how to roll; and we’re constantly laughing – both at the game and at ourselves – as we try to defeat the monsters in the dungeon. Also, the game constantly engages all the players as we’re always watching the rolls with rapt attention. Especially as you reach the end of the game, there will for sure be plenty of laughs, groans and cheers as you watch the dice tumble on the target board.
I would be tempted to call this an experience game – as for me, it maybe doesn’t matter if I win or lose – but that would be selling the game short. There really is a game here, and there are plenty of strategic decisions to be made: choosing which dungeon card to take, choosing how to distribute the dice to fight the monsters; choosing what to get on your shopping trips, etc. Maybe my group is too focused just having fun to make smart choices – but in the end, it doesn’t matter for me, each game of Dungeon Fighter is a fun ride, and one that usually makes me want to play it again!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…