Crusaders Games

Fantasy (Dungeon)

My favourite board games for group play are big box co-operative fantasy dungeon crawlers, especially those with great miniatures and board tiles. This list is distinguished by exploration through an enclosed underground dungeon, with encounters changing each game, and often requires painting plastic miniatures to make a game look its best. Over the years i have bought and sold many dungeon crawlers, aiming to keep the best ones :​​

1Warhammer Quest – Games Workshop (1995)

A miniatures co-operative game featuring an automated dungeon questing mechanic, with immense depth to character development. Choose your hero and enter the dungeon with your allies, where monsters, traps and treasure await. This game has impressive content and great models that had little to assemble but required painting to look their best. It is a benchmark game for the dungeon crawl experience, with random dungeons, monster spawns and the opportunity to level up in the town at the end of the adventure to obtain new character skills. Its main box featured creatures such bats, spiders and rats alongside goblins, orcs, skaven and minotaurs, and unlike many games of its type, this one does not depend on having a dungeon overlord player to play against the heroes. This old favourite features relatively simple missions, lovely floor tiles and a comprehensive bestiary and roleplay book, which made it hugely customisable, and in this area it remains unbeaten by any similar game since. The game is designed for four heroes to be always playing, and in using random event encounters can swing in difficulty, and its greatest strength is not really in any deep strategic challenge, but in the roleplaying adventure story and imagination it creates. This game is still the best for a pure random dungeon crawl, with many expansions and articles that developed and enhanced the game, with the most significant ones shown here > Warhammer Quest

 2. Gloomhaven – Cephalofair (2017)

A co-operative adventure game with dungeon exploration and branching pathway and storyline. This is a legacy style game where you build up your map using stickers to reveal locations as you discover new areas. Catering well for different player numbers, six starting characters are re-themed variations on more standard fair such as the Inox Brute (tank) and Vermling Mindthief (psychic thief), and whilst heroes level up, they also will eventually be retired to bring in new ones to the game. Game balance is well done, scenarios are largely closely fought but failure means you will return stronger to try again, and monster difficulty is easy to change using their excellent statistics discs. The core of the game focuses on entering locations to battle enemies using an amazing card based combat system, choosing two cards to combine and play each round. These cards also represent your stamina so if you discard too many during resting or using your best skills, you will become exhausted from that quest. A small deck of adjustment cards during combat provide a nice edge of randomness and can be customised over time, and as there are no dice involved decisions feel more tactical. Heroes have decent models and nice art, but the enemies are standees and tiles are low on detail which may reduce the overall immersion value. This game is the best for tactical and strategic play, and for seasoned player groups liking a deeper and longer term co-operative challenge.

3. Descent 2nd Edition – Fantasy Flights (2012)

A miniatures fantasy campaign dungeon game initially designed as pitting heroes against a dungeon overlord. The contents of this game are high quality with great models, albeit heroes are a little smaller in scale, and some of the most detailed map tiles around. It also has a campaign book with expandable and linked quests and really nice choice in different skill decks to reflect your character’s style. The core box set is excellent value with huge replayability, and expansions provide endless content, making it a collectable hobby. A later development added an app called ‘Road to Legend’ which enables new campaign adventures to be undertaken co-operatively, where the dungeon monsters are controlled for you, rather than having an overlord player. These new quests feature a story narrative and breathe new life into this immense game making it a better dungeon crawl. This game features my favourite combat dice for a dungeon game, and whilst it can be beaten in certain areas by other more specialised games, i consider it the best all round dungeon game covering all different types of play you may enjoy, battling with your chosen hero alongside others against a variety of monsters, or maybe controlling a dungeon yourself. Details about the many expansions can be found on my specific game page > Descent 2nd

4. Silver Tower & Shadows Over Hammerhal – Games Workshop (2016-17) 

Silver Tower remakes Warhammer Quest with a new theme and dice mechanics, where up to four heroes are summoned to a chaos tower to recover parts of a lost talisman. Exploring rooms, encountering events, and defeating monsters, each quest uses a series of locations to uncover in a semi random order, and its storyline is enhanced by reading short passages from a book, making an engaging adventure. Your actions are directly influenced by dice rolling, allocating dice into hero action slots to use, and deliberating over who can best use extra destiny dice each round. The game is relatively light on rules and simple to teach and play, and it scales well for different player numbers, although it is limited in its character development. A new alternative core / expansion game called Shadows over Hammerhal was released a year later with a new campaign, a more traditional underground dungeon tile theme, a city to visit with events, and rules that have a dungeon master help control the game. Either core set can stand alone or be interchanged and the combined variety lifts this game to a higher level. These games offer a modelling hobby, with the best overall miniatures quality which do need assembling and painting, it makes a superb set when finished, and with new dungeons being released in White Dwarf, this game is still growing.

5. Sword & Sorcery – Ares (2017)

This co-operative fantasy adventure game has a story driven campaign with automated monster intelligence. It features great miniatures, with monsters in groups with different poses and colours, which enables the game design to change their difficulty and response intelligence. The game tiles are excellent, split into larger areas than the usual small square grids, they have an easy to use line of sight system and lovely artwork, and have become my favourite of this genre. Heroes can be lawful, neutral or chaos in alignment, have choices of powers to select, can equip weapons based on their fighting style, and find new items that can be subsequently upgraded. There are some really great ideas in this game, with cooldown timers for the better skills, and soulpoints which are gained for experience to level up or recover a hero if defeated, and heroes are never fully eliminated during play, but use their weaker soul skill until they can restore themselves, keeping everyone involved. Combat is ten sided dice based, with more options than normally seen as symbol combinations will trigger extra abilities, but overall there are more little rules to remember than other dungeon crawlers around. Adventures are pre-written, with ongoing storyline to read out, and it is interactive and engaging. Overall this dungeon style adventure has extra complexity and rules depth, with a strong feeling of progression and is the best storyline led dungeon crawl.

6. Thunderstone Advance  / Quest – Alderac (2012 / 2018)

A competitive deckbuilding game not a dungeon crawler, where players each turn will work from a hand of six drawn cards to build a short strategy for the round. They will gradually improve their decks by obtaining or upgrading heroes, and buying new weapons and equipment from the village in order to enter the dungeon and defeat monsters. This game has great theme and artwork, and a number of expansions, so that the choices for game set up becomes huge. There are different variants you can play, customising what is available to buy or recruit, and which monsters you will face, and you can tweak the game length by increasing or reducing the monster deck, or play epic style where all cards are randomly available to draw from. This game is easy to learn and play, but working out some killer move combinations does take more strategic thought, and as such the game works well on different ability levels. Setting up themed dungeons to play is immensely enjoyable, and I have adapted the boxed solo rules to my own version to make it more enjoyable and tactical > Thunderstone Solo. The game was relaunched as Quest in 2018 with new fresh looking artwork and adding in new village options, dungeon room tiles, wounds and making overall gameplay more interesting and engaging, as there are more choices to make each turn. This is the best competitive dungeon card game.

7. Ravage – Dungeons of Plunder – Beardy Brothers (2018)

A smaller box dungeon crawl and a quicker game, offering solo, co-operative and competitive options, and featuring Orc characters as the main heroes. This is standee based and uses standard size cards as dungeon tiles, making it a more compact, cheaper game. The usual dungeon exploring aspects are all here, varied locations, enemies, some boss monsters with more intelligence, a goblin to sell you new equipment, and character leveling. What really stands out is the excellent artwork and illustrations. This is lovely game providing a dungeon crawl experience on a slightly smaller scale, it is well designed, and offers enough depth within the hero boards, with various skills for each character to keep you interested, and four heroes that play quite differently. It may eventually need some new enemies and locations to add extra variety, but fortunately this is something that is being worked on for the future. This is dungeon crawling without high expense, modelling and painting, and also requires less time to complete, and as such is a best alternative hero, smaller box game.

8. Dungeon Saga – Mantic (2015)

This dungeon game requires four heroes to cooperatively defeat a dungeon controlled by an overlord player, and as such it has most in common with Descent 2nd edition. I generally prefer the type of quest objectives in this game which feel more questing related, although many feature loss by time limitations, which is not a great mechanic. The rules feel relatively simple, positioning and facing is important which provides tactical choices, and the dice attack to defense comparisons feels unique and works nicely.  This game finds a nice midpoint between ease and depth. The artwork is good, the book style box is lovely, and the models are reasonable quality but arguably are slightly below the standard of the best games.  There is a lot available to expand this game, with new themed campaigns and an adventurers guide that tries hard to automate it into a cooperative game, but this can be confusing at times. I resisted getting this game for a long time, and whilst it does not really better anything seen in other dungeon games, it does all come together rather well into a really good, relatively uncomplicated experience to play. Some quests provide the best overlord versus hero group experience, although Descent 2nd edition is deeper overall and ultimately more flexible.

 

9. Dungeonquest – Fantasy Flights (2014)

This dungeon adventure game has been around since 1985, originally produced by games workshop it is updated with improved artwork and components by fantasy flights. This is a push your luck style adventure where you gradually lay small tiles on a board as you progress towards the central treasure chamber where a dragon in sleeping. If you manage to get there, you must try to steal treasure before he awakens. Now this game is largely about unfortunate events and survival, and once you know this, it becomes a fun game, as you laugh at terrible things that happen to your hero and your opponents. The combat mechanic has always been a weak point, and largely remains so, but it is quicker now in the newer version and also isn’t quite such a dominant game feature. There is a new deeper catacombs level idea which works pretty well providing underground short cuts but with greater risk attached, and a new torchlight rule too. With a time track counting down before the dungeon traps you all in, the play time is consistent and not overly long. This game has its critics and is extremely luck based, but it still remains the best for pushing your luck family dungeon game. This adventure is fun and dangerous, and chances of survival are very low indeed.

10. Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game – Fantasy Flights (2015)

This small box co-operative card and dice game has the Warhammer Quest dungeon crawling theme and brand at its heart, and sets up a neat character and player interaction, as your heroes interact and support each other to complete quests. In line with the original miniatures game, monsters will come thick and fast from the shadows, and your characters each have a set of 4 actions to use to combat the dungeon, and combining them with each other is critical. There is a light but specific storyline being told by each of the quest cards, and the mechanic of using your card actions and dice rolling works beautifully. This game This game is best for player interraction and also works really well for solo play, controlling two heroes and offering up tactical choices and story development. It is a relatively quick dungeon experience, but really needed more content to keep it fresh, which sadly we will not see officially due to licencing issues. I have written four custom scenarios which have become popular with game fans > Warhammer Quest Adventures

 

11. One Deck Dungeon – Asmadi (2016)

A tiny box game that features dungeon exploration using a deck of cards, combined with dice rolling and manipulation. You search through a dungeon over 3 levels to find and defeat a boss monster, the deck of cards acting as a timer and providing doors for you to open and investigate. Fighting monsters or avoiding traps involves rolling your dice, representing your skills, and allocating them onto the cards to block reactions and damage. This is a very quick and fun adventure game and even better with the addition of the new stand alone expansion called Forest of Shadows. This game is best for solo dice manipulation.

Previously Owned Fantasy Dungeon Crawl Games…

Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons FBG, Space Hulk 3rd, Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt, Tannhauser, Claustrophobia, Mice & Mystics, Hybrid, Massive Darkness, Dragonfire, Kingdom Death.

There are many dungeon crawl games, each having their own style or flavour in terms of theme and mechanics, and it is largely a matter of trying them out to see if they suit you. Due to space and funding restrictions i regularly trade out games to fund newer ones, producing an ever changing favourites list.

 

An Alternative : Kingdom Death: Monster – Kingdom Death (2015)

A co-operative campaign set in a nightmare world where you take your settlement survivors on a journey through many lantern years, fighting strange creatures to improve your survival chances. Each lantern year is split into three game sections, with the hunt being a story preparation phase before you hit the monster showdown starting with the white lion. The monster artificial intelligence cards really bring thematic variation and interesting mechanics into play, and is far beyond any normal dungeon crawl fighting, although general dice rolling mechanics are quite simplistic. The settlement phase is an addictive array of choices, from learning new innovations, to crafting weapons and armour, or choosing fighting skills, and the ability to build and make complete armour sets is a seductive experience. This game is very expensive but the quality of components is high, the hardback book especially likeable, with great models with loads of detail. This is a hobby game experience, you are given a huge black box of goodies to use, and modelling and painting plays an important part, as you can build unique models to represent yourself. Unlike most adventure games, your hero survivors will die regularly, so you can’t be attached to them, and this is not really a dungeon crawler, but has a similar feel. It is best for monster intelligence battles and is an alternative to look at if you can afford its luxury.