My favourite board games to build, paint and collect are big box expandable co-operative fantasy dungeon crawlers. These are often played over numerous sessions with progressive character development, and usually feature revealing board tile exploration or set objective scenarios, random events and miniatures as an important game element, requiring painting or modelling to look its best. Over the years i have bought and sold a number of these games, aiming to paint and keep the best sets :
1. Descent 2nd Edition (2012) / Descent Legends of the Dark (2021) – Fantasy Flight
Descent is a famous dungeon crawl brand set in the world of Terrinoth which continues its development from the great 2nd Edition into Legends of the Dark. This fantasy co-operative game is a campaign adventure driven using an app with interlinking storylines where your adventuring heroes will undertake missions, develop their skills, abilities and improving their armour and weapons over time. This series majors on adventure and exploration revealing a hidden journey, and is fun but not too complex to play. The 2nd edition has more game modes than Legends as it additionally includes competitive overlord v heroes play. Components are excellent with amazingly good miniatures, artwork and terrain, and it is my best exploration dungeon crawl that is playable solo. My more detailed overviews > Descent Legends of the Dark and Descent 2nd Edition
2. Bardsung (2022) – Steamforged
A more narrative driven dungeon crawler based on a hobgoblin dungeon theme. This huge box is beautifully presented with great artwork, tiles, game trays and enemies with some real personality to them. The adventure book is large and offers a lot of missions including a long campaign and individual story driven adventures. Hero characters have path options to follow to upgrade skills, and the game is generally driven by a 20 sided dice rolling mechanic. This is a middle ground dungeon crawler with a lovely presentation, going a little deeper on rules than entry level but not as complex as Sword & Sorcery. It is also scale-able for different player counts and even has a solo character option. Currently i find this the best accessible crawler, strong on personality and narrative journeys. My more detailed overview > Bardsung
3. Sword & Sorcery (2017) / Ancient Chronicles (2021) – AresA co-operative fantasy adventure with a story driven campaign and automated monster intelligence. It features great miniatures, with enemy monsters groups having different poses and colours to change their response intelligence, and game tiles are excellent, split into larger areas than usual, with an easy to use line of sight system. There are many great ideas in this game, heroes can be lawful, neutral or chaos in alignment, have alternative choices of powers to select with cooldown timers for the better skills, and soulpoints gained as experience to level up or recover a hero if defeated. Adventures are pre-written with ongoing secret storyline to read out, and it is interactive and engaging to play, but does feature extra rules depth and a deeper enemy intelligence. It is my best storyline led and more complex dungeon crawler. My more detailed overview > Sword & Sorcery
4. Silver Tower (2016) / Hammerhal (2017) / Blackstone Fortress (2018) / Cursed City (2021) – Games Workshop
Warhammer Quest remade in a series of box sets each based on a new theme. It begun with Silver Tower, where heroes are summoned to recover parts of a lost talisman, exploring rooms, encountering events and defeating monsters, where actions are triggered by allocating rolled dice into hero action slots to use, and players deliberate over who uses extra destiny action dice each round. The series is light on rules and simple to teach and play. Shadows over Hammerhal has a more traditional underground dungeon theme, with Blackstone Fortress was more skirmish orientated, set in the futuristic world on a huge spaceship. The best version for me is the undead theme of Cursed City, and while these may not offer the greatest in gameplay, they are for me the best hobby modelling & miniatures dungeon crawl needing assembling and painting to produce an amazing set. My more detailed overview > Cursed City and comparison > Tower v Hammerhal v Blackstone
5. Warhammer Quest (1995) – Games Workshop
A miniatures co-operative dungeon quest with great character development, where monsters, encounters, traps and treasure await. This game has impressive content and great models, and is the early benchmark game for the dungeon crawl experience, with random dungeon lay outs, exploration and monster spawns and the opportunity to level up in the town at the end of the adventure to obtain new skills. It’s large box featured creatures such bats, spiders and rats and does not depend on having a dungeon overlord player to play against the heroes. This old favourite features relatively simple missions and mechanics, lovely floor tiles and a comprehensive bestiary and roleplay book, which remains unbeaten by any similar game since. It remains my best entry level exploratory dungeon crawler. My expansions guide > Warhammer Quest
6. Altar Quest (2020) – Blacklist
A miniatures dungeon questing game where heroes will search for an unground altar to undertake a specific objective. It’s overall design pays homage to HeroQuest, particularly with its board and room features to interact with. The game is modular designed, in each adventure you can select different card decks for your heroes, villains, threat and your quest to create a new adventure, which reduces set up time. The production quality is excellent, with good models and neat room objects and nice artwork, and each hero card deck is unique enough to create an individual character. Magical altar rhunes energy will constantly change, bringing extra abilities in and out of play during the game, and the action test dice just feel full of positives. The game also scales really well for player count and is playable solo too. I consider it my best card gameplay dungeon crawl. My more detailed overview > Altar Quest
|Previously Owned Alternative Fantasy Dungeon Crawlers… due to space and funding restrictions i regularly trade out games to fund and try newer ones, producing an ever changing favourites list, but one of these games may be right for you.|
|Shadows of Brimstone (2014-2020) – an alternative western themed dungeon crawler which bears a close relation to the original Warhammer Quest in gameplay style and character development, visiting towns between adventures. It comes as a campaign and mixes up randomised map draw with pre-set scenarios and will scale for the player count. The game brand comes in three core sets each with different heroes and monsters that are interchangeable and overall is great for theme variety across different campaigns and creature types to fight. My more detailed overview > Shadows of Brimstone|
|Dungeons & Dragons (2011-2019) – a six game series of entry level co-operative dungeon crawls, where simple 20 sided dice mechanics allow you play against a dungeon with random builds and encounters each time. It is a lighter game but a decent entry level random dungeon crawler for shorter and less involved adventures. My more detailed overview > Dungeons & Dragons|
|Massive Darkness (2017) – a fantasy co-operative dungeon crawl with huge miniature count and quirky but nice artwork that lays out a co-operative quest mission before you start. Gameplay design has a number of downsides though, particularly within balancing and the campaign and lack of within game story events. Whilst fun for one shot games, there are better dungeon crawlers around. My more detailed overview > Massive Darkness|
Ravage : Dungeons of Plunder (2018) – a smaller box dungeon crawl and a reasonably quick game for its type, 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 but with excellent artwork and illustrations. My more detailed overview > Ravage
Darklight Memento Mori (2018) – randomly generated dungeon crawler with more of a horror theme and a slightly larger scale to models and tiles. Whilst production is great, it has some balancing design flaws especially around critical hits, and has very similar mechanics to the original Warhammer Quest and Shadows of Brimstone, which are ultimately bigger and better supported games overall for content. It will be a quirky choice if you like the theme.
Mice & Mystics (2012) – a more family orientated crawler playing as mice heroes with co-operative pre-written story scenarios. It is an immersive story game but light on rules and is a good recommended with younger gamers.
Heroquest (1989) / Dungeons & Dragons FABG (2003) / Dungeon Saga (2015) – competitive overlord v heroes play style gameplay, but i feel all these are bettered overall by Descent 1st or 2nd edition.
|Other high profile Fantasy Dungeon Crawlers… these are big box game sets that i decided not to buy…|
Massive Darkness 2 : Hellscape (2022) – the follow up from Cmon with a heaven and hell campaign theme and the four horsemen. The models here generally look pretty good although many have an odd cartoonish element. The dungeon game theme feels a little mixed up, and the general campaign theme of fighting in heaven and hell just was not something i liked. Whilst hero gameplay has been made more interesting than the original, there remains similar mechanics over treasure resources and enemy groups carrying random weapons that are enough to put me off returning to this brand.Chronicles of Drunagor (2021) – comes with good looking models and artwork, with an interesting cube pushing mechanic for actions. Board tiles are placed on plastic gametrays to provide a level effect which is something i wasn’t overly fond of, and there is a darkness mechanic that pushes you relentlessly forwards, making many scenarios into a timed challenge. While this game looks good, the kickstarter cost plus vat and high shipping charges ultimately took it off my list to try, and the four horsemen follow up expansion was not one i am interested in.