Crusaders Games

Dungeon Crawlers

My favourite board games for group play are big box expandable co-operative dungeon crawlers, often played over numerous sessions with progressive character development. They 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 keep the best brands :​​

 

1. Altar Quest – Blacklist (2020)

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 i consider it my best solo dungeon crawl. My more detailed overview > Altar Quest

 

2. Sword & Sorcery – Ares (2017)

A 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 complexity and rules depth and a deeper enemy intelligence. It is my best storyline led dungeon crawl. My more detailed overview > Sword & Sorcery

 

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

A miniatures fantasy campaign dungeon game initially designed pitting heroes against a dungeon overlord player, with high production quality, great models and the most detailed map tiles around, and with different skill decks reflect your character’s chosen play style. The core box set is excellent value with huge replayability, and a later game development added an app called ‘Road to Legend’ which enables new campaign adventures to be undertaken co-operatively, where dungeon monsters are controlled for you. While Descent can be beaten in certain areas by other dungeon games, and tends to focus on time pressured scenarios, i consider it my best all round dungeon game covering all different types of play battling through a campaign, an overlord controlling a dungeon, or playing co-op or solo with the app. My more detailed overview > Descent 2nd Edition

 

4. Warhammer Quest – Games Workshop (1995)

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

 

5. Silver Tower / Hammerhal / Blackstone Fortress – Games Workshop (2016 / 2017 / 2018) 

Warhammer Quest returned with Silver Tower, where heroes are summoned to recover parts of a lost talisman, exploring rooms, encountering events, defeating monsters, locations reveal in a semi random order and storyline is enhanced by reading short passages from a book. Actions are triggered by allocating rolled dice into hero action slots to use, and players deliberate over who can best use extra destiny action dice each round. The game is light on rules and simple to teach and play, and scales well for different player numbers. Shadows over Hammerhal was released a year later with a more traditional underground dungeon theme, followed by Blackstone Fortress based in the futuristic world on a huge spaceship. These offer me the best modelling & miniatures quality needing assembling and painting. My comparison of these sets > Tower v Hammerhal v Blackstone

The following are alternative options, which i do not currently own (either not purchased or i have chosen not to keep them) :

 

Massive Darkness – Cmon (2017)    (Previously Owned) 

This kickstarting company’s entry into the fantasy dungeon crawl world ended up as a mixed bag. This game lays out the co-operative quest before you start, so there is little surprise exploration apart from random monster encounter types. It has quirky but nice artwork, but has questionable balancing at times, treasure that is abundantly supplied and not overly exciting or hard earnt, and combat that can become a fiddly exercise in addition and subtraction. Also the new and exciting feature of shadows and light rooms was not implemented to its potential. However it has established itself as a major dungeon crawl brand that should be considered for one shot scenarios, as many of it’s many models are excellent and you will level up characters in one sitting, but Descent & Warhammer Quest are simply better dungeon crawlers. My more detailed overview > Massive Darkness

Dungeons & Dragons – Wizards of the Coast (2011-2019)    (Previously Owned)

The dungeons & dragons board game series are entry level co-operative dungeon crawls, where straightforward mechanics allow you play against the dungeon in a series of quests. Featuring random tiles drawn from a stack, you will encounter monsters and events as you explore, with enemies having simple automated instructions. Heroes have unique skills, but combat is basic determined by a twenty sided dice roll with occasional modifiers. There are six games in the series, and each has its own theme with slight variations in game focus, and your set choice will likely depend on your theme preference. This series remained in my collection for many years as a nice entry level crawler with enjoyable adventures, a quicker set up and play length suited to when you do not want to think too hard or play all night, and they work well with less experienced players.

 

Middara – Succubus (2019)    (Not Owned)

A huge dungeon crawl box, driven by a giant storybook, you will undertake linked adventures which will result in different story paths. This is a heavily dice led game, designed for four characters to play scenarios but does seem to have a reasonable way of potentially reducing to two heroes. Enemies also have excellent intelligence cards competing with the best around. The overall theme is an anime style, which is not really playing to my personal taste, however it is colourful and well drawn and this game has loads of models, including some quite weird monster designs, and the overall quality looks good. Character development in this game is a real strength and so if you like the art style of the game over more standard fantasy, then given its content depth this could be a great choice.

Other Dungeon Crawlers (Previously Owned)

Mice & Mystics – a nice more family orientated game with co-operative pre-written story scenarios and mice heroes, it is a great game especially for younger gamers

Heroquest / Dungeons & Dragons FABG / Dungeon Saga – competitive overlord v heroes play style, but i felt all these are bettered overall by Descent 1st or 2nd edition

Darklight Memento Mori – randomly generated dungeons, very similar mechanics to the original Warhammer Quest which i have so much content for, and this has more of a horror theme

Shadows of Brimstone – an alternative western theme which may or may not suit your taste, but generally it has a lot of rules and the models are slightly lower quality than other competing games