Monday, June 25, 2018

Sometimes There Is A Board

I've just started thinking about getting my hands on another D&D-esque board game. I like being able to do pick-up games, but I decided a few months ago that running an actual RPG as a pick-up game is not worth my time and effort. Cthulhu Dice is extremely portable, but works best as an icebreaker rather than the source of a full evening of gaming. My old standby, Munchkin, has been so thoroughly explored by me that I have little interest in playing it again for the foreseeable future - and the "World of Dorkness" themed set I own, Munchkin Bites!, suffers from a severe lack of monsters. (A bit ironic, that, since the premise is that everyone is a monster.)

I've written briefly about the Temple of Elemental Evil board game, and I still like it overall in spite of its bulk and its long setup time. While I have considered expanding it using one of the other D&D Adventure System games - especially Wrath of Ashardalon, because who can say no to a big red dragon? - they are quite large in both size and cost. One does receive a lot of decent- to high-quality goods for their money, but while expensive miniatures are better than expensive pieces of card stock (seriously, why the hell does Car Wars cost so damn much?), either way they're expensive.

Even more unfortunately, all three of the games which I've seen and heard many glowing recommendations for - HeroQuest, Dragon Strike, and the LEGO Heroica games - are out of print. Here are some of the options I've been considering.

The classic, of course, is Dungeon! Originally predating the publication of Dungeons & Dragons, it's still going today. The chief advantages here are its low price and ready availability; I can easily find it in any of my Friendly Local Gaming Stores. The downside is that it doesn't look to have the same variability of the games I've already mentioned. I'm also not sure how I feel about the newest printing's cartoony art.

One acquaintance recommended Warhammer Quest to me, stating that while expensive, the game includes a lot for the money. I have no reason to doubt this, but the trouble is that the same is true of the D&D Adventure System titles; if I do drop a lot of cash on a board game, I'd prefer to get one that supplements what I already own.

I have heard good things about both Descent: Journeys in the Dark and Munchkin Quest, and the latter especially seems like it could be fun. Of course, as with most things I enjoy, it seems to polarize the opinions of its reviewers; they either love it or loathe it. They are also both somewhat expensive (Descent especially), and Descent also requires the equivalent of a Referee - a lack of which is an advantage where board games are concerned, at least from my point of view.

Still expensive, but very expandable, is Star Wars: Imperial Assault. I had originally considered buying this game solely to use the miniatures for the Star Wars RPG that I was running a while back (I tend to do that a lot...) but I've heard some good things about it. It certainly looks nice.

Anyone have any thoughts on these games, or any recommendations of things I haven't thought of?


  1. The only one of those I have any experience with is Dungeon!, which I've actually been playing quite a lot of lately (my wife and my gaming group got really into it about three weeks ago). It's simple and fun but doesn't offer a lot of variety.

    I'd love to get into HeroQuest, but of course you can't find it anywhere anymore. And while it does offer some variety, that sort of makes it half-way to a full RPG, at which point, I wonder whether I wouldn't just want to play a short, tactical D&D scenario instead.

    The funny thing is, when I was a kid? I wouldn't have given it a second thought — I'd have just made do with the D&D stuff I already had, and used it to make my own approximation of a HeroQuest type game.

    1. Simple and fun is a plus. At least one of my potential players greatly prefers hack-and-slash when accompanied by friends, so the lack of variety might be remedied by just trying other games from time to time.

      Your thoughts about HeroQuest mirror my own; when I was in grade school (long before discovering D&D), I used to make up my own board games on a regular basis. Considering that Hasbro apparently decided that they could make money by reprinting oD&D, AD&D 1e and 2e, and D&D 3.5, the failure to reprint or relaunch HeroQuest is baffling. The nostalgia market alone would be tremendous.

  2. Dude, I feel you on the present version of Dungeon! I'd own a copy of it if the visual presentation weren't so damn goofy.

    I'm fortunate enough to still have a complete copy of Hero Quest and a couple of its expansions. It's D&D lite for when I just don't have the gumption and/or chutzpah to throw something together.

    John- I might be persuaded to bring my HQ around sometime, if'n you want.

    1. You're fortunate indeed - that thing will probably be worth its weight in gold in another decade, assuming Hasbro doesn't get off their asses and bring it back. (Just look at how long it took them to reprint the Rules Cyclopedia, and how high the prices of vintage copies started to climb.)

  3. I'd see if your local game store has anything close to a board game night, and if so, you'd be able to test out board games there without necessarily committing (and getting a much better sense of them that way).

    If this isn't an option, I can't give much insight on what _to_ buy, but I can tell you not to buy Munchkin Quest. It's an excellent game, but besides adding rooms it's the same as Munchkin in tone and pacing. Plus, there's also this to consider: those in my gaming group who like Munchkin Quest end up preferring Munchkin to it.

    I'm curious if non-D&D board games are utterly off the table. You were clear in the post, but it also seems as if the recommendations on the table are a mix of pricey and uncertain, so maybe going further afield has some promise?

    1. I think at least one of my FLGSs has a board game night every so often (as does the public library), but the problem with those is that parents tend to bring their small children with them. More power to them, and it's cool that they're getting their kids interested in non-electronic gaming, but personally I'd rather shoot off my toes with a pistol than spend several hours in a room surrounded by strangers, especially larvae.

      Your non-recommendation of Munchkin Quest pretty much lines up with the other mixed-to-negative reviews I've read, so I'm going to steer clear. My partner and I recently talked about other versions of Munchkin we might like to try, though, so a re-skinning of the good old card game might bring some freshness.

      I'm somewhat open to other board games. I took a chance on MidEvil and was pleasantly surprised, and I still mourn the loss of Frag right as I finally acquired the cash to buy it. My current gaming "itch" is specifically for fantasy-styled, D&D-influenced titles. That said, another acquaintance recommended a board game based on Cyberpunk; I've also considered picking up the Dilbert board game, if I can find any other person besides my dad who might play it with me.

      Thanks for commenting.

    2. No kids. Got it.

      The gaming itch makes sense and makes life trickier. For me the itch is more often the 'game loop' than the 'genre/flavor' so I projected a bit.

      Good luck with finding that new game!