Death in the Dungeon – a quick review for a quick game

Looking for something new to try, Sean and I played a little competitive dungeon crawling in the form of Death in the Dungeon, a quick-play zine-format brawler from Crushpop Creations that came out a few years ago. We both quite enjoyed our 3 quick games over 2 hours, but both felt it needed a bit more.

The game is quite small – only 34 pages that are 5.5″ by 8.5″ in size – so by its nature cannot cover a lot of game. But you get the basics – your PCs have a few stats – Movement, Toughness, Armour and Damage. With 6 races, 6 classes, 3 types of armour and 7 weapons, plus a dozen spells, there is definitely room for tactical variety here.

Stats are based on a d4 through d12 dice system – with the core mechanic of being Power Level (from Class ) vs Toughness (from Armour). Ties go in the attackers favour, which was different (and quite deadly for me, as it happened). Initiative uses a pooled dice of the active PCs Power Level to determine, which was quite a clever mechanic.

Our first game we built to 75 gold and I fielded 3 characters to Sean’s 2 – I had a Human Knight, an Orc Barbarian and a Human Sorcerer (who had no weapons or armour, this was bad). Sean had a Knight and a Barbarian. And he destroyed me in two different games – one a straight fight and one with endless skeletons spawning.

Many, many skeletons kept my team busy with Sean eventually did for it, one member at a time.

Our third game I managed to win, mostly by taking a pair of long-bow equipped mouselings running as Dwarves and a Dwarf barbarian. Ranged without cover is almost always deadly and in this game it was too.

Overall, it was a fun little game. But it really doesn’t lend itself well to just two people playing – there just wasn’t enough chaos. Both Sean and I felt that with 3 or 4, that would have felt right. Given the time it took to run a game, even doubling this to 1 hour was totally doable.

One key challenge with the small page count is the lack of clarity you have. For example, my initial sorcerer had no weapons or armour. Was this a legal build? Can you drink a potion or loot during combat?

Would we play this again? Maybe if we had more people. The quick setup and play time means a game can be done in very little time, even if you don’t know the rules.

You can get Death in the Dungeon from Wargames Vault for $2.99 USD. It has a number of expansions as well, which I have the free ones.

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