Dungeon! TSR board game

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Dungeon! TSR board game

Billiam Babble
(Cross posted to blog: http://adventuresandshopping.blogspot.com/2011/07/dungeon-boardgame.html )

Picked up a nice package from the post office today. Dungeon! - Fantasy Boardgame (the latest date on the box is 1981) Looks pretty complete.  The Trickster-Gods of Ebay have been kind today!  For 99p +¬£5 packaging they were very kind indeed.

Did you see the white crayon?  Kids, go ask your dad what the crayon was for. :D

(That's not my joke, it can't be, I think I stole it)

I'm avoiding Googling "Dungeon! boardgame" at this moment.  I think I remember there being a few web sites about which board design went with which box.  Feel free to abandon these ramblings and seek out true collector knowledge.

Still here?   

Fool!  Thalt shall certainly perish of ignorance in the Torture Chamber!

I think I remember this box or later designs in the local toy shop, but by the time I was aware of Dungeon I was already playing D&D.  It felt to me that it would be a gaming step backwards, perhaps, and besides, although we had a few board games at home, it really wouldn't be my parents' "cup of tea".  Board games appeared at Christmas -  Ludo type games, backgammon, chess, L'attacque (Stratego), Connect 4 (? maybe that was later?),  hmm, Bermuda Triangle was the strangest "themed" game I think we owned - with that crazy magnetic storm cloud roaming the board whilst you tried to sell bananas for timber or rum or something...

I couldn't really imagine mum taking the Elf through a secret door on  Level 2 and dispatching a Vampire.   Maybe I should I have shown them the back of the box (see below).

Behold the squidgy wonders of the late Roslof!


Iconic stuff.  Not sure about the dragon demon thing in the middle though... but check out the warriors!

The pictures on the box sides remind me now of the way the Gauntlet arcade game was marketed, except there's something a little odd about this line up of characters: "Hero", "Elf", "Superhero" - "or Wizard!"


Then it falls into place.  Superheroes were  in Chainmail and OD&D.  There's also a  "+1 Sword" and the rare "+2 Sword" in the treasures.  The uniqueness of these phrases make them stand out from the standard fantasy clich√© fare. Was this just D&D boiled down, or was the language an introductory ploy?  Okay, it's wrong to over intellectualise this one I reckon, it's just when some of the language (without trademarks) is so specific to another game it's hard not to imagine TSR's big picture game plan. During the red box years, and possibly quite a while before, people went to great lengths to explain that D&D had "no board", so to refer to Dungeon! as a D&D game would have been just crazy, and possibly offensive!

I remember that the D&D box sets epitomised the paradigms of adolescence, it was a game in a box (boxed boardgames are for kids), but it had no board in that box (mysterious, perhaps it's not a kid's game after all? They look like books!)

For "Family Boardgame" read "buy it for the kids" or "safe enough to let the kids play" - Parents play games with kids, it's good for them, quality time or something, since WWII being nice to offspring was in vogue. Grown-ups in the 70s and 80s sometimes played chess, but they didn't really know the rules so it was probably just part of drunk foreplay.  Grown-ups would also get drunk and play strip-poker.  They used to play cards with grandma, but grandma wanted to play for hard cash, and strip-poker seemed like a bad idea with Grandma for lots of crazy reasons.  Evil masterminds also played chess.  That's when they weren't playing Mastermind.

For those of us who are new to Dungeon! (I know I'm almost alone in not having played it before) the way the characters "win" is by amassing a high treasure count in gold coin value.  The tougher Superhero and Wizard need considerable more gold coins to win than the Hero and Elf.  These are variable values in multiples of 1000s.  Sounds a little like XP by class level. ;)

Okay, no doubt about it, this was TSR's "gateway" game.  It's certainly much easier to understand than Sorcerer's Cave (oh god, those rules melted my head), but that's for another post, another time.

The back of the box makes me grin.  

Here's that fantasy game playing family (certainly not my parents from the time, who'd be much more happy with a simple game of Sorry!). Look at their smiles.  It's healthy, it's fun.  Your fundamentalist neighbours won't disapprove and brand you as witches.  Go easy on the fizzy soda-stream cola, son! Even your sister looks interested.  That's right, make her play an Elf (Elfs are a bit girly cos we never read that big Lord of the Hobbits book and discovered that Elves are seriously bad-ass until Orlando's hair made them girly again)  no wait, she's finding the secret doors and getting more gold than you...!

Are those AD&D rulebooks on that top shelf?  Quick, this family are witches, somebody call the neighbours!  That's what TSR mean when they say "Will you survive the fun?"  It's a moral thing.  Will you survive the social embarrassment of admitting to playing or survive a real-life lynching?

Or maybe it's Twiglet thing.  Those are Twiglets, right? *   Fairly tame by 70's-80's standards, but Twiglets are clearly what the discerning middle classes kept on their tables in case of a sudden attack of board game mania.

BOARD GAME MANIA!!  Ayeeee!  Is nowhere safe from the MB Monster?!

Maybe TSR knew what they exactly were doing... 

...Everyone in the photo suddenly ages, the coke turns to beer and the twiglets become pretzels. 

(Okay, I have to admit that all that beer and pretzels sounds rather like an American thing, but I get the idea if I substitute cups of tea and plates of scones.)  

Naturally, mum in the photo is on very high levels of valium. She'd been seeing the goblins for years, that's why she's moving a playing piece, it's all making perfect sense to her (shush! the piece is moving her hand, not the other way around). Dad's a bit drunk, naturally.   Possibly wondering why the kids weren't in bed and why he wasn't pretending to understand chess as a way of getting it on with mum.

Secretly, the kids really wanted to play Pacman, Swingball, eat Angel Delight from the packet, harass vagrants in wastelands from the safety of their chopper style bikes, or argue about Jaws and forthcoming Star Wars 2 (and whether or not lightsabers worked underwater cos Vader could take down a Great White easy-peasy).

Oh dear, my retrospective make-it-up-it's-better-than-the-real-memories time machine as burnt out.  Better wrap it up for the night.  

I think I took these pictures to show off the art in the instructions.

Cool, eh?  

Now all I have to do is find some soda-stream cola drinking players. :)

And there's loads of little cards.  

You get the idea.

It's a board game. 

Not really D&D, but your family might have considered played it, because MouseTrap was too fiddly to set up.

(Twiglets not included)

(Wax crayon included)

(Go on, ask dad about the crayon)

*Edit: on closer inspection, they were in fact, mini pretzels.
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..what was the white crayon used for?
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Re: Dungeon! TSR board game

Billiam Babble

Well, son (or for anyone who was curious), in the old days, game companies couldn't afford to ink their dice so they encouraged gamers to fill in the numbers themselves with a smeary wax crayon. I've mainly only seen white crayons, but a black one is depicted here:

(Image borrowed from Grognardia.  Similar picks can be found in the Aceum)

Before we dismiss this humble artifact, let it be known that the mark of a well kept vintage product is the inclusion of of unmarked (perhaps sealed) dice and the crayon - this is the sort of thing which can really increase the price on Ebay.

The downside is that sometimes the crayon could crumble in the box, leaving marks on precious rulebooks. Ye gods!