Before we begin with this article, I’d like to point out that Horrible Guild will be crowdfunding a new edition of Dungeon Fighter on September 29th! Visit the Horrible Guild website to learn more about this upcoming campaign, and how the game is being tweaked for a second edition!
Now, let’s dive into our piece covering the original edition of the game…
It took me many years, and hundreds upon hundreds of dollars spent, to come to the realization that my very least favourite theme in all of tabletop gaming is … dungeon crawling. The standard tropes of warriors, wizards and whatnot battling their way through cavernous depths – it’s all so unappealing to me, in nearly every configuration. Even when Fantasy Flight transformed their Descent system into a Star Wars game (Imperial Assault), the stink of dungeon crawling was everywhere, and I quickly gave up on that reskin.
However, every now and then a game in the genre comes along that captures my imagination, usually managing to both be committed to the familiar elements, while also poking fun at it all. One of those games is Dungeon Fighter – a cooperative dexterity game, originally published by Cranio Creations, and now in the hands of Horrible Guild. The design comes from a trio of Italian creatives – Aureliano Buonfino (Steam Park), Lorenzo Silva (Potion Explosion, Railroad Ink), and Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino (Steam Park, Horse Fever). Artwork is from the hands of Giulia Ghigini, whose work has also appeared in The King’s Dilemma, Potion Explosion, and countless other titles!
Why does Dungeon Fighter keep me at the table when so many before (and after) drove me away? It’s one of the most ridiculous dexterity elements I’ve ever encountered – each and every combat is determined by throwing dice at a bone-decorated target! And let me tell you, this isn’t your granny’s dice throwing game, ohhhh no. Before your die lands on the target, it must first bounce off of the table at least once. Sometimes, it must bounce off the table at least once while you face away from the table. Or perhaps the dice must be thrown not with your hands … but from the bridge of your nose! The number of ridiculous demands on the players is seemingly endless.
Not to worry, the crawling through dungeons is still present in this game, but it’s definitely the most thinly sliced cheese within this gaming sandwich. Each player takes on an adventurer, which are illustrated into the goofiest of caricatures, such as Randolph the potentially baked wizard, Sir Moo the possibly possessed knight, or Lady Mary the bloodthirsty bride. Piecing together a dungeon map with the included cards, your fellowship of dubious distinction will venture from room to room in the dungeon, fighting monsters of increasing difficulty until reaching the end of the map. At this point, the final ultimate big bad will be revealed, and your band of adventuring misfits will undergo one last battle, and win or lose, this battle marks the conclusion of the game.
Each defeated baddie will reward the party with gold and (if the minion was defeated quickly) bonus dice to use later in the game. A few times each game, players will find themselves at a shop where the gold can be spent to acquire special weapons, armor, and spells for use in forthcoming battles. Weapons require some sort of stunt throw to successfully attack, such as tossing the die under one leg before it hits the table. These stunt throws can also stack with the tricks required to defeat each enemy, so it’s entirely possible to be in a situation where that under-the-leg shot will have to be performed after executing a spinning dance. Layered ludicrousness abounds!
In the department of hilariously unnecessary components, Dungeon Fighter includes a sturdy cardboard tower, in which the enemy cards are stored – level one foes at the top, and increasing in difficulty as players venture deeper into the vault of villainy. Perhaps the practical purpose of this pyre is to save a bit of surface space, leaving more room for the dice to dance along the dining table?
Obviously, there is such an overdose of wackiness in this package, that it might be a stretch for even the most die-hard dexterity devotee. However, if you’re willing to submit to the sublime silliness that Dungeon Fighter offers, it’s a game that delivers on the gut-busting hilarity, along with a few explosive moments of celebration when that perfect throw pans out.