Review: Dungeon Dice
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1977
Tagline: Be first out of the dungeon in Parker Brothers escape game

Dungeon Dice cover looking very 70s

how we met

I met Dungeon Dice at a garage sale in Wisconsin in the summer of 2017. It was one of those sales that I wish had an email sign up because I would love to know when this gentleman has a garage sale; I will be there. At $5 I paid more for Dungeon Dice than I usually pay for garage sale games, but all the games he had for sale were in perfect shape. It was a glimpse into the past, on a single card table.

I tried to bargain with the guy (ok Bill did, I am so bad at that) but he wasn’t having it. I paid $10 for two games and smiled for the rest of the afternoon. I even posted my game finds from that day to the Board Game Geek Facebook page and suffered that judgment.

how it plays

Dungeon Dice is a dice game where you are trying to get multiples of specific icons on the dice, unless it is the guards. You do not want the guards. Your goal is to dig out of the dungeon, and getting multiples of the same dice will get you a certain number of cards. The cards are all just tunnels; their only uniqueness is in what is growing out of the tunnels. But all move you forward. No surprises there.

If you roll two or more of any given icon then you must place them on the walls of the dungeon. If you roll subsequent dice that match then they must join their fellows on the wall.

Image showing dice in the dungeon

Dungeon Dice in a nutshell

When you decide to end your turn, if you rolled 3 of the same dice, you get 1 tunnel card. If you rolled 4, you get 2 tunnel cards. Etc (the rest are pretty unlikely). If you rolled three pairs, including guards, then you also get 1 tunnel card.

If you roll three pairs or two sets of three, scenarios that use all six dice successfully, then you can choose to continue playing and start with a new roll. So a turn may have more than one round of dice-rolling. If you fail then you will lose any tunnel cards you won so far in that turn, not just that roll.

If you roll two guards then you have to keep them aside like any other symbol. The difference is if you roll three guards then your turn immediately ends, you have to turn in any tunnels you won in that turn so far and you have to return a tunnel you already dug back to the deck. Boo!

Sample dice throw with two guards and four non-matching icons

An example of a terrible roll, since the player is likely to get three guards and have nothing else. I’m not sure who rolled this, probably John

The game is totally press your luck, so on a successful roll you can decide whether to continue rolling any remaining dice you have or to walk away with what you have won thus far. If you do continue to roll but do not get another match then your turn is over and there is no big loss. But you do not gain anything (except that minor thrill when you decided to press your luck). Your turn ends either when you decide it does, when none of your thrown dice match or when you get 3+ guards.

Four prisoner cards with pick axe, shovel, spoon and hands

Our heroes, the prisoners, and their different implements

If you wish to slow down another player you can challenge them. To do this, you give up your turn of regular rolling and announce your challenge. Then you, the challenger, roll the dice three times with the goal of getting at least 3 guards. The difference is that if you get even a single guard you may add it to the wall.

If you are successful you steal a tunnel from the player you challenged. And even more than that, if you are successful you may choose to continue challenging the player again. You roll all six dice again and hope for the best, and maybe you will steal an additional tunnel.

Four example tunnels one with mice, one with roots, one with bones, one empty

A tunnel is a tunnel is a tunnel, but here are the different types

If you are not successful then your turn is over and you must return any tunnel cards that you stole in a previous roll from this challenge. That’s the theme, right. If you are unsuccessful then all of the successes up to this point on this turn are wiped out.

The first player to win eight tunnel cards has dug out of the dungeon and is the winner!

how it went

I have played Dungeon Dice a handful of times. There are things that I really like and things that are not so great. So let’s break it down.

The game is fast-paced and works decently for 2, 3 or 4 players. The rules are straight forward and there is very little barrier to play. And the game is so pretty! There is an actual plastic dungeon that gets a board game around it for play. You get the satisfaction of watching your hero dig through those awful tunnels toward freedom, moving gently forward throughout gameplay.

Card showing prisoner digging tunnels with a spoon

I used a spoon to dig towards freedom

The dice are nice, wooden dice. The dungeon is fun. The 70’s colors of primarily yellow and brown are charming.

The less great things are that Dungeon Dice is perhaps too simple. Yahtzee is considered by many to be an antiquated game, but it is far superior in strategy and decision-making to Dungeon Dice. They are not the same, but they are similar enough that the comparison bubbles up. And you might be like, “Wait, can I just play Yahtzee in this cool dungeon?”

Overview of game board with plastic dungeon in the middle to throw the dice

And, my friends, it is a cool dungeon

Personally, when I play a press-your-luck game that starts each turn anew like Dungeon Dice I tend to go a bit overboard. I mean, are stakes ever lower than this? So let’s see how far I can take this thing. The worst case is that I get a combo of highs and lows and there is a distant but realistic possibility I could win with this mindless approach (in other words, that my place is not clear). The middle of the road is I establish myself clearly in last place. The best case is I win spectacularly.

Many of the BGG comments compare Dungeon Dice to the game Can’t Stop, and I agree that this is the inferior game. If I press my luck in Can’t Stop then I can wreck my whole game. It has real consequences because my actions are sticky. I am either moving myself ahead or not, and my opponents are doing the same. Dungeon Dice is different. You could argue that my actions move my tunneling prisoner forward, but not necessarily. They just might. In Can’t Stop your actions do move you forward unless you press your luck to the point of losing that turn. These consequences are real and demand more thoughtful attention.

play or pass

Pass, and it pains me to say so. I lamented on how to rate this since I set myself up with this boolean rating system. I am keeping Dungeon Dice and we’ll probably bring it out every so often for a short filler. But I can’t recommend it as a game. The people on Board Game Geek Facebook that day were right, and it pains me to say that too.

Based on the BGG comments this might be a really great game for kids. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s just dice chucking. If you find it at thrift it’s worth picking up. But it is not worth seeking out. It’s just not.