Bag Of Dungeon Review
Lots of good things come in bags. I’m a big fan of crisps, for example. But now, now dear reader, you can get a whole freaking dungeon in a bag! Bag of Dungeon is a dungeon-crawler game from Gunpowder Studios, which, unsurprisingly, comes in a bag. Okay, so technically it comes in a box, but, it has a bag in the box, and everything fits in the bag. I think I can let it slide just this once.
If you hadn’t noticed, dungeons are cool again. Over the course of the last fourteen lockdowns, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has seen a huge revival thanks to celebrities playing, among other reasons. Dungeon-crawling games are huge in boardgaming too, with the recent release of a third edition of Descent, and Gloomhaven having been the BGG number one game since 1964. While these games usually play a bit differently, there’s a couple of things many of them share: the necessity for a table the size of a family car, and costing as much as a mortgage payment.
Bag of Dungeon retains much of the core ideals of these games, but dispenses with crates of plastic miniatures and furniture, opting instead to give you a set of cardboard tiles, some dice, and some meeples. Mmmm, lovely meeples. The heart of the game is drawing and placing tiles, to expand your dungeon in a spiderweb of tunnels and passageways. Combat is handled with dice-rolling, as you might expect, combined with weapons and items you pick up along the way.
Light in the dark
Bag of Dungeon is a much lighter game than most crawlers. It’s so easy to explain how it works, I could probably teach my pug to play. Because of the ease of play, it’s a great one to play with kids. There’s very little downtime, and because the main game is co-operative, players are pretty invested in what each other player does on their turn. Certain player characters are stronger against certain monster types for example, so you can talk among yourselves and decide who gets pushed into the monster and has the door slammed behind them.
It’s not the kind of game that’s going to take centre stage in seasoned gamers’ games night, but it’s a great start or end game for the evening. It’ll make a nice game to introduce players to modern board games, too, much like Horrified.
The biggest problem I found is when you’re down to the last monster or two. I’ve played games of this where one player is much better equipped to beat certain ne’er-do-wells, so the other players just wander around the same few spaces waiting for that player to get over and commence the baddie thumping. In the standard rules, monsters never move from their tile. I picture an elf sitting down and doing a sudoku, waiting for the dwarf to come lumbering down the corridor to fight the monster a few feet away. It can make for an anti-climactic finish to the game. Because the monsters don’t actively chase you, there’s never a reason to not enter a fight with full Action Points, so you can always escape if you need to.
By far the most fun I had with Bag of Dungeon was when we played with the competitive rules from the back of the rulebook. The aim of the game is the same – find the ring, give the dragon a kick in the family jewels, then scarper. The big difference comes when the ring is discovered, because then players can turn on one another. The player who manages to escape and has the most kills is the winner, and the ring and dragon are worth four and two kills respectively. It makes for a much more interesting game, and has the excitement build to a crescendo at the end.
As the parent of a young child who hates losing, the standard rules are great. Co-op is great for avoiding arguments. But the competitive game really is the way it should be played, if you ask me. There’s another advanced rule which causes monsters to run towards you if you use ranged attacks, which not only adds more excitement to the game, it also makes more sense. If I was hiring monsters to work in my dungeon, I’d want them to do something if someone is firing a bow them from a few feet away, not just stand there, admiring the fletching on the arrows.
Bag of Dungeon is a lot of fun, you just have to make sure it meets your expectations of what a dungeon-crawler should be. It’s not a super-deep, campaign-driven affair that’s going to take you a year to play through. It’s a “grab-a-beer-and-snacks-with-your-mates” smash-and-grab, or a family’s first steps into the genre. That’s not to say it’s overly simplistic, there’s still a lot in there which will feel immediately familiar. Players have a choice of characters, each with unique stats, and you’ve got slots to equip your loot in to customise your hero.
With the standard rules, it’s pretty good. There’s a fun time to be had by exploring and battling, guiding your intrepid party to the end of the adventure. If you’ve got the kind of group that don’t mind a bit of take-that, and fighting one-another in games, then the advanced competitive rules are definitely the way to play. A good game should leave a lasting impression when it’s over, and the semi-coop crawl followed by a potential battle royale for victory is a far more exciting way to end the game.
In short – a great game if you want to arm yourself to the teeth before a mad scrap against your friends in the competitive mode, and a really nice game for families to take their first tentative steps into a dungeon. Just manage your expectations and don’t expect the kind of epic crawl you’d expect from one of its big-box brethren.
Review copy kindly provided by Gunpowder Studios. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Bag of Dungeon (2018)
Designers: Tim Sharville, Russ Law
Publisher: Gunpowder Studios
Art: Tim Sharville
Playing time: 30-60 mins