Saturday, May 18, 2013

Apologies to WotC

When I posted yesterday about the new release of Dungeon! I had more than a few unkind words to say about WotC's re-release of the classic board game. I need to retract a few of those words.

First off, regarding construction: I was incorrect earlier when I said the cards of the new game were smaller and flimsier than those of the original. A side-by-side comparison shows they are exactly the same size, and the thickness extremely comparable (it's difficult to tell for sure because of the slick/laminated surface of the new cards...but slickness does not automatically equal "flimsy").

The board of the new game is quite a bit larger, and while the construction doesn't appear to be as durable (to my eyes and touch) as the original, it is quite sturdy and should hold up to plenty of handling. In addition, the SIZE of the board should facilitate play with larger numbers of players, which is a good thing in a game that does well with more than two or three players. The addition of the random tables and objectives/goals to the board itself means that even if you lose the rule sheet, the necessary charts will still be available. This, too, is good game design.

Yesterday's post implied shoddy/cheap construction based on being made in China. This was an unfair comparison, especially considering I have no idea where my 1981 copy was manufactured. Probably in Japan or Hong Kong, though I could find no "made in" stamp anywhere on it. My personal preference for American-made products is just that...a personal preference to support "local" manufacturers whenever possible. But really, who's to say whether it could have been constructed as well here as the end, that was just a petty jab.

My main gripe about the new game was the missed opportunity and the needless relabeling of things (like the character figures) for no good reason other than to support WotC's "brand recognition." I prefer an "old school" approach to character design, after all, and like my wizards to be wizened, bearded humans...not eternally youthful members of a pointy-eared elder race. And the "dwarven cleric" is just stupid (I stand by my earlier remarks on that score)...but again, this is mainly a gripe about style of presentation. No, it doesn't make sense to a person familiar with either D&D or (classic) Dungeon! and as a "gateway game" it will only introduce the words "dwarf" and "cleric" into the vocabulary withOUT introducing anything of the character concept. As I said, a wasted opportunity. But I guess they felt the terms "hero" and "superhero" were too cheesy and/or dated. I'm not a master of brand marketing, so what the hell do I know?

Likewise, I can't fault them for adding "variety" and brand IP to the original monster cards...I just think they did so in a lazy manner. And I don't think there's room for much denial that this WAS a lazy design choice. Especially as they did nothing to update the "prizes" (where's the rebranding there, huh?). However, the overall game play of the Dungeon! board game will not suffer for these aesthetic choices...the game play will be almost entirely the same as the original game, which is a good thing considering the quality of the original game.

So there...a few kind words sprinkled on WotC as a bit of an apology. If you own one of the classic versions of Dungeon! (in a more or less complete state), there's really no reason to buy the new version. But if you DON'T own an old copy and want a fun game to play with your kids (or your buddies over beer), the WotC retread is a pretty decent option. However, I'd suggest NOT using the terms like "rogue" or "cleric" or "elven wizard" and grabbing some neutral-looking pawns. Or better yet, some old miniatures that could be used in place of the cardboard cut-outs. It's a little confusing otherwise.

[by the way, there will be more Dungeon! posting in the near future, but I felt it necessary to issue this retraction sooner, rather than later. Thanks]


  1. I do think having a Thief and Cleric (and maybe a few more D&Desque monsters) is all to the good, but it seems to me they didn't implement it as well as the concept deserved.

  2. @ Rachel:

    Yep. Total agreement. And it wouldn't have taken much.

  3. Eh, never bought any products from Wizards of the Coast and likely never will. Unlike many "OSR" folk, I have no axe to grind with them. Having quit D&D around 1992, I never knew TSR was out of business or heard of WotC until recently. I didn't even know there were 4+ editions of AD&D! But when I finally got back into RPGing it was just to play classic games I already own like WEG 1st edition Star Wars, FASA Trek, James Bond, V&V, and the like. I saw the new D&D and wasn't impressed and since I still have the original, why bother?

  4. The pawns are pretty but useless, constantly falling off stands. I just use some generic ones. I never liked the "superhero" (Gary ran out of synonyms for 'awesome fighter guy'), so I'm okay with the change to Fighter. They needed to do something different, though, for 'cleric', especially if the 'cleric' was going to have no abilities and suck worse against undead than the new 'rogue'. A simple solution would have the crappy 'cleric' be a human fighter and the new Fighter/Superhero be a Dwarf, cuz everyone knows that Dwarves make better fighters.

    1. Back in Chainmail (Dungeon predates D&D) you were either a man, a hero, a superhero or a wizard. So it's not like he needed a ton of names to describe them.