Dungeon Venture - designer notes
by Mario Barbati
I've always loved Heroquest, since the day it came out. I remember that I was surprised by the fact that my friends played them with great pleasure, and they were all hardcore gamers: our games ranged from Rolemaster to AD&D, from Advanced Squad Leader to Pax Britannica, not quite easy games. Yet that simple game brought us hours and hours of fun. Personally, I appreciated the simplicity and extreme playability and of course I liked the large amount of material that was used to recreate the dungeon in three dimensions. For this reason, when I came to talk both with the owner and the CEO of Giochi Uniti we immediately agreed that all of us wanted a nice game like Heroquest. Having said that I started working on it, immediately.
There are so many dungeon crawler games and all of them share, more or less, the same type of key ingredients, such as map, heroes, monsters, treasures, advancement and so on. It is clear that in this kind of games is difficult to come up with something completely original, it is rather about mixing the available ingredients. Let's look at some of these ingredients together and how they were addressed in Dungeon Venture.
The gameplay of Dungeon Venture is a subject on which I worked very hard. In games of this genre often, due to bad dice rolls or to inexperience of the players, one of the heroes might die and therefore excluded from the game prematurely. In Dungeon Venture, using a narrative ploy in which the powerful wizard Velkan protects the heroes from mundane dangers but leaves them exposed to the most ferocious villains, the heroes most of the times, manage to get to the end of the quest. If the heroes die killed by common monsters and the boss has not yet appeared, they can reach a shrine and resurrect giving an advantage to the Evil Keeper in the form of cards. If the boss is on the map, then death is final and the worst case is that the dead player act as a spectator to the final fight only.
I have also taken steps to neutralize, as far as possible, the dead time of the game, the players can use a special action called "stop and reorganize" which allows players to simply move anywhere on the explored map and exchange all the items they want.
I've been thinking a lot about the possible implementation of a collaborative game, as is usual in more recent games. In the end I decided to go with the classic version, with one player playing against the others, because I believe that the game still has, this way, more bite. However, a solitaire version, or collaborative has already been written and shall somehow see the light.
Having to make a simple game I decided to limit the use of arithmetic and base everything on the number of dice to roll, then you will not find a sword +1, but a sword + one dice. The dice are of different colors for different degrees of success. It may happen that a lot of dice must be rolled but the outcome is easily determined since the faces show only success or failure. Both sides, the Evil Keeper and the Players have to roll dice when a fight erupts, this has been purposely done to keep both players active.
Advancement and longevity
Dungeon Venture is a solid basis on which you can work to build a custom game, easier, maybe for very young players, or more complex for demanding gamers. At present, the digital version of the game already features an expansion with a new hero and new mechanics with mini-bosses, and two expansions (conditional cards and solo game) sit down in my digital drawer awaiting publication. Even with the base set it is possible to organize a mini-campaign as the advancement of the characters is left to the objects they find, to their power and their quantity. Short rules for organizing mini-campaigns are included in the base set.
The introduction of the modular map made of large tiles allows more flexibility than the single map and facilitates the creation of specific scenarios. Furthermore, the maps of Dungeon Venture show a color code for the identification of lines of sight. I wanted to keep the game at a very simple level and therefore eliminate the possible controversies on the visibility of a target for ranged attacks and spells.
The other components
I would have loved to make Dungeon Venture with plastic miniatures, but apparently it would increase costs to a forbidden level, however I believe that even with the cardboard stand-ups we reached a good effect with increased game portability. For those who can not do without the plastic and are own an old copy of Heroquest, they will discover they can use almost all the pieces of this old and glorious game.
Dungeon Venture, finally shipping
Dungeon Venture is finally shipping! Here's the link to the vendor's page (Italian version) I have been told that the international version is shipping too. Stay tuned for more news and photos in the next days
Dungeon Venture, international version spotted
The italian website Gioconomicon, spotted a prototype of the international version of Dungeon Venture at Nuremberg, you can see the images here