It's in the bag
As a fan of roguelikes, there’s usually a fairly direct attraction to any game that attempts to provide the feeling of procedurally generated dungeons. While it’s reasonable to dial our expectations back from the sprawling joys of Nethack or Crawl, we can hope that anything attempting to translate this into cardboard at least gives us the vibe of these ascii adventures.
And Bag of Dungeon is a fair stab at it. Released in 2018, it’s sold a fair few units over the years. But as it’s never appeared in these review pages, it’s worth assessing, is it any good?
The art is minimal, so much so that it may as well have the abstraction of ascii characters moving one turn at a time around a black terminal box. This endears it to me, but others might call it ugly. You’ll have to use your imagination here, or accept it as an abstraction. In a different universe, this would be a box weighed down with a couple of kilos of plastic minis, so we have that to be thankful for.
Once we’re past the questionable looks of the game, there’s something quite jolly beneath. Take tiles from the bag as you explore, reveal monster and make your attacks, all taking up your character’s action points for that turn. The game is semi-cooperative in the main play mode. You work together with your gang of adventurers and find your way deep into the dungeon, in search of a magic ring. Once found, this is placed on a randomly rolled tile, and the heroes scramble to get hold of it. This is where the turn in the game comes in. When the ring is in the possession of any player, the game encourages the adventuring party to backstab one another. After all, it is the one escaping with the ring that wins the game.
This is a cute kind of fold in the game which should make for the major moments of tension. Will you suddenly sell out those you’ve been fighting and exploring with so far? Or will you all attempt to leave together? In truth, it’s more fun to destroy your friends than to succeed together, so that’ll be what happens. This can lead to a fairly cynical kind of game being played, where you’re hoping the dungeon itself will soften your friend up for a final treacherous blow.
There are a couple of other variations on the theme in the box, with the addition of a dragon and a scroll, providing further objectives. These are perfectly fine, but it’s the vanilla game that makes itself feel instantly replayable. Much like classic roguelikes, part of the fun is just seeing how the dungeon will sprawl out this time. One for the end of the evening pile.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN EGGETT
PLAY IT? PROBABLY
While not exactly lush in production, Bag of Dungeon does what it says on the, er, bag. If you want random dungeon exploration and dice-bashing, then here it is.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Claustrophobia…
If it’s building out a weird dungeon one tile at a time, then you’re all set. Although, of course, you don’t get to be the monsters in Bag of Dungeon.
Designer: Tim Sharville, Russ Law
Artist: Tim Sharville
Time: 1 Hour
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
- 1 Game bag
- 2 Tile bags
- 40 Dungeon tiles
- 40 Item tiles
- 30 Monster tiles
- 4 Dice
- 4 Character cards
- 16 Wooden cubes
- 4 Wooden meeples
This review originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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