Dungeon Lords Review

A game that I traded for a while back on BoardGameGeek since it looked quirky (and I didn't want the other game) was Dungeon Lords.

In Dungeon Lords, you, evil genius ("evil"? slanderers!) are trying to protect your home, which some stupid townspeople are calling a "dungeon." In fact, those townspeople are really annoying and you'd like to eat them, but for the most part, you're leaving them alone. Though you're hungry. Anyway... you are simply focusing on building your glorious underground mansion - and then you hear that the obnoxious townspeople have hired people to come attack you! So, as any good home protector would do, you also hire monsters and set traps to keep people from breaking in. After all, you would protect your home if people tried to break in, right? How this plays out is that the game is played in 2 "years" each consisting of 4 rounds. In each round, you get to send your minions out to do tasks for you. These tasks include collecting food, convincing the townspeople that you're nice (which I find highly amusing), mining gold, digging tunnels, recruiting imps, building traps, hiring monsters, and building rooms. After the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds, adventurers will come towards your dungeon, and at the end of the 4th round they will attack it (how rude!). Hopefully you have collected traps and monsters! When they attack, you are able to use your traps and monsters to defend against them, and fighting is fought over a series of up to four rounds. Each round, if there are surviving adventurers, they will conquer one part of your dungeon (fortunately they will suffer fatigue first, which will injure and possibly even kill them). At the end of the four rounds, if there are any adventurers left, they give up and go home (claiming total victory over the "Wimpy Overlord" - I told you that they are slanderers!). After two years, you count up your victory points based on things like "Most Evil" and "Most Unconquered Rooms" along with negatives for having had tiles conquered and other bonuses for things like number of adventurers captured.

Which ones are the good guys?
The first amazing pro for Dungeon Lords is the theme. The theme is utterly brilliant, as I have never played a reverse dungeon crawler. In fact, after the first year, you deal with harder adventurers - because of some magic called "Leveling Up." I find the theme to be incredibly enjoyable, and whereas you might be able to take these mechanics and make a different game out of them, I don't think that it would have the sheer amount of fun as Dungeon Lords.  (So, another pro - Dungeon Lords is fun!)

Second, I really like how the minion placement works. This is really the crux of the game, as it is how you build your dungeon (thus this is a "worker placement game" or, more specifically, a "minion placement game"). Any given round you have two actions which you cannot perform (based on what you performed in the previous round). From the remaining actions, you select three and place them in order on your board. All players reveal, and then in turn order all players place a minion on their first choice, then all place on their second, and finally on your third choice. After this, all of the actions are performed in order, and normally the last person to place a minion on that action has the biggest benefit. However, there are only three slots on each action - so in a four player game it is possible to not get to place your minion if you wait too long. So, you need to balance waiting with making sure that you will get to perform an action. You also have to balance when you want to place various actions - after all, you can't have the best position on all of the different actions. And while you're trying to position yourself to be able to buy the best monster, your opponents are probably doing the same thing! This flows very well but adds a lot of depth to the strategy of the game.

The third pro that I will mention about Dungeon Lords is that fighting the adventurers (once you understand the rules) is straightforward yet engaging. Essentially, every round they attempt to take over one section of your dungeon. You can place a trap and a monster to try to kill them. After your trap and monster damage them, they might heal or cast magic (if they have a priest or wizard) and then they experience fatigue. If they're still alive, they conquer a room. There's no dice rolling or complicated comparisons. Each monster does a certain amount of damage; each trap does a certain amount of damage (though this can be reduced by an adventuring Rogue). Yet, with the system put in place, there are still different types of adventurers, each adding an important and different element to the game.

Worker imps look awesome!
The final pro that I will mention is that the design of the gameboards is amazing. Having not played Dungeon Lords in a few months, I was able to pull out the game and remember 97% of the rules from the boards themselves - it's all there! I think many other games would benefit from looking at how Dungeon Lords laid out it's components in a compact yet helpful way.

With all that said, my biggest con for Dungeon Lords is that there are a lot of rules that you can easily forget. If you're like me, then you will often have a few months between two plays of any given game (because I have "a few" others to choose from). Whereas the gameboards really help to jog your memory in Dungeon Lords, chances are that you will forget some of the smaller rules - like moving one step towards the "nice" side of the evil-o-meter after having a dungeon tile conquered. That one, specifically, is clearly marked on the gameboard, but there are enough small rules that unless you play it on a regular basis, some will probably be missed.

Overall, I give Dungeon Lords a 9.0/10. I almost slipped this score down a bit, but eventually decided not to. I really like Dungeon Lords - I think that it has a solid theme and mechanics that flow very well. And, even as a Dark Overlord, the game doesn't have a dark or creepy feel, so it's theme is really open to everyone.

If you like Dungeon Lords, you should also check out Age of Empires III, Cookie Fu (if you like quirky themes), and Through the Ages (which is by the same designer as Dungeon Lords).


  1. Dude. Game sounds sweet. I might have to put it on my wishy list.

  2. Having played about 10 games of Dungeon Lords, I agree with all your pros. It's a fun game with a cool theme. As a con however, I find the game is very unforgiving, and it continually feels like you're playing from behind. Agricola, a very similar game, allows you to get ahead in some ways, but Dungeon Lords never does. When something goes wrong, like an Earthquake taking out rooms, or missing out on an important action, there's almost no way to recover.

  3. Hey, Anonymous - thanks for the comment. It's funny, because I feel the exact opposite way about Agricola. I feel like I'm always fighting an uphill battle in it (and that's one of my biggest cons for it). Thanks for sharing, though!

  4. Don't forget Dungeon Petz. The, sort of, follow up game to Dungeon Lords. Both are pretty quirky but still solid strategy games.

  5. its a great game, I totally agree with Josh on this one!