Joseph works as an editor in one of the magazines dedicated to video games. Here, at RecRoomPick, he’s given the opportunity to enjoy the reverse of the medal – the no less engaging world of offline games.
Ryan knows everything when it comes to gaming, both online and offline. Since his early years he’s been in love with arcades, air hockey, and foosball. Finally, he’s given the opportunity to share his knowledge and opinion on the hobby of his life (and even get paid for it!).
Last updated: March 17, 2021
Rec Room Pick is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Dungeon crawl board games have been around for a long time now. While the 21st century has seen lots of new technology with video games flooding the market – there are still some unique pleasures of playing these games. The adventures and fantasies are irreplaceable. We do not forget the rich storylines that most of these games carry. If you’ve never had any experience with them, then there’s something you’re missing. We’ve put together a list of the best dungeon crawl board games to ease your shopping.
In this review, we have eight dungeon games for you with the Mice and Mystics sitting on top of our list. Our team loves the editor’s choice because it’s a simple dungeon game that portrays all aspects one would ever want. Besides, it’s welcoming for everyone regardless of their level of expertise in the game. It’s also best for family and kids. The rest of the games on the list have rich features that you’ll love as well.
Throughout this review, we consider five essential elements that we think matter a lot in any top-notch dungeon games. They include game theme, ages, numbers of players, and the type of play. All these five features are collectively crucial as they hold together to make the best games. We have a buying guide section towards the end of this article that explains each element in detail. Also, we have an in-depth review of each product on our list. Are you in a hurry? Don’t worry as we’ve your back. Check our comparison table below to catch a glimpse of our selection.
Mice and Mystics is an exciting cooperative adventure crawl board game. In this game, players pull together to save an endangered kingdom of Owendale. The players take on the roles of those still loyal to the king with one main goal – warning the king. But to succeed in this mission and escape the grasps of Vanessa, they’re transformed into mice. Vanestra’s minions in charge make the whole castle very dangerous. That’s not all to worry you as other numerous terrors are awaiting. Players have choices to play either as Nez Bellows, the burly smith, or Tilda, the castle’s former healer, to protect your companions. Also, you can choose to play as nimble Prince Colin or the wizened old mouse Maginos.
Be ready to face all kinds of horrors and infinity adversaries such as rats, spiders, cockroaches, and the scary of all – the castle’s housecat, Brodie. What makes the game spicy is the Cheese System that allows players to horde the crumbs of cheese they find on the way. They later use them to cushion their mice and as a result, defeat their enemies. Mice and Mystics is a unique board game with 11 chapters or episodes to go through. Also, it is a story-driven dungeon crawler, but you can opt to find different stories online. However, it’s not a guarantee you’ll win the first time. It’s a fantastic game to play with children as they can easily understand it. Also, it’s one of the best solo dungeon-crawl board games you’ll find.
Dungeon and Dragons: Waterdeep – Dungeon of the Mad Mage is also a cooperative crawler board game and is an addition to previous games from WizKids. Although having prior experience with the earlier versions from this series is an advantage, you do not need any to get started with this one. For those who have tried the previous D&D games, you’ll notice that everything is here familiar only that with the Dungeon of the Mad Mage game and mission have a unique feel. This game has monsters and heroes. Marcon is that one that’s powerful in this crawler board game and can re-use his daily and utility powers. On the contrary, Marcon has low armor and HP; hence he must stay alive to challenge the monsters effectively.
While Dungeon of the Mad Mage can be played solo, it’s quite hard to get away as the whole game seems to rely on the entire group of 5. Keeping Marcon alive is a collective responsibility. Your characters can level up, gain more armor, hp, and new skills. Their powers can also increase by purchasing advancement tokens. Each character has special expert powers that come handy in later levels. However, to get better rewards, characters should avoid using healing surges. It’s also possible to replace a few of your characters with those from past games. It’s indeed an exciting game with reliable components. Besides, Waterdeep – Dungeon of the Mad Mage is a perfect game to give you a sense of challenge and character growth.
Unlike the two games we’ve reviewed above, Dungeon Derby is a semi-cooperative crawler board game. Players work together to eliminate the Dungeon and also influence races. However, these same players can quickly turn into betrayers. Note that Dungeon Derby is full of betting and strategy, and maybe some luck. This game involves several phases as follows: Quest phase – draw treasure cards (armor, encounter, or spell). Line up phase – prepare the racecourse. Betting phase – happens after armor and encounter phase. Race phase – the Dungeon master rolls the dice, moves the shown champion according to the number of spaces on the number die. Spell cards are also played during this phase. Payout phase – winners are paid (first, second, and third), and the winning bet goes to the first place only.
What’s the hype about this game anyway? Well, first, it’s a real-time play. Real-time such that players play in real-time, drawing cards, placing armor and treasure cards, and play spell cards as the race is underway. However, the pace is manageable and nothing to worry about. Placing bets on champions and rolling dice is exciting. Armor cards are played facing down, while spell cards can change the entire race. Dungeon Derby is an easy game with high-quality components, and you can easily get lost in it. Also, the board is huge and easy to fold. However, this game is not suitable for solo play. If you’re looking for a fun, engaging, and fast crawler board game for groups, then this is it!
In the Tomb of annihilation adventure crawl board game, you’ll face multiple scenarios and challenging quests. However, with powerful abilities, magic weapons, and spells, your role is to explore the Tomb of the nine gods as well as the jungle of Chult. You must overcome traps, fight monsters, and find treasures. It’s a single-player game or cooperation of 2-5 players. Be careful not to be an inactive explorer in the group as the game will punish you with an encounter card at the end of your turn. However, be ready to meet a new monster every time you explore a new room. It’s imperative to work together and protect each other to stay alive and reach your goal. Note that missions keep changing as the characters improve and grow stronger.
That’s not all, as the characters progress, the game changes as well. You’ll replace individual cards, treasure, monster, tokens, and trap deck with deadlier encounters. Also, the theme changes as the game keep changing locations. There are five heroes to choose from, with the Ranger Artus being more powerful. That said, Tomb of Annihilation is an exciting crawler board game that’s engaging and satisfying. It has a rich yet easy to follow the story and never gets complex. What’s more, is the way the five characters are unique and the feel of ownership the game gives over the players’ chosen heroes. Tomb of Annihilation is the fifth game in the D&D adventure system and is compatible with nearly everything from the previous versions.
Wizard of the Coast is one of the best dungeon crawl board games for kids. Also, it’s an excellent introductory game to Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a straightforward game as players seek to adventure as either a Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, or Wizard, searching for lost treasure in a dungeon full of monsters. Regardless of the character that you decide to pick, you must stick to fighting monsters that are equal to your style for you to win and survive. However, these characters are not identical – some are stronger than others. For instance, the Wizard is more powerful, while the Cleric and the Rogue are the weakest. Wizards have the advantage of using an offensive spell card whenever a monster shows up.
Although the Wizards are compelling, this game has a way of balancing between the characters. First, there are magic swords that can help the weak characters to upgrade. The other thing is that the game makes the finish line lower for the more vulnerable characters. Each class or style has a different amount of treasure required to win, with the weaker having the least amount needed. For you to win, you must be the first player to collect enough treasure based on your character and escape the Dungeon. This game is easy and fun, but also tactical. On the contrary, it’s easier to understand when taught than to learn as you play. Although the Wizard of the Coast crawler board game aims at children, anyone interested in fantasy games has an excellent opportunity to start here.
Dare to enter the mythical Dragonwood forest and let the adventure begin. First, this game is easy to learn, but it might be complicated to understand. Its setup is straightforward, and the objective is clear – to capture various creatures using sets of cards. These cards can either be of the same color, consecutive numbers, or corresponding numbers. Every successful capture of creatures earns you points. For the game to end, either the deck of cards has been played through twice, or all the dragons are captured. The winner of the game is a player with the most victory points. You can win cards in three different ways, a strike by playing consecutive numbers, stomp by playing cards of the same number, or scream by playing cards of the same color.
Although there’s luck attached to this game due to drawing cards and rolling the dice, strategy and a little bit of critical thinking is not an option. That should not scare anyone, though. It helps children to jog their memories as they have fun. The game becomes more interesting if older folks join in, especially when the kids need some explanations. Expect a variety of more fantasy foes such as giggling goblins, angry ogres, fire ants, and grumpy troll. This game has a design that matches its theme, and the dice and card art are just amazing. Creators of the game spice it up by adding some enhancements such as a cloak of darkness, bucket of spinach, and lucky mushroom. If you’re looking for a family-friendly game, then grab this one.
If you’ve been waiting for asymmetry kind of crawl board game, then bring your attention closer. Leder Games Vast Crystal Caverns comes with a unique and classic cave-crawling adventure. The game presents five asymmetric sides, with players taking on different characters. The available roles include that of Knight, Dragon, Goblins, Thief, and Cave. While one person can play this game, it’s at its best when all the five sides participate. Each team has a unique goal but also depends on other fronts in play. The game goes round and round until one side gets its purpose right – in most cases is the Cave. The general mechanisms in this game are different from what you might be used to in other crawl board games.
The full rules of this game are available on the Leder Game website in a pdf format. Vast Crystal Caverns has great and sturdy components that look durable. The tokens, tiles, and player boards are decent. The general art is unique, while each role takes on a distinct character. The unpredictability of each player brings fun to the gameplay. There’s competition as each player tries to weigh their goals while remaining relevant in play. Although each character has a distinct objective, the game concepts still have minor overlapping. Also, some roles are difficult to play and teaching others; the game means you must first learn all the five characters. Note that the learning curve here is steep. However, it’s a beautiful solid game that grabs everyone’s attention. Are you up for some challenges? Get it and let the party begin.
Are you looking to experience a unique solo and cooperative dungeon adventure? Or you’re eager to get into a competitive game? Well, Dungeon Alliance is one of the best sci-fi dungeon-crawl board games on the market. The game has an excellent tactical design and presents the players with versatile options. In this deck-building game, each player chooses four heroes to form a team. A player is free to customize their team according to their preferences. The players then use tactical movements together with card play to overcome the monsters and collect treasures. What’s interesting is how these teams compete to eradicate monsters. It gets to a point where rival teams battle one another for complete domination. However, at the end of it all, only one Dungeon Alliance emerges victorious.
The Dungeon Alliance is a solid crawler board game with exciting problem-solving chances with numerous character and card upgrades. There are three ways to play this game, get in solo play and have fun, play as a cooperative, or take things to another level by getting into competitive sports. Although you’ll experience complex challenges – Dungeon Alliance has significant variability to keep you hooked. The mechanical aspect of the game is incredible, and the rulebook will help you to get around it. Despite having a few hiccups like a thematic limitation, this game is solid, engaging, and provides excellent value. It’s exciting and satisfying gameplay with core mechanics.
What we liked:
Best solo Dungeon crawl game
Solid deck-building mechanics
Excellent tactical card plays
What could be better:
Has thematic limitations
Things to Consider
There are hundreds of thousands of crawler board games available. Choosing the right one for you won’t be an easy task. It is, even more, overwhelming for new guys, especially when you get involved in games that follow series. Sometimes you might be in a dilemma whether to try adventure games or fantasy games. You’ve already gone through the reviews above with exciting games – but before that excitement gets over you, we’ve put together this buying guide to help you calm down and make the right choice. Be sure to read through carefully before deciding on which game is best for you, your family, or friends.
Pleasures of playing a dungeon crawl board game
Dungeon games are based on adventure and fantasy. Different people will find amusement from different aspects of playing these games. While others find pleasures in exploring dangerous wastelands to slay monsters and acquire treasures, some feel intrigues and strategic games more pleasing. But what makes these games exciting? Below is a list of a few things that players find interesting.
Exploration is one of the fundamental aspects of a dungeon crawler board game
The themes associated with the games, for instance, popular themes include fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure
Most of these dungeon-crawl board games are straightforward yet attention-grabbing – that makes them beautiful
Variety of the content that encourages replays
Features to consider before you buy a dungeon crawl board game
Dungeon crawl board games are not the same. Some are more advanced than others with harder challenges, while others are limited by the age of the players. Knowing the factors to consider before buying one is vital as it will help you make the right choice. The factors that we think you should consider include game theme, ages, the number of players, playing time, and types of play.
The first feature you want to get right is the game theme. The theme is what creates the atmosphere of the game – the story, artwork, environment towards a specific motif, and sometimes the sounds. The topic and creativity in a board game are very vital. It’s imperative to understand the themes that interest you the most. As we said earlier, different people find pleasure in different aspects – and the theme was one of the aspects.
Let your theme preferences lead before you choose a crawl board game; it can be embarrassing buying an adventure game when your interests are in a Sci-fi or fantasy type.
Making a wrong theme choice could also affect the excitement of the game. The ages could also have some impact on how you decide on the theme. We’ll look at the ages below. Fantasy and adventure are the most loved themes by kids. Storytelling, on the other hand, is superb for families, while strategic themes work best with groups. For instance, if you’re looking for a crawl board game with a theme that’s best for the family, then the Mice and Mystics is all you need. The Deluxe Dungeon Derby is the best strategy dungeon-crawl board game for you to ponder. For fantasy and adventure themes, our list has a variety of them and are all dope.
While there are dungeon crawl board games appropriate for kids seven years and older, others are suitable for ages 14 and above. Ages are important because they determine the levels of these games. For instance, games suitable for kids starting at age 7 feature easy rules for them to explore on their own. These same games have themes that the kids are comfortable with – such that they have some tension but not too much to scare them. Also, games for younger ages are suitable for beginners, while those marked for older ages could be a little bit tough.
If you’re an experienced dungeon games player, then you want something that will challenge you as you have fun.
For instance, when we compare Vast Crystal Caverns with Mice and Mystics, you’ll realize that the former is quite complex and can only be suitable for kids aged ten and above. Mice and Mystics being a straightforward game, any kid who is seven years and above can easily get around it. On the other hand, a game like Tomb of Annihilation is appropriate for ages 14 and beyond. It’s a complex one with multiple scenarios and challenging guests and maybe overwhelming as well as frustrating for younger ages. Understanding that ages matter is the beginning of getting the most out of these games.
Number of players
If you’re new to these crawl board games and thought that you could grab any and move ahead, well, that’s not how things happen. Some games are best for solo plays. Unfortunately, some games are tempting but can only be played with two players and above. Knowing the number of players for a particular game is as important as knowing the theme. However, most of the dungeon games are suitable for solo plays. But playing some of them alone is not as exciting as you’d do with others. A good example on our list that requires two or more players in the Dragonwood Game of Dice & Daring. Be careful with the number of players before buying a game. You’ll also realize that some like the Deluxe Dungeon Derby need between 3 and 6 players. Meaning if you loved everything else about the game and bought it for solo play – then it’s going to collect dust. If you’re looking for a board game that can accommodate a large group, then the Wizards of the Coast Dungeon is what you need. It’s a nice competitive fantasy game that needs players between 1 and 8. It is also possible to play solo and have fun. Some games can only be understood by playing alone. Also, if you’d not want embarrassment, it’s always a good idea to practice alone before going out to meet other players. Dungeon Alliance is the best game for solo plays.
Playing time is another feature that you can’t assume. While some dungeon crawl games can be played a shorter amount of time, others take longer hours. Games that take a shorter time are best for families and kids. Long campaign games are appropriate for adults and enthusiasts who love to play for long hours. You now understand why you can’t pick any game and bring home. For instance, the Mice and Mystics game has a playing time of between 60 and 90 minutes. That’s perfect for kids and family. Also, a game like Dragonwood Game of Dice & Daring takes only 20 minutes; meaning is appropriate for kids and beginners.
Understand that long hours games also come with an immersive story campaign. Look at the Dungeon Alliance game, it’s quite complex and combines three types of play, hence takes some time to complete. Another game on our list with some interesting playing time is the Dungeons and Dragons Waterdeep Premium Edition. As you can see, its playing time is 1-hour plus, meaning you can get lost in it until you can’t keep track of time anymore. Well, it’s wise to consider playing time before buying any of these games through the minimum playing time is what matters.
Types of play
Types of play are as important as the themes. While considering the type of play, you should also have the number of players in mind. Imagine a scenario whereby you picked a game for solo play (rare cases) while you were looking for something to play with friends. That’s a disaster. There are three main types of play that most of these games try to combine them: solo play, cooperative play, and competitive types. It’s common to find games that do not support solo plays. Also, some games support cooperative and competitive plays only.
If you’re looking for the best competitive game, then try the Wizards of the Coast Dungeon. It’s classic, fast-paced, with simple rules. Another competitive game for kids to try is the Dragonwood A Game of Dice & Daring. For a strategic, cooperative, and competitive game that will keep you on your toes, try the Deluxe Dungeon Derby. It’s a unique and real-time game with lots of fun. If all you want is the three types of play under one roof, then go and get the Dungeon Alliance. All in all, the types of play are imperative when it comes to the versatility of the games. If you need something that won’t bore you after the first play, then get games with varieties.
You can play for as many times as you wish. Most of these games are not restrictive. You can take things further by going online and get new scenes and storylines. Some of the games, such as D&D, are usually compatible with characters from their previous games in the series. Only you decide how far you’d like to get with these crawl board games.
Absolutely. Dungeon games have age limits that are clear to age groups. There are games suitable for ages seven, while others are appropriate for ages 14 and above. However, games suitable for seven years old can be handled by five years old too. Crawler board games suitable for kids will always have easy rules with short playing time.
The first thing to understand is that not all dungeon games can be played solo. So, for you to be able to play solo, you must first get a game that supports solo play. That said, playing solo can be easy if you carefully follow instructions on the rulebook. It’s also interesting if you already know how to play the game, or you’re trying to improve your skills.
Wrapping It Up
Whether you’re looking for a dungeon game for your kids, or you want something that you can spend hours and hours playing, we have your back. If you’re in a hurry and you just scrolled down here to look at our verdict, then here are our best top three picks. The Mice and Mystics game that’s the editor’s choice, and first on our list is the best for family and kids. We love it because of its rich storyline. We also have the Dungeons and Dragons Waterdeep Premium Edition as our premium pick. We love it because of its compatibility mode with many titles. Finally, the Wizards of the Coast Dungeon is our best value pick. It’s the best for kids and also an amazing introductory game to the dungeons. We hope our list of the best dungeon crawl board games together with our buying guide will help you make the right choice.