We were first welcomed to the dungeon back in 2013. Masato Uesugi’s simple little push-your-luck game tested players’ steel, as more and more creatures were added to the dungeon and less and tangible or magical armour was stripped away. Eventually only one player would be left, brave (or foolhardy) enough to enter the underground passageways with what little protection they had. One by one they’d face the monstrous denizens of the dungeon and by the end they’d have either died or earned a success card. The first person to emerge safely from two trips through the dungeon, or the last adventurer left alive would walk away victorious. Now, Uesugi has joined forces with brilliant designer, Antoine Bauza for another underground adventure. Welcome Back to the Dungeon!
For the most part WBTTD retains the core mechanic of the original, while adding in a few extra interesting touches. An adventurer is selected and sidles up to the entrance of the dungeon with six pieces of equipment to help along the way. On a turn you draw a monster card, look at it and then place it in the dungeon, or place the card in front of you and remove a piece of the adventurer’s equipment. Adding the monster to the dungeon makes it more dangerous (in theory). Taking away equipment leaves the hero more vulnerable. The only other option is passing. Once every player but one has passed, they have to enter the dungeon and face off against all of the monsters that have accumulated with whatever gear they have left over.
With WBTTD features four new brave heroes ready to face off against the ghouls and goblins that await them underground. The Princess, Bard, Ninja, and Necromancer all come with their own unique equipment that would really come in handy in the dungeon, assuming they still have it. The Princess comes with an entourage of Mr. Charm and her Chaperone, both willing to throw themselves into harms way to protect her. The Ninja has a number of different weapons like a ninjato or a wooden shuriken (for defeating vampires). The Bard relies on lucky charms and the Necromancer uses dark magic.
There are thirteen monster cards in the deck and six special monsters. For each game only four of the special monsters are shuffled in. Regular monsters range in strength from one to nine. Each one will take off that much of the adventurer’s accumulated health points, unless they have an item that negates that damage. The special monsters will play with those rules a bit, and since you’re never sure which might show up, it can be hard to plan for them. Some are helpful, or at least harmless, like the Fairy that has a strength of zero and enters the dungeon as a bluff to the other players, or the Ally that has no strength and allows you to ignore the next monster. However, some of the special monsters might be pretty tough depending on when you meet them. The Mimic has a strength equal to the number of equipment cards you have left and the Shapeshifter has a strength equal to its position in the dungeon. The later you face it, the stronger it becomes.
Once one player has been selected they’ll count up their health points and then mark them on the included health board (another new feature). As their health points decrease they can mark it on the board for a easier visual guide to follow their hero’s chances of making it out alive.
Like its predecessor, WBTTD is a heck of a lot of fun. In many little ways it’s an improvement. The health board is nice to track your progress, the special monsters add some spice, never really knowing which ones you’ll see, and the new adventurers are really great to play with. Their equipment matches their personalities really well and they interact with the monsters in creative ways. For its size, speed and simplicity I can definitely recommend this game…but here is the million dollar question: do you need both? Are they different enough that you want both games in your collection. Well, let me say that if I’d had neither, I’d definitely get WBTTD. If I already had WTTD, I’d still strongly consider picking this one up too. The sets can be combined and with the new monsters and adventurers it refreshes a really re-playable game. Throw in portability and the small price tag and you can’t really go wrong.