Best Dungeon Crawl Board Games – Ranked & Reviewed

Dungeon Crawlers have spiked in popularity in recent years. It seems as if almost every other day on Kickstarter I’ll see another campaign for a new dungeon crawler. They’re some of the most popular games out there today, and for those of you who haven’t tried one yet, you are definitely missing out.

🏆 Our Top Picks

In a hurry? Check out our favorite dungeon crawlers below.

Best Cooperative

Gloomhaven
Gloomhaven is a massive game full of monsters and baddies trying to kill you. Luckily, you have friends and powerups on your side. You’ll have to work together if you’re going to survive.

Best for Family Game Night

Mice and Mystics
Everything about this game screams “bedtime story”. From the adorable miniatures and incredible storyline, Mice and Mystics will become a family favorite as you work together to return the rightful prince to power.

Best Overall

Descent: Journeys in the Dark
The quintessential dungeon crawler. Delve the dungeons, upgrade characters, and face off against the monsters of the deep. The dungeons aren’t faceless… players control the monsters that grow in strength alongside the heroes. Yikes!

Elements of a Dungeon Crawler

“Dungeon crawl” is a relatively broad term in board games and they can come in all variety of flavors, but usually, they involve several key elements.

  • Dungeon: Either procedural and random, or preset through a campaign.
  • Upgradeable Hero characters: Gotta spend all that loot and treasure on something.
  • Monsters or Baddies to fill the dungeon: This can be either board AI or another player character.

Today we’re going to be delving into the genre to see what treasures we can find.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Descent: Journeys in the Dark Board Game

Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) is a board game in which one player takes on the role of the treacherous overlord, and up to four other players take on the roles of courageous heroes. During each game, the heroes embark on quests and venture into dangerous caves, ancient ruins, dark dungeons, and cursed forests to battle monsters, earn riches and attempt to stop the overlord from carrying out his vile plot.

Descent is the quintessential dungeon-crawl board game.

If you’re new to the genre and want to see what its all about, Descent is absolutely where you should start.

How it Works

One player will take the role of the overlord of the dungeon and it is their job to kill every other player. They’ll control all of the monsters and traps and they’ll have several special abilities that can turn the tables on the adventurer players. After all, it’s no fun being a Mary Sue or Marty Stu.

The adventurer players will try to survive and clear the dungeon by killing everything inside or completing objectives. The stats and equipment of the player characters will usually be higher, but that doesn’t mean you can get complacent. Because monsters are controlled by a player instead of an AI mechanic, the difficulty can be ratcheted up based on how the Overlord plays.

Upgrade Mechanics

The upgrade mechanics also work both ways. Each player can upgrade their character’s after every game to make them stronger, or they can save their upgrade points for stronger cards and abilities to add to their arsenal. The Overlord isn’t sitting around either. With every game, the overlord also gains experience and can upgrade the overlord cards into some pretty nasty abilities for the players.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark
  • It is a board game in which one player takes on the role of the...
  • During each game, the heroes embark on quests and venture into...
  • Featuring double-sided modular board pieces, countless hero and...

Final Thoughts

Descent is balanced and adds challenges to almost all levels. Whether you are a beginner or hardcore enthusiast, Descent deserves a place on your table. If you’ve never played a dungeon-crawler and want to know what the hype is all about, then Descent is going to be your best starting point.

Some Versions & Expansions

Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven Best RPG Board Games

Gloomhaven is a game of Euro-inspired tactical combat in a persistent world of shifting motives. Players will take on the role of a wandering adventurer with their own special set of skills and their own reasons for traveling to this dark corner of the world. Players must work together out of necessity to clear out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins. In the process, they will enhance their abilities with experience and loot, discover new locations to explore and plunder, and expand an ever-branching story fueled by the decisions they make.

Gloomhaven is one of the biggest boxes in board game history, and it’s no surprise that there are hundreds of hours of gameplay jammed into the box.

What’s in the Box?

In Gloomhaven, players will explore a massive world and take part in altering and changing the world of Gloomhaven through its legacy system. This is different from other legacy systems in that you’re not required to destroy anything throughout the game, so there always remains the possibility that you can reset the board (with a little bit of effort).

There are approximately 75 scenarios built into the game, but depending upon choices you may only see 50, giving you an incentive to revisit the game with a new party and players.

Gloomhaven
  • For 1 4 players
  • 60 120 minute playing time
  • A game of euro inspired tactical combat in a persistent world of...

Final Thoughts

Gloomhaven is one of the newer entrants into the dungeon-crawler realm, but it has quickly jumped to the top of many gamers’ must-have and wish lists.

Versions & Expansions

Arcadia Quest

Arcadia Quest Dungeon-Crawl Board Game

Arcadia, the sacred city that holds the balance of night and day in the world, has been plunged into darkness by the vile Lord Fang. In Arcadia Quest, players lead guilds of intrepid heroes on an epic campaign to dethrone the vampire lord and reclaim the mighty Arcadia for their own. But only one guild may lead in the end, so players must battle against each other as well as against the monstrous occupying forces.

Who’s sending all of these people into dungeons? Well, in Arcadia Quest, that gets to be you.

Arcadia Quest puts you in charge of a guild of adventurers to loot a dungeon. The only problem is that every other player has also been put in charge of a guild to loot and raid the same dungeon, and as we know from Highlander “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!”

How it Works

The game has very cute artwork and is really fun to look at. If you’ve been staring at a Kingdom Death or Dark Souls board and are sick of looking at and hearing about dismembered bodies and super gruesome death, this might be a good break. The gameplay mechanics are also pretty standard fare. Check the attack and check the defense and roll to see who wins.

That doesn’t mean that this is a Candy Land-esque game where everybody gets along. Keep in mind every player controls a rival guild and everyone is a target. Each game will have a set goal and such as to kill a specific monster, but if a rival guild is going to get there before you, there’s nothing stopping you from sneaking up behind them and bopping them on the head. In fact, it’s encouraged.

Arcadia Quest
  • Awesome Figures : With twelve highly detailed Hero figures and...
  • Simple Battles : Confrontations are quickly and easily resolved...
  • Incredible Upgrades : Players can gain items and equipment...

Final Thoughts

Arcadia Quest barely qualifies as a dungeon-crawler, but I thought it was such a fun game that those of you looking for an awesome game to play would appreciate it. It’s more arena than dungeon, but it still has some of the same mechanics as a traditional dungeon-crawler. (Plus, it has some awesome minis.)

Some Versions & Expansions

Mice and Mystics

Mice and Mystics RPG Board Game

In Mice & Mystics players take on the roles of those still loyal to the king – but to escape the clutches of Vanestra, they have been turned into mice! Play as cunning field mice who must race through a castle now twenty times larger than before. The castle would be a dangerous place with Vanestra’s minions in control, but now countless other terrors also await heroes who are but the size of figs. Every player will have a vital role in the quest to warn the king, and it will take careful planning to find Vanestra’s weakness and defeat her.

Mice and Mystics is an incredible story-driven cooperative dungeon crawler that was inspired by children’s stories. To that end, many of the components of the board have storybook elements and it’s an excellent game to play with family and young children.

In Mice and Mystics, the prince has been imprisoned along with several of his loyal followers. The only way to escape the dungeon is by having Maginos, the court wizard, turn everyone into mice and escape into the sewers.

Mice and Mystics
  • Mice and Mystics will provide any group of friends with an...
  • A game for 1 to 4 players
  • 60 minutes playtime

Final Thoughts

The game is silly and whimsical, yet is still a ton of fun to play especially with younger kids. The story unfolds in a booklet that reads like an actual fairy tale and really draws you into the world. Ready to transform into mice? Check out our in-depth review of Mice and Mystics before you play.

Versions & Expansions

Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness Board Game

Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a fully cooperative, app-driven board game of horror and mystery for one to five players that takes place in the same universe as Eldrich Horror and Elder Sign. Let the immersive app guide you through the veiled streets of Innsmouth and the haunted corridors of Arkham’s cursed mansions as you search for answers and respite.

“The skies are haunted by that which it were madness to know; and strange abominations pass evermore between earth and moon and athwart the galaxies. Unnamable things have come to us in alien horror and will come again.” ―Clark Ashton Smith

If you need a little more horror-inspired fantasy options, Mansions of Madness drops you right into the shoes of a Lovecraftian investigator, attempting to thwart the elder gods before they go insane or are unleashed upon the world.

How it Works

With the second edition of Mansions of Madness, the game has been immensely streamlined. There is now a companion app that turns setup into a breeze and helps run the game by prompting players when they need to make certain rolls/checks, what new room tile to put down, and how to set it up.

I’m not normally a fan of technology-enhanced games. I know they’re going to be a bigger and bigger part of games as time goes on, and this app didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. It’s very helpful and an excellent way to get new players into more complex games.

Mansions of Madness
  • A fully cooperative Lovecraftian board game for one to five...
  • Required companion app available on iOS, Android, windows, and...
  • Features four campaigns of varying length and difficulty

Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever looked at any of Fantasy Flight’s rulebooks for any of their Lovecraft-inspired games, you’ll know they all basically come with a novel-sized rulebook. Without the app, you would need a dedicated player to read the rulebook front to back and would be constantly referring to it throughout the game. With the app, you get some awesome thematic music and a prompt whenever you need to draw a card or make a check. The only real downside is that you might want to use a tablet instead of a phone to get the full visual effect of the app.

Versions & Expansions

Welcome to the Dungeon

Welcome to the Dungeon Board Game

 

You all stand at the entrance to the dungeon, but only one will enter: the bravest, the craziest, or maybe just the one who hasn’t had a chance to flee yet! To see who has the guts to enter, take turns setting aside equipment or adding monsters to the dungeon. Are you tough enough to hit the dungeon? Or will you let someone else go down — and hope they stay down?

Welcome to the Dungeon is not necessarily a dungeon-crawler. It, however, is a very fun quick game with a dungeon theme, so I decided to add it to the list anyway.

Welcome to the Dungeon is a press-your-luck bluffing game where each player secretly looks at the monsters in a dungeon and bets on whether or not it can be completed.

How it Works

As players take their turns they’ll discard items and “bet” that they can still complete the dungeon based on what hidden cards they’ve seen. Some players may even be discarding cards to intentionally make the dungeon run harder in order to hurt other players. If you don’t think the dungeon run is winnable you can always pass on the round. When only one player is left in the round, they take what cards are left and try to complete the dungeon. If they successfully make it through, they receive 1 point. If they die, they’ll lose 1 life. The first player to successfully complete 2 dungeons, or the last player standing, wins.

Welcome to the Dungeon
  • For 2-4 Players
  • 30 minute playing time
  • Beat the dungeon twice or be the last warrior standing to win the...

Final Thoughts

As I said, it’s not really a dungeon crawl, but I like to use it in between longer games to break up the pace with something light. It’s nice to have a small game that can be completed relatively quickly after sitting at a table for a few hours or before a longer gaming session to get everyone in the mood.

Versions & Expansions

IELLO Welcome Back to The Dungeon Game
For 2-4 players
$14.99 $13.90

DOOM

Doom: The Board Game

Glory Kill your way to victory as one of the Union Aerospace Corporation’s elite marines or grab control of the legions of demons threatening to take over the complex. Each side of DOOM: The Board Game’s asymmetrical gameplay introduces an entirely unique way to play, whether you’re struggling to save Mars from being overrun by Hell’s most merciless demons or fighting to crush each marine and conquer the planet for good.

Doom was by no means the first shooter game, but it was the first major success and has been credited as being one of the most influential games in gaming history. Even if you know nothing about Doom it may still be worth checking out the board game.

How it Works

Doom is a fast-paced, head-to-head dungeon crawler, where one player will control demonic monsters, and the other players will create a team of marines to run in and shoot demons in the face.

The gameplay for the board game actually follows the original Doom to a certain degree, and by that I mean, there’s relatively zero story or campaign mode. The marine player characters are named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta respectively. The game is about straightforward combat. There are scenarios but you’re not going to find much more than objectives here.

Tactics FTW

If you’re a fan of Doom you’ll naturally be drawn to the game, but gamers who aren’t shooter fans or Doom fans can find a lot to love here as well. The game is clear-cut and easy to get into, and there is enough strategy to keep both sides interested. What equipment you take into a mission allows marines to shoot more demons, add more strength, speed up, or slow down players, depending on how much gear they bring in.

Demons, on the other hand, will be able to spawn from portals and can use different tactics to try and kill the marines. Do you rush in all at once, using hit-and-run tactics? Or do you throw in a big meat shield while a bunch of smaller demons swarm to attack?

DOOM: The Board Game
  • Based on Bethesda soft works' blockbuster science fiction shooter...
  • Experience the game from both invader and marine perspectives
  • Customize player decks throughout missions to improve your marine

Final Thoughts

Doom has been a huge hit with my casual gamer friends. It’s face-paced and unambiguous, with enough of a strategy that it’s not just a numbers game. For more experienced dungeon crawlers, you might find it lacking in lore and depth, though. I still remember playing Doom on Windows 95 on a 3.5in floppy disc, so even with the new Doom games and board game makeover, it still has some nostalgia for me.

Myth

Myth Board Game

Myth is a fully cooperative fantasy game. Players take on the role of one of 5 different heroes working together to defeat the Darkness. Each hero has a different skill set which represented by a unique deck of cards. Players’ avatars within a Story are called Heroes. Myth Heroes are clothed in immense power, able to reave all but the mightiest foes.

You may recognize Myth from its massive Kickstarter campaign. In recent years Kickstarter has opened up the board game scene to a ton of designers and has greenlit many new dungeon-crawlers to the market.

Myth: Demystified

There’s a lot of conflicting information about Myth so I’ll try and clear some of the confusion so that you can get to what’s really important: rolling dice and stabbing monsters.

First, let’s look at the production value of the game. The miniatures are excellent. All the hero characters and minions look amazing, and the boss monsters look intimidating. At a glance, it’s easy to see who is who and having the bosses tower over the other players gives it a nice aesthetic.

How it Works

The game itself is very fun to play and heavily focuses on teamwork and cooperative play. It is fully cooperative with card AI dictating enemy movement. If you try it solo without consulting a team you’re going to run into Leroy Jenkins situation. You’ll never really run into a situation where one character is the powerhouse. Everyone has a very balanced skillset, but are also unique enough that they perform better in certain situations.

The worldbuilding is very fun and gives you a lot of freeform options as to what you want to do and where you want to fight. There is a campaign/scenario that allows players to level up and retain persistent upgrades, and I do like the loot system. You’ll be facing swarms of monsters from a generator on the board that continually vomit up minions until you destroy it, but for every 3 monsters you kill, they’ll drop some loot. And who doesn’t like loot?

Rulebook Issues

The major issues with the game can be summed up in Myth’s golden rule. If you don’t know how to do something or if the rules aren’t clear then just make it up.

The rulebook is massive and complex. The learning curve is steep and it’s not something you can pick up and learn on your own within 20 minutes. Considering its high production value, you’d expect the rules to be a bit more polished. The rules seem to be designed as if they were written for a close friend that knows all of their inside jokes.

I can respect the notion that if something doesn’t make sense you should power through it for the sake of game flow, but there should be something later that I can reference to clarify the rules after the fact, and there simply isn’t much of the time.

Myth
  • Myth is a fully co-operative fantasy game
  • For 2-5 players
  • Takes about 2 hours to play

Final Thoughts

Myth is a very fun game. Its cooperative play is very well done, and the equipment, upgrade system, and combat is very fun… as long as you don’t get caught up in the rules. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense, just house-rules it and enjoy the game for what it is. If that doesn’t bother you then it’s going to be a fun ride. If you need the structure or if you want a game that you can jump right into you may want to look at Descent or some of the other games on the list.

Versions & Expansions

Massive Darkness

Massive Darkness Header

The Darkness has returned to the land. Answer the call, Heroes! In Massive Darkness, you’ll join forces with the other players to enter the underground lair of the Darkness. You’ll work together, jumping from shadow to light, engaging the enemy when the moment is right. The minions of the Darkness can be anything from orcs to goblin warriors, to giant spiders. You’ll never know what creatures await you around every corner. The Lightbringers won this war once before. Now it’s your turn to add your names to the history books!

Massive Darkness is one of the newer entrants to dungeon-crawlers, but it made a big splash when it arrived on the scene.

It’s developed by CMON Games (cool mini or not) so you know that you are going to be getting a ton of high-quality miniatures with the game.

How it Works

Massive Darkness follows many of the traditional mechanics of a dungeon-crawler, but they deal with death in an interesting way. Every time a character dies they respawn at the beginning of the dungeon, and a token is taken off of the lifestone card. It basically acts as a life counter. Every time a player dies a token is removed from the game, and the difficulty can be adjusted up or down by adding or removing tokens from the lifestone.

As you kick down doors and explore rooms monsters players will be prompted to spawn monsters and treasure depending upon the scenario.

Leveling Mechanics

Probably my favorite mechanic and something Massive Darkness does well is leveling. For most dungeon crawlers it takes multiple games to level up and gain all the abilities that you want for a character. You can do that in Massive Darkness as well, but you can also complete everything in a single session.

Modes of Play

There are two modes of play: campaign and single-shot. In campaign mode, your characters will level up slowly, but their levels and equipment are persistent between gaming sessions, giving you a natural story progression.

The single-shot is exactly as it sounds. Players will advance much quicker, but characters can be made and unmade in between sessions, allowing for a quicker game and much less of a time commitment.

Need more Massive Darkness? Check out our full, in-depth review here.

Massive Darkness
  • For 1 to 6 players
  • Full campaign : the story mode Comes with 10 unique quests in the...
  • Incredible figures : massive Darkness comes with six detailed...

Versions & Expansions

Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia Board Game

Claustrophobia is a miniatures-based survival game set within the universe of Hell Dorado. Claustrophobia is a ‘’survival tactics’’ kind of game. Two players (in the base game, more scenarios will be proposed here and in other game supports) will fight: the Humans against the Demons. The Humans will try to complete the objective to win the game. The Demons will try to make the Human fail.

Claustrophobia is a lighter mechanic game with a different take on dungeon themes.

How it Works

You will take control of a character called the Redeemer who conscripts nameless prisoners and fighters to go beneath the city to combat a Demon infestation threatening to kill everyone. I thought the theme was a little refreshing. You honestly don’t see many religious/demonic themes too often. That being said some players may be turned off on the religious theme, but I personally didn’t see anything that would offend; each to their own, though.

The demon miniatures look awesome. They all look like something I would not like to be facing in a dark corridor and the player characters all look like hardened warriors, which makes it a shame that they’re all generic nameless characters.

Dice, Dice, and More Dice

The gameplay is mostly traditional dice-rolling and the rules are very easy to pick up and play, making it a very good game for new players and those that just want to sit down and roll some dice at the table.

The game is 2-player and works very well. The demon player has an interesting way of using their dice. They’ll roll all of their dice and consult a chart. Dice are then allocated to spots on the chart depending upon the roll and can give the demon player a variety of options like additional demons spawns or buffs.

The Redeemer player also has a similar mechanic in that they’ll allocate dice to their character board to determine their stats. They have several options, but as the character gets injured they will have less desirable options and they are more limited in stats, which is a very unique way of showing damage and fatigue of characters.

Claustrophobia
  • Features: 17 finely sculpted pre-painted figurines
  • modular board (36 tiles)
  • Easy to learn and quick set-up game

Final Thoughts

You actually won’t feel claustrophobic on this map. The map tiles are huge and you’ll be getting a lot of them. The artwork on each one is beautifully designed and add a very dark atmosphere to the game.

Claustrophobia is very fun and very easy to learn. The dice mechanics try to limit the complete randomness by giving both players some options allocating the dice instead of simply reading the results, which I appreciated. Players looking for a heavier game and scenarios are not going to find it here. It’s fun and quick-paced, excellent for beginners, but the religious tones and lack of complexity may turn off hardcore gamers.

Versions & Expansions

Shadows of Brimstone

Shadows of Brimstone is a fast-paced, fully cooperative, dungeon-crawl board game set in the Old West, with a heavy dose of unspeakable horror! Players create characters, taking on the role of a classic Western Hero Archetype, such as the Law Man, Gunslinger, or Saloon Girl. Forming an adventuring posse, the Heroes venture down into the dark mines, overrun with all manner of ancient demons and foul creatures from another world.

Shadows of Brimstone is a crazy mashup of themes that are so odd that they somehow work well together. Shadows of Brimstone is a western-themed game but is also filled with eldritch horrors and monsters. It’s something I would never have put together, but I’m glad they did.

The thing that brought Shadow of Brimstone to my attention was the weird themes of the game, and it delivers a fantastic experience. The story campaign, the role-playing aspects of the characters, and the stories that come from a few rounds of this game are just pure fun.

How it Works

The game is very dice-heavy, so if you only want to play games with highly tuned mechanics then you might not enjoy how much luck plays a role in this game. You’re going to be rolling dice for almost everything. If you get a mutation, injury, or move, there’s a dice roll and possibly a chart to see the results. It can sometimes bog down the game, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

The miniatures look cool, especially the Harbinger model, but they are a pain in the butt to put together. If you’re hamfisted like me and just jam things together, you might have a little bit of trouble.

Leveling Mechanics

The upgrade and leveling system is very cool. Each character can have their own separate levels and after each mission is completed, everyone will have a chance to spend money and upgrade points in town. Each player has all kinds of options for how to spend their points and money (you may have to roll dice though).

Shadows of Brimstone
  • Innovative entertainment.
  • Expertly designed.
  • Hours of fun.

Final Thoughts

For all of its flaws, Shadows of Brimstone is just a fun game. It’s challenging without being overtly rule-heavy and the thematic elements and storytelling keep me wanting to pull it off the shelf to see what happens on the next mission. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve never had a bad time playing it.

Ready to give it a try? Check out our in-depth review of Shadows of Brimstone before you buy.

Some Versions & Expansions

Wrap Up

As the Perma DM for our Dungeons & Dragons group, it’s nice to be able to run through a dungeon without being distracted every five seconds by someone yelling, “I want to loot its pockets!” or “How much XP do we get for slaughter?” (It’s a rock golem, Kendra! It doesn’t have pockets!”). Dungeon-Crawler board games still give that same experience of trekking through the unknown and vanquishing evil as a team. Most don’t require a Dungeon Master (DM or rules overlord), and everything is streamlined allowing players to jump right in and start exploring.

What are your favorite Dungeon Crawlers?

If I missed your favorite, or you just want to talk board games leave a comment below.

We’d love to hear from you.

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4 thoughts on “Best Dungeon Crawl Board Games – Ranked & Reviewed”

  1. I missed Sword and Sorcery in your list. It is a beautiful dungeon crawler with perhaps the best monster AI’s out there. If you haven’t tried it you will be in for a treat.

    • Hey Ben,

      Thanks for the comment. We have Sword & Sorcery as a pick for our top fantasy games.

      I’m a fan, but it’s always hard to limit what to put into these articles. I always end up second guessing myself when it comes to making a “top #” list. I’ve been toying around with the idea of doing an in-depth review of it. I’ll have to bump it up on my to-do list.

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
      I think I’ll go hunt down a copy again. It’s been far too long.

  2. Thanks for the great article..

    What about Star Wars Imperial Assault. Is it worthy of being on this list .. I am thinking of buying it but not sure if there are better choices out there .. I like the Star Wars theme but also like the fantasy or D&D setting..

    You input would be greatly appreciated

    • Hey Mishal,

      Thanks for taking the time to write to us.

      Imperial Assault is a fantastic game. If you’re a Star Wars fan and looking for a dungeon crawler type board game, you’re going to enjoy it. I go into depth on another article that I wrote “Best Star Wars Board Games”

      It’s always hard making these lists, and looking back Imperial Assault probably should have made it. If you do want to dabble into the fantasy world, it looks like Gloomhaven is on sale on Amazon right now. Both games are about the same price, but Gloomhaven beats out Imperial Assault on sheer size alone.

      Go with your gut on this one. Either game is going to be a lot of fun. It sounds like your choice comes down to genre.
      Sci-Fi? Go with Imperial Assault.
      Fantasy? Go with Gloomhaven.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.
      Cheers,
      Bryan

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