It is only human to desire exploration. That is part of the reason dungeon crawler board games are becoming increasingly popular nowadays.
Not only are you able to wander through vast and dangerous wastelands, but you can also loot for riches and solve intriguing mysteries as you go further into your adventure.
Licensed dungeon crawlers with established universes, like Batman or Star Wars, take the experience up a notch: you can even play as familiar heroes that you have grown up watching!
With so many games available to choose from, how do you know which one is the best for you? It is time to end your hunt for the best dungeon crawler board games! Join us on a journey of delving into some of the most popular, engaging and thematic dungeon, catacomb, underground, maze, and even surface crawlers today to find your perfect match!
|Image||Player Count / Time / Age / DifficultyTop 10 Dungeon Crawler Board Games|
Best Cooperative – Gloomhaven
Best Overall – Gloomhaven
The godfather of co-operative dungeon and campaign crawlers with a thematic overarching narrative. Being currently ranked #1 in the world and having 95 scenarios in the box, we can’t see how anyone can go wrong with this.
Best Light Strategy – Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Best Classic Fantasy – Descent: Journeys in the Dark
An all-time classic maze crawler where one player takes on the role of the treacherous overlord and up to four other players team up to take on the roles of courageous heroes.
Best Family Fun – Arcadia Quest
Best Family Fun – Arcadia Quest: Inferno
Technically an inferno crawler with a branching campaign system that does not take the entire evening to play. Corrupt others and craft your own storyline descending into the fiery abyss and fight the hell itself.
Best For All Ages – Batman: Gotham City Chronicles
Best Cinematic – Batman: Gotham City Chronicles
An amazing cinematic Gotham City crawler where one villain faces off against a team of heroes. If you like the theme and the scenario-based semi-cooperative gameplay you are sure to get impressed.
Best Zombie Trashing – Claustrophobia 1643
Best 2 Player Dungeon Crawler – Claustrophobia 1643
A perfectly executed player vs. player asymmetric dungeon crawler. One player controls a group of determined humans, and the other leads an army of demonic creatures. Stronger humans or endless demons, which will it be?
Best Horror – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past
Best Comic – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past
A scenario-driven board game that closely follows the TMNT comic. Throughout the game Shredder and ninja turtles develop their characters’ strengths, fighting styles, and improve equipment.
Best Quick 4 Player Game – Thunderstone Quest
Best Deck Building – Thunderstone Quest
The best in the series dungeon crawler fantasy themed deck builder. It manages to make every turn epic, full of challenge and adventure. Recruit and arm your heroes to dive into the dungeon full of surprises.
Best Sci-Fi – Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower
Best Thematic – Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower
The game is set in the shifting, labyrinthine lair of a sinister Gaunt Summoner! Level your characters and let the twisting narrative absorb you into a thematic and engaging adventure.
Best Strategic Play – Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
Best Strategic Play – Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
A fast-paced, fully cooperative dungeon-crawl board game set in the Old West, with lots of unspeakable horrors. Crawl old mines and travel through portals to other worlds to find and defeat ancient demons.
Best Wargame – Darklight: Memento Mori
Best Wargame – Darklight: Memento Mori
A good old-school dungeon crawler at heart combined with the original dark Gothic setting and deep strategic combat. Survive in the world of randomly generated dungeons and acquire the souls of the ones you defeat to extend your lives.
Gloomhaven is a 2-4 player cooperative dungeon crawler board game with a meaty storyline that consists of 95 scenarios!
With your allies around the table, you have to complete all sorts of quests to win, like rescuing innocent children from scheming overlords and killing smuggler captains.
Every character in Gloomhaven is multi-dimensional and fully-realized. Some came from humble beginnings, some motivated by riches, but they all have special abilities true to their nature.
Playing as these characters make you feel like you are living in Gloomhaven as them, which gives off a unique and immersive feel to the game.
In Gloomhaven, you fight with a finite amount of cards in your character’s deck. You play two cards every turn, which will then be discarded or even removed permanently from the game. To preserve your deck, you have to make smart, tactical decisions.
Gloomhaven is a legacy dungeon crawler game. Any changes made in the game are permanent, so your hero will only get stronger and stronger until they retire. Retirement is a bittersweet affair, but we loved how realistic it feels. After all, even the most revered hero has to retire at one point. Sometimes, the game even surprises you with the return of these retired heroes to push the story forward.
Gloomhaven is complex, but with enough practice, you can easily get lost in it for hours. It is one of a kind dungeon crawler with almost perfectly thought-out and balanced characters, campaigns, story, and the overall design. It can be slow in the beginning, but once you get used to it, be prepared to get lost in 95 scenarios clearing out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins.
|Innovative card battle system|
|Interesting hero storylines|
|95 scenarios to go through!|
|Slow pace and long set up time|
|Flimsy map tiles and monster standees|
Descent: Journeys in the Dark transports you to the midst of an ancient battle between the treacherous overlord and up to four courageous heroes.
The heroes try to thwart the overlord’s nefarious intentions and the overlord tries to stop them with his monsters.
The game features new exciting scenarios that masterfully weaves every in-game turn in Descent into a beautiful, immersive story.
The gameplay is similar to the previous, the original Descent game but features multiple improvements and is a lot more streamlined now.
You spend energy to cover more grounds or ram through a guarded door. When you fight, you roll a handful of dice for damage.
In Descent, you start with a meager 15 cards and earn the rest along the way. Don’t let the limited equipment and items stop you! Nothing feels redundant in this compact game. You will inevitably use all the cards in this game at one point or another. You just need to get a little creative.
You get less cards as the overlord, but the cards you do get are more than enough to bulldoze the heroes to oblivion. Because of this, we constantly struggled and we can’t move forward to our goals. The dice-rolling mechanism can also be frustrating since you might not be able to fulfill the true potential of your character build if you are unlucky.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark offers a beautiful world to explore with its generous box of content. The second edition streamlines and improves the game in almost all aspects. A comprehensive modular tile system, lots of varied heroes and monsters has made it one of the best dungeon crawl classics out there. Take on a role of the treacherous overlord or courageous heroes and get lost in this vibrant fantasy realm.
|Well-thought-out items and equipment|
|Large map with lots of exploration|
|Companion app for the solo boardgamer|
|Beautiful map and detailed miniatures|
|Rule book is not written well|
|Overlord feels overpowered at times|
Arcadia Quest Inferno is a 2-4 person cartoon themed dungeon crawler board game that promises adventure and excitement with every roll of the dice.
In this game, players descend into a fiery abyss to overthrow the demonic powers with the help of three heroes.
You will embark on a branching narrative and journey through six exciting adventures with four new guilds to choose from.
The game introduces a number of improvements and new features. Heroes now have powerful weapons that can corrupt other characters over time or change the demons’ behavior.
The game also introduces Angels, which are allied characters you can rescue, escort or assist. Dealing with Angels can affect the storyline and eventually let you recruit them and join your side in the fight with the evil.
Arcadia Quest is heavy on dice-rolling as you use custom die to attack and defend. However, because some monsters and heroes can counter your attack the same way, you need to be strategic to secure a win. It’s simple, yet challenging.
It can feel random sometimes because of how much the game relies on the dice and luck. Sometimes, all you need is an unlucky dice roll to put you in a bad spot. You might also get unlikely victories from lucky crits.
In addition, some scenarios are tougher than others, with fewer upgrades and more overpowered monsters. That being said, like most classic dungeon crawlers, the game is predominantly based on fun and story. Which you might find frustrating if you are a strategist at heart.
You will enjoy Arcadia Quest if you like screwing around with your real-life rivals. The game offers a unique blend of compulsory cooperative and competitive (i.e. PvP) quests as a winning condition. So in addition to slaying Lord Fang’s henchmen, you would also have to keep a close eye on your competition.
Arcadia Quest Inferno is a fun, challenging, and the most accessible dungeon crawler in our review. Despite being cooperative, the game also forces you into a combat with other players to add that competitive twist. It features a branching narrative and a unique ability to corrupt characters over a period of time or even change the behavior of fiery monsters. As most games, it has its flaws, but with its abundance of scenarios, versatility, and expansions, its spot on our list of best dungeon crawler board games is well-earned.
|Unique PvP twist|
|Long set up time|
|Too dependent on dice rolls|
Batman: Gotham City Chronicles transports you to Gotham, where you can either be an iconic Batverse villain or form a team of beloved Gotham heroes. W
hen you play as a hero, you have to fulfill the objective in your scenario within 7 rounds.
Energy cubes are essential to this game. You can buy cool gadgets, move or fight with your energy cubes when you are the heroes.
As a villain, you command your henchmen with energy cubes and, if the villain calls for it, the villain himself!
The amount of details and love poured into Batman: Gotham City Chronicles is next to phenomenal. The turn limit gave us a sense of urgency and importance, which contributes to the overall feel of the game.
You have to weigh the pros and cons of beating up a thug versus infiltrating the secret hideout. Otherwise, you might end up accidentally helping Bane blow Gotham up. Besides that, the terrain and elevation details on the board improve the gaming experience. You will feel like Batman himself, jumping from rooftop to rooftop or skulking in the shadows.
We were surprised by how confusing the rule books are for such a huge game. It was difficult to navigate with lots of information to sift through. It was a pain trying to look up tiny details like terrain and special cases while playing. So, be prepared to spend some time getting things straight.
As you would expect from this DC Comics classic – one player takes on the role of a villain who controls a team of henchmen and other bad guys. Other players take on the role of heroes saving Gotham City from the villain. The rules could have been written better and it may take a couple of games, but once you get used to it, the immersive and cinematic experience of Batman: Gotham City Chronicles will blow your mind.
|Detailed and interesting scenarios|
|High replay value|
|A specially designed 2 player Versus Mode|
|Would like to see more exploration|
The events of Claustrophobia 1643 take place in the Underworld beneath New Jerusalem.
It’s a 2-player dungeon crawler board game that features the battle between good and evil.
The Western Warriors led by the Redeemer or the Infernal, the high commander of hell who wields demonic powers and controls and an unending horde of creatures and monsters.
As a Redeemer/ Western Warriors, you will be ambushed by demonic forces every step of the way.
The game depends heavily on dice for combat and special circumstances, so don’t be surprised when your game thrown off by a stroke (or streak) of bad luck. Luckily, you can mitigate some of this with strategy. The battle is long and hard, but it feels super satisfying when you win.
The balance of the game is tilted towards the Infernal player in Claustrophobia 1643. Although you are weaker than Western Warriors, there are infinite ways to stomp out your opponent’s fire of hope with your heavy leather boots.
For starters, you have a home advantage playing as Infernal. Besides this, you can spawn more demons and troglodytes than the Western Warriors can kill or separate the Western Warriors by manipulating map tiles in the dungeon. It is a role that requires less grit and strategy but extremely overpowered.
Claustrophobia 1643 is a competitive two-player asymmetrical survival game. It delivers and incredible thematic atmosphere set up in catacombs and immerses you in a story that takes place in Jerusalem – a man-made city in Hell. The game is easy to pick up and is designed to build up tension and inertia towards a tense and a climactic ending. It does feels like a marathon sometimes – the journey to the end is long and painful, but you feel unparalleled joy after you win.
|Brilliant player vs. player experience|
|More casual than most dungeon crawlers|
|Detailed miniatures and great artwork|
|Lots of table space is required|
Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients is a cooperative dungeon crawler set in the dark mines of an old mining town in the Wild West.
Lusting for treasures, you venture into the dark mines. What you don’t know is that weird monsters with more limbs than they should have and horrifying demons roam the mines.
You play as an Old West archetype like Saloon Girl, Rancher, or Gunslinger.
To win, you have to complete a mission with your posse.
The dungeon is the interesting part. You draw a map tile and an encounter token every time you enter a room in the mine. The encounter tile tells you how many monsters you meet and their order of appearance. Every monster you defeat gives you experience, which is essential for your leveling up since it will only get harder from this point forth.
After you defeat all the monsters in the room, you can scavenge for treasures. Once scavenged, you claim the room so other explorers can’t lay their money-grubbing hands on it.
In between adventures, you can go to frontier towns to spend your wealth or simply to get a quick drink. However, towns are, by no means, safe havens. Your dark adversaries from the mines might follow and wreak havoc while you ransack a house for gold!
Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients pits cowboys and monsters to create a wildly immersive and thematic gameplay with a lot of depth. It delivers one of the most remarkable cooperative experiences crawling the dungeon I’ve ever had. The storyline is determined via character choices, interactions, exploration and pure luck in a balanced and extremely engaging way.
|Well-developed world and ambiance|
|Lots of tactical but straightforward gameplay|
|Old West meets Lovecraftian horror|
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past is a animation based dungeon crawler board game with interesting game mechanics that stay true to its DNA.
Here, you can either be one of your favorite anthropomorphic teenage turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo or Shredder, the villain.
TMNT: Shadows of the Past is more than a dice-chucking dungeon crawler. You roll to determine your equipment and moves. However, the arrangement of the dice is the real star here.
The dice are custom made and each turtle has its own set of dice and hence requires a different strategy.
Unlike Raph – Leo, Mikey, and Donnie start with 3 dice each, giving you only 3 actions per round. But the spirit of brotherhood gives you 2 extra dice from each end of your arrangement, which potentially can bump your total up to 5 actions per round. To maximize your moves, you have to play efficiently as a team.
We loved the thematic touches in the game. Before you start any scenario, you can read the Adventure Comic to learn the background of the mission and the aftermath.
We especially loved Raph’s gameplay since it shows how much personality is in the game. As Raph, you start with 5 dice, so you don’t have to rely on other turtles as much. But we loved how well the game incorporates Raph’s I-don’t-need-you personality into the gameplay. Every turtle starts with a personal item and gains special abilities along the way. And get this, the game uses pizza tokens as health. How Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is that?
TMNT: Shadows of the Past uses the actual comic storyline to build an engaging scenario based campaign. Take on a role of the Master Shredder or one of your favorite ninja turtles in a series of battle packed missions. Grow and develop your characters over the life of the campaign by improving their abilities, fighting style and finding new equipment. Everything in the game from the shared-dice gameplay to the personality imbued into the characters bursts with details and theme.
|Stayed true to the original story|
|Refreshing shared-dice mechanics|
|Easy to pick up|
|Beautifully made components|
|Gameplay takes time to get used to|
Unlike the previous Thunderstone series board games, Thunderstone Quest features a campaign mode that whisks you off into an exciting tale of dungeon exploration.
To win, you have to collect as many victory points as you can from terrifying monsters.
Everyone starts with the same 12 cards, but play with 6 every turn.
As a deck-building dungeon crawler, you stand a better chance to win with a better hand. You basically get ready for the dungeon in the village by recruiting heroes, buying upgrades, heal, or leveling up your heroes.
You get different rooms in dungeons depending on the quest you got. Monsters in the dungeon are challenging to beat without proper resources, so be sure to stock up on torches and potions. You can’t sit around and hope for the best in Thunderstone Quest, so put on your strategist hat and soldier on!
Furthermore, we liked that you discard the monster cards in a different pile. This keeps your deck lean so you don’t have to worry about drawing monsters in your hand anymore. Having the wilderness that you can visit at any time is also great. Now, you can train in the wilderness even if you start with a lame hero and crappy gear.
That being said, it can get a bit stale when you are preparing to go into the dungeon. Pacing can be slow if you keep drawing unusable cards. Wounds decrease the number of cards you can draw as well so you would have to play smart to avoid the game getting drawn out.
Thunderstone Quest is a fantasy adventure dungeon crawler deck-building game. It features two distinct areas, the marketplace (to buy new cards and upgrade) and a dungeon itself (to fight monsters). Dice are replaced by cards eliminating the randomness to deliver more predictable outcomes. The updated version builds on the success of the original and takes it up a notch. It creates a nice coherent system of play that bursts with options and variety of things to do.
|Nicely balanced gameplay|
|Backward compatible with other versions|
|Beautiful artwork and high-quality miniatures|
|Slow pace in the beginning|
The Silver Tower is the lair of the Gaunt Summoner, an abode of despicable evil that you, as the hero, want desperately to raid.
In your journey to unravel the mysteries of the tower, you would encounter monsters and unspeakable horrors.
With your guild of heroes, you will emerge victorious in your quest for glory or succumb to the overwhelming power of the sorcerer.
In essence, Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower is jam-packed with intricate storylines, miniatures, and fun minigames. For such a content-heavy game, the gameplay is surprisingly simple. You roll a certain amount of dice provided by your character to perform actions. You can also use a shared dice pool for more complicated strategies.
The minigames are one of the highlights of Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. Instead of a simple upgrade or skill check, you play a minigame when you run into certain game components. For example, upon finding a trapped chest, you put two dice on top of a face-down treasure card and attempt to slide them off. This is a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill dungeon crawler mechanics in many games.
Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower brings classic characters from the lore to the tabletops in pieces. You see your miniatures come to life by assembling them. We loved how personal this process feels. By the end of sticking together multiple parts of a dwarf’s beard together, you will feel a connection with the game unlike any other.
Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower is a dungeon crawl that finds the right balance between strategy, storytelling and accessible gameplay. It tops that with various surprises and unexpected encounters that excite and puzzle at the same time creating a nice sense of capricious challenge and dungeon exploration. Strap yourself to experience a strange, outlandish and even weird fantasy world being pushed in all directions.
|Great storytelling experience|
|Well made miniatures|
|Flimsy tiles and cards|
Darklight: Memento Mori is an old-school dungeon crawler action with original dark-gothic settings and deep strategic combat.
The story goes that you were awoken from your deep slumber by the Grim Warden to harvest souls in the dark and horrific world of Intermundis.
As fate would have it, you band together with 3 other Accursed to help each other survive.
In the face of terror, you must collect enough souls to appease the Grim Warden, survive unnamed threats, and ultimately complete a mission from the Quest Room.
The game features a modular board game, which means all the grotesque monsters and deadly traps you face is randomly generated.
Every room leaves you wondering if you will leave unscathed this time. It is an entirely dice-based dungeon board game, so make sure you have Lady Luck by your side when you go into the dungeons.
The game can be exceptionally punishing and brutal. As an Accursed, you start the game wearing scraps and work your way up. You get 20 extra skill cards every level you gain. With the right calls and purchases, you can train your Accursed to become a celebrated hero once again.
The miniature designs in Darklight: Memento Mori is detailed and downright horrifying, in a good way. It is inspired by grimy, old school monster designs from the 80s and 90s, so expect to see disturbing designs filled with tentacles, or another torso growing from the pelvic area of a man. To add to the overall feel, this game has some of the most gorgeous miniatures we have ever seen in a dungeon crawler board game.
Darklight: Memento Mori is a cooperative dungeon crawler that combines RPG and tabletop elements in a dark-gothic setting. The world is brutal and themes with abominations, mature situations and allows a deep strategic combat. The campaign and miniatures are out of this world, the best we’ve ever seen in board games, so if you are ready to get immersed in the world of darkness, we don’t know any better way to do it.
|Grotesquely beautiful miniatures|
|Thematic and engaging scenarios|
|A lot of exploration and strategy involved|
|Randomness in dungeon generation|
|Can be overly punishing|
|Relies too much on dice for combat|
You don’t want to invest in the wrong games, only to never touch it again. Board games are subjected to personal tastes, especially dungeon crawlers. To find your best fit, you have to ask yourself: what are you looking for?
Love watching your opponent(s) sob in defeat? Try playing Claustrophobia 1643 and Gloomhaven. Hate the dice-randomness that sometimes come with dungeon crawler board games? Try Thunderstone Quest! Do you want to be legendary comic book heroes and bust crimes? Batman: Gotham City Chronicles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past might be more up your speed.
Besides that, your experience with dungeon crawler board games matters too. Descent, Darklight: Memento Mori, and Shadows of Brimstones: City of Ancients can curb your appetite for something hardcore. Some games like Arcadia Quest, TMNT: Shadows of the Past, Claustrophobia 1643, and Warhammer Quest scales well with mixed groups.
Most dungeon crawler board games are designed around 4 players which seems to be a sweet spot for player collaboration and group decision making. In fact, we have just finished reviewing the best board games for 4 players if you are interested to have a peak.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Dungeon Crawler?
A dungeon crawl is one of the scenario types in the fantasy role-playing genre. Typically, you see heroes go through a labyrinthine also known as “dungeon”, “catacombs” or “maze”. Once inside, players battle various monsters, disarm traps, solve puzzles, and find loot. Most of the time a dungeon crawl is easy, yet some games come with customization resulting in more complex adventures. On the other side, the “hack and slash” style of play is appreciated by players who enjoy action and combat over storytelling and strategy the most. Those types of dungeon crawl often lack a meaningful plot or logical consistency.
Competitive or Cooperative Dungeon Crawl?
In fact, there are three types, as summarized below:
- Competitive – most of the time it is a player vs player gameplay where one gets to control the heroes and the other player controls the army of evil.
- Cooperative – where all the players work together as a team to defeat the forces of evil or an overlord himself.
- Semi-cooperative – one player takes on the role of the overlord or the evil master commanding the dark forces and the other players cooperate between themselves to defeat the overlord.
Can Gloomhaven be played solo?
Yes, technically you can, but you have to be controlling two or more characters at the same time. In fact, many players including Tom Vasel mentioned that it was their preferred way to play the game.
What happens when you lose Gloomhaven?
You keep the gained experience and gold, and you can the same scenario again. Alternatively, you could try another scenario.
Does Gloomhaven use dice?
No, it uses a deck of twenty cards instead. They are used to modify damage.