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Man vs Wife: Dungeon!

Man vs WifeDungeon!, originally released by TSR, simulates some of the aspects of Dungeons & Dragons. You play a character and roam through a dungeon killing monsters for treasure. It came out in 1975, a year after D&D, and has been revised several times. There is yet another version coming out in October, but the copy I own is the 1989 version called “New Dungeon” because it revamped the classes.

Dungeon! - The Box

It's a little on the nose... Dungeon... Dragon... subtle this is not.

In the basic version we play first, everyone is a warrior. (Wife: I want to be the female.) Fine, I’ll be… uh.. the dwarf, I guess. They both look like dwarves, which is funny because Dwarf is one of the advanced classes. Whatever. Warriors get to move up to 5 spaces each turn. (Wife: We don’t roll?) Not according to the box rules, but there are house rules where you roll to move. (Wife: Then what are the dice for?) I’ll get to that. Back to the moving. You can go up to 5 spaces, but if you enter a room you have to stop and fight and end your turn, even if it’s less than 5 spaces. If you want to go through a secret door, the dashed lines (Wife: I was just about to ask that.), you have to roll a die. Warriors open secret doors on a 1 or a 2. If you fail, your turn ends. If you fail three times, on the fourth you automatically find the secret door and can go through it. (Wife: That’s nice.) Yeah, a reward for just wasting three entire turns doing nothing.

When it comes to combat, monster cards have six numbers on them, and warriors use the red one. You roll both dice and try to get equal to or higher than the number. (Wife: What are the other numbers for?) The other classes and spells. If you beat a monster in a room, you get a treasure of the appropriate level. If you beat a monster in a chamber, you get no treasure. (Wife: Poor chamber monsters.) The board is laid out with rooms of six different levels of difficulty, with the higher levels getting the best treasures.

There are special treasures too. Secret Door cards let you walk through secret doors without rolling. ESP Medallions let you see monsters before you decide to fight them. Crystal Balls let you look at the monster and treasure of any room on the board. And Magic Swords give you a bonus to fighting. (Wife: How much?) There are four +1 swords and one +2 sword. (Wife: Do they stack?) No.

Under the basic rules, warriors need 30,000 gold worth of treasure to win. You have to adventure out, defeat monsters, collect treasures and return to the Main Staircase. First one to do that wins. When you play with more people, you get in each other’s way a lot, which drags out the game. With just two of us, she runs for the level 1 rooms and I head for level 4. (Wife: What?) See, I’ve played this game before (Wife: Cheater!) and I know that while it’s easy to fight level 1 and 2 monsters, many of whom need a 3 or even a 2 – you can’t roll less than 2 on two dice – to defeat, there is a disproportionate jump in difficulty from level 4 to level 5 in that level 5 is much harder than level 4, and level 4 is still statistically favorable to win while earning more valuable treasures. (Wife: Cheater! Cheater!) I know. I take a pretty quick lead, but I forgot two things. First, getting a secret door card is much easier in the lower level rooms, as is a magic sword. Second, if you go down the wrong hall to level 4, you end up having to detour through level 5 or take the long way around. (Wife: You went the wrong way?) I went the wrong way.

So, she racks up a pile of treasure, with Secret Door cards and magic swords, and while I have a pile of money I step into a level 5 room that’s too difficult. According to the rules, when you don’t kill a monster on the first attack, another player rolls for the monster and then you consult the damage table to see what the monster does to you. The results range from the monster missing and nothing happening, to dropping treasure, to being killed. (Wife: Are you dead?) She rolls a 3, so I’m not dead, but I have to drop half of my treasure and return to the Main Staircase. She’s now winning. (Wife: I’m winning!) And basically I’m screwed. My choices are to either go back to where I lost and try to reclaim my treasure and hope the next couple rooms give me enough to win, or take the loss and head for the easier rooms. The problem with the second option is that she’s been clearing out, and will continue to clear out, those rooms, so it’s a long wasted run to finally get something worthwhile. I decide to go get my stuff. (Wife: Revenge!) Revenge!

She wins. (Wife: I win!)

Having played out the basic game rather quickly, I propose we play again. Advanced this time. (Wife: You are just trying to steal my victory.) No, really, we should just play another variant. (Wife: Advanced is too complicated.) You could play a warrior again. (Wife: And you would play what?) A wizard. (Wife: Why?) Just to be different. (Wife: No, really, why?) I like wizards. (Wife: I’m not playing if you don’t tell me.) I put on my robe and hat. (Wife: Just tell me!) Fine! Because with spells you can defeat level 6 monsters really easy. (Wife: Cheater!) Whatever. We’ll both play warriors again, but we’ll clear the dungeon entirely and the winner is the one with the most treasure at the end. (Wife: Better.)

I’m not going to bore you with the details, because it was a very long game, but she won. (Wife: I win!) I avoided my earlier mistakes, but I just lost out on luck. She ended the game with literally all the Magic Swords (Wife: That don’t stack! Lame!) and most of the other special treasure cards. I didn’t get a Secret Door card until we were pushing into level 5. I also want to avoid the details because this game got really ugly. Remember that rule about having another player roll for the monsters? I recommend instead allowing the player to roll for their own damage. It’ll prevent players from being angry at other players and instead be angry at the dice. Nothing makes you hate another player quite as much as them rolling a 2 and you having to drop ALL your treasure and return to the Main Staircase. (Wife: Yeah! Screw that!) Honestly, we could have played the game a little more cutthroat, but tended to let the other get their own treasure back rather than go steal it after it was dropped.

I’m curious if the new version coming out this fall will have better or different rules. No matter what, if we ever play this again (Wife: Never!) it will be after a bunch of research on house rules that help the game be more fun.

Despite my lack of winning, I still like Dungeon! Though I fully admit that part of it is nostalgia. Back in the day (Wife: Here we go…) some of my gaming groups would use the board and modified rules along with real D&D characters. It was easier than drawing out a random dungeon map. We would just toss down the board, pick a chamber to be the entrance and start exploring. In my opinion, the game is worth owning for that alone.


Man, 0. Wife, 7.

(Wife: I…) Just don’t.

Man vs Wife: Sorry!

Man vs WifeSorry! by Parker Brothers, since 1934, is a cross and circle game. Which is another way to say a racing game, whose object is to move your pieces around the board from start to finish before the other players do the same. It’s also billed as “The game of sweet revenge”, which is a poetic way to say “The game of making the other players furious and hate you”.

The game comes with a board, sixteen game pieces in four groups of four, and a stack of cards. Unlike some other racing games, Sorry! uses cards drawn to do movement rather than dice, which ultimately is probably a good thing since throwing dice around in a game that can anger you so much is not the best idea in the world. (Wife: I love playing Sorry!) I’m pretty sure you don’t. (Wife: You’re wrong.) Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.


The game of sweet reven... you know what?! Eat me!

For our 2 player game, we take up Blue and Green for our colors so that we are opposite each other. (Wife: Picking colors next to each other wouldn’t have been fair.) Because if given the choice I’d choose the color behind you. (Wife: Then I’d pick the color behind you.) And I’d switch colors. (Wife: Me too.) And we’d probably start our first argument before a single card had been drawn. (Wife: Oh, this is that game!) Wait, it’ll get worse.

One of the single most annoying rules of Sorry! is that you have to draw either a 1 or a 2 to move a piece out of your Start circle. (Wife: You can also use a Sorry! card to take the place of an opponent’s piece, bumping their piece back to Start.) Right, but in the beginning, it takes a while. We didn’t use the head start rules that puts a single piece outside Start to start, so we spend a lot of time just trying to get pieces out of Start. (Wife: You are exaggerating. It didn’t take that long.) I disagree. It took too long, that’s not a specific amount of time, it’s just too long.

The movement cards in the game are the following:

  • 1 – move a piece out of Start, or move a piece forward one space.
  • 2 – move a piece out of Start, or move a piece forward two spaces. Draw another card.
  • 3 – move a piece forward three spaces.
  • 4 – move a piece backward four spaces.
  • 5 – move a piece forward five spaces.
  • 7 – move a piece forward seven spaces, or split the seven moves between two pieces. You cannot use this to move a piece from Start and must you all seven moves or none of them.
  • 8 – move a piece forward eight spaces.
  • 10 – move a piece forward ten spaces, or move a piece backward one space. If you cannot move forward ten, you must move backward one.
  • 11 – move a piece forward eleven spaces, or swap places with an opponent’s piece. If you cannot move forward eleven, you are not forced to swap places.
  • 12 – move a piece forward twelves space.
  • Sorry! – move a piece from your Start to a space occupied by an opponent’s piece, bumping them back to their Start.

Any time your move ends your piece on the same spot as an opponent’s piece, you bump them back to Start. The board also has slides on it. If you end a movement on the top of a slide, you move to the bottom of the slide, bumping all pieces in the way back to Start. (Wife: That’s a lot of bumping people back to Start.) Indeed. (Wife: I think perhaps I only LIKED playing Sorry!, not loved it.) See, I was right. (Wife: I guess it has to happen from time to time.) Wait, it’ll get worse.

So, we begin drawing cards, finally getting some pieces out on the board and moving them around. She get’s the first Sorry! card. (Wife: Hah!) I get the first eleven, which I use to swap places. (Wife: Why did you move your piece backwards?) Because it moves your piece past the Safe Zone and you have to go all the way around again. (Wife: What?! You suck!) And then we spend the next hour making each other angry by bumping each other back to Start again and again, using Sorry! cards and slides and screwing each other over. (Wife: I’m pretty sure I don’t like this game at all.) See? (Wife: Don’t be smug.)

One of the best strategies in the game is to get a piece out of Start and then get a 4, move that piece backwards past the entry to the Safe Zone, and then move forward into the Safe Zone. It saves you from having to go around the board. (Wife: I did that.) I know. (Wife: Several times.) I know. You essentially want to get your pieces into the Safe Zone as fast as possible because once there you can’t be bumped back to Start.

With as much anger and spite as the game generates during play, it ends with a whimper. Eventually you end up with both people having only one or two pieces still in play, and because you have to move to the Finish on an exact count, and no one has any pieces in Start, and everyone’s remaining pieces are in the Safe Zone anyway, you wind up drawing cards over and over, doing nothing, waiting for the ones, twos and threes that you need to get to that final space. Or maybe you get lucky, get a seven and are able to split it between two pieces and get one or both in. By the time she wins (Wife: I win!) we’ve calmed down, our emotions mostly spent.

Somehow, I have fond memories of playing this game as a kid. (Wife: Me too.) And I think it’s because my parents let me win and never took revenge on me when they could avoid it. (Wife: Me too.) I think it’s important that people get a proper exposure to Sorry! and that includes hating it. (Wife: We may never play this again.) Until we can secretly gang up on another player. (Wife: Woohoo! High five!) You know it!

My recommendation: Never ever EVER play Sorry! with 2 players. Play with 4, always 4. There is so much revenging on other players in a game of Sorry! that if you are forced to always do so to the same person, it just makes for bad feelings. You need to be able to spread the revenge around a bit.


Man, 0. Wife, 6.

(Wife: I’m not.) Not what? (Wife: I’m not “Sorry!” Mwahahaha! I win!) I have created a monster…