First off some background. When I was a kid, I was a big into role playing games. The game we played the most, naturally, was Dungeons and Dragons. I haven’t played in close to 20 years but I’ve bought some of the books (I quit at 3.5) and I still have my old 1E hard cover books on a book shelf. The game has changed a lot since then, but a lot of the underlying themes are the same. I liken it more to what Battletech is, more of a board game with role playing elements. That’s why I was curious when I saw Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game at a local store.
This one is a tough one to review because there is no comparison to the D&D role playing game. If you’re a hard core role player, you might not like this scaled down version. It’s about as light as you can get short of playing Dungeon but if you take it for what it is, you can have a lot of fun with it. The game comes with around 20 interconnecting tiles that are shuffled into a deck. You also choose one of several scenarios which require you to sometime set the deck of tiles up a certain way and the scenario might also call for a specific bad guy to fight at the end.
Then the heroes explore. It’s a dungeon crawl to the max. You start out with a start tile and the first hero to “explore” an edge puts down a new tile which almost always contains a new creature (there’s a creature deck that you draw from). There are also encounter cards that can come into play and these range from environment cards, traps or other random attacks or effects that can throw the heroes off. As you explore more edges, more tiles are placed down and that’s essentially your dungeon.
Each hero (there are five different classes to choose from) gets ability cards. A couple of these are his basic attacks and usually give the hero the ability to do more damage if they take a less chance to hit. They also have one time abilities they can use throughout the game. Each hero or monster has an armor class and they also have a +?? to hit and that’s what you need to role on a d20 for a successful hit.
One of the drawbacks is when a tile is placed and a creature is put down, that creature almost always gets to attack the hero before the hero has a chance to do his attack. What the creature/monster does is pretty mechanical and it’s spelled out on it’s creature card. So you want to keep your wizard away from the exploring and leave it up to the muscle.
The first time my son and I played, we got beat up mostly because he was more interested in wandering around, putting down tiles and at one time we had too many creatures down that overwhelmed us. When we took a more measured approach, we’ve now been able to get past the first two scenarios with some room. He’s used the Dragonborn Fighter and I’ve used the Dwarf Cleric (this one is necessary if you want to go far with his healing ability). I’m still trying to figure out how to do the trap cards.
All in all, we’ve had a lot of fun with it. It also let’s you play with five people so it can make for a fun evening if you have a bigger group. We also have Wizards of The Coast Legend of Drizzt: A Dungeons and Dragons Board Game which is both a stand alone game and can be used with the Ravenloft game to give even more playing options. Wrath of Ashardalon: A D&D Boardgame is the final game in the series and is on our list. And if it proves to be a gateway to getting into D&D, then I’ll have to start brushing up on my Dungeon Master skills.