Category Archives: Wizards of the Coast

On Deck – Axis & Allies WWI 1914

In a lot of ways, I did board game backwards.  I did cut my teeth on Risk and had some fun with that but from there, our next best options were the more complicated Avalon Hill games.  Not the Avalon Hill that’s part of the Wizards of the Coast now, but the “old” Avalon Hill with their detailed war simulations.  A lot of this was in the mid to late 1980s so we went from playing Risk to games like The Rise and Decline of the Third Reich.  Since then I’ve reread some of the rules of those games and needless to say, we were definitely cutting some corners.

Then one summer (I want to say either 1985 or 1986), I got Axis & Allies for my birthday and for the rest of the summer, that’s all we played.  If we weren’t playing ball, we were out back on the picnic table or in someone’s basement playing this game.  We eventually bought some of the other games Milton Bradley put out like Fortress America (one of my favorites) but Axis & Allies stuck.  Since then I’ve kept up and bought most of the recent incarnations (except the most very recent 1941 and 1942 editions) and have even bought most of the theater games.

Now for a little segue.  While World War II has gotten a ton of love, I always thought World War I was underrepresented in the gaming world. We played The Guns of August but I don’t think we ever made it out of 1915 before calling it quits because it was slow and just too a lot of time.  Since then I’ve picked up Paths of Glory: The First World War but haven’t had a chance to play it yet because that has it’s own time committment.

Back to Axis and Allies, that’s why I was happy when I saw this.  They’re making a World War I incarnation of Axis and Allies and I’m really interested in seeing how they pull this off.  Infantry was a huge part of the war but eventually tanks came into play.  I’m also interested in seeing how they pull off the trench warfare on the Western Front.  The good thing is, we only have a month until this game is out so we can check it out for ourselves.

Dungeons and Dragons Castle Ravenloft Board Game Review

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.