By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on May 25, 2016
As you may aware of by now, I absolutely love D&D. If youíve somehow missed that fact, you can read about it here or here and even here. At this point, youíre probably thinking that I have played every D&D game out there, but you would be mistaken. No, thereís much, much more, as you will see right here in this review.
Apart from the Live Action Role Playing games, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) also made a bunch of D&D board games. So if you donít have the imagination, the pens and papers and the patience to run an actual LARP game, you can always give the dungeon crawling aspect of it a try.
I will be talking about four games at once: Castle Ravenloft, The Legend of Drizzt, Temple of Elemental Evil and Wrath of Ashardalon. I'm going to do this because, well, they are all basically the ďsameĒ game, but have a different story. And letís be honest, itís the story that drives the game.
You start your game by selecting a scenario in the adventure book. This gives you special rules and guidelines on what to do. After selecting the scenario, you select your character and pick out the appropriate powers for your character from the power deck. After this, itís time to ďbuildĒ the dungeon; every scenario has a starting tile and when you go exploring you will add extra tiles, which fit together like puzzle pieces. When you add a tile something will happen; usually itís the appearing of a monster, a trap that has been sprung, or other generally bad stuff.
Every box is filled with miniatures and tiles and has its own theme. The Castle Ravenloft game is set in a series of castles and crypts, filled with the undead and a giant Dracolich as the big bad guy. The Legend of Drizzt takes place in the Underdark, a mean, foul and nasty place, full of dark elves (the Drow) and other generally creepy stuff. Temple of Elemental Evil is full of... well... Elemental Evil beings that do very much seem to want you dead. Lastly, Wrath of Ashardalon is filled to the brim with monsters and, best of all, a big red dragon! There are other D&D board games out there: Conquest of Nerath, Lords of Waterdeep, just to name a few. I donít actually own these games, so I couldn't tell you what they are about, but you can bet your ass it will be something dark, broody and generally evil!
The games are basically classic dungeon crawlers; somewhat simplified but still featuring a deep combat system and lots of stuff to find and do. The game is well built; it has sturdy parts and nicely made, unpainted miniatures, so even if youíre not playing the game, you can still enjoy yourself by painstakingly painting the characters of the game.
Although these games are a lot of fun and have more than a fair share of cool features, there is one remark I need to make. Even though itís technically D&D, it doesnít quite feel like it. It feels more like any generic dungeon crawler would; itís fun and itís surely engaging, but misses a lot of things that make D&D even more attractive and fun. The combat system is deep, but for a seasoned Dungeon Master itís a bit too simple. Thereís no room for creativity, itís all just basic combat moves in a kill-or-be-killed fashion. No negotiation, nothing; just a murder hobo fest which, truth be told, has its own kind of charm.
These D&D board games are fun to play. They offer a nice dungeon crawl coop experience, without the hassle of all the rules and books. If youíre a seasoned D&D veteran, however, youíll really, really like that hassle and will miss it quite a bit while playing these games. Nevertheless, it is a great alternative to the real thing and the game is well built, the parts are sturdy and the box is made in such a manner that, even though you punched out every part, they STILL fit in the box perfectly. This is a rare trait in board gaming and a huge plus in my book! The last thing I want to say about these games is that, even if you donít like the games themselves, you can always buy them for the miniatures and the tiles for use in a real D&D game (if you use miniatures in your adventures, that is), because youíll be getting a great deal. Now, all this writing has made me hungry and thirsty for some anime. As always, I will be going to Animecon this year and I will be writing about it. So this is where I'll leave you for now; just remember to keep playing and have fun!
Wizards of the Coast
Published: 2010 - 2016
Players: 1 - 5 players (varies per game), ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 45-60 minutes per player