Dungeons and Dragons has always been a bane of my existence. See, I only ever played the RPG once, and the time I did, I swore up and down to my room mate at the time, he didn't want me playing with his group. Now to be fair, the group was all my friends too, but I just never did that thing, I was into Magic and only Magic, what can I say, I was a monogamous gamer then. So after much arguing, I played... and in about 45 minutes I killed two of the major heroes in his storyline, all over $5, yes, really, $5, or maybe it was 5 gold... but, in the end, I abruptly excused myself for eternity.
Since then, I've never ventured back to Neverwinter or anywhere nearby. Sure, I tried a few seconds of DND Online, and yes I even tried some of the Xbox arcade games, but nothing serious. Then, I found Watch it Played on YouTube, and was hooked. For I found a board game called Wrath of Ashardalon, and as such, being a Mini fan at heart, I must share...
To begin, this is not DND as you know it. This is more of how could the designers (Peter Lee being one of them) get people to play, without all the set up and creation? Well, easy, prepackage specific adventures with awesome mini models of monsters and heroes, all around one storyline. They pull this off extremely well!
Essentially it goes like this, the village of Longbridge is being terrorized by hordes in the nearby mountain, controlled by none other than... DUN DUN DUN, Ashardalon, the Red Dragon! You, as a Rogue, Fighter, Cleric, Paladin and/or Wizard, will face the terrors that lurk there, and reign victorious or suffer utter defeat.
So what do you get and how is this thing really played? First, I invite you to take a look at a video of the unboxing my son (known as NinjaZach) and I put together, covering the unboxing, our thoughts, and the end of our first game. After the jump, a bit more...
As you can see, anyone who is 6 loves this game. As such, I can say anyone who is older than 6, and possibly younger, loves it too!
To start, the system is well put together. Essentially all heroes start on a start tile. If they end their turn on an exposed edge of a tile, they draw a new tile from the tile stack and add it. There are specific arrows that show which side touches which. Every time, or at least every time we have had it come up, when a new tile is brought out, a monster comes with it. Some tiles force you to draw an Encounter card, which is never "Hi guys, here's all these hot chicks in chainmail and a bag of gold." No, brave adventurer, almost all Encounters are bad and harmful. And, if you end your turn not adjacent to an exposed edge, then you must draw an Encounter card. So you are forced to reveal more dungeon and take a gamble on Encounters coming up, but have to deal with the Monsters you find, or don't explore and guarantee and Encounter, and deal with said adversity.
This is basically the game's mechanics to move you forward and keep you exploring more and more until you reach your goal. And goals a plenty there are! Just in this set, there are 13 adventures that a solo player or party of 5 can enjoy, and one of those adventures has an option of 14 different scenarios, so there is a LOT of replay value! Goals range from kill X monsters to find specific Chambers and defeat big Villains (stronger Monsters basically), or there is even a ridiculously fun one where you have to save villagers, one of which constantly shudders in fear and won't keep up with you.
"This set" you say? Yes I say! See, this is the second in a series of three board games in this style. The first beingCastle Ravenloft and the most recent being the Legend of Drizzt. Drizzt? Yes, that Drizzt if you read the DND books. The reason, other than being the coolest geek on your block to own them all, is that you can combine them and utilize tiles, monsters, and cards from all!
Now, of course, if you defeat said evil Monsters and Villains, there is treasure to be had. There are even shops in between campaign scenarios where if you are playing longer games with multiple scenarios your heroes can upgrade and buy more equipment. But beware, as the Monsters are one thing, but the Villains are another! Ashardalon alone has 12 Health and 16AC and gets +10 to all his attacks... oh, and about every third card that comes out when he's in play will be a massive fireball to the face.
But, you will never have had so much fun frying alive with friends! This is a very social game! After only a few games, I can say there is very little downtime in between each turn as you are always strategizing with you team and working together both on the active players' turn and using cards to help others when it's not your turn, yes, even the Fighter can do tricks like that to help. This makes the experience feel all the more authentic. We even found ourselves making up stories to go along with the gameplay and reasons why certain monsters appeared to add more flavor to our experience. There is always a way too imgaine in this game.
Overall, the gameplay system is unique enough to appreciate and well designed enough to make for great games. The Treasures are valuable and sought after, and the danger lurking
around every corner, being unknown, keeps you coming back, or should I say, digging deeper, for more!
Final Score from 1 to 10 Crits with 10 being the highest?:
WoTC Product Site: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/214420000
Additionally, here are some stills from the game:
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