Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Impressions: Castle Ravenloft Board Game

All the pieces on the board...

Since I mentioned it in my last post, I thought this would probably be the best thing to review next. 

Just like the Monster Vault, this box comes with a whole lot of stuff, and requires a certain amount of organizational capability to get the most out of it.  There are so many different pieces of heavy cardstock that get used in the game, from Hit Point counters to Dungeon Tiles, item markers and Player Character cards, if you can’t keep them organized you’ll have a hell of a time getting the game to run smoothly. Plastic baggies worked pretty well for me. 

There are forty plastic minis, 35 monster and 5 heroes, including a big nasty Dracolich.  I’m probably more looking forward to using these minis in my actual D&D 4E game than with Castle Ravenloft..

Same goes with the tiles that make up the dungeon as well.  They could very easily be used for a proper D&D game. 

You also get a d20 with the game.  Woohoo!

It is very much a simplified D&D 4E.  So simplified, that it’s kind of confusing.  There is no Dungeon Master, for starters!  The monsters are controlled by the individual player that encounters each monster, and the monster’s actions are dictated by what their little playing card says they’ll do.  Oh, and did I mention that the monster always wins initiative?  Pretty much every time a monster is discovered, it gets to make the first attack, usually against the hero that finds it.  It was definitely an exercise in frustration to roll for the hero to attack and miss, and then roll for the monster to attack and have it hit, almost every time, which was what happened to my eight-year-old son.  His wizard was the first to run out of hit points are require a healing surge (of which there are 2, to be shared by the whole team).  I’m surprised he still wants to play again. 

For its faults, the system still seems to work pretty well.  It is not an easy game to win, certainly, but it’s not too terribly difficult either.  Like any D&D game, a string of bad rolls can really cause some damage. 

I would have preferred to have some kind of Dungeon Master running the monsters, with a little more freedom to choose what they do.  Maybe that would make this game a little too much like “HeroQuest” but I think it would give it more of a D&D feel.  My plan is to work up some houserules to incorporate a DM into the game, and find a happier medium between this system and the 4E rules as written. 

Hell, I may just teach the kids 4E and be done with it, and use the pieces and adventures of Castle Ravenloft for our D&D game instead!

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