Monday, September 06, 2010

A Ranger in Ravenloft

I managed another QUICK game of Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game. I again played a solo game, this time trying out the Ranger character. I'm not sure this particular one is a great one solo. The basic setup gives the ranger a basic "do 1 damage to an adjacent monster" ability and lots of the monsters have only 1 hit, so this is a good thing, but the lack of AC and HP means I got killed really really quickly - like 5 tiles quickly. I was up to like 11 XP, but the wraiths and flaming skeletons were too much. Each HP surge was only 4 HP and I didn't have enough space to maneuver away from the dangers. Ah well.

Castle Ravenloft

Castle Ravenloft was once a Dungeons and Dragons adventure game. Ravenloft eventually proved popular enough to spawn its own campaign setting - inspired by gothic horror classics such as the Mummy, Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, etc. Wizards of the Coast has returned to this setting in a new line of board games with the appropriately (if not obvious titled) - Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game. Wizards is obviously looking to tap into a new market and perhaps pull in some new players to the Dungeons and Dragons gaming scene. I don't know anything about that. I do know that this is a light fun romp with rules that are in line with Heroscape or Claustrophobia. So what is Castle Ravenloft? It is a cooperative dungeon crawl for 1-5 players. Each player takes a different class and the group picks and adventure to from the book to play. Each has their own goal for winning. Typically, losing means getting killed a couple time. On a player's turn, they can move and fight, fight then move, or move twice. If you end at the edge of the board you draw a new tile from the stack of tiles that will make up the game area. When you place the tile, monsters may or may not appear. After a player moves, that player then also executes the monster's turn. monster cards explain clearly what needs to be done and whom to attack. There are other cards for treasure and for encounters and traps that can hinder or help the players. All in all, the game is pretty well scripted so that players aren't flipping through books or looking things up on 12 different tables of numbers to figure things out.
I've played the game twice now - one solo to get an understanding of the mechanics. The solo game had me trying to find my way out before Strahd (the master vampire of Castle Ravenloft) awoke and killed me. I ran around as quickly as I could looking for the exit. Strahd awoke and chased me around quite a bit. I managed to finally find the exit and escape with 1 hit left before I would have lost. The second game was with my son and we were trying to find a chapel with a special artifact. Unfortunately, we found a lot of wraiths who kicked our butt. We finally found the chapel, but had died twice already and were easy targets for the two monsters we found inside the chapel.
So, what do I think? Its fun. It doesn't outstay its welcome. Games are about an hour, which makes this one instantly appealing over something like Descent. Does this mean I should throw Descent away? No. This is different. In fact, it almost feels like Claustrophobia for 1-5 players. Combat is super straightforward and in fact, the exploration piece doesn't really give you an option for which way to lay a tile - you always point the printed arrow towards the area that you are exploring from. There isn't the same feel of gaining treasure like in other dungeon crawls and experience and leveling is a limited deal, but you don't have the overhead of other dungeon games either. The tile mechanism is neat, but the tiles are pretty generic and the maps tend to look just like the last one. The minis that come with the game are ok - they are basically unpainted versions of the D&D:Minis that have been out for a while. One of the hero models is new, but the rest have been seen (that doesn't make them bad). The tiles are nice and there are lots of cards (though the cards aren't the thickest, so I'm not sure how they'll hold up to lots of playing). Wizards of the Coast already has another boxed set coming out which is supposed to be compatible (ie, new monsters and heroes that can be used with either set). I'm not sure how many scenarios you can put together - there can only be so many variations on run through catacombs for some reason or another, but this isn't a bad game so I can see getting both if one gets played enough.

Game Night

Friday Sept 3, 2010 - Rob and Michelle's place.
I got to Rob and Michelle's place a bit on the early side this week (as did Nathan Winchester, Matt and Liz Longieliere). We started the night out playing a game of Ra with Rob. Ra is one of the classics that I'll play just about anytime. There is a good mix of push your luck and knowing when to bid that makes this one great. For this game, Matt pulled down a couple early stacks of monuments and later in the game pulled down more it kept him safely in the lead for an easy win. Nathan managed to beat me, but only because Liz pulled me down to lowest Pharaohs, costing me two points.
Steve Bauer had arrived and we've been trying to get in a game of Samurai, so I pulled it down for us. Matt Cullinan and Matthew Frederick rounded out the game. Unlike my last game (4-player tie) this one wasn't close. Matt took advantage of Matthew nearly every round, and Steve abused me at every turn. I played ok, but didn't see any of my 4-tiles until my last three draws. Matt won easily with two majorities.
Everyone split up again, and this time, Liz joined Matt, Matthew and I for a game of Thebes.  This is a game that has grown on me. Despite the randomness of the digging, it is an entertaining game for what is clearly a family game. The mechanics are well done and mesh well with the theme. I was able to get a few books of general knowledge early on,  and then grabbed a lot of purple. Matt had a load of orange, and so I sucked it up and headed south to dig. I grabbed a couple of oranges before Matt decimated the pile, but pulled in a ton of purple stuff. Then I raced for some yellow and managed a dig before the end of the year, allowing me to essentially double up digging at yellow. Matthew was having a hell of a time - everywhere he planned to go, we managed to get there right before him and dig the hell out of the place. His saving grace was that he was collecting a ton of congress cards. Unfortunately, he was always in position to get them and we weren't. Matthews bonus points from the congresses  saved his hide and he won the game.
I finished the night playing a game of Samarkand with Dion Garner, Rob, and Steve. This is a fun little game whose major shortcoming is that the setup is almost as long as the game. This game felt amazingly fast - Dion, Rob and Steve all played on the East side of the map and left me to my demise. With no help, I think I only landed a couple of card. This game does have a similar feel to Chicago Express in that you have to "play the players" - Rob ended the game very quickly as he had a number of points coming in matching cards.