Game Designed by Peter Lee
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Release date: February 15, 2011
Dungeons & Dragons is best known as a tabletop RPG where a group of players sit around a table and role play as their previously created character. They listen to a Dungeon Master, who writes the story, describes scenery, invents situations and stands in as NPCs. It’s been the experience of many a D&D player that a good DM is hard to find (I’ve been blessed with amazing DMs, but I hear other people have this problem). Well, with the invention of Dungeon & Dragons board games, this isn’t a problem anymore.
Just over a year ago – right after I moved to Los Angeles and right before I met my current DM – I bought a board game called The Wrath of Ashardalon. It’s a cooperative game for 1 – 5 players with 5 pre-made characters and 13 build-as-you-go dungeon adventures. Each adventure is more difficult than the last, with the 13th and final being an assault on Firestorm Peak to find and defeat the dragon Ashardalon. The game is part of the D&D Adventure System, which means it can be combined with other D&D games, such as Castle Ravenloft, The Legend of Drizzt, and the newest game The Temple of Elemental Evil.
I originally bought this game for two reasons: 1) I was missing my D&D group back in Pennsylvania; and 2) I was excited that it has the option to play alone. When I got the game, however, I was disappointed that there is only one adventure tailored to the single player. This is the first adventure, which is designed to show you how to play the game and doesn’t have much replayability.
The rest of the adventures suggest 2 – 5 players. This is another disappointment because it’s nearly impossible to defeat any of the dungeons with just two players. Even Adventure 2 proved to be too difficult for just me and a friend. We were able to defeat it easily with four players, though, so it’s not all bad.
The game plays very much like a D&D campaign, but your actions are limited and the game itself is the Dungeon Master. Reading the rules of the game caused a lot of controversy, though. They are vague and leave a lot to interpretation. This caused arguments within the group with whom I played the game. Eventually, I was able to quell any confusion my group had by explaining how things worked in a D&D campaign, as I was the only person who’d played before.
The adventures themselves are fun once you get the hang of it. The monsters have varying degrees of difficulty, allowing for some experiences to be more challenging than others. The game requires your group to pull together and defeat each dungeon, which gives you the same feeling of accomplishment as a normal D&D campaign. It’s a good substitute for when your DM is sick or just can’t make it for one reason or another.
Do I recommend it? Yes. It’s a fun substitute for an actual campaign. However, I would suggest that you try to get four or five players, including at least one who has played a D&D campaign before who can clarify or make executive decisions in regards to the vague rulebook. That will make the transition much smoother and your adventures much more interesting.
This is also a good choice as a Christmas present for the gamer in your life!
-Vanri the Rogue