A new product being offered by Wizards of the Coast, the Castle Ravenloft: Board game is a Dungeons and Dragons related product. Based on the classic horror role playing setting this game blends simple board game style play with the action of a game of D&D.
No prior knowledge of how to play dungeons and Dragons is needed to understand and appreciate this game. It might be good for players to have some familiarity at least, knowing what it means to say your character is a fighter, ranger or cleric will help you enjoy the play. Additionally, familiarity with the horror genre will help get players into the game.
This game is not your typical board game as you may have guessed. Rather than sitting down and conquering different squares or spaces on the board, like you would in Monopoly or Risk, players take the roles of heroes and cooperate to save the people of Borovia from the evil machinations of evil arch-vampire lord Count Strahd. There are no conflicts between the players, the success of one relies on the success of the whole group. Players work through a book of 13 scenarios that are based on a core system of rules but each has its own special set of scenario rules and conditions that make game play from one mission to the next different and interesting. The game comes with two scenarios playable by a single player, in case you can’t get anyone else to play with, but all the other scenarios suggest 2 to 5 players.
The box, as it should, comes with everything you need to play, including a single d20. The rest of the game consists of lightly laminated playing cards, far to many cardboard punch out tokens, the various plastic miniature figures needed to represent the monsters and player characters and the dungeon tile squares. Rather than having a typical fold out board this game consists of square interlocking tiles that are printed with the various features of the Castle Ravenloft. Some of the tiles have special designations like Chapel or Laboratory and the importance or effect on the game changes depending on the scenario but most of the time the order and placement will be entirely random, increasing the replay value of the game.
The figures included are flat painted versions of the standard D&D minis, color coded to help identify them quickly and easily. The individual models are all very well designed and rich in detail. If I didn’t already own a large selection of the fully painted minis I wouldn’t hesitate to use them in my regular D&D games. They also beefed up the skeleton model so they are less likely to bend.
One thing I don’t like is the amount of things you need to punch out and organize in this game. Frankly it borders on ridiculous. Set up the first time you sit down to play with friends could take nearly as long as the game play itself. The other drawback to this game is the limited replay value. Classic board games can get boring, but since you play against your opponent the game can play differently every time. With the scenario organization of Castle Ravenloft, even with the random dungeon layout the play will get old eventually. Of course there’s nothing that says they can’t write more scenarios and release them in expansion sets. With a price tag of $65.99 this game is a bit of an investment, but it is a quality product if you have the cash to spare. I give it a 4 out of 5 rating.