Fancy an RPG without all that pesky RP’ing? Fancy being a fantasy hero without all those pesky flaws? Fancy a board game without all that pesky knowing how much space it’s going to take up before hand? Then have I got the game for you and it is a tale for the ages, a saga of heroes it is…………………………………………..
In late 2010 Dungeons and Dragons was trying to make every forget the rising darkness that was ‘4th edition’ and one of the ways they were doing so was by releasing the ‘adventure system board games’. The first three came fairly quickly and though they disappeared for a while they are indeed still going with a recent jaunt to the ‘Temple of Elemental Evil’ that I’m sure was a nice calm little outing for all involved. The first in the series brought back Ravenloft. Then someone pointed out the game was called out ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ not ‘Vaults and Vampires’ so they followed it up with red dragon Ashardalon. Then for the third they decided to call out their big guns. A broody, snowflake, dark elf of over thirty books; Drizzt Do’urden. A character most DM’s would tell their players off for for rolling up.
Now don’t worry too much if you’ve never heard of the guy before. The game is broken down into missions; most of which are adaptations of said books. What this means is that the “plot” won’t make much sense if you haven’t read said books as the intro dictates to you that certain characters are now kidnapped and thus unusable or that previous villains are now okay to play as heroes but as I said at the start this isn’t really a role playing game; despite the pedigree. This is a true dungeon crawl, complete with dungeons as you explore the hostile Underdark to fight “spider-men”, puddles of water and lawyer friendly monsters.
Each game will begin with a brief bit of story telling exposition before you place your mini on the starting tile and race toward the end where you will typically either find a way out or a giant monster to kill or even both. This work nicely into anyone who find this a bit daunting as the first game is an adaptation of Drizzt’s flight from the underdark to the surface world and is thusly a one player game. This encourages you to get to grips with the game first before inviting your friends round and the size and scope of it can be a bit daunting. Yet once you’ve done this you realise it is fairly simple really. Each character has a set movement speed that dictates how many squares they can cover and once they reach the edge of said tile you simply lay down more. Each game will dictate to you how many tiles you will need but it’s up to you and or luck whether the game will become a straight corridor to the end or an ever twisting maze beneath the worlds surface. Each tile placed will bring a new trap and or monster to face and each monster beaten will bring a new piece of treasure for your hero to use such as bracelets of speed or magic wands of shooting. These can be carried over to the next game as you progress through the legend or ignored if you so wish. In truth you can stick to their hero requirments of bring in your ringer of a merc who won’t make the switch to the heroes team for another four or five games. Though watch out for him having to thus face himself if you try this.
Each hero comes with a stat card to tell you how fast and strong they are and a choice of cards to explain what weapons they bring giving you a bit of customisation straight off the bat. They gain xp from killing bad guys and if you can wipe out enough and manage to roll a twenty you can cash them in for an upgrade to second level where you are harder, better, faster, stronger. You also get a few more cards to play. Said cards are easy enough to work for those afraid of the game going full D&D, with instructions on use. How close you have to be to the monsters and if you will get to use it again in the game or if it’s a one and done super power.
Monsters also get their own cards dictating their speed and strength but also who they will attack and who they will go after. For some this is simply the closest hero but others will hunt down the strongest and or weakest of the group making them easy to handle and even across the board leading to only one or two times where a roll of is required as two players sit equidistant from the beast and must decide to who gets to deal with the thing. Another nice mechanic is the event deck that keep the players from camping, crawling or generally being too unheroic. The deck includes things like cave ins, lava vents and abductions and are given to each player who hasn’t revealed a new tile this turn and to some who have depending on the colour arrow you got. This means that while the monsters will be easier if you all stick together typically only one hero will reveal a tile this way meaning the rest will have to draw. Thus it will be rare for your party to be joined at the hip but logically not two far apart for when one of you eventually draws the two trolls in one turn and is left crying out for help. This makes a the game a cooperative piece that can be played solo, though I would advise against trying it with only the one guy. While Drizzt is an unkillable mary-sue in the books he can die as easily as anyone else in the game.
The game is compatible with all of the others in the run and they even complement each other quite well. This one doesn’t have money system in place as you’re crawling through caves but others do and so the price of everything is included. Fancy roping in a solid magic user or expanding out the underdark to include castle walls and twice the range of monsters then go right ahead. The models are good, boards are great and the fact that you can mix and match the games after makes this a high recommendation for me. Though be prepared with bags and or pots on hand for all the cardboard chits the game has.