Ahh, Dungeons & Dragons! What gamer—especially the older ones like me—doesn’t have a soft spot for the fantasy roleplaying game that started it all? Good ol’ D&D has been going strong for more than 35 years now, from the early TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) days of the ‘white box’ and the first Basic Set, through the amazing hardcover Advanced Dungeons & Dragons editions that were my constant companion back in my school days, through to the thousands of spin-offs, campaign worlds, miniatures, maps, adventure modules and the huge industry run by Wizards of the Coast of modern times. I discovered D&D way, way back when I was twelve in 1978, and I can safely say it changed my life, as it did many other young people back then. The games have changed and the desire to game has waxed and waned over the years, but D&D started it all.
Of course, as you get older and real life starts to intrude, you find yourself with far less time on your hands and it gets harder and harder to gather old friends around for a bit of roleplaying adventure. That’s where boardgames come in. While you can’t get quite the same total immersion in the adventure from a boardgame as you do in a roleplaying game, it’s still a great way to get that ‘fantasy fix’ with a far more practical committment of time and resources.
Luckily, Wizards of the Coast has recognised this market and has begun releasing some excellent Dungeons & Dragons-themed boardgames. There have always been ‘dungeoncrawling’ boardgames of course, and I discussed several in an earlier article. Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast released the D&D boardgame Dungeons & Dragons The Fantasy Adventure Boardgame in 2003, a game very similar to Games Workshop/Milton Bradley’s Heroquest, and aimed at younger gamers. It’s only recently however that D&D boardgames aimed at the ‘gamer’s’ market have begun to appear.
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft hit the shelves with a bang last year, and was an instant hit. This is dungeon-delving for gamers, but gamers with limited time on their hands who want the kill-the-monsters fun of D&D without the big time investment. Packed with high-quality plastic miniatures (40 in all), heaps of cardstock dungeon floor tiles, lots of cards, magic items, abilities and weapons, and a wide variety of fun scenarios, Castle Ravenloft is the essence of dungeon-crawling distilled into a deep cardboard box. It’s a co-operative adventure experience for 1-5 players, and while the rules don’t have much in common with the roleplaying game past the ubiquitous 20-sided dice, it’s received unanimous praise for its streamlined rules and fun play.
Quick on its heals was the release of Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon. Yes, it’s the same game system as Castle Ravenloft (with a few modifications and additions), and just as packed with new stuff, including 42 plastic miniatures, one of which is a great big classic red dragon.
Between the two of these games you’d have dungeon-delving adventures enough for many months, but there’s a new big box on the way: Dungeons & Dragons: Legend of Drizzt. This one will focus on the adventures of dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, a popular heroic character from a series of novels set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Take on the role of the legendary drow ranger or one of his famous adventuring companions, battle fearsome foes, and win treasure and glory.
If that wasn’t enough, all these games can be combined for a truly epic amount of variety—over 120 plastic miniatures for a start—and there are rules included to play a basic campaign.
The latest release by Wizards of the Coast is also set in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, but has a different focus: that of continent-spanning conquest! Conquest of Nerath is a spectacular game of strategic empire-building in the vein of classic like Risk and the old GameMaster games. Featuring 252 plastic pieces of troops, monsters and heroes, you can even send fighters and wizards into dungeons scattered across the lands to fight guardians and obtain treasure, while your armies battle over the land above. Muster armies of footsoldiers, siege engines, monsters, and dragons to attack your enemies. Fight across the waves with fleets of warships and raging elementals. The fate of empires is in your hands!
Wizards of the Coast have more in the pipeline when it comes to bringing the Dungeons & Dragons game settings to boardgamers. The Dungeon of Dread Board Game is just an entry on their website for now, but apparently it’s going to be another co-operative dungeon experience for 2-5 players, with the more traditional style of one Dungeon Master and 1-4 heroes. Keep an eye out here for more information as it comes to hand.
So grab your 20-sided dice, prepare your heroes, and grab a Dungeons & Dragons-themed boardgame. The adventure awaits!