D&D: Castle Ravenloft AAR (Boardgame)

Hey folks,

I picked up the new D&D boardgame, Castle Ravenloft and wrote an AAR of a solo scenario I played.

I think it’s too long to post here (plus the 14 photos) but here is a sample and a link to the full report:

Turn 3

I have a power called Cleave (+6ATK, 1DMG) and if I land a hit with it I can choose another monster on my tile and that monster takes 1DMG. I elect to Cleave the Kobold…hit (16)… The Kobold is dead and the Skeleton is down a hit point to 1HP. I find a Potion of Healing (2HP) in the Kobold’s pocket. Handy.

My speed is 5, and I can move after attacking, but the Skeleton has a weaker adjacent attack, so I don’t want to move away from it so it can use it’s charging Slice attack. I also don’t want to move to the edge of my tile and reveal another, with incumbent monster. I stand my ground. Since I didn’t reveal a tile I draw an Encounter: Corner of Your Eye: roll the die, 1-15 a monster rushes you from the darkness (place a new monster on the same tile as your hero), 16-20 a friendly spirit inspires you to fight on (flip up one of your used powers). [RULES MOMENT: I have no powers that have been used, so half this card is void, but the other half isn’t. I decide to play it]. 11…which triggers a Skeleton, but since a player can only ‘control’ one of the same type of monster at once I discard that and draw…a Wraith (15AC, 2HP) which materializes from the shadows! That’s bad. Wraiths hit hard (+6ATK, 3DMG, miss 1DMG) and when they die each hero on the same tile takes 1DMG.

Skeleton: the Skeleton swings it’s scimitar (+7ATK, 1DMG)…miss (6).
Wraith: the Wraith rears up, fills it’s insubstantial form with energy and forces it’s will toward me…miss (8) but I still take 1DMG from its noxious body odour (I am down to 7/10HP).

The rest of the report is here: The Crooked Crow


Thanks metta! I’ve been casting longing looks at this in the window of my local game store and wondering how it plays out.

From what my tabletoppers say, it’s absolutely awesome.

You are most welcome. If you have any questions I can try to answer them :)

My friends and I have played it a few times now. Not sure if it’s because we’re terrible or if each scenario is balanced really well but victories and losses are always really close.
It’s a lot of fun, I think they missed out on a great opportunity by not releasing some way to make the D&D minis compatible.

I like buying packages of stuff with random contents!

Thanks for that Metta. Sounds like a fun one. Couldn’t help but laugh a bit at your alarm scenario. Might have to pick this up.

Here’s a contrarian review:

“The inflationary use of monsters and encounters leads to the main issue of Castle Ravenloft: There are no real decisions to make. Monsters and encounters just provide an element of constant stress or background-noise you cannot escape from and you have to cope with (and that not in a real-time strategy computer game, but in a round-based board game!). Sure, the placement of monsters and the use of powers and treasures provide tactical elements, but you figure out the proper use of them quite quickly. So, there are decisions to make and resources to use, but they provide no real choices.
When you survive or win in a dungeon crawl, you know it was a mixture of luck, good management of resources and proper decisions. When you win in Castle Ravenloft, after a few games you realize it just was dice rolls and drawing the right cards. It had nothing to do with you. You do not play the game or with the game, the game plays with you. The game and the dice rolls it lets you do decide if you win or lose. When you (as a dungeon crawler) have finally realized that, even when the game lets you win, you probably will find no joy in it.”

I haven’t played it, but the summary seems to be “Play Descent instead.”

Btw, the latest episode of Gamers With Jobs ends with an interview with the Castle Ravenloft devs.

To be fair, that’s how I feel about most boardgames. That’s why I rarely play them. For some people, most of the fun is in figuring out the mechanics and then playing the game with full knowledge of how to beat it but without the certainty that it will happen.

That’s not unreasonable, but there are decisions to make - who attacks which monster in what order - and the choices expand as the monsters spawn. One of the tougher scenarios - playing with a party of five - can become decision-packed. The game strikes a nice balance between needing to stay close enough to the other players to help them, but not getting so close you’re caught in all the AoE damaging actions that are triggered.

On the Descent thing: the issue my gaming group has with that game is someone needs to be the DM, someone has to fly the plane, and if we’re going to do that then we may as well just play D&D. Plus, Descent is a lot more fiddly than Castle Ravenloft and takes longer, usually three times longer, to play a game.

Ravenloft is perfect if you just want to get together with pals, roll some knuckles, beat up monsters, and be done in an hour or 90 minutes so you can play something else.

My brother and I played two games of this yesterday and it was a blast. We played the third scenario and got our asses kicked the first time, but prevailed pretty handily on our second go 'round. Typically I’m not a big board game guy, but I really like this one because it’s cooperative in nature. It’s also surprisingly thrilling to get that good roll right when you need it. We were definitely hooting and hollering.

Played it twice so far (with my brother as well) and overall it was a lot of fun. We won the first scenario (icon of ravenloft), but lost on the klak scenario just as we were about to win. It seems like this game is always super-close whether you win or you lose. I think it’s the simplicity that really makes this game shine and could easily be the dungeoncrawler you play with the family.

The Klak scenario is what we played yesterday. It was my first time playing. The first time we tried it we got some tough monsters and some bad Encounter cards, which just killed us. The second time around my brother switched to playing the Cleric (I was the Fighter both times) and he was able to keep us healed. We decimated Klak with some good rolls (bad for Klak) though I did miss improbably a couple of times. That allowed monsters that had been placed at the edge of the map (as a result of Encounter cards) to creep almost close enough to engage. We just barely managed to destroy Klak and his artifact before that first Wraith got within striking distance.

This looks interesting. Honestly, the fact that the number of players 1 - 5 is a huge selling point to me. I can convince my husband to play about any boardgame with me, but getting anyone else in on the action can be a little hard, and we’re big fans of Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Arkham Horror so this would go well with my collection.

Also for folks running a tabletop campaign - the included miniatures pretty much justify the cost completely.

That’s exactly how it felt to me, with the addition that despite the production values it felt strangely hollow and generic. For instance, you randomly pull Gregor von Sonofabitch’s crypt as your next tile…and nothing happens, unless it’s the specific Sonofabitch scenario. I was expecting something a bit more like Arkham in that sense, where each location has flavor irrespective of the scenario. Granted, it would be the borderline parody of Ravenloft’s flavor, but not the empty spaces filled with oversimplified combat that is primarily chance based.

I’m willing to give it another try at some point before writing it off completely, but it’s a bit as if Arkham’s halfassed non GOO combat had become the entirety of the game. If you do play it, I recommend against starting with the opening scenarios, as they are a lot less interesting than what people are describing here. I’m not really the Descent target audience, I just thought this would be tactically focused enough to be interesting.

Are you talking about coop games specifically? What are some examples of games and genres you would use to describe this? Adversarial games come in all forms, and even many coop/team games frequently find more of a skill focus than what is described in that review. There’s almost always an element of chance, but that’s not the same thing as primarily chance dependent.

If you just so happen to have a gaming group that can manage to sit still for 3+ hours and doesn’t mind having lots of rules that may need to be checked constantly then you can probably find a better game, BUT if you can’t then CR is about as good as it gets for coop dungeon crawls.

CR is pretty much the first purely coop dungeon crawl boardgame that my group has been able to complete. That in itself makes it top of its class IMO.

There are also a ton of variants out there that address many of the game’s shortcomings including a full unofficial expansion with all new monsters, encounters, and treasures.

Tom Vasel, who loves Descent and I thought would’ve ripped this game to shreds based on his DungeonQuest review, gave CR a glowing review. Definitely check it out.

I was surprised by how harsh Tom was on DungeonQuest, since I usually agree with his reviews. It’s been a big hit with my gaming group, but we don’t mind (and actually enjoy) randomness and view DQ as a huge challenge.

Keep in mind that Wrath of Ashardalon (Castle Ravenloft’s expansion, sequel, …?) drops in Feb. 2011.

I brought this up to my husband last night and he got annoyed with me because I think he was hoping to surprise me with it at Christmas. :o