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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Boards & Brews at Home: D&D Castle Ravenloft

  Welcome to the October segments!  

Claire and I are big Halloween enthusiasts, and the segments for October will definitely be fun for us!  Steve is even in the Halloween spirit and has decided to dress up as well!  We're kicking off the October segments by providing you another home segment to play Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft.  As we've mentioned in the past, our monthly at home segments are designed for our big box games with lots of components.  Well, today is probably one of the best examples of these segments, because there is a lot inside of this box.  Venture further and read more.

In this ancient time of monsters and magic, the castle rises over the dark forests of the land of Barovia, looking down upon a sad, frightened village surrounded by an endless sea of fog and mist.  Within this dark and dreary place, the master of Castle Ravenloft, Count Strahd is having guests for dinner, and you're invited.  Evil lurks in the towers and dungeons of Castle Ravenloft, and only heroes of exceptional valor can survive the horrors within.  In this game, a couple of heroes have arrived in Barovia, stepping out of the mists to find themselves caught up in the evil emanating from the castle.  These brave heroes have chosen to enter the castle to unlock the secrets from within.  The dangers are great, the monsters are deadly, and the only hope is that at least one hero survives to destroy Strahd and his minions.  The entrance to the castle looms ahead.  The question is, can we defeat Count Strahd and the monsters that dwell within the castle?  Well, I should hope so since this is much more of a gateway game.
Castle Ravenloft is a 1 - 5 player co-op, dice rolling, tile-placement/grid movement, exploration game that features multiple scenarios, and challenging quests.  When prepping for game setup, each player selects either a hero; a ranger, rogue, warrior, cleric, or wizard.  After shuffling all dungeon tiles and required cards, each player's turn is then based on three primary phases: 
1) The Hero Phase, 2) The Exploration Phase, and 3) The Villain Phase.  On their turn, each player can explore further into the dungeon (turn over new tiles), move through the already explored parts of the dungeon, and fight monsters. When a new dungeon tile is revealed, there is typically an encounter of some sort, and new monsters to fight are added. Slain monsters reward the players with treasure, and experience points, allowing them to level up and increase their skills during play. Players must cooperatively work together to stay alive, slay the monsters, and achieve the goal of their quest. Each scenario has a different goal - from retrieving a relic, to slaying a vampire lord.  For this segment, Claire and I are just playing a two player game, which as you can see from the above picture, it already takes up a good portion of our table.  The above picture demonstrates the first half hour of our game.   
This game can definitely change based on the amount of players at the table, and which adventure you choose to play from the adventure handbook.  This picture to the left was designed to be much closer to the game to give you a closeup of a few of the miniatures.  I really like the miniatures in this game, they're detailed, durable and all conveniently labeled on the bottom as their title in the game.  As far as the different adventures that you can play, there are 13 different adventures with various stories, quests to complete, and villains to defeat.  Even though there are a lot of components in this game, it's not as overwhelming as you may think.  At first glance back when Claire and I first played this game, it was a little overwhelming with the initial setup, but once we played it a few times, it began to settle in and really wasn't as bad as we thought.  Compared to other tile-placement games with a role-playing variant, I definitely feel this one is more of a gateway game.  Plus, if people have already played Dungeons & Dragons prior to playing the board game version, you'll be able to set it up and play it even faster.  I really like this particular version because it's a fantasy horror setting.
The game will definitely flow better if you already have a grasp on D&D and especially a role-playing, turn-based combat system. 
As you can see from this picture to the left, this is further progression in the gameplay and we even had to make some slight re-positioning of the cards and components in order to make room.  The tiles in this game hold together really well so if you need to make an adjustment by sliding things around a little, you should be able to do it with ease.  At this point in the game, we were near the end about another hour later.  The initial game setup can take up to 15 minutes depending on who all is playing and which adventure you choose to go through.  Consider that you'll need space.  You won't need all of the components that we used in this example, but remember, this is just Claire and I playing a two player round, and you'll need to consider that when you sit down with a group of friends for this.  The good news is that it's lighter weight in terms of a tile-placement game.  Castle Ravenloft is designed to flow a lot quicker.  As far as the overall game goes, the quality of the components is probably one of the bigger things we noticed right away.  The miniatures are just really good!  Good quality, detail and size.  The rulebook is very well laid out, visually structured and explained very well, so that's a major plus.  The turn sequence is well executed and understandable.  Some of the explanation on the encounter cards was a little convoluted, but most of it was pretty straight forward.  This is a really good game.  In terms of replay-ability I would say it depends on how often you plan on playing a game like this.  Although there are 13 different adventures to choose from.  The shuffling and drawing of the dungeon tiles will mean that the dungeon will vary from game to game, but the rules and adventures will remain the same.  I think even gateway games attract more serious gamers, and Claire and I will definitely be keeping this one in our collection.

D&D - Castle Ravenloft
Overall Pumpkin Rating: 7/10


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