Game Review: Castle Ravenloft

in Featured,Gaming

If you are looking for a different board game for the family, take a look at the Wizards of the Coast board game Castle Ravenloft. The villains (including big bad himself, the vampire Strahd) are gray. Some monsters are brown; others are white.
As you can see in the picture, the heroes are in blue. That’s the drawf cleric and the dragon-born fighter. They are about to battle a spider (in brown) and a gargoyle (in white). Other creatures wait in the wings, off the board. To help with game play you also have 200 encounter and treasure cards. The monsters also each have a corresponding card. These three stacks of cards are shuffled separately and drawn separately and they create events, reward players and populate the dungeon with monsters, respectively. You also get a rulebook and a scenario book. And, because this is Dungeons and Dragons, you get a 20-sided die.

Getting Started
If you have ever played a game like Arkham Horror, you might be wary of a game that has not one but two booklets. Don’t panic. The rules are very simple for anyone who has played D&D before. For those who have never rolled a 20-sided die before, it’s still pretty easy. They do a great job of spelling out the mechanics like when and where to lay down tiles, how heroes and monsters move and more importantly, how to kill the monsters.
One of the great things about Castle Ravenloft is that 2 people can easily play. Too many great board games are designed for 3 or more players and if you want to have a quiet game night with your sweetie, the pickings are slim. You have the usual range of role playing game characters: ranger, fighter, thief, cleric, and wizard. Each one comes with a character card, giving you the stats on how fast your character can move, how many hit points he or she has and the armor class. Which translates into how many squares you can move in a turn; how hard it is to knock you unconscious and how hard it is for a monster to hit you. In addition, each player gets several cards with special powers. For those who have some exposure to D&D, these are attacks and buffs. Some of the powers you can use every turn — like simple attacks. Other powers are very special and you can only do them once. When you’ve used the very special power, you turn the card over to signify that it is no longer available.

Game Play
Playing a game of CR can take anywhere from 20 minutes (if you are incredibly unlucky) to about 2 hours. Set up is easy. The game comes with a booklet filled with scenarios. Some of the dungeon tiles have special features and are named “laboratory” or “chapel” and certain scenarios call for specific dungeon tiles to be added to the stack at a certain point (usually 8-10 tiles into the game) so that events will trigger and complicate the game in new and dangerous ways for the heroes. Then you start exploring the dungeon! Each scenario gives you an objective — destroy an artifact or a creature, for example. More of the dungeon is revealed if your character ends his exploration at the edge of a tile.
Revealing a tile also adds a monster to the mix and maybe more, so be careful about how much you explore or your heroes will be quickly outnumbered. Because no dungeon is safe, not even for a moment, if you don’t reveal a tile, you take an encounter card. The card may call for a trap to spring open at your feet or a creepy feeling to settle over you making movement difficult. You might find yourself face to face with a vampire or transported to another part of the dungeon.
All these mechanics mean that the game play is varied. You can play each of the included scenarios dozens of times with different outcomes and different monsters to fight. Once you have exhausted the booklet of scenarios, you can hop over to the Wizards website for more free scenarios.

Castle Ravenloft is a fun board game and a great way to introduce friends to the world of Dungeons and Dragons and role playing games. Easy to learn and play, the game also has vast re-playability. Well worth the money.


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