Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
So, I’ve been playing role-playing games and specifically Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) for over 25 years. I drifted out of gaming in the late ‘90s until a friend and D&D 3rd Edition dragged me back. In a short time I found my way to Star Wars d20 and Spycraft. By the time Revised (or more commonly called 3.5e) came along I wasn’t doing much dungeon crawling. When 4th edition was released it had all the right bullet points for me, but yet I couldn’t get into it. I was estranged from my D&D buddies, so I had no peer pressure to get with the 4th edition band wagon. But the whole time I kept looking out for a board game that could scratch that dungeon raiding itch. When a D&D board game came out themed around the Underdark and drow, I pulled the trigger.
What’s In The Box?
What’s in the game box can easily be summarized as: 42 plastic miniatures, 13 sheets heavy cardstock with interlocking dungeon tiles & tokens, 200 cards, a rulebook, a scenario book and a 20-sided die. The square box has a nice heft to it. Nicely everything fits back in the box after you punch out the tokens and tiles. (FYI: keep the sheets that the tiles and token come out of and use them to push up the plastic tray that holds the other components.) The one complaint I might have is you don’t get any bags to sort the tokens, but that’s a minor quibble. The minis are all from the D&D miniatures game/line. They are unpainted and molded in a color to group them with similar kinds of monsters. Other and a few warped bases the minis are quite passable for their intended purpose. The books are short and to the point. They may be a bit too short, but more on that later. You can download the rulebook from Wizards of the Coast’s website as well. The nice thing about that is any changes or errata are incorporated into the PDFs from WotC. The tiles and tokens are printed on impressive cardboard. The die is unremarkable and may go unused by long-term D&D players, but necessary for board gamers who have never plated the RPG.
What Do I Do On My Turn?
The D&D board games are based on cut-down D&D 4th edition rules. If you were paying attention near the top of the article you’ll have noticed that you can play with one to five players. How can you play the game solo or up to four friends? You can because the D&D board games are co-operative and don’t need a referee or as we like to call it a Dungeon Master. You turn basically has you move+attack, attack+move or move+move. Each character has a speed which is how many squares you can move. (Diagonals count as a single square.) Attacks are actually the power cards you get which correspond to at-will actions, daily actions and utility powers. At-will means you can use it every turn until the cows come home. Daily and utility powers can often only be used once, but can be refreshed by some treasure cards.
If you end up on an unexplored edge you can grab a tile and place it on that edge. For your trouble you grab a monster card and place it on the new tile you placed and for added bonus you often draw an encounter card which is more like a one time (bad) event. At the end of your turn you activate the monsters you have drawn and through a simple flow chart on the monster’s card you have the monster perform its actions. Those actions are either move, attack or move+attack. Monsters tend to run to the closest hero or a hero of a specific type.
All attacks and other rolls for that matter are handled by rolling a twenty-sided die, adding the resulting number to a fixed modifier and comparing it to a target number. If your combined total is equal to or higher than the target number you have succeeded and can apply the result (often damage) to the target.
The character (and powers), tiles, missions, monster/bosses and tokens are different, but supposedly interchangeable with other sets. I’m not sure how balanced things would be mixing and matching, but it certainly gives a some options if you wish to merge the D&D board games together.
No, But What Does It Really Play Like?
You pick your character, your character’s powers and determine the mission you will go on. Each mission has certain requirements like starting tiles or trigger tiles that signal the end boss fight. This is a co-operative board game and I’ll say it isn’t a cake walk. You get three healing surges before your game ends and they are easy to burn through. The scenarios are hard and we’ve lost more than we’ve won. Every game I’ve played had that tension of the great D&D battles you had as a teenager. In some ways I find the board game to be more D&D than most versions of D&D ever were. Yes, this is a combat dungeon crawl board game with zero role-playing needed, but every combat seems important and there is a real sense of urgency while playing. I didn’t hate the game after playing it the first time and my admiration of the actual game grew after each playing.
One way of looking at this and its sister games is as one of the best D&D 4th edition primers you will ever see. It’s stripped down but you really get a sense of how the then current version of D&D would play. Yes, I said then current because we now know that a new version of D&D is about to hit open playtest this spring.
So What About Drizzt and the Underdark?
The character choices, tiles and monsters are all very thematically Underdark and drow, but I have a confession to make. Shortly after playing The Legend of Drizzt and finding it very agreeable to my dungeon crawling wishing I ran out and purchased the Ravenloft board game. The Ravenloft game has gothic horror themed tiles, events and monsters… and plays exactly the same as the Drizzt game. I really don’t see a great thematic difference between the two games, which is why I think it’s so easy to interchange parts. That said it looks like the Drizzt version benefitted a lot from people playing the earlier versions as the Drizzt rulebook was much more useful than the original Ravenloft book. (Always download the latest rules from Wizards’ site.) So, I’m going to say the theme is mostly just shallow decor, but still I like being able to buy the decor I most like.
The Bottom Line
The Legend of Drizzt is not an expensive game for what you are getting. It’s well worth the contents of the box if you dropped the rule and scenario books into the recycling bin and used the rest for your own dungeon fantasy needs. That said, it would be a true tragedy as I don’t think I’ve seen any version of D&D simplified and so well present that you didn’t need someone who had already played it to explain it to you. The D&D rules may be a bit simplified, but they aren’t dumbed down and you could easily use this as a stepping stone to the full RPG. Or you can just enjoy it as a neat co-operative board game that harkens back to a day when killing goblins was just an excuse to get together with friends and order pizza.
If you don’t like adversarial dungeon raids like Descent then give The Legend of Drizzt a try. If you don’t like co-operative games then you probably won’t like this one. If you tried and hated 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons then it’s unlikely you’ll like this. If you think you missed the boat on 4th edition then this is a great way to see what you may have missed. Needless to say I’m quite impressed and would heartily recommend the game to anyone interested in a co-operative dungeon fantasy adventure game.http://pokupo.com/2012/02/08/dungeons-dragons-the-legend-of-drizzt-board-game/Tabletop GamesDungeons & Dragons 4th Edition,Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game