Wrath of Ashardalon ..Pretty Cool!

My arduous journey back from DDXP this year had me lugging along a big box of Wrath of Ashardalon. It was too big for my backpack, wouldn’t fit into my checked bag. In the end, I just elected to hand carry it all the way back to Maryland. So by the time we finally got off the second plane, I was thinking, “ok, this better be good..”

As it turns out.. it’s pretty good! When I got home, my girlfriend wanted to play, so the next day we opened it up and separated out the pieces. We played through the first two adventures: She had the paladin, I had the rogue. Later we switched and I played the dwarf fighter and my son joined as the cleric.

What

Wait, What’s an Ashardalon?
Ashardalon is a legendary ancient (and fiendish) red dragon from the 3rd edition days. He was introduced in the Sunless Citadel, where he had a cult of followers, and then later it is revealed that he was attempting to seek immortality by binding a balor demon to himself as his heart. The “Heart of Nightfang Spire” adventure in fact refers to Ashardalon’s own heart. He is referenced in a bunch of the 3rd edition books – there’s a dragon vestige of Ashardalon in Dragon Magic, there’s the tooth of Ashardalon magic dagger in the 3.5 DMG. He’s kind of all over the place if you look for him. So- ok, tons of (fairly recent) history and lore to check out.

What It Is
Wrath of Ashardalon is a D&D board game (almost identical to Ravenloft) where you play adventurers who end up in Ashardalon’s dungeon lair. I have to suspect that this is like.. baby Ashardalon, because you play 1st and 2nd level characters (well, it’s a boardgame, maybe a 1st or 2nd level boardgame character doesn’t translate exactly over into regular D&D terms). The Board Game has a number of different “adventures” and each one is different in terms of how to win. There’s a lot of components and pieces, but you only use a portion in each game. I counted around 40 miniatures, including 3 grells (I love grells!), Ashardalon himself (huge red dragon), a rage drake, an otyugh, a beholder gauth (kinda teeny- he’s only medium sized..) and a bunch of orcs and kobolds, snakes, bears, gibbering mouthers… I guess if you were really needing a lot of monsters quickly, here’s how you could get a nice collection in one go. The dungeon tiles are of uniform size but depict different types of rooms and corridors. There’s a deck of magic items, treasure chits, encounter cards and monster cards. I like he 40+ miniature that came included- they are all familiar sculpts.
I kinda want to paint them. It wouldn’t be too hard. Hmm.

All the stuff

OMG SO MUCH STUFF

How It Works (in general)
Ok, so in general, you are all made aware of the goal of the scenario. The first one we played, our characters end up falling into the dungeon and are seeking the exit. So the goal in that first scenario is to find the exit. There’s a special “Tunnel Exit” tile that you include in the stack of random tiles, so in that first scenario, you are waiting for that one to turn up. Guarding the exit is a kobold dragonlord named Meerak. He has a special stat card that you get ready.

There’s a very structured sequence of play: During the Hero Sequence, the hero can move twice, move once and attack, or attack and then move. If they move to an unexplored edge, you go into the Exploration Sequence where you put another tile up. New tile means new monster, too. If they didn’t reach an unexplored edge, you draw an encounter card instead. Encounter cards are like.. traps.. or they might be sudden effects like a tremor in the caverns that throws all of the heroes to the floor (making them dazed for a round). Finally it’s the Villian Sequence. You activate each monster on the board …and mob the players.

The fun of this game is the unpredictability of the map, and working together, and trying to pursue the goal for that scenario. I have played quite a bit of Descent and this solves the main problem I have with Descent- you don’t have to build the map beforehand (that’s kind of a pain..) also the pieces aren’t quite as fiddly. Taking damage is very straightforward. You don’t get much, and when you run out, you pull a healing surge from a common pool.

Characters are based on 4e mechanics: So you end up with at-will, daily and encounter powers (on cards), and some of them can be recovered through the use of items or events. Combat is loosely based on 4e. Except the way it is set up is that most monsters have 1-2 (maybe 3) hp, and damage is only 1-2. So combat is pretty quick, usually.

In the first adventure, I managed to win as the rogue, (by abandoning my poor girlfriend to her fate after we got separated from fighting Meerak- she got killed by a rolling boulder on the way out of the dungeon), but in the second one we played a scenario called Monster Hunt- which is an attempt to rack up as many monsters as you can (well, trying to rack up 12 monsters, anyhow). So after a brief stint at working together, we decided to split up and be competitive (my fault, because I kill-stealed a few times. It was an accident! I swear..) Once I was all alone.. I got killed. Oh how Noah laughed as I begged for healing.

One thing I found Kinda Dubious
Encounter cards are basically like.. every round. If you didn’t end up opening a fresh dungeon tile you are probably setting off a trap. I just kinda wish there was more variety. Like if there was an encounter card with a 67 year old naked man shivering in the wet grass and he steals my sword of Dukayn or whatever, that would be preferable to getting hit by rolling boulders and whirling blades every round.

I won Dungeons and Dragons! And it was Advanced!

Anyhow, very cool game. I plan on running it a few times at our weekly meetup. I like it better than Descent, and about as much as I like Small World and Carcaassonne. 3 stars!


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Nunya!


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About Morley

Nunya!
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