Thursday, 12 May 2011

Gaming Reviews

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon
Board Game
Wizards of the Coast

Available Now - £49.99
Review by Brad Harmer

A heavy shadow falls across the land, cast by a dark spire that belches smoke and oozes fiery lava. A cave mouth leads to a maze of tunnels and chambers, and deep within this monster-infested labyrinth lurks the most terrifying creature of all: a red dragon!

Following on from the success of last year’s dungeon crawling success, Castle Ravenloft, Wizards of the Coast have gone for more traditional, high-fantasy approach with spin-off/sequel Wrath of Ashardalon...but is it just a simple face-lift?

The game is in many ways, virtually identical to Castle Ravenloft. The miniatures have a similar feel to them, the board sections look virtually identical, and the cards are even more so. The rulebook is virtually identical. Put simply, if you didn’t like Castle Ravenloft, then I wouldn’t expect you to like Wrath of Ashardalon. Don’t worry, though, there are more than a few changes and tweak – and they are all for the better.

For starters, the game just feels better balanced. There are less cakewalks, and less out and out Monster Rapes. In most games, it’s a nice challenge. Of course, we may just have gotten lucky and – as always – your mileage may vary. To put it into context, though, bear in mind that our group’s favourite games are Arkham Horror, Aliens and Zombie Plague...and Castle Ravenloft was judged to be “a bit hard”.

The main upgrade to the game system in this latest instalment comes in the shape of ‘Chamber’ rules, which allow key sections/battles to be fought in much larger rooms – giving the climactic scenes much more of a ‘Boss Battle’ feel than was ever achieved in Castle Ravenloft. All too often previously the final battle would be “another bit of corridor, but this time with thrice as many monsters”. This way, the climaxes have a punch to them, and it feels like more of an RPG than a standard game of Gauntlet.

The campaign system is the only real disappointment, as it feels tacked on, poorly thought out and – worst of all – pretty impractical of any real length of time.

To summarise, if you loved Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon is more of the same, with a few minor improvements. If you disliked Castle Ravenloft, then there’s nothing here to make you change your mind. If you’ve yet to play either, then go for Wrath of Ashardalon, as the minor differences just give it the edge. If you own Castle Ravenloft, but don’t get round to playing it all that much, or weren’t blown away, then just stick with that, as the price-tag on this is pretty hefty.

Where do I stand? I liked it. It’s a lot of fun, hacky dungeon slashy. It won’t ever dislodge Fanasy Flight Games’ Descent: Journeys in the Dark from the top of the pile, but it makes a nice lighter alternative every now and again. 8/10

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