The Dungeons and Dragons boardgames occupy an interesting space in the tabletop world. Conquest of Nerath is a Risk-inspired war game played out in the fantasy world. The others are inspired by 4th Edition DnD rules, but with all the roleplaying stripped away and able to run without a DM. What that means is that if you’re looking for a familiar ruleset and just want to wreck on some baddies and crawl through some dungeons this is right up your alley. With randomized dungeons and a bunch of different scenarios it’s a lock that it’ll play out different each time you have a go at it. This is the 3rd game with this current system and doesn’t really change much rules wise, it’s more a change in the scenery.
First we had Castle Ravenloft which had enemies, tiles and scenarios based on that gothic horror game world from 2nd Edition DnD, complete with a chance to fight Count Strahd himself. Next up was Wrath of Ashardalon and that was a more classic world with the big baddie being the titular Dragon. Here the game is based around the books starring Drizzt Do’urden, which means ventures to the Underdark, and multiple enemies from his past come out to fight.
Because the game is based on the character of Drizzt this time that means the included scenario book is inspired from the big events in the books about the character. Thumbing through the book I remembered the big set pieces of all of them, and reach all the way back to the first book in your search for the crystal shard right up to the very recent discovery of the ancient dwarven kingdom of Gauntylgrym.
The game breaks down basically like this. You’ll choose a scenario out of the book that will guide you through the set-up process. Usually this involves grabbing certain enemies or organizing the dungeon tiles in a certain order. The dungeon tiles serve to randomize the playfield. Whenever one of your party gets to the edge of the tiles on the table, they “explore” the new area by taking the top tile, flipping it over and connecting it like a puzzle piece. Since the tiles are shuffled you never know what you’re going to uncover next (but it’s probably going to be bad).
What I’ve really enjoyed about the games in this series so far is how the game does a pretty competent job of running itself without the need of a Dungeon Master. As a completely cooperative endeavor it would be easy to try to resort to “gaming” the adventure system to give yourselves a bit of an upperhand, but the system is setup well enough that it’s not that simple.
Take for instance the monster cards. It might sound like folly to ask the players to also control the monsters that will be attacking them as they spawn around the dungeon. But every monster card, in addition to having information like Armor Class and Hit Points on them, also has a list of tactics of how the monster attacks when it is activated. It really amounts to a series of if/else commands and you just run down the list till you see the tactic that applies. It usually amounts to “if the creature is adjacent to a hero, do X” or “if the creature is withing 2 tiles of a hero, move it one tile closer and do Y.” Those kinds of things not only make the bad guy control decision-free but it stops the players from having the villains make dumb decisions.
The complaints I heard around the table during our games were few, not surprisingly. If anything people moaned and grumbled because the game was doing exactly what it was designed to… keep us on the verge of losing the battle. So when a tile was flipped with a black arrow (meaning extra bad stuff happened) or a particularly nasty monster popped up we all cursed under our breath. Outside of that the only feedback I got after the game was over was that we generally wish there were an easier way to level up, perhaps any time a player rolls a 20, and not just the specific times when the hero is the reason that 20 is being rolled. More than once we cheered a 20 roll only to realize it was for a saving throw and thus didn’t count.
I think it’s just a mental shift to be honest, in this game leveling up isn’t something that’s going to happen often since multiple things need to come together perfectly for it to happen. While in theory that’s fine, but when it does happen it usually elicits cheers and high-fives from the players at the table. And who doesn’t want more of that?
But it’s a small complaint of an otherwise competent and complete package. With a book full of scenarios built for varying numbers of players, you’ll be able to play though your favorite Drizzt moments from the books many times before doing everything the game offers, or you could even get a bit more random and create your own scenarios.
The game comes with enough tiles, minis and various bits to make it quite easy to wing something in the name of dungeon exploration. The minis themselves are almost worth the price of admission. While they’re not painted they are molds from the standard Dungeons and Dragons fare, and I plan on using more than a few in my weekly Dungeons and Dragons game.
The Legend of Drizzt doesn’t stray to far from the standards of the series of games so far, so it’s really a matter of taste that you’re looking for. Gothic, Standard Fantasy or Underdark offer a variety to choose from and what kinds of scenarios and mad guys you want to fight will likely tell you which of the titles you should pick up. Of course, you could mix them together if you just can’t make up your mind…
tl;dr If you don’t have the capacity to run a proper Dungeons and Dragons game, or just want the combat then The Legend of Drizzt provides a compelling case for ownership