Review: Dungeons and Dragons Castle Ravenloft Board Game – PC legend returns

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - packaging

Maybe someone remembers PC game Ravenloft: Stone Prophet from 1995, which impressed all RPG fans. We sat in front of monitors for dozens of hours, when story took place in world of . Game came up with a unique fluent 3D movement from the perspective of your own eyes and offered us gamers incredibly deep and lasting pleasure. The story revolved around the desert of Har’Akir and wall of fire.

Lovers of dungeons and heroic adventures should now sharpen their senses, because they are about to receive unique opportunity to return to this beloved planet. Respectively, they probably should have paid more attention before, namely in , when Castle Ravenloft Board Game was released.

It was created by , which holds the license for Dungeons and (evidenced by another great series Dungeon Command (review) from the same publishers), and specifically by people responsible for the whole creation of Ravenloft: gentlemen Rob Heinsoo, , and . Among the illustrators is also well-known Jason Engle, known for his pictures in Thunderstone: Advance (review).

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - game is ready

Castle Ravenloft was first in line of these games, when it comes to appearance into stores, but on our site you can already read a review of the latest version, called Legend of Drizzt (review). The game revolves around similar rules, which will we briefly repeat in a while.

But first we have a huge box hit the sack, which in its respectable interior dimensional hides many beautiful surprises. Packaging itself is really awesome and it corresponds to its content. He fills every cranny of space inside, which suggests you the very weight of this monster.

On the cover you put aside, is character of a vampire. Box tuned overall into purple and blue hypnotizes you, but it will not prevent enjoyment of the huge number of punch-out sheets (thirteen), containing 192 different two-sided tokens and cards. It is the latter, which contain hero and bosses used in game. If this is your first Dungeons and Dragons board game, your head will probably go around of that amount.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - game in progress

Along with these sheets, there are also two books on top of the box – rules and a list of thirteen (you also feel, that authors have a deal with the number thirteen?) adventures. Two of those are specially crafted for one player, while the other eleven already requires a group of heroes.

Two hundred cards are divided into two equal piles – beginners and advanced. Cards are numbered, so it’s always easy to separate them back. On them, there are painted monsters, you will encounter in the creepy dungeons, but also treasures and abilities of your heroes.

And then there is your friend and enemy in one person: 20k dice. Its accompanied on its way by 42 (today, there are only magical numbers) plastic miniatures. Five of them are heroes, seven belong to main arch enemies and the rest are smaller and a little weaker monsters.That does not mean, that they are too easy. All have a uniform gray color and are not painted. It is then up to you, whether you use some paint to make them perfect.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - game in progress

In this statement, it does not look so grand, but when all components are unfolded in front of you in the preparation of the game, you get a really respectable pile. And this set is sure to take care of your entertainment, no matter which scenario you choose. For beginners it is good to follow the course starting with the first one.

Starting the game requires mainly distribution of components to different piles. You will definitely need a very big table, where they will all fit. Or you have to have a reservoir outside the main board, with the largest space reserved for growing game board. Thus, at the beginning it takes not so much space, because your heroes begin adventure on predetermined tile, and all the others are yet to be drawn and explored in strictly given order and quantity (depending on the scenario). They start their trip in draw pile. This ensures variability of your adventure across more matches with the same scenario.

Players can then choose their hero, put his miniature on starting board and take corresponding tile with his portrait. The battle can begin as soon as you select another card of starting ability for your adventurer.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - game in progress

The progress of the game was completely described in Drizzt review, but there is no reason, why should we not repeat some basics. Players battle against the game and in rounds consisting of three phases, each perform individually. First you move your hero and at the same time you can attack. Both activities can be done in any order, or you can replace attack with second movement by many boxes (squares in a dungeon), how many shows speed of your character.

If during your move, you get to the edge of discovered tunnels, you must explore. This means turn and attach a new tile to an existing dungeon, but also settle a randomly drawn monster inside this new room. You place the appropriate figure at a fixed location in the new place. You take monster tile showing its abilities and put it in front of you. You become the owner of this creature and you will move it in following rounds. But it will not act in your favors.

And then, everythingi s followed by the third phase, when you take evil form for a quick time. But before that, you have to deal with encounter card. Avoiding it can only be done by discovering new piece of caves. Otherwise, you have to draw one and wait for some negative effect, your hero will be pleased with. Although he can defend against it, usually at a high price.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - game in progress

At the very end of your turn, you activate the boss, if he has already entered the game, but above all also those monsters, you have in your control. That means those pieces, you put on the board in former rounds during exploration and you have their cards in front of you. Their activity and movement is determined by automatic mechanisms on the card, usually moving towards the nearest hero and possibly attacking, what is within reach.

During the game, you collect experience, items and treasures. Victory or defeat of all players is then determined by a clear scenario rules. The tasks are sufficiently variable and a team of heroes can celebrate a victory or mourn a loss only together.

Castle Ravenloft was the first of a series of D&D adventure board games. Therefore, it was also a pioneer in the gaming principle created for it. Despite the wishes and expectations of players, it did not disappoint. Even though you’ll find a lot of things, that can interfere with straightforward experience. But let’s look at the impressions of playing one after another.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - game in progress

The very principle of the game is excellent, as well as the adventurous spirit breathing from Ravenloft. On the table seems the whole game as a true adornment and everything is top notch, if you are a skilled modeler and paint the pieces into their perfection.

Game principle, when the characters move automatically is nothing new. But at the same time, its very successful and is used in such beloved games as Arkham Horror (review). Here, you will find easier version, but the difficulty of this game is not hidden in monsters blocking your path.

Everything is affected more by obligation to explore. Each round, when you do not find a new tile, you have to compete with some unexpected effect in room, where you currently are. Ready for you are traps, ambushes and many other unpleasant situations. And this is, when tension comes into this game. At the same time, it creates also a big problem for all players, who do not like to be toyed around by luck as a rag doll. But do you expect, that the visit in a dungeon will be as predictable as some tour to the castle?

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - enemies

Much greater discomfort in Castle Ravenloft is hidden in rule inaccuracies. Some of the rules are contradictory and especially they do not tell you all the necessary information. Glaring example of such a situation is the appearance of monsters near you. Basically, you can determine where it would appear.. Its not exactly clear, whether this is good or bad thing.

Some gamers find these elements rather unrealistic. While standing in the middle of the room, a monster comes from somewhere and without prior warning attacks you. You can not do anything about it, nor prepare, just wait to see, how it turns out.

But modifying the rules and making house rules is not for everyone. Many players would rather read the instructions and started to play. Then, when you encounter the first game, you can read through some forums and find a solution for this unusual situation – you can always choose for yourself, where you put a monster and it is usually to your advantage. And yes, the game still feels difficult.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - cards

But we do not want this review to sound too negative. All these complaints are usually loud in striving to achieve a common goal. Cooperative games are today so popular among the players, that have their own failures to solve. Of course, there are other games, that have no such glitches, but they (usually) do not provide you with a claustrophobic adventure in the cave environment.

On the other hand, the freedom of the rules may be seen also as a positive. You are not tied with any searching and browsing in the manual. The rules determine three phases and some basic limitations, then everything else is playing itself out. And this is nice and we like to see Castle Ravenloft in this light, because in essence, it’s a really simple game, you can play calmly with a child of eight. And it will be exceedingly fun not only for your offspring, but it will impress his father too.

Variability of the game is very well done and each adventure is different from other even within the same scenario. In addition, there are two game difficulties and option to play only in one player! And just that alone makes some great news for a loner. We must also add a luxuriously processed components of the game, extremely hard cardboard and really nice miniatures.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft - cards

Castle Ravenloft is not a game for everyone. Many players may have complaints, because they like clearly stated rules in board games. But today, its a time for freedom. Maybe this is the future of board games, maybe not. Castle Ravenloft has came this road and we like it.. That’s why we remain fans of the Dungeons and Dragons board games and enjoy every adventure in the caves again and again. It’s up to you, if you wish to join us or not..

DesignerRob Heinsoo, Peter Lee, Mike Mearls, Bill Slavicsek
ArtistJesper Ejsing, Jason Engle, Andrew Hou, Warren Mahy, Wayne Reynolds, Keven Smith
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Year Published2010
# of Players1 - 5
User Suggested # of Players Best with 5+ players
Recommended with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 players
(166 voters)
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(83 voters)
Language DependenceExtensive use of text - massive conversion needed to be playable
(77 voters)
CategoryAdventure, Exploration, Fantasy, Fighting, Horror, Miniatures
MechanicCooperative Game, Dice Rolling, Grid Movement, Modular Board, Role Playing, Solo / Solitaire Game, Variable Player Powers
ExpansionDungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game – Bonus Adventures, Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game – Contest Adventures, Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game – Gray Hag Promo, Dungeons & Dragons: Ghosts of Saltmarsh Board Game, Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game – Vierna Do'Urden Promo, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Boardgame – Kobold Champion Promo, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Bonus Adventures – Servants of the Thunder Shaman
FamilyCategory: Dungeon Crawler, Creatures: Vampires, Players: Games with Solitaire Rules, Series: Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Board Games, Setting: Dungeons & Dragons, Versions & Editions: Board Game Versions of Role-Playing Games
Primary NameDungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Dungeons and Dragons Castle Ravenloft Board Game – PC legend returns
Final word
Castle Ravenloft offers simple adventure in dark caves filled with enemy monsters. Your only goal is to save the whole world. Easy peasy? No. Getting to end of labyrinth and killing its guard will be everything, but simple. But once you’ve don it, all other creatures get scared and flee back into the shadows. So there is no other solution to heal your world. Several different adventures together with random drawing of dungeon tiles are guarantee, that everytime, you will be confronted with different experience. And still, you do not have to learn long and difficult rules, because everything is governed by few simple laws. After moving and using heroes skills, evil gets its chance to act. But in reality, players who revealed them, are in control of them. Creature movement abides simple principles and they usually move towards you or directly attack. Most of things in Castle Ravenloft is work of luck, which must be overcome with all those pitfalls in your way. This is part of simple dungeon-crawler games, so we think its ok, although some might argue with us. Rules can seem too free, because there are not solutions for every situation and you have to be led by intuition. Some cards and actions disrupt otherwise perfect atmosphere with unexpected things and illogical doings. Castle Ravenloft won us due to its incredible simplicity, presentation and accessability for completely everyone. Its playable even with children. And who will not want to face some evil from time to time, to discharge anger from the real world?
Reader Rating0 Votes
beautiful miniatures
flood of components
variable thanks to adventure book
units training (two levels)
free rules (pro only for some)
solitaire option
downloadable scenarios on Internet
simple automatic enemy movement
fantasy world atmosphere
unclarified things in rules (and need for some house rules as well)
rules interfere with atmosphere a little
large dose of luck
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