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Review: Castle Ravenloft


dnd_castleravenloft_0Does dungeon crawling, vampires, and dracolich, sound like an entertaining evening to you? If so, then you may want to check out Castle Ravenloft the Dungeons and Dragons board game published by Wizards of the Coast.

Designed by Rob Heinsoo, Peter Lee, Mike Mearis, and Bill Slavicsek, with are by Jesper Ejsing, Jason Engle, Andrew Hou, Warren Mahy, Wayne Reynolds, and Keven Smith, Castle Ravenloft is set in the gothic horror realm of Ravenloft in the Dungeons and Dragons universe. The basic concept is you and your adventuring friends are venturing into the dungeons of Strahd von Zarovich, where you will encounter all sorts of horrors. Let’s take a look at this game.

Castle Ravenloft is a cooperative game. You either win together or you die together, there is no in between.  The game draws on several mechanics which include co-operative play, dice rolling, grid movement, modular board, and role playing.

Set up
It’s tough to describe the setup process as it can differ each time you play it. To start with, you and your playgroup will need to decide which adventure you will be playing from the adventure book. Once that is done, you will then follow the setup process. A couple of constants will be each player choosing a hero and hero abilities and setting up the beginning of the dungeon.

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Our heroes, the mage, right, fighter, and ranger, surround a wolf.

How to play
Like Star Trek Panic, I will not be going into all the rules as there are several. I highly suggest you keep the rule book handy through your first couple of times you play through it. Essentially, each turn is broken down into three steps. The first is the Hero phase where you will move, attack/disable trap, use your hero powers, etc. The next step is the Exploration phase where a tile is added to the dungeon. This results in new monsters being placed on the board for your party to fight. The final step is the villain phase. This is when monsters you control (monsters you have added to the board) get to attack. It’s important to remember that not all monsters can attack during this step. Only monsters you have added to the board and therefore control can attack.

I do want to touch on the hero powers real quick. Each hero has their own powers/abilities they can use during their Hero phase. These powers are categorized as Daily, Utility, and At-Will. At-Will powers can be used without abandoned. Daily and Utility can be used once and are then turned faced down. They can only be turned face up by a treasure card or other effect in the game. Use these powers wisely.

When it comes to a hero’s life, this is tracked by hit points. Any damage dealt to a hero stays on it until that hero is able to heal via a hero power, treasure card, or another in-game effect. If a hero reaches 0 life, it is turned on its side. You are not dead yet as long as you have a Healing Surge token.

Each party will have two Healing Surge tokens they can use during the game. They are to be used when a hero starts their turn with 0 life. Once used, you can’t get more.

Winning the game
Each adventure has its own win condition. The one constant of each adventure is all heroes must be alive to win.

Conclusion
This game is huge. There are a lot of awesome miniatures, cards, tokens, and tiles. While not all the pieces will be used during a game, there will be a lot to keep track of. The rules, while not complex, are many. You want to keep the rule book close, as we said earlier.

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The dracolich looming over a ghoul. Thankfully, we didn’t have to fight the undead dragon this go around.

With those items in mind, the game play is excellent. It flows smoothly and, if the group is experienced role players, lends itself to role playing the hero parts. We found ourselves calling each other by the hero names, reading the events in a “creepy” voice, and generally having a good time with it.

As we wrapped up our second attempt at the game (we lost the first time), all of us agreed this is one of our top five games. This game has excellent artwork, awesome adventures, and is just a lot of fun.

The Forge Herald highly recommends this game.

Score 9.5/10

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Patrick Steam punkPatrick Cossel is the Publisher of The Forge Herald. He is a writer, father, husband, gamer, and level 1 Magic Judge. Professionally he is the Operations Manager of a family-owned newspaper company. He can be reached at pcossel@gmail.com

© 2016, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.

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About Patrick Cossel,

I am a journalist and gaming enthusiast.

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