Adventures in the Underdark

It’s D&D week!

Over the weekend, I read this post from fellow blogger Man of Yesterday (who I highly recommend you follow!) on playing a D&D adventure, and have been inspired to make a feature week here on my blog! I’ve talked about my own roleplaying experiences but briefly, but suffice it to say, I love it. D&D has existed on my radar for years now, as my good friend and sparring partner Tony is a huge fan, but it was only recently that I really delved into that world.

I recently mentioned that I like to read at least one new book in January. Well, in 2013, that new book was RA Salvatore’s Homeland. I was immediately blown away by this book, which I started almost begrudgingly, if I’m honest. I’m going to talk about that in a later blog this week, but the reason for my hesitation was that I’m primarily a Star Wars geek, and wasn’t sure I had room in my head for another big franchise. However, I wanted to read it because of this:

The Legend of Drizzt

Part of the D&D Adventure System board game line, this box – and its two siblings – is just awesome! Essentially a dungeon-crawl in the manner of Descent (which I will get to, one day!), these games are among my absolute favourites. Based on the d20 D&D RPG line, the games feature a strong role-playing element, and include classic monsters from the line such as the Beholder. And the AI makes them playable solo! Fantastic.

You start out with a character card, one of the major players in the saga such as Bruenor Battlehammer, his adopted daughter Catti-Brie, the young barbarian Wulfgar, or maybe even Drizzt himself – and receive a number of power cards much like in the RPG. The character cards are double-sided, and certain events (such as rolling a natural 20, or the Battlefield Promotion Treasure card) allow you to level up, flipping the card for slightly increased stats!

Once you’ve got your character sorted, you place the corresponding miniature on the starting tile, and the adventure begins! The game comes with a whole host of miniatures, for all the monsters as well as the heroes.

The game comes with an Adventure Book, which sets out a number of scenarios you can play with the game. (As a side note, each of the three boxes are meant to be compatible, and in the early days, Wizards brought out a couple of web-scenarios that specifically integrated the first two box sets. Nothing has come out to integrate all three, though there are fan expansions in this vein available online).

Each adventure has a slightly different layout, depending on the objective. For illustrative purposes, I was playing scenario 2, the Search for Mirthril Hall. This one requires a specific ‘cavern tile’ to be shuffled into three ordinary tiles, then all four are placed at the bottom of a stack of eight other tiles, timing the adventure to last between 9 and 12 tile-reveals. There are some pretty awesome map tiles in this set, some used for specific scenarios – such as the Broken Door tile in the adventure I’m playing:

The Legend of Drizzt

Each tile has an arrow on it, as well as a cluster of mushrooms. On your hero’s turn, if you are at an “unexplored edge” of a tile, you draw a new one, placing it so that the arrow points to that edge. If the arrow is white, you’re (reasonably) fine and draw a Monster card, and place the corresponding miniature on the mushroom cluster. If the arrow is black, you first draw an Encounter card, which can denote all sorts of nastiness, from area-attacks on your tile, to specific traps being laid!

The Legend of Drizzt

In addition to lots of miniatures, there are lots of cards, and lots of tokens. Just how I like my boardgames, really!

The Legend of Drizzt

Monster Cards show that monster’s Armor Class (AC) and Hit Points (HP). When fighting a monster, the hero rolls a d20 and adds their attack value; if the result exceeds the AC, they do a number of damage that deducts HP from the monster until it is dead. If the monster is defeated, it goes into the Experience pile – Experience can be used to cancel Encounter Cards as well as to level up when you’ve rolled a natural 20. You also get to draw a Treasure Card when you defeat a monster, which can be anything from weapons to health boosts, to that Battlefield Promotion!

However, if you don’t defeat the monster in one round of combat, that monster will be coming for you! They have ‘Tactics’ printed on their cards, showing how they move and, in some cases, which weapon they use. They also have attack and damage values – you roll the d20 and add their attack value, comparing it to your own AC, etc. A very simple, yet tremendously effective AI!

The Legend of Drizzt

Sometimes, however, that shadow up ahead might just be a Stalagmite!

The Legend of Drizzt

Most adventures have some sort of set-up similar to that described above, and in Search for Mithril Hall, once the Broken Door tile is revealed, the Ancient Throne tile is placed alongside it. This is a double-tile, and involves the Crown token (if you’ve read the Icewind Dale trilogy, you’ll love this!). This also triggers the end-game, however, as the Artemis Entreri enemy figure is also placed on the Start Tile, and each turn, he’s coming for you!

The D&D Adventure System features some straightforward monsters, and some more complex. The latter type have quite lengthy stat cards akin to those of the heroes. However, Legend of Drizzt takes that one step further and provides Hero cards for two of the enemy figures, Artemis and also Jarlaxle. Fans of the Hunter’s Blades trilogy will be particularly enraptured! It’s a really nice twist being able to play these “grey” characters (who hilariously have grey miniatures in this game!).

The Legend of Drizzt

Oh yeah, there’s also a Guenhwyvar miniature you can use as an ally! Awesome!

The game is really quite straightforward to play, which allows you to focus on enjoying the adventure rather than getting bogged-down in rules. Its adventures draw mainly from the Icewind Dale trilogy, and there are quite a lot of moments where, if you’ve read those books, you’ll be enraptured as you play through the events in board game form!

Of course, this is Wizards of the Coast, so there are promos available. Well, promo, actually. A Vierna Do’Urden monster card was released, which I managed to snaffle online after the fact for a modest sum, and has shown up quite a few times, in some truly awesome epic storytelling moments – the first time I used her, she ended up Poisoning Drizzt, which actually killed him. Not quite a repeat of the scene in the books, but it was a hilarious move!

Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Board Game

As mentioned before, The Legend of Drizzt is just one of the line of Adventure System board games, all three of which are fully compatible with each other. So you can play Drizzt and Wulfgar and face off against Ashardalon, for instance. Or use the Ranger or Fighter power cards from either game to equip Drizzt and Bruenor as you explore Castle Ravenloft. Personally, I like to keep all three games separate, but I’ve heard of people mixing everything together, and it seems to work well for them.

I’ll be featuring all of these games on Game Day blogs soon, anyway!

Legend of Drizzt came out in 2011, and the Adventure System has been really quiet until the end of last year, when it was announced that a fourth game would be released in the spring of 2015. We finally have a name for it, Temple of Elemental Evil! It seems to be some sort of ‘event’ in the D&D world happening this year, with the game tying in as a result. Well, whatever it is, I’m all for it!

For now, I’ll leave you with a last look at that fantastic Errtu miniature, the hulking fire demon from The Crystal Shard. Enjoy!

The Legend of Drizzt

Buy it from amazon:
The Legend of Drizzt

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