Posted by Raine Hutchens on Nov 21, 2011

Review – Dungeons and Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt (Tabletop)

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Though video games have been a huge part of my life, there are a lot of different tabletop-style games I’ve played and come to love as well. I’ve dabbled in trading card games, and even some Dungeons and Dragons. I enjoy running games as a dungeon master, and the lore is some of the most interesting I’ve come across. R.A. Salvatore has written many books based on the Dungeons and Dragons series, and has created a whole subseries that has taken on a life of its own, known as the Legend of Drizzt. Just recently, Wizards of the Coast released a new tabletop board game based on this series, and we were lucky to have the chance to check out the game first-hand.

If you’ve ever played a session of D&D, then you’ll know just how intense it can be. The Legend of Drizzt brings to life intense combat, immersive storytelling, and imaginative worlds right before your eyes. It takes the very same characters, locations, and monsters from the world created by Salvatore and puts them into action, with players left on their heels.

The Legend of Drizzt is a miniatures board game that’s set for 1 to 5 players, and takes place following the legendary drow ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden. Players can choose to lead one of any of the game’s characters including Wulfgar the barbarian, and even Catti Brie, Drizzt’s wife. Each character comes with a special set of abilities, and they all perform in different ways. This makes team-based gameplay a must, although fun and interesting.

When you pick up the game and open it, you’ll find a special adventure book that lays out many different types of adventures that players can journey through, each with their own victory condition and storyline. The booklet lays out what you’ll need for each adventure, and it also will tell you what you need to do in order to be successful in the mission.

With the list for each mission, it will tell you which characters are best-suited for each adventure, and just what to take out of the many different items that come included with the game. There are miniatures for characters, villains, and monsters that you’ll encounter in each dungeon. Seriously, there is so much that comes included with the game that it is almost overwhelming. When we sat down to play, the total setup time for the first run took almost an hour in itself, and that didn’t count punching out everything from its holder. This was a bit of a pain, but each playthrough after that got much easier, though with all the pieces in the box, it is easy to mix everything up.

Once you’ve gotten everything set up on the table, it’s time to get to work. Players will chose their characters, and once an adventure has been selected the real fun begins. You’ll dig out the numerous cavern tiles, and each of the specific dungeon tiles the adventure calls for, and this serves as your “board” so to speak. For the adventure we chose, one of the characters, Broener, was in search of an ancient throne of the dwarven Battlehammer clan. We found ourselves in a place called the Underdark, and the throne we so sought was within our reach. The objective of the mission was to claim a crown from the throne, and make it out alive. On top of this, a villain by the name of Artemis Entreri was seeking out a rogue, Regis, who had committed crimes in a city some ways back. So, all together we needed to locate the throne room, grab the crown, defeat Artemis and make it out of the Underdark.

As the game goes, each player has a certain rotation during their turn, which comes in the form of phases. The first phase is the Hero Phase. During this phase players can choose to move and attack, attack and then move, or make two moves. Each character has a certain move speed on their character card which determines how many squares on the dungeon tile they can move. Once you’ve made your move (combat comes later), the next phase begins. This next phase is the Exploration Phase, and in it players will be able to add new tiles to the dungeon. Once you’re at an unexplored edge, which is an edge of a tile that doesn’t have a wall blocking it, and can be added to. When the player explores they take the top tile from the dungeon tile stack and place it connected to the unexplored edge, making sure that the revealed white or black arrow points to the unexplored edge. This way, the tiles always set up the correct way. Once a tile is placed, a monster appears in the dungeon. This is achieved by the exploring player selecting a monster card from the Monster Deck and placing its miniature on the added tile. Afterwards, the Exploration Phase is concluded. Finally, the Villain Phase can begin. This is when the villains and monsters activate, and most combat starts. If a player set a tile during the last phase and revealed a monster, then on that player’s Villain Phase that monster activates. In essence, they “own” that monster. Each monster comes with their own card, which was drawn during the Exploration Phase. This card dictates the monster’s AC (armor class), tactics, and HP. During the Villain Phase the player who owns the monster will, on their turn, read what the monster does when it activates. It will either move closer to players, make an attack, or do something entirely different. On top of this, if a player didn’t add a tile on their turn, or if they added one that had a black arrow on it, they would then draw a card from the Encounter Deck. Encounter cards have abilities on them that can be anything from immobilizing players, to causing damage, to adding new monsters to the dungeon. These make the runs more difficult and interesting. This is one of the issues I found we ran into. Basically, either way you look at it, on almost every turn you will experience an encounter. Since players don’t have much health to begin with, you could, in theory, draw encounters that could wipe out your team before you can even start. It’s happened. I think that if these were dialed back a bit it would be a lot better gameplay wise. These encounters can make players feel underpowered, all while you haven’t even entered combat with a monster or villain.

Once the full rotation spins out, the player on your left will take their turn. Most likely after the first player takes their turn, combat can begin. When you move into combat there is a certain way it turns out. Once a player enters combat, they will make use of certain At-Will Powers that they have based on their character cards. These powers do damage and have a special attack bonus. Just like in D&D, players will roll a 20-sided die and add in their attack bonus to whatever they roll. If it is equal to or more than the opposing monster’s AC, they hit and do whatever damage that’s stated. Once the monster loses all of its HP, it perishes. Then the monster offers up experience points which go into a pool. This experience is important because it can do one of two things. It can either be used to negate revealed encounters, or when a player rolls a natural 20 when disabling a trap or making an attack roll, the experience can be used to level that player’s character up one level. Adding new levels adds more HP, bonuses to AC, and a critical strike attack which deals more damage. Players can level up as many times as the experience allows, and their card states what to add when leveling. Also, when a monster falls the player who dealt the ending blow grabs a card from the Treasure Deck. These treasures add fortunes and items to characters that help even out some of the gameplay.

Combat is fast and furious. Sometimes it’s especially unforgiving especially when bad rolls enter the scene. If played strategically though using teamwork, players can come together to take down foes.

After enough rounds of this type of gameplay, players will make it to the objective. In our case, we had finally located the throne room and laid claim to the crown. This meant that the villain Artemis entered the dungeon and was on his way to attack us all. Artemis has his own villain card that dictates what he does when activated. Unlike monsters, the villain activates during each player’s Villain Phase. With this, he moves quicker and interactions are much more frequent. Players will most certainly need to stay on their toes when combating the villain as they usually have hard-hitting attacks that will easily put the screws on the situation.

After some cunning tactics we were able to force Artemis down and walk out with the crown in hand. All together the one adventure took almost two hours to complete. The long gameplay is still interactive and doesn’t get boring. We had tons of fun and were ready to make another go as soon as we had a break.

When it comes to The Legend of Drizzt, there are a few things to know before jumping into the game. Players need to keep in mind that the setup takes a long amount of time to complete. I’m not even talking about the adventure setup, I’m talking about getting the pieces together and punched out. Before you plan to have friends over to play a session you’ll need to get everything up and together. Also, it’s important to read EVERYTHING. You’ll need to make sure you catch up on what each card does, how things are laid out, and how actions take place. Of course, fans of miniature and board games will know this, and be prepared for it when it comes. The game sessions are quite long, so be sure to set aside some time when gathering friends to play. As long as you keep these things in mind, you’ll have a great time with the game. Right now it’s retailing for about $65, so it’s not exactly cheap. However, if you’ve got plenty of friends to play the game with then it will be more than worth it. If you get the chance, this is a great board game to get into, and if you’re a fan of either tabletop or the R.A. Salvatore D&D subseries, you’ll definitely love it.

The Good

  • interactive gameplay and story
  • follows the Legend of Drizzt story by R.A. Salvatore
  • D&D tie-ins help make the game easy to play, yet fun at the same time
  • plenty of characters and scenarios to choose from keep the game from getting boring
  • great to play with friends

The Bad

  • can be difficult to pick up
  • adventures can be long drawn out
  • encounters can make players feel overwhelmed
  • immense setup time

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