Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Adventures with girls: Part 2

Yeah OK so granted that might be a slightly misleading Blog title but hey what do I care? If 'professional' journalists can get away with misleading headlines, outright fabrications, phone tapping and hacking, surely I can be forgiven just this once... right? Any way this is the second of my three blogs on how the Dungeon Crawling went with the girls, and it was the second game that threw up for me some quite interesting observations...

Second Game

For the second game 'the Cursed' one turned up and we had a slight shuffle of roles. The girls, quite happy with their choices and the fact they'd been way more affective than us men, stuck with the choices of Wizard and Rogue respectively. I was shunted to Ranger duties, via a quick sex change as the Ranger is a female human, again I'm not too sure what the hell people were trying to say about me; but I'm not too sure I liked it! Mr Chaos Space Marine was demoted from the Warrior to Cleric a move he seemed to relish given how utterly shyte he performed as the Warrior. That left the one with the worst luck with dice, the Cursed, as the Warrior, we briefly discussed if this might be a wise course of action but hurriedly moved on to play the game.

 Bravely the adventurers prepare to kick ass!!!

We decided to kick the difficulty up by only the very smallest of notches and take on the third adventure Klak's Infernal Artifact. What could possibly go wrong I hear you ask? Well not a lot for most of us it seemed. Geology Girl with her Elf Wizard backed up by my trusty Ranger were a capable team boldly moving forward and kicking ass at every turn. Things were good very early on when between the two of us we managed to blat some pretty stern monsters and amass a fair few experience points, that then meant when we rocked our natural 20 rolls on the D20 we were both leveled up. Meanwhile on the other side of our two pronged attack was the Rogue easily disabling traps and downing beasties and the Cleric backing her up in a seemingly unstoppable, relentless onslaught...

Unfortunately the same could not be said of the Cursed and the hapless Lizard Warrior. We were starting to rapidly feel that either A) the Lizard Warrior was utter pants and wasn't worth taking or B) was actually cursed by some foul incantation that made it draw only the nastiest of Encounter cards, the hardest of beasties and roll the worst possible dice rolls. Two games in a roll the warrior took an absolutely merciless pummeling and was only kept alive by other warriors health potions and the Cleric. In fact the Warrior was turning into something of a liability really.

It was at this point the girls started talking about the game and making some shrewd observations. Its unsurprising I suppose that Dr Brainiac with her extensive experience with computer RPGs was left somewhat cold by the lack of personalisation of the characters, or indeed the lack of choice of characters. She also felt the leveling mechanic wasn't important enough and that actually the reward for progression and doing stuff wasn't really in line with what she knew to be an RPG. I agree, in fact from my product review gaming of Castle Ravenloft I'd pretty much decided it was a straight up board game. Meanwhile Geology Girl made a very astute comment about the fact that the game wasn't really developing a compelling narrative and that it didn't feel like we were intrepid adventurers exploring a dark dank dungeon to hunt some crazed wizard down. Again I agree.

As the adventure trundled on though I poked and prodded these themes some more, and I think the telling comment came from Dr Brainiac when she said 'don't get me wrong its a good board game but its not an RPG, its more like a group maths puzzle' then Geology Girl summed it up 'its been fun playing with you (meaning the group) but it is a bit souless'... ouch, it hurts because its actually quite true. The whole experience seems somewhat devoid of personality or soul. Its a robust mechanic and a good board game and its a tight system but despite the theme and the monsters hanging together better than the other D&D Adventure System Wrath Ashardalon, it still isn't really enough to get you thinking you're an intrepid adventurer exploring some catacombs, filled with the undead and hunting down a Vampire lord. It lacks something, a spark, or I don't know... just something, perhaps its that missing soul Geology Girl mentioned.

The beginning of the end

With a decent bunch of people it will fill out a quite entertaining evening of light hearted fun and help provide a nice alternative to the usual diversions of watching films or chatting about the weather (its a British thing). If however you're after an in depth experience either in terms of character progression or play mechanics this isn't it. If you're after a very strong narrative based board game again this isn't it. It kind of sits somewhere between the two, in some sort of middle ground I didn't know existed. Don't get me wrong it was slick, it all worked very well and it went swimmingly, but it wasn't quite what we were looking for in terms of a game to entertain us as a group with the girls. I think the game did appeal to us boys though as it does provide an interesting challenge and is a good mild diversion to our normal hobby activities which center around wargaming...

Klak eventually meets his maker... no not the dude that pulled him from the mould!

Eventually we rocked up to Klak and after a few rounds he was soundly defeated and all that was left was to destroy Klak's artifact, something that proved harder to do for some reason (well actually it was dire dice rolling) than killing the eponymous Klak himself. We finished our adventure off and began dissecting the fun, never a good sign I feel. We agreed its a fine board game and as a challenge in terms of group resources and risk management it provides an engaging puzzle, but ultimately its not an RPG type experience and its not strong enough in narrative, or at least the missions we'd tried weren't. Thus we agreed that perhaps taking on Strahd himself might prove a more titanic and epic engagement, once more we raised the D20 and went further into Castle Ravenloft... Peace out!

Dungeon Crawlers Approved by girls: Part 1
Girls really do just want to have fun: Part 3


  1. Thanks for the write-up again, enjoyed reading it! Looking forward to the final part.

    I was thinking of getting hold of 'Wrath of Ashardalalalaathalon' (or whatever the hell its called), and for a similar purpose to yourself (introducing some non-gamers), on the basis that is apparently a little more developed than Castle Ravenloft. It will be a toss up between that game, and Mantic's effort (Dwarf King's Hold), I haven't decided yet and will wait for your conclusions. :)

  2. I'd recommend Dwarf King's Hold, but then I wrote it so I would, wouldn't I :)

  3. @Quirkworthy. lol. stop hawking your wares on my blog!!! that's what I'm here for.

    Seriously though I would recommend DKH to anyone as it is a seriously fun little game and I've got DKH 2: Green Menance on pre-order right now.

    @Pacific. However D&D Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon are very different sorts of game. DKH is adversarial and highly competitive... well it is when I play!!! I've enjoyed both game to an extent but perhaps my wargaming nature leads me more towards competition than co-operation. My final part of our dungeon crawl will go up tomorrow along with the review of Ravenloft!!!


  4. I'm not here to hawk wares FG, but I couldn't resist helping out a lost soul. He can't even pronounce the other one :)

    Nah, just kidding. That's why I said it was my game. I think that the whole thing of sock puppet accounts and so on is underhand and rather distasteful, though I know it's standard practice. I always try to ensure that people know it's me, and that I wrote the thing so I come at it from a unique perspective. Of course, this does make it difficult as nobody believes me when I say it's a good game...

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  6. @Quirkworthy I know, I know, I was pulling your leg. I do think its a good game though. Its probably going to get another article just before I get my mitts of Green Menace to say how it stacks up to repeated play... so far its not too bad! ;)

  7. I look forward to reading it.

    What I'd expect you to find is that the tactical challenges evolve with your understanding of the possibilities. I've tried to design it so that you can play the same scenarios repeatedly without them getting dull, and most folk tell me that this is what they find. When I was in Ireland recently the guys at one of their big stores told me that they'd been playing the game for weeks. When I asked them what they thought of one of the later scenarios, they told me that they'd only played the first one. They just kept trying it again and again, and whenever they thought they'd mastered it with one side they swapped and tried it from the other. Lovely guys, but clearly a little crazy ;)