Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Review: Dungeons & Dragons The Legend of Drizzt

Apparently this is a cool and muted palette... Girls approve of such things

Well this is the third Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Game that I've brought, so either Wizards of the Coast were doing something right with the other games, or I'm a complete schmuck. Don't say it, I already know I am! However, between them Castle Ravenloft and Wrath Ashardalon probably would have made a pretty engaging experience. As it was though, Castle Ravenloft proved too easy, and although it had a great theme it was, as Geology Girl stated, a little 'soulless' as an experience. Meanwhile, Wrath of Ashardalon was a sterner test of my adventuring mettle but had even less character and lacked a cohesive and consistent theme, which was a shame because I felt the challenge it offered was a worthwhile one. So then, how does this third game fare? I mean, they've brought out one of their big guns in Drizzt, a character who has had many novels, they've also had feedback from the first two games. So, has this iteration learned any new tricks?

Product Description

This is a game that comes within a self contained storage device.... OK, OK it's yet another game in a box. Yay!!! I've had a fair few people email and PM me to ask if these are somehow expansions and ask whether they need Castle Ravenloft to play both Wrath of Ashardalon and Legend of Drizzt. The answer is no, they are not expansion packs. Each game is a standalone game and comes with everything you need to play the game out of the box. So what do you get in this box then? Well I'm glad you asked, there are 40 plastic heroes and monster type thingies ranging from the huge winged demon  Errtu Balor, right down to the tiny ickle spider swarms. You also get the eponymous Drizzt Do'Urden of course, along with other Drizzt stablemates Regis, Catie Brie and even the Assassin Artemis Entreri. There are the 58 floor tiles, these are the interlocking jigsaw type. The 12 hero and villain cards, the rulebook and adventure books, 168 markers and tokens, we shouldn't forget there are also 200 Encounter, Monster and Treasure Cards, split between the standard and Advanced decks. Have I forgot anything? Oh yeah, there's a lovely almost black but very dark navy blue / purple D20... sexy, and so in keeping with the Drow theme darlings!

The massed ranks of bad guys or gals, we're equal opps here at the FG blog

Feck off you snot green bastard!!!
Gameplay 8.5 out of 10

Well I'm not too sure that this game is as significant a departure in terms of mechanics over the previous two games to be brutally honest with you. Thing is I don't think the actual underlying mechanics or ideas that governed the previous two games were flawed. The problem was with how those mechanics were deployed and the sorts of games those created. However, there is no doubt that The Legend of Drizzt does have the odd new trick up its sleeve. Designing this game must have been a fairly tricky task though. Because while people such as myself found fault with the previous two games, they were both extremely popular games and have amassed a bit of a following. So reality is you don't want to stray too far from the formula you have and risk alienating your current fans. However, if all you're doing is preaching to the converted you won't grow your flock... this games designing malarky is starting to sound like a tricky business.

And so the adventure begins "hey where are you off too?"
So I think the designers did take the more conservative (with a little 'c') line in terms of producing The Legend of Drizzt. The core mechanics pretty much remain the same, of that their can be no doubt. So if you thought the previous two games were fundamentally flawed then this won't be for you either. What Peter Lee has done with this iteration is tinker with certain things, such as the ordering of the monsters, the way the adventurers work and a few other subtle changes. The stances that the various adventurers can do add a different tactical element to the game for instance, and certainly make it feel like you have more options to affect the game. They're not amazingly different or indeed earth shatteringly powerful, they just add a nice subtle nuance to proceedings. As does the fact that if two adventurers have the same monster card, say Drow Duelist, then both will activate in those adventurers villain phases. This makes things a little bit more tricky at times and does an OK job of stopping any players turning the playing of the game into a pure mathematical equation, which to be honest did happen with the previous two games.

Yeah OK so we've kinda explore in a weird way
Sure, it's still is an easy game to break down mathematically, but the honest truth is that this version of the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System seems to hide it better. Maybe that is in part because the mission set ups seem a little bit more narrative driven and perhaps its because I'm familiar with the back story of Drizzt himself. However, my various guinea pigs are not familiar with the story of Drizzt, and they too felt the stories, sorry missions, were more narrative based and that this helped us as gamers to 'forget' the mechanics behind it all. Sure, fundamentally it is the same game, but as with the other games the encounter, treasure and monster cards all react differently. These too seem, well to this gamer any way, to have been thought about in a little bit more depth. There are, for instance now two decks of cards, normal and advanced. The first deck is a starter deck if you will, and kind of eases you into the game and offers a nice challenge and is a good way to introduce people to the game, it is set to Castle Ravenloft difficulty if you will.

Die you scaly dragon of doom. DIE!!!!!!
The second deck, and the deck I'm more interested in, because I'm a kick ass gamer of course, is the Advanced deck. Now this kicks the difficulty up a notch or two, and I think sees games akin to some of the more difficult challenges that the Wrath of Ashardalon throws at you. Now there seems to be some debate as to whether or not Wrath is a harder game than Ravenloft. The main argument used against Wrath being the harder game is that there were some silly powerful items in the treasure deck of Wrath, while most of the treasure deck for Ravenloft was pretty run of the mill bland stuff. While I agree with the Treasure cards were better in Wrath, the reality is the monsters were way harder in Wrath too. Your adventurers also had less healing capabilities and the encounter deck in Wrath threw some right stinkers your way. Sure if your group was lucky enough to draw an awful lot of the decent magic items from the treasure deck at the start of the game things were a little bit easier, but hey you had to get them first. So yeah, I think the fact that Drizzt allows you to in effect 'choose' your level of difficulty is a good thing.

There are also some pretty different mission types in this version of the game. In the previous games there was quite frankly one type of mission, explore 9 to 12 tiles (depending) and kill big bad gribbly monster at the end. Finished. While this proved fun and even mildly engaging for a short while, it did tend to get a bit repetitive and boring in the end. This meant that really the replay value of each game was quite limited, especially as there really wasn't that much difference between the floor tiles, the dungeons generated seemed to be very 'samey'. The Legend of Drizzt does step up to the plate here with a number of changes, the most instantly recognisable being the dungeon tiles themselves. Sure they're all square shaped in the main, but the printed layouts on them vary a lot more this time and have generated more interesting looking Dungeons. The next change is that there are different types of missions, they're not all exploration only missions and in some cases there is a 'competitive' edge added. It mixes things up, but within the confines of a familiar system.

Look its a Spider Drow thingy... how... cool!!!

So have the Dungeons & dragons Adventure System Games finally won me round? Am I a convert at last? Yes, yes I am. I still think Castle Ravenloft is too easy and far to mechanical a game, I still think Wrath of Ashardalon was too badly themed and therefore felt like a game, you could almost see the rules at play, in fact they sat on top of the adventure you were supposedly having, but yeah OK, I'll admit it, The Legend of Drizzt is pretty good fun. For me it's certainly the best of the 3 games they've released so far, probably by a country mile. At no point have I found myself doing the maths jig with pen and paper in hand like I did with the other games, nope I just played the game and got on with it, because that's exactly what this version of the game entices you to do. There are more characters to play as in this game than the other two, there just seems to be more going on. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it's still a bit formulaic and Dungeons 101, the lack of character customisation might still grate on some peoples nerves, but as an introduction to Dungeon Crawlers and board games it's a winner for me!

Those two decks of cards
Detail 8 out of 10

The previous two Dungeons & Dragons Games got a bit of a bitch slapping from me on the detail side of things. I just felt they lacked a bit of 'joie de vivre' or to quote Thiery Henry 'Va va voom'. They seemed corporate to me, very grey, bland and just oh so mechanical, it really was gaming by numbers. Yeah I know that's exactly what it was meant to be, but it felt like it. I think it was the look of the cards and indeed the game tiles that gave it the feel of being bland or boring. Now I'm not going to say the floor tiles are the most exotic looking or indeed the most interesting, but I can at least say they have character now. The tiles themselves seem to have more detail and texture to them. They're not all straight corridors or big blank squares either. I've said it before in many of my other board game reviews, so much of the character and feel for a game comes from the tile pieces used to play the game on, that for Wizards of the Coast to have blandly put a square grid over vast swathes of grey essentially in the first two games was a massively missed opportunity. That at least has changed.

The playing cards, be they monster, treasure or encounter cards still retain the same look and vibe, which is a shame. But hell at least they do their job, right? It'd have been nice to have thrown a bit of character at them I guess, but hey, one thing at a time. I mean they've only just let their artists put mushrooms on the floor tiles!!! All joking aside there is at least a way to tell the difference between the standard deck of cards and the Advanced deck of cards. With the standard deck they just look the same as the normal deck of cards you have in the other games, but the advanced cards have a crossed swords motif in the background, behind the detail in the cards to denote it as such. Maybe it's not that big a deal, but it is a nice and mostly unobtrusive way of differentiating the card decks, and I appreciate the thought that has gone into things like that.

The adventurers gathered in one place... too much heroism in one place

However, as always with me it's the little plastic toys that do it for me. I'm not so sure I can claim I'm a purely or mostly wargamer anymore, it's starting to ring a little bit hollow. I mean my gaming habits are still wargame first, everything else later, but hey even I have to admit board games have become a bigger part of my hobby recently, so I guess I'm now a 'gamer' in the purer sense. With one exception, a last lingering hang over that I can't quite shake off from the inner wargamer... I like my miniatures to be non-rubbery! Look, the thing that got me into the hobby in the first place was the idea of painting your own toys, and flexible nasty rubbery crap doesn't cut it with me. Are these miniatures made of the same rubbery crap as most other board games? You betcha, which makes it all the more galling that in the main the models are actually quite nice sculpts, although the dwarf with the two hammers does look a little bit like he's guiding a plane at an airport. I wander if Wizards of the Coast would consider doing a 'deluxe' range of these games with better versions of the mini's made out of a proper manly substance like metal.

"You shall not pass... on second thoughts be my guest"
Quality 8 out of 10

Hmm, I don't think the quality of the components was ever in question with regards to Ravenloft or Wrath. Certainly not the card tiles or the playing cards, and it's exactly the same for The Legend of Drizzt. The card tiles are made out of a very nice, thick, solid feeling card stock. The surface detail is a high quality print job, and the surface feels all nice and shiny and unlikely to rub off and damage. The same is true of the villain and character cards and the tokens, they're all really sturdy and well put together. The playing cards too, blandness of their design aside, are actually really quite damn good. They are as good as any card component I've come across, they have a nice satin sheen to them that means they won't 'stain' or get finger print smudges on them. They too have a nice plastic firm quality to them so folds and creases shouldn't be a problem, and they shouldn't get dog eared either. Nope the only real downside as I can see it is the rubbery substance those miniatures are made of, but hey given most people will just chuck the stuff right back in the box I guess it's a suitable substance. The rulebooks too are full colour and come printed on nice glossy paper so any nerdgasms should be easy to clean up. Nope, its a pretty solid product all round.

Service 9 out of 10

I had a brief issue with OG Games a few orders back where their packaging wasn't the best, and the gimps at Royal Mail had clearly decided it was fine to drop kick the packages that had been entrusted to their care and service... ass hats! However, since letting them know of my issues the subsequent packages have come through in perfect working order and this was no different. I've had The Legend of Drizzt on pre-order now for months, and sure enough, on the day this was supposed to be released I had a notification from OG that it was on its way. Next day it was in my hands, no damage and it was free postage and packing. Top service yet again. Really pleased as punch about it.

Price 8 out of 10

Well the RRP on this is £49.99, and for what's in the box I think it's a pretty fair price. There is a lot of card and plastic figures in there. I think it's worth it's asking price and the fact that OG Games sell it for £5 less is a bit of a bonus if you ask me!

Go on, tell Drizzt isn't cool. I dare you!!!
Overall 8 out of 10

So here we are, with the third of the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Games reviewed, and finally it feels like they're starting to get into their stride with them. Yeah it has taken then some time to get to this point and two games that weren't as well rounded products as they could be, but yes this third game feels like a well put together product. Could there be some improvements made? Yep, I for one would actually like to see new adventure decks of cards brought out to mix things up a bit from the sets, maybe even an expansion book that encourages you to create your own characters and to do adventures over multiple games and have a leveling up mechanic, but is that getting too close to the RPG? Will that happen? Who the hell knows! All I do now know, is that for me I can see a future for games based around this system. Whereas after Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon I was genuinely thinking they might have run their course with the system and that it hadn't got too much more to offer. Well I guess Drizzt has changed that for me a little bit now. Peace out!


  1. My copy showed up last week. Here is the states you can get it for like 40 dollars with free shipping from Amazon or We have punched it but yet to give it a go. I do like the new subterranean tiles. Wrath of Ashardalon should have had these.

    I think people also need to start design more custom missions combining the games for more themed adventures. You have enough of similar monsters now to start building more structured missions with Kobold lairs, demon battles, etc. Also no random dungeons and encounters built by one person for others to play. Oh wait that would just be DnD.

  2. @Eriochrome, well I guess GW screw you guys on price so Wizards of the Coast get to screw us... hmm I wander who gets the rawer deal there? :p

    I've been thinking about mixing some of the decks up myself etc to create different missions, but I'd need a way of denoting which cards are from which game so I could at least recreate the decks if needs be. What I'd prefer to see is WotC release specific decks and mission book already pre-built or some such. But as you say and as I say in my summing up, wouldn't that just be D&D? lol.

  3. I think the cards all have little logos on the bottom corners for the sets (and number).

  4. Cheers, I'll check that out. Could be fun to give it a go I guess. Also I was asked which D&D game I'd buy via email if I could only get one. I thought my review made it clear enough but I guess it didn't so here is my answer:

    1) If you don't own any of them then the one you should buy is Legend of Drizzt.
    2)If you own either or Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon and enjoyed it, then Legend of Drizzt is well worth considering.
    3) If you own both Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon, then you clearly like the D&D games so why are you asking me whether you should get Legend of Drizzt or not? Go buy it NOW!!!

    Hope that clears things up. I do believe Legend of Drizzt is the best of the bunch so far. I'd even go as far as to say if the other games have yet to tempt you, then you should reconsider because Drizzt is a pretty solid and fun experience.

  5. Another great review! I watched the guys at my club playing Ravenloft last night and it looked pretty cool! This seems like a worthy purchase and I've seen it for £35 :)

  6. @Darth tater, thanks. I'm just glad people find them useful. Oh and at £35 Legend of Drizzt is well worth getting matey. Where did you see it for £35?


    £35.25 + £2.79 p&p

  8. @Darth Tater, I really hope you brought your copy of the Legend of Drizzt for the £35.25 + 2.79 p&p because it is now £45.15!!! Something tells me they cocked the price up big time.

  9. bugger.....i did not.....waiting for some money to clear :(

  10. @Darth Tater, unlucky. Those sort of mistakes are rare, and when they do happen they tend to be rectified very quickly now. So really sorry you missed out on an awesome bargain.

  11. Hello from Transilvania. Thank you for the wonderful review.

    We need your help, so your opinion would really count! The thing is that me and my wife would like to buy one of the 3 Dungeons &Dragons board games and we don't know which one to get.

    In your opinion, which one of these 3 games do you think it would be best to buy (even though your Drizzt review made it all very clear).
    I ask this because we simply cannot afford all of them that's for sure.
    IMPORTANT!!! We are more interested in good "stories"-regarding the adventure book...I mean...scenarios. We would like to buy one of the 3 games - the one board of the three that has the most AND the nicest scenarios...because we and EXPECIALLY my Wife - are not that interested in scenarios with (mostly) killing hordes and hordes of monsters...or search this monster and defeat him only to resurrect the other one even meaner or you finish the game after killing 1500 monsters ;)...etc. I hope my English makes sense.

    Also, please keep in mind that we (me and my wife) are not experienced players...
    So far, after reading some reviews and yours as well of course…we incline towards DRIZZT with the condition that the adventure book would contain some nice scenarios as explained above. I would have loved if Drizzt would have scenarios like the ones in Ashardalon, “Free the Captives” or the “Roghar’s Gear” to name a few. So please tell me…do you know if Drizzt have scenarios like these? I only wish I had a DRIZZT adventure book (scanned pdf) to take a look at the scenarios…

    So thank you SO MUCH in advance, I look forward to hearing from you.

    Aurelian & Silvia

    P.S. Could you send me your reply to
    it is my private email...thank you a lot.

    1. That's a difficult question to answer.I think it's fair to say that it you want one of the D&D Adventure Games I'm going to tell you to get Drizzt. However, I'm not really sure any of them offer much more than the kill hordes of monsters and slay this end boss. They each have some slightly different types of mission, but it's clear the core of all 3 are hack and slash based. I guess stick with Drizzt, for me it's the best of the 3.

  12. Thank you Frontline Gamer for your advice. Do you by any change have the adventure book (scanned pdf)of Drizzt so that I could take a look at the scenarios?

    Again, thank you and have a great weekend.

    1. No, I'm afraid I don't have them in PDF. Plus I'm not too sure if I did it'd be legitimate to stat handing them out. Pretty sure that's a breach of copyright right there!!! Not my thing.