Monday 18 July 2011

Review: Dungeons & Dragons Wrath of Ashardalon

 Its a game. Its in a box. Its a game in a box!!!

The second of the two D&D Adventure System games that I own is instantly cool because it has a red dragon on the cover (Ashardalon no less), and as we all know, or we should all know, Dragons are cool. Oh yes they are, and if somebody calls you a geek or sad for saying dragons are cool its because their soul died a long time ago and they now live in a dull grey world of normality surrounded by mediocrity, celebrity and reality TV shows that have sapped any individuality and will to live out of them. They are poor dried out husks of humanity devoid of any love or happiness, waiting only for deaths cold icy grasp to end the monotony and misery of their feckless and joyless existence... so yeah dragons are cool, or you're a grade A douche.

Go on tell me that's not cool!!!

Product Description

At the risk of repeating myself from the Castle Ravenloft review everything from the card board box to the floor tiles and tokens are all of a really high quality in terms of durability and material. We even get a nice deep blood red D20 to match out lovely red dragon. Again there is a rather large selection of beasties and baddies to select from and again most of them are actually quite nicely sculpted, but again come in that rubbery plastic stuff the Ravenloft miniatures did. There is a rulebook and a mission book, just as before and its all nicely presented and perfectly functional in an unremarkable way.

Gameplay 7 out of 10

Much like Castle Ravenloft I don't really like the 'games' this boxed set produces too much. They have even less character than its stablemate Ravenloft if that's possible to believe. However it does make up for that fact by being significantly more challenging than Ravenloft. It certainly provided me and my friends with a more stern challenge and we welcomed that after the ease with which we've dispatched Ravenlofts dungeons.

Detail 6 out of 10

First things first, I am impressed with the thickness and quality of the card components in this game and they are every bit as good as the Castle Ravenloft parts. However yet again like Castle Ravenloft those floor tiles and tokens are a little bit on the bland side. I mean there's a dragon in here for gods sake where the cracked lava flow floors or the dragons pile of gold floor tiles, or the tile with the charred remains of a long lost adventurer burnt to a crisp? It speaks of a product that lacks imagination and soul, and just feels like a missed opportunity. I genuinely feel sorry for the artist who was shackled and constrained by such a bland design brief while producing these tiles.

So what of those mini's again? They're actually not bad some of them. They're all perfectly nice sculpts and I think that its just a real shame that they come in this rubbery substance so beloved of board game manufacturers. However the selection of bad guys is also where, for me Wrath of Ashardalon loses further points over its stablemate, Ravenloft. You see while the theme of Vampires, Werewolves, Skeletons, Wraiths, Ghouls, Zombies etc. sits together really nicely and creates a unified ambiance that helps create the illusion you really could be in Castle Ravenloft, I'm not too sure Gibbering Mouther's, Orc Archers, Griell's and Duregar Guards can create a similar unified feel... I guess so far they haven't. For me Wrath of Ashardalon suffers because of this.

This strange mismatch of ideas and themes also runs into the mission book as well. I never really got the sense with any of the missions I was doing that I was running around a dragons lair. In fact I'd go as far as saying it felt like I was in a very randomly generated dungeon that was clearly a board game. It all just jars and grates a little when you draw an Orc Archer, a Griell followed by some snake thingy (I forget their name) and at no point do you suspend any disbelief that you are playing anything other than a board game. On the plus side though the missions and dungeons Wrath of Ashardalon creates are significantly more challenging than Castle Ravenloft, or I've found them to be any way and as such I can't really drop the score down to a 5, which trust me I was tempted to do.

Quality 7 out of 10

Again I have no qualms with the components themselves or their construction, they are fine pieces. Had the miniatures again been made of a more painter friendly substance then the score would have been bumped a point or two, however they're not. This D&D Adventure System game also takes a slight hit over Castle Ravenloft because the quality of the games it delivers aren't as engaging in terms of narrative, yeah sure its more challenging and I like that about this game, but its all so jarring and doesn't hang together very nicely around its theme, which should be a big feck off red dragon. Its just awkward feeling.

Service 8 out of 10

Again OG Games got the product to me in good working order and in quick time too. So I can heartily recommend the service. My only comment would be that sending big card board boxes wrapped in bubble wrap with card corner protectors sealed in a grey plastic doesn't fill me with confidence in terms of protecting the product from the rough treatment it no doubt gets from the Royal Mail handlers, however I must stress that none of the products I've had off of OG Games have ever been damaged in the post. So I guess their packaging works!!!

Price 7 out of 10

Again I paid £44.99 for this like I did with Castle Ravenloft from OG Games, and again you won't hear me grumble about the price, with it being £10 less than the RRP. However as I feel the game isn't as good as Castle Ravenloft that price point isn't as good as well, so again it takes a hit to its score over its stablemate.

Overall 6 out of 10

 If there can be only one... choose Castle Ravenloft!

I don't like Wrath of Ashardalon as much as I liked Castle Ravenloft. Sure I like the challenge level better but would it have been so hard to theme the monsters around the red dragon itself a bit more? That would have helped with the mood and tone of the game so much and given it a unique feel like Ravenloft. You see I'm hoping that the next D&D Adventure System Game I get, the Legend of Drizzt will have as tight and well conceived theme as is evident in Castle Ravenloft and as stern a challenge and difficulty level as is provided by Wrath of Ashardalon. If you've got Castle Ravenloft already then you know exactly what to expect from Wrath of Ashardalon, so whether you buy this game as well will come down to a few things really:

  1. Did you enjoy the first one
  2. Do you want more of the same just slightly different 
  3. Do you want a slightly sterner test of your skills
  4. Do you have the money

    If you answered yes to all 4 then this might be the product for you, but if you're not yet bored of Ravenloft then why bother? If its a choice between Ravenloft and Ashardalon I say go with the Vampire everytime, it just hangs together better and feels more cohesive. Peace out!


    1. Good review, both games were a nice break from some "proper" wargaming. I'm looking forward to mansion of madness now

    2. Yeah I felt when we played Wrath of Ashardalon it just didn't hang together as well Castle Ravenloft. Lets be honest facing a Wraith, Skeleton and Ghoul is far better themed than a Griell, Orc Archer and Gibbering Mouther. If Arshardalon has a theme its 'random crap'. It felt like they were trying to cram all the classic D&D staples in there like red dragon, beholder etc. and it just came out too random. Shame because I think as a challenge it was significantly tougher and slightly more rewarding than Ravenloft, but that's not enough to elevate it above Ravenloft. I just hope Legend of Drizzt combines the best bits from both games... although knowing my luck it'll combine the worst elements of both games. lol.

    3. Thanks for these reviews, very useful! :)

    4. @Pacific glad you found them useful reviews. I've found them a useful addition to my gaming repertoire. Would it ever take over my hobby time? No, but its cool to sit down in comfy sofa's with some mates, crack out some beers and play a game. Its also confirmed to me that actually I do like bpoard games and I do miss them, so I'll be getting more.

    5. Hi Frontline, I've been meaning to come back to these blog posts and ask you a question for a while now. I've been thinking about picking up a dungeon crawler game, however I'm not sure where to start. I'd like to buy something with sufficient depth and complexity to keep me interested for a while. In your experience, what would you recommend? I see that a new edition of descent is due for release; what is your take on this game?

    6. Heya Micky. I haven't played Descent... yet!!! It is on the way, literally. I'll let you know when it gets here. I have also on the way the D&D Adventure game Legend of Drizzt winging its way to me as well along with Claustrophobia. I have played Claustrophobia and it is a really good game, although it's not a strict Dungeon Crawler. The D&D Adventure system games aren't bad, they really aren't but they weren't quite what I wanted. I'm told Legend of Drizzt solves many of the prolems I had with the first two games, and has more characterful floor tiles. We shall see! I'd guess from what I have read that Descent would be your best best as of now.

    7. Awesome thanks frontline! I might let you be my guinea pig with descent; you will be able to compare it to the others you've played - all useful stuff! I've been keeping an eye on drizzt too so it'll be interesting to see your review having read your others. I'm also interested in earth reborn! Cheers!

    8. Well hopefully Mickey you won't have to wait too long. Guess what turned up today at Frontline Games HQ... Yep Descent Journeys in the Dark 1st Ed.