15 July 2011

Actual Play Report -- Ravenloft

Another game we tried during our geeky guys weekend was the WOTC board game Ravenloft.  Essentailly, you play a simplified 4E character who battles monsters and traps in an ever-expanding dungeon.  The game is built on scearios, each with a certain goal.  I cannot remember the exact name of the scenario we played, but our goal was to recover an artifact from the holy altar in Castle Ravenloft.

I was excited to play this game, as I had heard a lot about it.  Many had remarked that this seemed like what 4E was made for -- a board game with RPG elements.  I've played 4E a little and can see how the system lends itself to a cool board game.

My excitement dissapaited during the set up.  None of us had ever played the game before (Cthulhu's Librarian had just bought it), so this was time-consuming and more than a little confusing.  And when I say "set-up" I really mean just "taking the stuff out of the box".  There are cards, tiles, tokens, and plastic minis.    We had stuff piled up all over the table, not knowing which we would need and which we would not.  Adding to the confusion was the fact that certain game elements (monsters, encounters) had both tiles and card and the minis had no color coding whatsoever, so we spent considerable time figuring out what was called for in the various elements of the set-up.  This could easily have been newbie issues; I could see things going a lot quicker next time, but some clarity in the rules regarding what elements are what would help , I think.

We began play with an Eladrin Wizard, a human ranger, and a human rogue.  On any given turn, you first move and/or attack any monsters on the board, then "explore" by placing a new dungeon tile.  These new tiles may (almost always) bring new monsters into play and often bring new "encounters".  The encounters we faced were traps, environmental effects, or NPC's.  The later two always had some game effect, often some sort of forced movement or position switching.  Cautious at first, we were very deliberate about placing new tiles so that we only had one monster on the board at a time.  Most monsters took one hit to eliminate, with a few of the stronger ones taking two.  Each monster had unique attacks listed on its card, with different attacks applying in different situations depending on the relative position of the PC's.  We fought skeletons, zombies, gargoyles, kobolds, a spider, some wolves and some ghouls.  Our cautious approach soon gave way to more open playing as we realized it was actually more fun to fight more things at once.  Since the goal of the scenario was to find a particular room, the faster placement of tiles via exploration sped the game up considerably.  Whereas the game initually played very slowly, the end was quick and tension-filled.  Traps were falling all around, we fought a running battle with the last few monsters, and all the healing surges were used.  Our success literally came down to the last turn.

I'd certainly play this again.  I think it would be a lot more fun the next time around, since I could manage the set up better and could strike a better balance between cautious dungeon exploring and a faster pace.  I'd also shuffle the encounter cards better so we wouldn't draw five traps in a row ;)

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