You are a brave adventurer, and your group is on a quest that requires you to venture into Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft. It is the dreaded home of Strahd von Zarovich, an evil and powerful vampire. Do you have what it takes to work together and survive this deathtrap? Be a fighter, rogue, cleric, wizard or ranger. Use your abilities and spells, and work together with your fellow adventurers to defeat Strahd and his minions in this strategy adventure board game.
Castle Ravenloft is a board game based on Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), the original fantasy role-playing game. D&D is a pen-and-paper style of gaming first published in the 1970’s that differed from the then popular tabletop war games. A dungeon master designs and facilitates adventures while the other players experience these adventures as a group of fighters, mages, rogues and a whole host of other character classes. What made the game special was that there were rules to facilitate combat as well as non-combat encounters, bringing the ‘adventure’ to the gaming table. The players actually lived and breathed their characters that grew over time.
More specifically, the characters and setting in the Castle Ravenloft board game is based on D&D’s Ravenloft adventure module that revolves around Strahd von Zarovich, an evil vampire who pines for a lost love. This module and its setting has been so popular that it spawned a few D&D campaigns and worlds, a series of computer games, and now a board game as well. The board game uses the encounter rules from D&D 4th Edition, the 4th iteration of the D&D rulesets and manuals. This version of D&D focuses more on character placement on grids and tiles, making it more like a tabletop miniature game and very suitable to be turned into a board game.
The story and setting of the board game revolve around the vampire Strahd and his home in Castle Ravenloft. The players take on the role of a group of adventurers entering the castle with the ultimate goal of killing Strahd. However, there are many scenarios that you play through before getting to meet the dreaded vampire, each of which can take around an hour or more to complete. Your newly-formed party might start your adventuring career by recovering magical treasure from the castle dungeons, then working your way up to killing a cunning goblin sorcerer, then a dragon, then Strahd himself. Each scenario will have its own special rules and goals, with end bosses and other monsters you must fight.
In the D&D role-playing game, there is a player who has to take on the role of dungeon master and control the monsters, dungeon design and how the adventure progresses. In Castle Ravenloft, this is not necessary and everyone is able to play as part of the adventuring team. This is possible via an interesting mechanic where things pop up pretty much randomly.
During each player’s turn, they have a choice of exploring a new room in the dungeon. This is done by taking a random tile from a draw deck and placing it on an unexplored edge of the map. This may reveal a new monster (again drawn randomly from a deck) and an encounter effect (you guessed it: randomly from a deck). These encounter effects cover everything from traps that you stumble on, to events such as a goblin seeing your group and running off to get help. In effect, the map and the flavor of the dungeon are able to grow organically without the need for someone to control them.
The dungeon isn’t the main focus of the game though. It’s an adventure game, and the focus is you (or the characters you play, to be more accurate). There are 5 characters you can play: fighter, rogue, ranger, wizard, cleric. Each character has their own unique powers and flavor. The fighter is a close-range melee defender whose job is to protect the rest of the party. The rogue is a close-range melee striker who uses daggers to devastating effect. The ranger attacks her enemies from afar using her bow. The wizard uses arcane magic to damage and control the enemy, while the cleric uses divine magic to protect and heal the party. Whichever class you decide to play, you will be able to customize their powers to create your ideal character.
Whenever there are monsters to fight (which is almost always), the player characters and monsters are represented using miniatures on a grid map composed of the random map tiles. D&D 4th Edition rules are used for these encounters. The rules aren’t very complex, and basically dictate what actions, attacks and moves you can make each turn. Most of the time, dice are rolled to see if your attacks hit and how much damage they do. Your objective during these encounters is pretty straightforward: kill the monsters and claim their treasure! After a few of these encounters, your character may even increase in level, earning you higher stats and more powers to use.
Castle Ravenloft is an exciting adventure game that also includes a fair amount of tactical maneuvering. You will feel a sense of achievement as your party slowly works its way from the easy treasure-hunting scenarios to the final scenario where you face off against Strahd. However, you don’t have to worry that the game does not have replay value. Due to how the dungeons and events are set up so randomly, no two games will ever be the same.
Castle Ravenloft is a fun game for players who like cooperative games or wish to immerse themselves in a high-fantasy adventure. It can also be used as a way to try out D&D and see if you will like playing the actual D&D role-playing game. You will enjoy Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft if you like dungeon-crawl adventure games like Heroquest or cooperative games such as Battlestar Galactica.
Playing Time: ~ 1 hour
Number of Players: 1 to 5 players
You can read more about Castle Ravenloft at the Age of Boards website below.