Wrath of Ashardalon arrived – solo questing underway
Cross posted from BGG:
Bagged my copy, punched it out and sleeved it on Tuesday but didn't get to play it until last night. So, just a few quick catch up notes that have mostly been discussed elsewhere on the boards already...
Wrath of Ashardalon seems a bit more intense than Castle Ravenloft somehow. There are a bunch of “sentries”, which are monsters that summon other monsters so the board fills up much more quickly. Hallways that add extra tiles when you place them (and therefore extra monsters). ALL the treasures are actual items, and some of them are awesome (e.g. Captain America Shield which gives +2 AC AND a free attack!), so none of that whimsical “take a breath - heal 1hp” malarkey from CR. There are super-basic campaign rules in a couple of the quests, which could be adapted to fit all of the quests, including Castle Ravenloft if you were so inclined. In fact, pretty much everything is cross-compatible with CR: monsters/encounters/treasures/tiles/heroes. We’ll probably play through them all individually per game first though, maybe mix up the heroes a bit.
WoA also adds Doors, Hazards, ‘beneficial’ Encounters (which immediately make you draw another encounter, so not actually that beneficial!), and Chambers, which are massive showdown rooms – when you draw the first chamber tile you immediately supplement it with more added tiles and monsters and a random Quest you must beat to defeat the Chamber/mission. These are only used in certain quests though.
In WoA there are far less tiles used per game (I think about 22 tiles total) than in CR as most of the chamber tiles and special tiles are removed from the stack straight away. And they draw a much different map to CR as there are more twists and straight hallways as opposed to just rooms with exits on every side.
The first solo adventure in CR has you draw 10 tiles before you get to the end piece and run away from Strahd as he chases you. The first adventure in WoA is the only one listed as “solo” but there is a note saying that all the quests can be played solo with 2-5 heroes, “or just with one hero for the ultimate challenge”. This first WoA quest has you draw only 6 tiles to find the exit and then you have to kick a kobold’s ass. So I was thinking, this’ll be a doddle. I was wrong.
A lot of the new hero powers are very cooperative and allow you to interact a little more with your team, which is very cool. Unless you’re playing with one hero, in which case some of them are useless. First up I sent in the Paladin as I was curious to see how this new class played out (nicely, as it happens). Very quickly bad things started to happen. A couple of “sentries” in the first few tiles led to cumulative tile draws and a trio of legion devils, which are inexplicably nasty – they get +11 to hit you.
Before long the table was filling with tiles, including a back to back draw of the two long hallways which cause you to draw another tile, and, due to terrible attack rolls by me, I soon had one of every monster on the board. I had barely done any exploring myself and had no idea how many tiles out of the 6 I had left to get through. There was no choice but to run for it. I lured the gigantic monster conga away from the super long hallway and got a healing surge beaten out of me for my efforts. I’d also already used up my starting item – a measly 2hp healing potion. Upon recovering I staggered up and legged it down the super long hallway tiles and around a corner at the end to run face first into the kobold boss. He only has 6 hit points but he has a nasty pokey stick which he likes to stick you with. He was also sporting a suspiciously large backpack. I started chipping away at him whilst he did the same to me, and the monster conga realised the dance was over and came running after me. By the time they arrived my Paladin and her kobold nemesis were down to 1 hit point each, duelling away up the secret staircase, and I had no surges left. It came down to my final attack roll which, if I’d missed, would have spelt certain doom.
My yell of delight became an embarrassed giggle when I realised I had only a lame 2XP worth of monsters and couldn’t even have levelled up if I’d wanted to. Luckily I didn’t want to. From the dying kobold’s bulging backpack a magical flying carpet unfurled before me. I leapt on and swooped up the stairs and out of the dungeon to victory, the braying of frustrated monsters echoing behind me.
Since this mission takes about 20-30 minutes and was rather addictive I played through it twice more with the fighter and cleric to see how they fared. Each time it came down to the final roll. The bloody kobolds and duergar kept running off and getting their mates so all I could do was run through to the end on both attempts, you just don’t have enough attacks to clear a path with only one hero. The rather ugly dwarf fighter made it to the tunnel exit and was loaded with gear and kills and the infamous Captain America shield but she got taken down by the sheer force of monster numbers. The cleric guy made it to the tunnel exit too and with careful execution of Astral Refuge I nipped off the swarmed board at the most dangerous moment, only to reappear next turn right up the kobold boss’ backside with an ice pick. Nicked his Bracers as a memento and made it out the back door with 1 hit point and no surges.
In all 3 games I managed to get Poisoned (annoying!) and Dazed (also annoying!), met with some nasty new traps (lava, lava, lava), overcame hazards (like traps but... brown), suffered through beneficial encounters (Woohoo – free treasure) and into detrimental encounters (Boo – monsters and damage and more tiles and more tiles and more tiles), and enjoyed the pesky new monsters’ tactics. Some people have complained that sentries don’t move adjacent to you and it’s possible for them to just stand there if they’ve explored all their tile’s exits already. Believe me, if that happens you will be thankful for it! All in all, some great new mechanics and I’m looking forward to trying out the new doors and chambers and treasure tokens and so on.
So: 2 very close wins and 1 very close defeat. This mission will definitely get a few more plays before my mates come over this weekend and have to choose between wailing on Strahd or Ash. Or both...