Gloom of Kilforth: Legend of Drizzt – Early Solo Impressions

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Legend of Drizzt – Early Solo Impressions


The D&D Adventure System (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt) provides a brilliant and fast dungeoneering ‘hit’ for those of us with no time or inclination to read and write and learn and play D&D anymore.  That it’s coop is just the icing on the cake because no one has to play the Morcar/Zargon/Overlord role and everyone gets to kick monster arse.  Though we’ve modded the hell out of this system and introduced campaign rules, events, new scenarios, heroes and monsters, etc I’m going back to basics for the purpose of this review so it’s just the game as it is.

What is it?

In case you tripped over and landed here without having read another thread before, Legend of Drizzt is a cooperative board game where you and your mates play fantasy heroes who go around bullying monsters, breaking into their homes, and killing all their friends and children before stealing all their stuff.  Ethically dubious, ridiculously fun.

How does it play?

Flip a tile, place a monster, have an encounter, take a hit, move your hero, roll a die, kill the monster, claim its XP, take a treasure, repeat, and either a) complain vociferously and then break out some meeples instead, or b) marvel in the beautiful simplicity of the unfolding story and delight in your hero’s progression through the adventure as the tension escalates into an epic showdown.

What are the bits like?

Ace.  Awesome minis, beautiful tiles (better than CR/WOA), the traps now have art on them too.  Tons of cards and tokens and a massive box to fit it all in.  Plus a massive demon that barely fits in the box too.  Make sure you use the hot/cold water treatment on any bent minis to get them back into shape in a jiffy.

What’s new to the D&D Adventure System?

Not much to be fair.  This is pretty much exactly the same game as Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon.  If you didn’t like either of those games for whatever reason, this is not going to correct any issues you had with them.  It’s more of the same but with different packaging.  If you liked the previous games then you’re in for a treat, because every card, power, mini, tile and token is brimming with fresh new goodness, new encounters, monsters, heroes, treasures, villains, basically everything.

Heroes.  In Legend of Drizzt the focus is on the Heroes and their powers, which make up most of the cards you get with the game.  Because the villains from RA Salvatore’s books are so popular you get to play a couple of them as heroes too.  So having Artemis fight alongside Drizzt is pretty sweet.  But the various adventures will also give you the opportunity to fight against Artemis (and Jarlaxle) as villains, which is also cool.

It’s fair to say that the Heroes in this set are considerably more powerful than the previous two games.  After playing the introductory solo adventure “Exile” with every new Hero once each I haven’t lost a game.  It only came close once with Wulfgar, when I accidentally shuffled the objective tile (the Surface tile) into the rest of the stack and only noticed when there were 13 new tiles in play (there should have been a max of 8), hordes of monsters and encounters going off, and no sign of the exit.  Even then when I corrected the error and placed the Surface exit, I still managed to fight my way out and win.

Drizzt, of course, is a total power house.  Attacking twice per turn instead of the usual one attack is tough enough, but he also has a Stance ability which allows him to move and attack in the villain phase.  Meaning any new 1HP monsters which appear are also likely to disappear in the same instance.  And having his pet panther Guen turn up to eat the bad guys helps too.  I finished the Exile adventure with him having lost only 3HP by the end.

Off the back of this I decided to take Drizzt solo into the first “2-5 Heroes” Adventure.  The goal is to find an item (the Crown) and then kill Artemis Entreri.  Drizzt was able to do this without having to spend one healing surge.  This could be an expected run of luck for the first couple of easier scenarios so we’ll see how it pans out when we’re going up against bosses like Errtu further down the line.

Like the previous games, where adventures say “2-5 Heroes” you can easily take in just 1 Hero for a greater challenge in solo play.  Add in an extra surge or two if you’re really struggling.

How is it better than CR/WOA?

Mini villains.  Trolls, Driders and a truly nasty teleporting Drow Wizard can turn up just from the monster deck.  So just when you’re enjoying a nice run of goblins and spiders, some big bastard will unexpectedly turn up and start pounding you into the floor.

Monster AI.  The monsters have a nice mix of tactics once again, drawing more from WOA than CR, so you have goblin archers who cower when adjacent, and trolls who regenerate, or spirits who lure your heroes in from afar.

Monster deck events.  These aren’t major, but there are a couple of sorely needed cards in the monster deck which mix things up and either give you a break altogether, or double the monster presence in the new tile.

Treasure deck balancing.  Fortunes are back, and they’re welcome!  Whilst mostly items, the LoD treasure deck gives you a number of fortunes too, which will heal heroes, restore powers, remove nasty encounters and similar.  Mix the three games’ treasure decks together now and you have a nice balance of items and fortunes.  So, not necessarily an improvement on the previous games, but I nice balanced mix.

Turbo Heroes!  This again?  Yes.  The Companions of the Hall are bringing mad skills with them.  Criticisms about the game are being answered in unusual ways it seems.  So people who complained about monsters always getting the jump on them can now play Catti-Brie or Drizzt, and start moving and/or acting during the villain phase with their new powers.  Whilst it’s not really changing the rules of the game (which I think some would prefer) the designers are still going out of their way to meet these player demands.  The new heroes play very differently from the previous games, and are more powerful.  Poor Kat the Rogue from CR will be suspicious by her absence, and not because she’s hiding in shadows.  You have loads of options with the cool new Stance powers to go offensive, defensive, healing, moving and generally mucking about with the usual turn order.  They’re pretty thematically integrated from the books’ characters too, considering it’s an otherwise fairly light game.

Tile effects.  This is one of my favourite touches, and something that came up a lot in previous discussions about the game.  Some tiles are narrow passages which reduce the AC of monsters and heroes on that tile, some have volcanic vents on them which can potentially damage heroes with a bad encounter card draw, some tiles have 1 square-wide areas to move through like the chasm and bridge.  Also the tile art is vastly improved too.  I never had a real problem with the previous games’ tile art but LoD has the best by far, the jigsaw sections now fit together ‘properly’ too because of the new design leaving no ‘black jutting into art’ bits.  The special tiles look great, and you get 3 extra big showdown tiles like the start tile.  These function kind of like the Chambers from WOA.

Competitive Adventures.  For those that want them.  It’s an extra dimension to the gameplay, but not the most successful for this ostensibly cooperative game (see below).

How is it worse than CR/WOA?

Easier?  Bear in mind that these are first impressions, but these new Heroes are hard as nails and leave the CR/WOA Heroes wanting.  Looking through the LoD villains and new scenarios there don’t appear to be any highly dangerous challenges for them either.  Even the Balrog - sorry Balor – is only a 5XP villain and doesn’t seem like he’ll put up too much of a fight.

Lack of Campaign play.  Whilst Wrath of Ashardalon offered progression from CR towards campaign play with the excellent Treasure Tokens rules and the linked adventures in the scenario book, LoD has disappointingly done away with this again.  Prices for Treasures are still included on the cards to provide backwards compatibility with WOA but that’s your lot.

Competitive Adventures.  These are a nice touch and I’ve seen variants leaning towards this kind of game play, so it’s a personal preference but these games shine in the cooperative scenarios and I don’t see the competitive adventures receiving as much replay value.  For competitive play you could easily break out plenty of other games in this genre and get the DM role going again instead.

Adventure Design Innovation.  Most of the new coop adventures are ‘find the boss and kill it’, which is fun enough, but it would have been nice to mix things up a bit more. 

If I only get one of the three games, which should it be?

Well, none of them are mutually exclusive and really you should be getting all three, preferably in the order that they were released.  But for me this is mainly a question of theme:

Are you a fan of crypts, undead, vampires and/or Ravenloft?  Castle Ravenloft.
Do you prefer the ‘classic’ D&D adventure archetypes of Heroes fighting orcs and dragons?  Wrath of Ashardalon.
Or are you mental for Drizzt and co and have all of RA Salvatore’s books?  Legend of Drizzt.

In terms of the game itself:

Castle Ravenloft gives you monster tokens, the most interesting quests and is potentially the most difficult of the three games.
Wrath of Ashardalon gives you campaign rules, big chambers for boss battles, doors, allies, more interesting monsters, and is marginally easier than CR.
Legend of Drizzt gives you super heroes, super villain/heroes, treasure chests, competitive adventures and big bloody trolls that can just show up from the monster deck, also seems the easiest of the three at first impression.

What has the Gears Of War board game got to do with anything?

It’s a space man game with space aliens and space guns set in space*.  Another cooperative minis game often compared to the D&D AS.  It allegedly has more devious AI because instead of drawing a card and getting a random monster from a choice of around 10 types you draw a card and get a random monster from a choice of 3 types.  But that monster will randomly attack you in different ways so you’ll need to spend the whole game hiding like a coward under every table or couch that your space man will see.

* Kind of.

Warhammer Quest?

Beautiful, aging game which is very fiddly, and plays much longer than the D&D Adventure System, and takes longer to set up and take down.  Also needs lots of pen and paper management.  WHQ has superb campaign rules which the D&D AS could learn from and simplify though.

Descent/HeroQuest/Advanced HeroQuest/D&D Adventure Game/Supero Dungeono Exploreo/Etc.

These games all require one of you to sit alone as a baddie and watch telly or read a book whilst you get shafted by the rest of your mates for the whole game.  Win and they’ll resent you, lose and they’ll respect you less.  Kidding of course (a bit), but they’re not fully cooperative games so don’t really do what the D&D AS does.

Is it any good?

Hell yeah - quit reading and get buying!  It’s so quick to set up and play through you find yourself hooked into more and more adventures and time just flies.  And the various community content on BGG is incredible, not to mention the support and new adventures from WOTC.

This is one of the best solo games in my collection and rivals LOTR:LCG in that respect.

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