Game Review: The Legend of Drizzt

Not surprisingly, one of the best things about covering and attending Gen Con Indy is the games.  In fact, this year, I have so much gaming news to report that it will be broken up over a few blog posts.  I’m going to start with the favorites on my list and work from there.  Some I’ll give more detail about.  Others will be more sparse.  Today’s is more detailed for sure.

As I mentioned last week (and numerous times throughout my blog), I’m a huge fan of R.A. Salvatore’s books featuring the character Drizzt Do’Urden.  Knowing that The Legend of Drizzt game is due out from Wizards of the Coast in October, I was hoping for a preview at Gen Con Indy.  Fortunately WoC did not disappoint.  The WoC booth in the exhibit hall had only the box on display, but one employee informed us a demo might be going on upstairs from the exhibit hall.

The Legend of Drizzt game on display at the Wizards of the Coast booth at Gen Con Indy.

I headed upstairs and, once I recovered from my joy at the Drizzt/Guenhwyvar statue in the hallway, I entered the WoC area.  I tracked down the board games and swooned when I saw that the Drizzt game was, in fact, in play.  I returned a couple of hours later with my tickets in hand ready to try the game out.

From what I’d read, I knew it was similar to Castle Ravenloft, so that gave me an idea of what to expect.  My husband and I sat down to play with four other attendees and a volunteer representative who was there to help us navigate the game, though he wasn’t at all familiar with it or the book characters.  (Fail!)  But, he was nice.  We went through the character cards and decided who to be.  I went for Cattie-brie, an archer, because I like to stay back from the fray of battle and deal out damage from afar.  My husband picked Drizzt.  Other players included Wulfgar, Bruenor, Regis and a random Battlerager (so random I don’t remember his name, and I’m 13 books into the series).

I liked that the characters were (mostly) familiar from the books.  I liked that Drizzt even came with his sidekick Guenhwyvar who could be called into action.  Our character cards were nice in spelling out the basics like how much health each character had, what the character’s armor was, how far the character could move and so on.  The game included a Sequence of Play card for each player that covered what could be done in each turn and in what order.

Basically the game starts with a gridded room tile on the table on which to place the miniatures for the characters in play.  Then one at a time, characters begin exploring.  We talked amongst our group and decided to send tougher characters first while weaker characters with lower health (read: Cattie-brie and Regis) stayed to the back.  Each player goes through three phases during his/her turn: the hero phase, the exploration phase and the villain phase.

In the hero phase, players have three basic options:

  1. Move and then attack
  2. Attack and then move
  3. Make two moves

The goal, for the most part, is to try to get to an unexplored edge of whatever tile the character is on in order to explore and continue growing the map to find the objective (which varies based on mission and is read aloud by someone at the start of play).  And that’s what the exploration phase entails.  If a character is on an edge, then he/she draws a new tile out of the pile and places it down.  A monster spawns each time a new tile is placed.  The player draws a monster card and then places the matching miniature on the new tile.  If the tile has a white arrow, then the player doesn’t have to draw an encounter card as well.  If it has a black arrow, then the player has to draw an encounter card as well.  Most of the tiles had black arrows.

If the player decides not to go to an edge and explore (or is unable to because of being engaged in a battle with an existing monster), then the player has to draw an Encounter Card.  These are sort of random events that happen and interfere with the objective of exploring and killing monsters to complete whatever goal is set at the beginning of the game.  For our game, the Encounter Cards were the toughest and did the most damage to us.  I would say 75 percent of them did damage (some of it very substantial) to each character on the tile so that multiple characters were taking damage just by being in a certain range of the character who had drawn the card.  Because there was so much damage from these Encounter Cards, we did our best to avoid them.  For me playing a character with lower health and armor, I tried to stay in the back and was still negatively affected many times by the Encounter Cards.  In fact, I was much more scared of Encounter Cards than monsters.  To me, that seems backwards and takes some of the fun from the game.

The third phase of each player’s turn is the villain phase.  Whatever villains or monsters that a player draws are the ones that the player controls.  So, basically, you run your character and then run your villains to attack whoever is around them.  Each villain card tells the player how said villain would act and attack, so it’s not random or really up to the player’s discretion.  The tricky part is that all of the players are working cooperatively to reach the goal, so in being the villain, you have to dole out hits to your fellow teammates.  Sometimes that is more painful than others.

Basically, that’s how the game goes.  Each player character has at-will powers that can be used at any time, utility powers that can be used sparingly and one daily power that can be used only once per day.  No health potions exist in the game.  There are Healing Surge tokens that can be taken to restore characters to half health if they die; however, those are usually limited to two. Once the party is out of Healing Surges, the game ends when it gets to a player who is dead at the start of his/her turn or when the objectives have been met.

The scenario that we played was the search for Mithral Hall.  We had to kill Artemis Entreri and then collect an item.  We were all down low on health (I was literally at 1 point of health as was the guy next to me playing Bruenor).  It didn’t look good.  We were completely out of Healing Surges.  I was feeling disappointed that the game was proving so hard.  We had even killed both Guenhwyvar and Drizzt at one point.

However, my husband hatched a plan.  He, as Drizzt, had a daily power that came in handy. In the end, we somehow barely pulled off a victory, but we succeeded victorious with all of our characters alive.

I loved playing with my beloved book characters, but I would have loved it more if it had been a little easier.  I am not one to duck a challenge.  Part of the fun in any game is the challenge of meeting its objectives and coming out victorious.  However, the Encounter Cards in particular were so detrimental and darn near impossible that it made the game play discouraging to me.  I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would.

There was also a new component in The Legend of Drizzt game that we didn’t see in Castle Ravenloft: stances.  I can’t really tell you any more about them except that they exist.  Our volunteer running the game didn’t understand them or how they worked, and so they didn’t really come into play.  Maybe they would have made it easier?

While I will purchase the game when it comes out in October, because I love Drizzt that much, I was more disappointed in the actual game play than anticipated.  For that reason, I sadly only give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

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