Game Review: 'Dungeons and Dragons Adventures' Explores the Legend of Drizzt

Pull up a chair for what Dungeons & Dragons does best: toss you and your friends into a dungeon, where you must hack and slash your way towards whatever cruel objective the DM has set. The D&D Adventures series of board games provides a cut-the-crap take on dungeon crawling through which players can get a quick 60-minute D&D fix. Marking the third entry in a series that has so far provided some of the best gameplay in the genre, does The Legend of Drizzt pack enough twists and turns to warrant a trilogy? Read on for the full review.

Just the Facts:

Players: 1-8

Playing Time: 60 minutes

Age: 12 to adult

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

MSRP: $64.95

Release: October 18, 2011

The Gameplay:

The Legend of Drizzt is a scenario-based dungeon crawling board game. The book included contains numerous different scenes to play out, affording players with plenty of replay value as each scenario provides its own take on the game, detailing a different starting setup and dictating some series of rules and objectives to complete.

The catch to The Legend of Drizzt and its predecessors is that they are co-operative experiences. Each player is assigned a hero character, placed on the lone starting tile, and tasked to work together as they explore the dungeon in build-as-you-go fashion. Along the way, card-based AI will control the actions of various monsters, traps, and curses that the players must face.

You too can take your heroes from the scenario's start (above) to utter devastation at the hands of a cave troll in just 8 simple turns (below)

If you are new to the series and looking for a more details look at exactly how a D&D Adventures board game plays, I suggest you go back to read earlier review of Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon, the first two games in the series. For veterans, I'll do my best to sum up what has changed in this latest iteration.

The big change in The Legend of Drizzt is added variety in just about every facet of the game. The cast of characters is a no-brainer, as they are all familiar faces for Forgotten Realms fans, pulled from the R. A. Salvatore novels focusing on lead drow Drizzt Do'Urden. In total, there are 8 different playable characters rather than the previously standard 5.

These new characters introduce new classes such as the swashbuckler and the assassin, as well as new powers that involve a character's stance and provide lasting effects. But the player in control can only have one stance power active at any given time, adding an extra element of strategy to your decisions. There are also powers with the ability to summon allies, so do not fear, Drizzt's magical panther Guenhwyvar will make plenty of appearances.

Dungeon tiles receive a heavy dose of added variety. In fact, they're not even dungeon tiles anymore. Now, the map will consist of cavern tiles representing the chiseled pathways of the Underdark. As you'd expect from a series of caves, this means there are plenty of tiles rife with impassable territory, so expect to encounter plenty of narrow passages, caved in walls, and other deviations from the wide-open settings of prior D&D Adventures game.

A look at the different types of cavern tiles seen in The Legend of Drizzt

Even the scenarios themselves are quite different than what you'd expect. Many require a specific number of heroes, and some break the co-op trend by pitting teams against each other in a race to accomplish the objective. One mission even pulls a page from the video game world, throwing the party into a "horde mode" style dungeon where they will simply see how long they can last. Of course, the rulebook provides ample room to write down your results so you can compare against other parties and establish bragging rights.

The Components:

  • 42 Plastic heroes and monsters
  • 13 Sheets of interlocking cardstock dungeon tiles
  • 200 Cards
  • Rulebook
  • Scenario book
  • Translucent purple 20-sided die

The Legend of Drizzt really doesn't have much in the way of art, so judgement of its components comes down to the miniatures and cardboard. Good thing this is the third D&D Adventures game, because Wizards has been able to learn plenty from the past two iterations. Gone are the issues with warping cards or flimsy figurines; everything in Drizzt is solid.

The tiles, chits, and cards closely resemble their earlier incarnations, but the miniatures are where Legend of Drizzt really shines. The water elemental figure makes the best use of translucent blue plastic seen so far (previous used mainly for ghosts and spirits), and Drizzt contains my personal favorite of the over-sized models.

Say hello to my little friend.

Final Thoughts:

As much praise as I may heap upon the new gameplay elements and miniatures, these are very much incremental improvements,  not leaps forward for the series. Whether The Legend of Drizzt is a great came really comes down to whether you have enjoyed the previous two D&D Adventures titles, and whether you'd be OK with plunking down an additional $65 for fresh content. All I can tell you is that, love it or hate it, Drizzt continues to improve the D&D Adventures formula, not break it.

On the other hand, if you are coming in with no prior D&D Adventures experience, I urge you to give it a shot. The series is my favorite for dungeon crawling, besting similar games such as Descent and Tomb (although as I write this review, an un-opened copy of the upcoming Super Dungeon Explore is begging to be played, so check back in a few weeks).

If you do decide to try D&D Adventures, The Legend of Drizzt makes for a better staring point than either of the first two games. The variety of Drizzt's missions will give you the best possible opportunity to see what the series has to offer, and you can always go back for more.

Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game