Wrath of Ashardalon Review

I picked this up tonight while running the second week of March of the Phantom Brigade. I really enjoy Castle Ravenloft so it's a natural progression for me, as Wrath of Ashardalon is basically Castle Ravenloft, just with a different backdrop, heroes, monsters, etc. Mind you this isn't a bad thing, because they both use the "D&D Adventure System", meaning that you can mix and match the content--Dungeon Tiles, monsters, heroes, items, events, etc--between both games. So, it's kind of like a product that is both stand-alone and expansion.

Game play-wise it runs mostly the same as its predecessor: each player picks one of the adventurers and associated powers, and then embarks on one of thirteen different adventures. These range from seemingly simple exploration/escaping, to stopping a ritual to open a gate to the Far Realm, to slaying Ashardalon himself. As before the basic format is that you explore the dungeon, fight monsters, accrue loot, and try not to die in the process...except that Wrath of Ashardalon has some new tricks up its sleeve.

First, characters can now be Dazed and/or Poisoned. Dazed thankfully lasts for only a turn, limiting you to either a move or attack action, while Poisoned causes you to take damage and is only discarded when you roll a 10 or higher at the end of your Hero phase (like a save in 4E).

The Encounter deck adds Curses and Hazards to its repertoire. Curses slap a condition on your character until you fulfill a specific condition, usually by rolling a 10 or higher at the end of your turn, though one requires you to not move for a turn. Hazards differ from traps in that they cannot be disabled. There's only three in the box: Cave In, Pit, and Volcanic Vapors, which deal damage, deal damage and keep you stuck for a few turns, and inflict the Poisoned condition, respectively.

Some Dungeon Tiles feature doors. When you run into these, you draw a Closed Door token that, when revealed, lets you know if the door is unlocked, locked, or trapped. Locked doors can be picked by using your attack action and making a die roll, while trapped doors deal automatic damage before going away. If nothing else, its a touch of Gygaxian delving.

Thankfully, not all the new content is hazardous to your health. Some adventures award you with Boons, which are special cards that give you benefits when you overcome specific challenges, while others let you snag raw coin that you can use between adventures in order to buy more magical swag. You don't get to pick, instead drawing some cards from the Treasure deck and picking from those (a similar mechanic to how Arkham Horror does it). Finally, at least one adventure (Free the Captives) lets you control NPCs that are actually useful.

If you like Castle Ravenloft, you're going to love this. Even if you don't feel like trekking through a fiery volcano to slay a dragon, you can port everything else over and add more monsters and rules. I'm curious to see how people will combine the games to create new scenarios.

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