Wrath of Ashardlon D&D BoardgameMarch 12, 2012
I usually keep my focus on rpgs, so this post is going to be more about a comparison of WoA as a boardgame and the mechanics to what D&D does (4E, or other editions).
I’ve mentioned previously that D&D has had a legacy issue of competition vs. cooperation along party lines (gold = xp, magic item divvying, alignment), but the boardgame has some pretty elegant solutions that really encourage cooperation.
If any character dies, the whole team loses. And, the whole team shares Healing Surges.
These two things solve a lot of problems right out the bat.
It means everyone wants to protect everyone, in a very proactive way. It really reinforces the front line fighters vs. the soft squishy characters a lot- the fighters can take more hits, get more HP from surges, while the weaker characters will burn through surges faster.
It also means you automatically start looking at best magic item distribution for the team as a whole. “What will keep everyone alive?” becomes the philosophy everyone adheres to.
The second thing which works great is the constant push for exploration. WoA has you draw an “encounter card” every turn you DON’T explore a new area of the dungeon. Encounter cards are always bad, but the question is basically what KIND of bad you’re dealing with.
This differs strongly from the wandering monster rule of older D&D where you could gamble on not encountering anything, and had a good idea that right after a wandering monster, you had a little bit of time before the DM would make another check. Here, you’re constantly under pressure and every turn it could quickly snowball into a clusterfuck of problems, so the incentive to keep moving is strong.
The third thing is minor, but valuable- each monster takes very few hits. I’m of the firm belief that most D&D monsters work best taking 1-3 hits, with the tougher ones taking 2-5 hits, and solo monsters being the only exception.
WoA makes most monsters take 1-2 hits. Given that the attacks are pretty much a minor part of the whole strategy of play, it makes sense to make them a minimal engagement – short and sweet.
But it’s not a roleplaying game
And I don’t say that to mean it’s a shitty game, just that it doesn’t quite scratch the itch an rpg has.
There’s no rules for having the imaginary events affect the game, no stunting, no clever use of fictional positioning, no way to talk down, trick monsters, lure them into their own traps, etc.
I’d love to see whatever numbers WOTC is getting from these games- the fact that they’ve released 3 boardgames in this series so far means it must be doing decent. But is it having the same effect Arkham Horror has on CoC players? It’d be neat to find out.