Not your Typical Vampire Game
Castle Ravenloft is a large boxed board game that takes players into a world of monsters based on the classic setting of Ravenloft in the land of Barovia. Opening the box can be a bit overwhelming due to the sheer amount of goodies that come with the game; from miniatures, tiles to build the castle you explore, and a bunch of cardboard tokens. Inside are all the pieces that you need to run a Strahd adventure with your friends where no DM is needed.
Each player picks one of the 5 heroes available to try and defeat Strahd and his minions. This boxed game comes with two booklets; one for rules and the other filled with 13 adventures to choose from. There are different tiles marked with 1 inch grids to move the monsters and player characters around. Everyone takes turns running their hero and their monsters that move over interlocking cardboard dungeon tiles each that have their own art work.
The sixteen page rulebook is one of two information pamphlets you receive in the box. The introduction lets you know that you are invited for dinner (to be dinner) at Castle Ravenloft. You are the brave or foolish heroes that have arrived in Barovia and have found yourselves in Castle Ravenloft. For those who have never played Dungeons or Dragons before, or may not have encountered the powerful Count Strahd this page helps can understand who and what of the game. It prepares you to expect the traps, events, monsters and villians that you aim to defeat in your adventure.
The first few pages of the manual go over game setup and all of the game components that are inside of the box (which I appreciate to help take a quick inventory to see if anything is missing). The book goes in detail over the turns of the game, what to expect and how to use the dungeon tile stack, how movement works in the game, the three different attack abilities you can choose for your hero, and how combat works. Just like in a real ttrpg game of Dungeons and Dragons players have AC, Hit points, and will have the opportunity to level up their hero. I think that it is great that every piece of the game in explained in great detail in the rule book without being to overwhelming. I also appreciate that there are images to help players understand the explanations that go with them. The book also has some great art work such as the vampire bat on pg 10 and the werewolf on page 15.
Quick How To Play
Characters to Play
Step one is picking from which of the suggested heroes you want to play the game as. Each character has a unique tile that gives all of the character's information like a character sheet. One side is for lvl 1 the other for lvl2. The character cards have all of your player's possible actions that you get to pick from to customize your game play and character fighting style. There are at will powers that you can use as much as you want as well as Daily and Utility powers that have a one time use. Each character also comes with its own blue miniature to move around the board.
The Way the Game is Played
The adventure booklet lets you pick from 13 adventures you and your friends hope to survive. The first adventure is "Escape the Tomb" which is written for a single player to do. It's a good way to have successful solo learning experience to get a feeling of the game before 1-4 friends join in the dark fun in the castle. The difficulty of each adventure can be changed based on how many healing surge tokens you give everyone/the group at the beginning of each adventure.
Once you pick your hero and adventure the game gets to begin! Game play will vary in time depending on if your party each individually explores corners and engaging in their own personal monsters instead of working together in a group. Some adventures require more tiles than others where sometimes you get lucky on where the bbeg / adventure end tile is closer to the top of your stack. Some people continue to explore for as long as they can. There are also those evenings where your players get wiped out by the monsters and the game has to be started again if you are looking for a victory. The games that DM Bork and I have played have all lasted 30 (we got tpk'd 5 tiles in) to 2 hours (playing it like a ttrpg). There is quite a variety of game scenarios and when playing at your own table you can adjust based on your own gaming interests.
Not all of the pieces, tokens or tiles are used in every game. The manual does very well telling you the objective of each adventure along with the number of heroes, any suggested heroes from the available tiles and any of the special pieces that you will need from the box. Like a D&D adventure module there are pieces pre written for someone to read at the beginning of the adventure and when the objective tile is revealed just like a Dungeon Master would set the scene in a real D&D game. There is also a portion of each page that tells what happens with a victory or a defeat.
There are lots of different treasures in the cards from items to help your character or fortunes to give health back, discarding curse cards or allowing for other cards to be discarded to the benefit of the heroes. This game also has featured traps that may need to be disabled or do additional damage to those around it. There are great classic items such as a wooden stake, that you can use to attack vampires, silver daggers, and encounters such as "Blood Fog," sliding wall traps and bat swarms that you may draw from the various card piles.
There are a variety of monsters and events to pose challenges to the players. The cards that are picked have the Armor class, Hit points and the fighting tactics of each of the monsters. There is also an amount that you can add to your d20 roll to attack the hero characters and a set amount of damage to be dealt. There are also events such as hunting parties that cause a mob of monsters and stalagmite events. Some of the featured monsters in this game includes Strahd himself, a dracolich, and classic horror monsters such as skeletons, zombies and werewolves.
A little detail note: Each of the monsters are made with durable plastic with their name written on the bottom to help identify each hero and monster by name.
Different heroes have different action abilities unique to them.
Lots of classic horror monsters to fight.
There is a Starting Tile which will be used for all the games you play. The game board is different every adventure you take based on the specific tiles required for each adventure. Each tile has a skull pile where a monster will be placed when a card is drawn. The tiles are have interlocking puzzle slots to keep the pieces together as you move the heroes around the board.
I am a lover of horror and mystery when it comes to Dungeon and Dragons. This board game is a great way to introduce classic horror monsters and such a legendary setting as Castle Ravenloft. As an owner of two of these D&D Board games I can't type enough of how much I enjoy them. They are engaging, fun, and you never know what you are going to get. The amount of adventures you can play through can offer an entire evenings worth of fun if you want to play Adventure 2-13 with your friends (adventure 1 is solo) and even if you play the same adventure twice it will be vastly different.