Wrath Of Ashardalon Review

1 Jul

Don’t be put of by the Dungeons & Dragons prefix, because this is an excellent dungeon hack which, while punishingly tough, is a hell of a lot of fun.

The Ashardalon of the title is a gigantic Red Dragon who lives beneath the depths of Firestorm Peak. Being adventures (read idiots) you team up with up to 4 friends to explore the murky depths. Think of it like old favourite Hero Quest, but more punishing.

And let’s not make no mistake, you will be punished in Ashardalon and brutally so. This is a game which gives you no quarter, with its ruthless encounters and constant monster assaults, and yet it’s so well balanced, you’ll be laughing all the way to your death.

While it takes elements from the D&D RPG, Wrath Of Ashardalon is obviously geared around board play. Each players turn is split into a number of phases. One for your hero, one where you explore the dungeon and the final phase which is used for controlling any monsters or traps under your control.

A hero can move and attack, attack and move or make a double move. Movement and damage is designated by your hero card (of which there are 5 distinct characters). Once this is over, you can explore the multi-tiled dungeon. Every time you reach the end of a tile you put a new one into play. Each new dungeon piece has a monster (randomly drawn from the top of the monster draw pile) and if you draw a tile with a black arrow, you’ll trigger an encounter. Once any encounters have been resolved you move to the villains phase. This is where you control any monsters under your control. Monster cards show their strategies, meaning play flows rather smoothly. Once villains have moved play goes to the next player.

One word of note before we move on though. The encounters are amazingly tough, meaning you should all work together in order to succeed. Traps can range from moving boulders, to volcanic gas and ambushes and while they can be disabled, it’s at the expense of making an attack for the turn. It’s a constant gauntlet that may frustrate many, but we felt the action was balanced enough to keep it just the right side of fair.

The many components that come with Wrath Of Ashardalon

Defeated monsters go into a shared pile and experience points are awarded based on a creature’s toughness. Should you have enough experience points you can either stop an encounter from taking place (handy, because the game is incredibly tough) or use it to level up your character, although you’ll need to roll a true 20 in combat first. It’s an elegant enough system, but we would have liked to level up our characters beyond level 2.

Defeated monsters yield useful treasures and there are a number of different quests to complete that range from simply clearing the dungeon of a set amount of monsters, to seeking out a specific room (which is shuffled into the tile pile beforehand) or defeat the equivalent of a boss character, including the mighty red dragon Ashardalon.

Gameplay roughly takes around 70 minutes, but expect your first play to last much longer, due to getting to grips with the sometimes clunky rules. While most of the instructions are fairly straightforward, many need to be reread several times due to conflictions with other rules.

It’s fairly pricey as well, but you do get plenty of components in the actual box including plenty of sturdy tiles, nicely modeled monsters and an insane amount of counters. Another nice touch is that its backwards compatible with Wizard Of The Coasts’ previous game in the series, Castle Ravenloft, meaning you can combine both titles together to create some truly epic quests.

Wrath Of Ashardalon is certainly not an easy game to get into and we’ve already seen examples where the Dungeons and Dragon’s logo has actively put people off, but they’re losing out. Once you get to grips with its rule set, you’ll find an excellent dungeon hack that will please anyone who enjoys a good challenge.

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