Monday, March 14, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game

CASTLE RAVENLOFT  by Wizards of the Coast
Published in 2010

Castle Ravenloft is a board game adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG. I have never played the real D&D, so this session and review is based solely on the impressions I get as a board game enthusiast.

Count Strahd, an evil, vampiric master of the Castle Ravenloft is up to something sinister. A small group of mighty heroes are prepared to enter the castle, venture deep into the dungeons below it, and foil Strahd's plans for good.

Castle Ravenloft has a lot of components: A multitude of counters, from which only a few are used per adventure, some pretty nice figures, and a thick stack of dungeon tiles, that will eventually form the game board.

The game comes with an adventure book, complete with 13 different adventures, all with their own goals, special rules and villains. All the lesser monsters, events, items, and even the layouts of the dungeons are random in each of the games.
Setting the game up may take some time, depending on the chosen adventure.

The adventure I chose for this game is a one called "Defeat the Dracolich".

The heroes have to find and destroy Count Strahd's most valued ally, a Dracolich called Gravestorm. Everyone familiar with D&D should now that these creatures are a force to be reckoned with, so this adventure will definitely not be an easy one.

The two heroes assigned for this task are Kat, a Human rogue, and Immeril, an Eladrin wizard.

Both of the heroes get to draw one 'Treasure' at the beginning of the game. However, in this game, only some of the treasures are actual items... The rest are other good things that happens to the heroes, some of which may have no benefit at the beginning of the game.

This time my heroes had luck, as they both drew a useful item: Kat got Thieves' Tools, making her already sharpened trap-disarming- skills even better.
Immeril got a Ring of Accuracy, enhancing his ranged attacks.

Each of the heroes have their own set of skills and spells. Not all of them can be used in a one game, so some "character creating" takes place before the game.
In every game, each hero has two basic powers that they may use as often as they want to. In addition, they have 2-3 special powers that are much more powerful than the others - but they are usable only once (unless you get to recharge them).


Kat and Immeril descends down to the dungeons using the stairway. Kat explores forward and finds a Blazing Skeleton - a magical undead creature surrounded in flames. The Skeleton hurls a ball of fire at Kat, slightly injuring her.
At the same time, Immeril suffers a minor injury from a "Spirit of Doom" passing through the dungeon.

Immeril moves to support Kat, casting a Magic Missile from a close range, damaging the Skeleton.

Immeril also explores further, discovering a Fatid Den. This is the den of the Werewolf, but luckily that creature is not home in this adventure.
A swarm of Rats inhabit the Den instead.

Kat moves into an advantageous position an throws a dagger at the Skeleton, but misses it. A Kobold Skirmisher appears and throws its javelin at Kat. The Blazing Skeleton hurts Immeril with another ball of fire.

Immeril moves away from the Skeleton and the Rats, and casts a Scorching Burst at the monsters. Both the Skeleton and the Rats are destroyed by this! Immeril finds an Amulet of Protection to boost his armor class.

Kat - assisted by Immeril's lore about the monsters - throws a dagger and takes out the Kobold. Kat then explores the next corridor. Some more Rats are in there.

Immeril spots a Zombie back at the stairway, easily destroying it with a long-range Magic Missile.

He also finds a Necklace of Fireballs.

Immeril decides to give this item to Kat, because Immeril's own Scorching Burst- spell is actually better than the spell in the Necklace.

A Chapel was found. It is empty, save for a Wolf that was prowling in there.

Kat is in trouble... She is confronted by another
Blazing Skeleton, as well as a huge Spider.

These two monsters almost defeat Kat, and the Spider's web also slows Kat down, preventing her escape.

The Rogue could use some help right about now...

Immeril saves Kat with his Illusionary Crowd- spell. This powerful spell creates illusions of hapless crowds, which attract monsters towards them - away from Kat. The monsters also end up very close to each other, so Immeril casts another spell, the Scorching Burst. Immeril's fire kills the Wolf and damages the Skeleton, but leaves the Spider unharmed.

A pseudopod of gray ooze suddenly reaches out from the nearby puddle of goo, and tries to strike Immeril, but the Wizard uses his hard-earned experience to avoid this.

A foul odor of a bubbling cauldron suddenly draws the monsters away from the illusionary crowd, causing them to attack Immeril instead! He is now in the same situation where Kat was a little while ago...
Immeril fights back with another Scorching Burst, destroying the Skeleton. Somehow, the Spider survives the flames yet again.

Some Prowling Spirits manage to steal Immeril's Ring of Accuracy away from him.

An animated suit of armor springs out of a dark alcove and smites Kat down as she was trying to reach Immeril.

Immeril continues to struggle against the Spider.

Immeril finally defeats the Spider with a Magic Missile. He explores, and finds a Kobold Skirmisher. The Kobold downs Immeril with a thrown javelin.

Kat gets back up and rushes into a throwing distance of the Kobold. A careful Snipe Shot kills the little creature.
Another Spider pops up.

Immeril uses the second - and last - Healing Surge to revive himself. He then engages the Spider with a Magic Missile.. The Missile is a rather poor one, but the heroes had a blessing on them, which guided the Missile just enough to hit its target.

The Archane Circle is found, Gravestorm the Dracolich has now been set loose! Both of the heroes are badly injured, so this will be a tough fight - most likely too touch...

A Laboratory was also revealed.

Gravestorm's Phylactery - the item that holds inside the Dracolich's evil essence - is in there.
Should the Phylactery be destroyed, it would greatly weaken Gravestorm, perhaps giving the heroes a fighting chance...

But the Laboratory is all the way on the other side of the dungeon.

No other monsters are in the dungeon at the moment, so at least the heroes can concentrate on the single enemy. That is, until a Rat swarm appears.

Kat uses her Spring Away- skill to quickly sprint towards the Laboratory, aiming to destroy the Phylactery.

Gravestorm bites Immeril, nearly killing him. Immeril flees back a little bit.

Kat quickly reaches the Laboratory and breaks the Phylactery.

Gravestorm loses half of its health, but it is still healthier than the two heroes combined...

Gravestorm chases after Immeril and sends a Burst of Lightning at him. Immeril barely survives this...
The Dracolich also has a much more powerful lightning attack, called the Blast of Lightning, but it won't use it until both of the heroes are at the range. Knowing this, Kat and Immeril are better to keep a little distance to each other...

Immeril uses his powers at their full potential:

He uses A Fay Step to quickly move away, then casts a Freezing Cloud at the Chapel.

The cloud immediately kills the Rats that were in there, and will damage the Dracolich as soon as it reaches the place.

Immeril almost steps into a Circle of Death, but manages to evade it with his experience. This magical circle would have killed him.

Kat uses a combo of Sneak Attack and Snipe Shot to deal some damage to Gravestorm. She also distracts the creature, so that it would stay a little while longer on the freezing cloud.

Gravestorm is not amused, and rends Kat with a bite. Now both of the heroes are in extremely bad shape. The feared Blast of Lightning would kill them both on the spot, so they are going to have to stay apart from each other.

Immeril's Magic Missile damages the Dracolich, as does the freezing cloud that still floats around in the Chapel. An Overwhelming Terror forces Immeril to flee at the stairway, right next to Kat...

Gravestorm moves closer and attacks with a Burst of Lightning, shocking both of the heroes...

Neither one of then survives the hit, and so both of the heroes succumb before the mighty Dracolich!

No more healing surges or other miraculous recoveries are to be found, so this is final; Kat and Immeril are dead, and their mission was left incomplete...
Kat would have had some powerful melee attacks at her disposal - perhaps even enough to slay the Dracolich - but she never got close enough to use them...


I always enjoy playing Castle Ravenloft. To me, this is one of the best solo playable board games there are.
"Defeat the Dracolich" is one of my favourite adventures - I have tried it for a few times, and I'm yet to complete it. But the Dracolich is just so cool adversary! Count Strahd is probably even tougher than Gravestorm, but the Vampire lacks the monstrous feel of the Dracolich... (just look at the huge figure of Gravestorm :))
Overall, this game didn't go so smoothly. In order to actually beat this adventure, my heroes should be in a much better shape when the Arcane Circle is found. Maybe one day I will defeat the beast.

The mechanics in Castle Ravenloft are very much to my liking... Usually games like these require one player to be the "game master", which would render the solo game impossible. But in Castle Ravenloft, the game is its own master, moving the monsters around. Maybe these mechanics don't quite substitute a human player, but I would say that they do a very good job anyway.
Every now and then I may stumble into a situation where I can't be sure of how some little detail is supposed to be resolved, and the rules or the cards don't give a clear answer. But when this happens, I just do as I feel would best support the events going on in the game.

Castle Ravenloft looks nice and the components are definitely of high quality. Figures are detailed, and if you'd like to paint them, I'm sure they offer a nice opportunity for that. Only the monster cards have pictures on them, so the artwork on cards is not that gorgeous... but the dungeon tiles are beautiful enough.

RATING: 9 /10


Despite of the frightening amount of stuff inside the game box, Castle Ravenloft isn't in fact that heavy game. It only takes an hour or less to play it, depending which adventure you pick. Also, the rules are very consistent and easy to remember - I find no difficulties in controlling more than one hero in a solo game. The game does take some space, and that's probably the reason why I don't use more than two heroes... If I had a bigger table, I think I would.

So is Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft a good board game? Definitely! A very good, and I don't think I will easily get bored with it.
Is it anything like actual Dungeons & Dragons? I wouldn't know, probably not... But maybe that would be a bit too much to ask for a board game.


  1. Great review!
    You made me buy this game and it's in my hands since yesterday. I can't wait to play it. Maybe this weekend?:)
    Cheers, Nightbomber.

  2. Nice :)
    How was your game, did you survive the adventure? :)

  3. Hi Jani, the plan to play CR this weekend failed (we played another dungeon crawler - Claustrophobia - instead), but... I started to paint the CR figures and the results are not that bad! I'll publish some of them on BGG's CR site this night. So the gameplay must wait for a while! Best, Andrew.

  4. nice writeup, helped convince me to order a dungeons and Dragons game, but I went with Wrath of Ashardalon since it is newer. Should be arriving tomorrow.

  5. I really wanted to like CR, but after a few plays, I just couldn't get into it. I enjoyed the solo aspect of it, and didn't mind the mechanics, but it just seemed bland after a few plays. I tried adding a few other people, but we all felt something was missing.

    For what it is though, a quick and fast adventure, CR does that well, and I can see why a lot of people enjoy it. Just not my cup of tea sadly! Great post.

  6. Loved your batrep of the game, really cool stuff.

    I have castle ravenloft and the other two (ashardalon & drizt), and combined it all makes an even more awesome game. I purchased these especially because of the solo play potential; and I would have to give it a 10 out of 10 for its repeat play value alone.

    I have also started making my own dungeon tiles for the game, to add even more play potential.