Dragon anger is much worse, than any other. In the village, we are the only ones left. And one more family is living near the pond. Everyone else either escaped or lies on the frozen ground breathless. Bloodthirsty orcs did not leave anyone alive. Our only luck is that they were not searching the houses. Yet. But I’m afraid that as soon as the fiery creature gets hungry, the orcs will come for us. They’ll find us. And feed us to the dragon. Better us than them. There is nothing, but hope for rescue.
Players will be just those who will hear these secret wishes. They will be able to follow them thanks to the board game Wrath of Ashardalon, whose story belongs to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. The game was released in 2011 by Wizards of the Coast and we get it to you only now. Its authors are Peter Lee and Bill Slavicsek, Jesper Ejsing and Jason Engle.
The dragon will welcome you into the box with its fiery breath. Fortunately, it does not burn, so you can safely take this massive box (same size as Castle of Ravenloft or Legend of Drizzt) and open it. A stack of cardboard sheets is waiting for all players with some punching out – and you will set free not only map tiles divided into smaller squares, as well as status and obstacles tiles, life, money or villager tokens. But most of all, bag full of beautiful plastic figures is ready in the bottom.
Cardboard components include also heroes, including statistics and skills described. Each player selects one double-sided character card and places it in front of him on the table. Participants will also receive skill cards (from which they choose those who they would like to use in that particular adventure), one random item and of course the corresponding miniature. Board also describes the rules for the evil dragon Ashardalon, but they will not be used for a long time. That’s because this game is based on the scenarios and only the last one with the number thirteen puts heroes against the enemy of the whole unhappy valley.
Players follow instructions in the scenario to build the map. Starting double tile is placed in the center, heroes stand on it (in any space) and builds reserve of the map tiles. Next to the map, they always prepares monster miniatures, their statistic cards, encounters, and treasures. To begin with, heroes will also receive two healing surges.
During the game, players alternate in turns. They can always choose the order or leave a chance to decide on it (roll a dice). Each move has three phases and the main one is the chance to move the character. Players can choose one of three combinations – either move twice on the map depending on hero speed (so many squares can he cross) or move only once and attack enemies.
Combat is the basic path to success. Heroes can use skills that they have chosen at the beginning of the scenario. Some cards can only be used once and must be recharged for some price. During attack, players have to choose target. Dice roll result is added to the bonus of the skill used and compares result with the resistance of the opponent. If result is at least the same as endurance of the enemy, the strike has been successful and target gets as many injury points as damage to that type of attack states.
When the monster loses all its life points, it is defeated and leaves the board. The monster card is placed on a pile of experience, that may be important at the end of the scenario. The reward for defeating the enemy is a treasure hunt for the player, which represents items, that monster had with itself and dropped it when it died. Using the experience, players can also improve their characters and move them to the second level (= rotate hero board to other side).
Second action, the cave exploration, can only be used if the character stands near the edge of the map. Player reveals top tile from map deck and it has to be connected with a triangular arrow rotated towards the direction it came from. The newly discovered tiles also gets one new monster. Its identity is also determined by coincidence and turning top card from the enemy deck. A matching miniature is placed by player on a square, that looks burned and is always somewhere on each map tile. However, the monster card must keep the player in front of him, because he is the one who will control it.
In the third part, heroes are all going down the hill. First, they draw a single encounter card and arrange according to its instructions and then the main counterparts will come to the list, if the scenario is included. After that, player activates one monster after another as cards that lie in front of him. Each monster has instructions printed for the owner to follow and move or attack the nearest target.
Fight works also the other way around, when monster attacks (its controlling player) and heroes are the ones, who lose their lives. At the start of their turn, players must use one of two common healing surge tokens, if their life force drops to zero. During the game, members of the group can also interact with items, take them in hand, or destroy them.
Each scenario offers its own victory and losing conditions. Players will explore tunnels, search for items, but primarily kill monsters. This task is surely the most common and it is perfectly understandable given the overall concept of the game. The whole group of heroes always wins and loses as a team, never splitting into better and worse.
Wrath of Ashardalon is third cooperative game in the Dungeons & Dragons line of games. And again, it is an excellent experience that carries over exactly the spirit of two other games. At the forefront of the adventure, there are many scenarios that are linked to the common story, and there is a clear peak at its end – a battle with a dragon, that provided the box a name.
The game focuses without any doubt in the first place on cooperative entertainment. All participants always fight against an enemy. Sometimes these are just common monsters, other times its more advanced bosses. But the main thing is to talk about their plans, discuss them and think about the next steps together.
A specialty of Dungeons & Dragons games, and hence also the Wrath of Ashardalon box, is a monster control. Players share them and everyone is responsible for moving some monsters by himself, but always without choosing and strictly following written flowchart. Dividing depends on luck as players explore the world underground and at that time also always encounter new opponents.
Different scenarios also mean a different playing time each time you return for a new touch of experience. Still, they are usually in a similar range from forty-five to seventy minutes. And the game is excellent in any number of players, even as solitaire entertainment. Its a drop better when there are more people to share the danger.
The game is very simple, making it great for beginners and for all smaller players and families with children. Battle with monsters is still a challenge. But the rules do not over-exaggerate the details and there is only limited things to think about. The whole campaign maintains nice difficulty, from which the game gains plus points.
Wrath of Ashardalon does not lag behind in processing. Perhaps, there could be more emphasis put on character development (especially across the different maps of the campaign). The game is random and you always have no idea, which new monster appears in the newly discovered room. This slightly shrinks the overall impression, but even so, Wrath of Ashardalon is a very fun cooperative game.
+ simple cooperative fun
+ solid processing
+ great for families
+ favorable playing time
- lesser emphasis on improvements between adventures