Monday, August 11, 2014

Redesigning Castle Ravenloft Boardgame

So my daughter saw me looking at stuff about the Mantic Dungeon Saga kickstarter and asked me about playing one of our D&D Coop games.  So I got them out of the storage area and picked the Castle Ravenloft to play with her on Sunday while the youngest was napping.  Now she is really not ready for a game like this so I "help" her as we go with choosing the best attack and keeping track of her treasures and monsters.  We made it through 2 adventures and provided a good reminder of the structure of the games.  These games have great value(Ravenloft on Amazon current 37 dollars shipped) in the components with like 40 minis in each and quality tiles with 5 heros who each have like 10 powers to choose like 4 or 5 for different slots so probably like 12-20 different combinations of powers for each character possible, but the structure of the game play really could use some work.  So I have been thinking about it.

Now to review the way the game plays, each adventure starts with you organizing the tile deck.  Often the adventures involve getting to a specific tile so the rules have you place this tile either at a specific depth in the stack or in a range by shuffling it with a small group of tiles and then inserting those at a specific point.  So a lot of the focus of the game is getting through that tile stack while taking the least damage possible.  You expose a new tile by stopping your move at an open edge of a tile and exploring the new tile.  This ends you turn and immediately places a new tile there with a monster and possible encounter card(these are usually just one off attacks).  The new monster essentially gets to attack you (or another hero) right away.  So I would say regardless of who you are or what you do every new tile you open averages probably 1.5 damage units to you before you can do anything to really influence the results. 

You can not explore a new tile, but this automatically causes a new encounter card which means generally more damage.  It is not that these issues make the game hard, it is just that you lose by just getting hit by a bad series of traps or monsters even if you defeat them at the first time you can act.  While this might simulate exploring a total unknown dungeon by torch light, you find your hero essentially surprised every turn.  The game play is more strategic where you are resource managing your hit points than tactical where you are trying to optimize you positions to make best use of you abilities.

While the core adventures have some nice details to them, I think that many could use some different core structuring to the game.  I would probably design and populate a core of the dungeon for the adventure at the start, while placing a few upside down possible destination tiles at the edge.  I would then use a die to determine events like new monsters appearing or an encounter card activating.  I would then switch the monsters over to square from tile movement and have attacks of opportunity.  This probably leaves you with a game that is very much D&D light but not the D&D Random that the games play as now.

I will take a look at the missions and tiles to see if I can come up with some designs for people to try.


  1. The original game was so exciting when it first came out. It seemed like it had some potential to be a Descent like game. But typical Hasbro/WoTC they botched the execution of it. Don't get me wrong the game is fun and as you point out it is a GREAT value for what you get in the box (at the solid discount prices you can find it at across the net) but the base game mechanics leave much to be desired.

    It is sad they didn't have some "endless play" rules written up for it, but of course they didn't want that ... they seemed to think this would somehow entice people into 4e or something (even on that note why not use a streamlined ruleset similar to 4e which would have been fine). Anyway I don't regret owning this one, but it wasn't good enough to justify going after the next two ... which had fewer minis and I hear they weren't as fun as Ravenloft ... I've heard the last one is downright terrible. You get less minis in the next two as well.

    1. Ravenloft had the best narrative to the adventures but all the games had essentially the same number of minis (41, 40, 42) but the models in some of the other sets were better.