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Merric Blackman
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Thanks to Wizards Australia, my FLGS was given permission to demo Castle Ravenloft this weekend as part of the Dark Sun Game Day festivities. So, we ran two sessions of D&D, and four games of Castle Ravenloft. (That's about 7 hours of D&D and 4 hours of Ravenloft as it turned out).

The first game of Castle Ravenloft saw four players enter the dreaded castle: Mark Carter (owner of Good Games Ballarat), Mark Brown (Level IV Magic Judge, up from Melbourne for the occasion), Rich E. (player with me of many boardgames and RPGs) and myself.

The players select their powers

Set-up for the game was complicated by the fact that I'd just come from running a game of D&D 4E as part of the Dark Sun game day, so I completely forgot that each character should start with a magic item and gain a treasure card when they killed a monster; we realised about 1/4 of the way through and rapidly drew some cards to catch up.

The rules also leave out in the set-up text that you should add two Healing Surges into the common pile; it's noted later, but it's a fairly annoying mistake in what is generally a very well put together rulebook.

I chose to play the Eladrin Wizard, and according to what was given on my character sheet, selected the following powers:

Thunderwave (at will, attack each monster on your tile, +7, 1 dmg, then push them one tile)
Scorching Burst (at will, attack each monster on a tile within 1, +7, 1 dmg)
Fireball (daily, attack 1 tile away, +7, 3 damage to each monster on hit, 1 on miss)
Dispel Magic (utility, one use, Cancel an encounter card you just drew)
Fey Step (utility; one use, teleport 1 tile)

As you can see, I had powers that captured the essence of the Wizard in D&D 4E. There were about 5 powers that I didn't take (a choice of another At Will, another 2 Utilities, another 2 Dailies).

My character sheet and powers

Mark B. took the Dragonborn Fighter, Mark C. the Ranger, and Rich the Dwarven Cleric.

So, it was now time to enter the dungeon. The game works with a Hero turn (moving and attacking) and Exploration turn (where a new tile is revealed along with monsters if the Hero is adjacent to an unexplored edge) and finally a Villain turn where the monsters revealed by that player get to move and attack.

You'll notice that when you reveal a new tile (and it always has a monster on it), the monster acts before anyone else can stop it. So, whoever explores is always in danger. Those thinking of not exploring and just resting have to beware: they draw an Encounter card instead, and with a combination of traps, extra monsters and tricks on those cards, they can be even worse than the monsters!

The tile we were searching for (the chapel) had been shuffled into the stack of dungeon tiles, somewhere between the 9th and 12th tile, so finding it might not be that difficult. However, this was our first game: what did we know?

The adventure begins!

The first few tiles we found had small creatures on them: skeletons, rats, kobolds, all of which were easily dispatched. You can see in the picture above a ghoul menacing the ranger. We also discovered our first trap, a spear gauntlet, which attacked everyone nearby! Disarming it required us to not attack and roll a 10+ on a die: a rogue needed only a 5+, but we found it easier to just avoid the area it was in.

Very observant readers will notice that my wizard is nowhere to be seen: in fact, I'd fallen into a magical trick, taking 3 attacks (which inflicted 2 damage of me) and removing me from the map until my next turn! This was not entirely a bad thing, as it got me away from the trap. However, my 6 total hit points were looking very inadequate as I'd already taken 3 points of damage!

The adage of "Never Split the Party" was quickly ignored - not always intentionally, as there were several encounter events in the deck which would whisk one hero away from his companions to the other side of the map. I returned to the board, and discovered my first zombie... or rather, it discovered me. Ow! More damage! Rich rescued me, as he moved his cleric in to kill the ghoul and heal one point of damage from my bloodied form.

Zombie!

The colour of the miniature gives you some idea as to how difficult it is to face. The blue minis are heroes, the red are weak monsters, the whites are tougher monsters, and the translucents are the most dangerous of the standard monsters. Then you have greys and larger whites which are unique... like the Dracolich.

We finally managed to get away from the trapped corridors and into the same corridor. Most of the monsters were dead, but a spider attacked us, flinging its acidic web over me. Ow!

We also discovered another danger in the Encounter deck: Environment cards. These cards gave an ongoing change in rules in the dungeon. In this case, the Spirit of Doom card meant that whenever we discarded a Treasure card we'd take one damage. This wasn't good... especially as about half the Treasure cards would be discarded when drawn giving only a temporary bonus. The most annoying were the "Regain 1 life" bonuses, which immediately were cancelled by the card!

Spirit of Spider Doom

We also discovered that you can have really bad days at rolling the dice: a spider shouldn't be hard to kill, but we weren't able to hit it for a bit. Meanwhile, Mark B, eschewing the "stay together" advice wandered off on his own. A summoning circle revealed a skeleton: not too scary, and something he was able to handle.

Skeleton Circle

Mark B continued to run off ahead, and was able to find the chapel we needed! Unfortunately, the rest of us were nowhere near it, and - by the scenario specific rules - we each drew a monster and placed it on the tile. Mark was being threatened by a skeleton, a burning skeleton and two wraiths. This was not good for Mark - or for us!

To make things worse, a sudden whirlwind claws attack from a gargoyle saw Rich, our cleric, go down to 0 hp. On his next turn, he'd spend a healing surge and stand up again, but that was one of our two surges gone, and with Mark looking every chance of using the other one.

The way to really lose the game: Start a turn on 0 HP with no surges left. At that point, everyone loses. This is a co-operative game, not a solo glory quest!

Notice also the wolf coming for us from a long way away, courtesy of an encounter card.

The goal in sight... only of Mark!

The wolf was joined by a kobold on the edge of our range, thankfully too far away to worry about. I rushed back to help Mark's fighter, but he was struggling. Here's an interesting feature of the game: A monster attacks on the turn of the player who drew its card. However, if two players draw the same monster, both monsters attack whenever those players have a turn. So, Mark was taking double beatings from the wraiths, which was Not Good For Mark!

Mark C's ranger started coming back for us, whilst Rich bravely fought the Gargoyle off. Notice the "1 damage" counter next to the base of the gargoyle; a nice touch having shaped counters to fit around the bases. Gargoyles have 2 HP and attack everyone on their tile: it's good to be away from them!

Rushing to aid Mark's Dragonborn

Rich slew the Gargoyle, and Mark C's Ranger was slowed and attacked by a wolf (which didn't live long afterwards!) Mark B and I fought the wraiths and burning skeletons, and Mark B's daily power caused great chaos and destruction amongst their ranks... although a lone wraith still survived.

It was at this point that I used my Fey Step to teleport to the altar and pick up the Holy Icon of Ravenloft. Activating its ability gave us back all 2 hit points: enough so that the imminent threat of death was removed. Soon, only a lone Wraith remained...

Activating the Icon

...and that Wraith then fell to my Scorching Burst. We celebrated, for we had gained the Icon of Ravenloft and slain its guardians: we'd won our first quest!

The entire game took about an hour to play, including a fair number of rules references. One thing was certain: this was a fast-playing fun game, and so it would prove as the afternoon progressed.

The Game is Won!

Now that I've had the chance to review the rules again, I've discovered a couple of rules we got wrong during the games we played. I note them here for reference:

* When you slay a duplicate monster, the player whose turn it is discards their card first, with it going clockwise around the table until the matching monster card is discarded. We were keeping track of who drew the card and discarding that one.

* You can only draw one treasure card a turn, regardless of how many monsters you kill. (Admittedly, in this first game, we often forgot to draw any cards at all!)

Our first game had been a very enjoyable experience, but there were a couple of questions unanswered: Would the game prove too "samey" even with other scenarios? And was it too heavily weighted towards the heroes? The three further games we played during the evening would provide the answers to those questions, and in both cases the answers would prove how good a game this is.
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Hassan Lopez
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Great session report - thanks, Merric. I especially liked hearing about the event cards that split the party.
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Giannis Tsekos

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Really nice one Merric. We need more now
 
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Merric Blackman
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darkmind wrote:
Really nice one Merric. We need more now


I'll try to get the other three up tomorrow. For now, I'm exhausted!

(And we've also had a federal election today in Australia...)

Cheers,
Merric
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Samuel Hinz
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Sounds awesome, it would be good if you had other sessions from the day coming too. (oh i see they are )

do you think this game would appeal to people who don't normally like co-op games?
 
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Team Ski
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Outstanding session report! Thanks!

-Ski
 
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Peter Tancredi
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Livingston Manor
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My group is really excited about picking this game up. This review only solidifies that feeling. However I read something that causes me a little pause...

You stated every tile has a monster spawn on it when it is revealed, and that the villain phase occurs after the exploration phase. Every monster card posted so far, the monster has an attack that occurs if it is within 1 tile of the hero. Do all/most of the monsters have an attack like that? If so, that would mean every time any hero explored a new tile, they would be guaranteed to be immediately attacked by a monster. That would be somewhat disappointing, and repetitive I would think.
 
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Merric Blackman
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It plays well - otherwise the monster would rarely get an attack off, as the other characters would be able to attack it before it acted again.

You also have monsters spawning in other areas, or - occasionally - an event moving the hero before the monster could attack. Or the thief could use Stealth to discard the monster...

And tactically, the Wizard is a really poor choice to explore!

Cheers,
Merric
 
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Merric Blackman
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abodi wrote:
do you think this game would appeal to people who don't normally like co-op games?


Do they enjoy dungeon crawls? It's really hard to make such judgements. I like it because although it's a co-op, there's enough leeway so that you can have individual glory, which is not really the case in such a tight game as Pandemic.

Cheers,
Merric
 
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seb seb2
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MerricB wrote:
It plays well - otherwise the monster would rarely get an attack off, as the other characters would be able to attack it before it acted again.

You also have monsters spawning in other areas, or - occasionally - an event moving the hero before the monster could attack. Or the thief could use Stealth to discard the monster...

And tactically, the Wizard is a really poor choice to explore!

Cheers,
Merric


thanks for this report

could you post some monster cards (flesh golem,werewolf,gargoyle) ?
i am curious cool


 
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Mr G
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Merric.

You are a fully commiitted genius.

Regards,

Fentum
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Merric Blackman
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There are a few already posted in the Castle Ravenloft gallery.

 
by Brian Engard

 
by Brian Engard

 
by Brian Engard

Cheers,
Merric
 
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On the moon Fabrice
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Many thanks for the report !
 
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seb seb2
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MerricB wrote:
There are a few already posted in the Castle Ravenloft gallery.

 
by Brian Engard

 
by Brian Engard

 
by Brian Engard

Cheers,
Merric


yep but no Flesh Golem
 
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Markus
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Another excellent session report, thank you Merric. I am eagerly waiting for the rest!
 
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Merric Blackman
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Sorry. We didn't play that scenario, so I haven't even looked at the Golem's stats myself!

Cheers,
Merric
 
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seb seb2
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MerricB wrote:
Sorry. We didn't play that scenario, so I haven't even looked at the Golem's stats myself!

Cheers,
Merric


oh no problem

i thought Flesh Golem wasn't a Vilain and just a "regular" (although huge) monster.

 
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MerricB wrote:
I chose to play the Eladrin Wizard... Mark B. took the Dragonborn Fighter, Mark C. the ??? Ranger, and Rich the Dwarven Cleric.


Why does everyone insist on hiding the race of the Ranger? And I thought I read someone played a Human Rogue, first time I read this...
 
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Brian Engard
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I'm pretty sure the ranger is also human.
 
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Freelance Police
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Thanks for the session report!

I still can't get past the (ugh) look of the interlocking tiles, but the unpainted mini's look fine, and I'm going to see if I can use the Basic Set room tiles. I think just buying prepaints of the heroes should be the more cost and time efficient improvement. I'll grab the unpainted heroes in Ravenloft and use them in my Return of the Heroes set or something!
 
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Merric Blackman
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pseudotheist wrote:
MerricB wrote:
I chose to play the Eladrin Wizard... Mark B. took the Dragonborn Fighter, Mark C. the ??? Ranger, and Rich the Dwarven Cleric.


Why does everyone insist on hiding the race of the Ranger? And I thought I read someone played a Human Rogue, first time I read this...


You did read that; I realised afterwards that it wasn't the Rogue Mark C was playing, and that's why an "edit" mark is there. For some reason, I don't seem to have a picture of the Ranger character card, and my memory for little details like "Race" is lousy these days. I'm pretty sure he's human, though.

Cheers,
Merric
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Todd
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How do the monsters move? I've read through the rules and the examples say things like "move the monster 1 tile towards the closest hero" but the tiles have multiple squares on them and I didn't see a movement for the monsters on the sample card.

Do you just move the monster from one tile to the other and immediately adjacent to the nearest hero?

Thanks for the wonderful session report and pictures!

Maus
 
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Todd France
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Maus wrote:
How do the monsters move?

The activating player can pretty much choose to place the monster in any square that meets the criteria. So if the monster moves adjacent to a hero, he can be placed on any clear square around the hero, and if he moves to a new tile he can be placed in any open square on that tile.
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Tor Sverre Lund
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pseudotheist wrote:
MerricB wrote:
I chose to play the Eladrin Wizard... Mark B. took the Dragonborn Fighter, Mark C. the ??? Ranger, and Rich the Dwarven Cleric.


Why does everyone insist on hiding the race of the Ranger? And I thought I read someone played a Human Rogue, first time I read this...
We know the Ranger is Human. You can clearly see it in the picture on http://gawainish.info/CRDB/h/heroes.php?id=2
 
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