I have had the opportunity to play the new Castle Ravenloft board game a handful of times now and I’m very impressed. We brought it over to a friends house the other night and played it with someone who had never even touched a D20 before. She listened to us discuss all the ways that it was similar to D&D 4e and then asked why we would play this board game instead of just playing normal Dungeons and Dragons. I thought that was a really good question and coming up with an answer made me realise why I like the game so much.
Castle Ravenloft is a quick and painless way to get your D&D fix. As a DM creating a game for five people can take me hours. I spend days preparing my adventures. Even if you’re using a pre-written adventure, Dungeons and Dragons is not the sort of game that you can just decide to play one night after dinner when you have some friends over. People need to have characters ready, they all need to know the rules and have dice. The DM needs maps and prep time. You can’t just crack out Dungeons and Dragons the way you can a game like Dominion.
Castle Ravenloft fixes that. Now you can take a table of people who have never rolled a D20 and have them playing an authentic feeling D&D adventure in the time it would take you to teach them Pandemic. There is no dungeon master required and no complex multi paged character sheets to try and learn. You decide who you want to be and then you are tossed in a dungeon and it’s time to start adventuring. The game does an incredible job of condensing the D&D experience into something you can just pick up and play.
The only problems we ran into while playing were a few instances where the rules were a bit loose. Coming from 4e where movement and attacks are spelled out precisely, Ravenloft can feel a bit strange. When a card tells you to move a monster onto a tile it does not tell you which square on that tile it should go to. I’ve seen people say that they roll two dice, one for the column and one for the row and this tells them what square to place the bad guy on. In my games we just put it wherever we want and it works fine. The same thing happens when a monster must attack the closest hero but there are two heroes it could hit. Some people will roll dice or flip a coin but we just pick. It’s a fun group game and if a few of the rules require some interpretation that’s fine. D&D in my opinion is not a game about rules, it’s a game about decisions.
I highly recommend Castle Ravenloft for people new to D&D as well as veterans of the game. I’ve heard it described as a gateway drug and that may very well be. Honestly though it’s a fantastic experience on it’s own and one worth playing.