The D&D Adventure System Board Games

Wizards of the Coast released the "Castle Ravenloft" board game in 2010, followed by "Wrath of Ashardalon" in 2011 - with plans for an upcoming sequel called "Legend of Drizzt". These are cooperative board games played with no gamemaster, featuring monsters that move by automatic programmed rules.


Ashardalon and Ravenloft both use almost the same rules with different sets of player characters along with monster, encounter, and treasure cards. Coming from the dungeon crawl experience in RPGs, it can seem bizarre in that new monsters and/or traps pop up with every character action. Thus, between one of your turns and the next, five or more new monsters may have appeared and several traps or events. There is a lot of room for teamwork, but it is in a different sense than otherwise.

Compared to Ravenloft, Ashardalon has slightly less brutal encounter cards - though they are still brutal. The characters seem roughly balanced, though I haven't compared point for point. Treasures seem definitely more powerful in Ashardalon - which I consider a positive point. Ravenloft sometimes seemed like a beatdown with no rewards or letup, while in Ashardalon there is more positive feedback.

Useful links include:

Strategy & Tactics: Ashardalon

Mobility is Key - Something I only realized in the Ashardalon game is how much faster PCs are than monsters. The PCs can travel 5 or 6 squares per turn and still attack - or move 10-12 squares per turn by not attacking. Monsters almost all move one tile per turn. A tile is 4 squares across, but monsters can't move diagonally. So monsters are extremely slow at turning corners, while characters can zip around a corner to go through 3 tiles and still attack. Most of the scenarios depend only on reaching an end goal after exploring a dozen or more tiles. This means that a coordinated party can pop up a host of monsters, but rather than fight them - they just leave the monsters behind in their dust while jumping ahead to reach their goal and win.

Ashardalon provides some useful tools to accomplish this. A crucial one is the "Wizard Eye" Utility Power. This lets the wizard turn over tiles from an independently moving token. Moving the eye substitutes for the wizard's movement, so you may have use some tricks or forego some attacks to catch up, but it is very useful to have monsters pop up 5+ tiles away. Others include:

The funny thing is that it often isn't necessary to fight the chasing monsters at all. They can get left so far behind that you can finish the scenario without ever fighting them. There are some dangers, though.

I have been starting scenarios by having all the rest of the party break off to the left, then have the wizard go last and cast Wizard Eye in the upper right corner of the start tile. That lets it explore for two turns without moving.

Monster Distribution

Each a monster deck with exactly 30 cards. While the encounter and treasure decks are more varied, each monster deck has only ten monster types, which allows for some strategies of card-counting. Ravenloft has three each of the following cards:

Ashardalon has three each of the following cards:

There have been some great customized characters posted on the forums.


The game does scratch a certain system-mastery itch for me, so I've enjoyed play. However, I find that the tactics are dominated by strange artifacts like the square/tile distinction. It is a very different experience than a role-playing game. Still, it's fun as of now, and my son has been interested. He laughed his head off at a bunch of the tactics.

I'm not thrilled about this as an entry point into RPGs, since even for this genre of game, I find it not very evocative of the fictional world. There's too much gap between the game design and even minimal logic - like how even rockslides or falling boulders can't damage monsters, but do damage heroes - while fireballs ignore heroes and damage monsters. This isn't simpler rules-wise. It would be simpler to just say that everything in a tile takes damage. I suspect that the designers thought it would be easier to mathematically balance this way, but I'm not convinced that it worked.