The mountain of Firestone Peak – one of the last few remaining sanctuaries for humans, dwarves, and elves – is in the grips of evil. The red dragon, Ashardalon, has made the volcano its home, bringing all manners of untold horrors with it. You and your fellow adventurers are the last remaining hope…
Read on for our in-depth Wrath of Ashardalon review to get the full scoop on this awesome D&D game. Like Wrath of Ashardalon? Why not check out our list of the Best Dungeons & Dragons games?
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Brief Overview of Wrath of Ashardalon
Wrath of Ashardalon – the second in the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System series – is a fantastic addition to the Dungeons & Dragons world. For those new to the franchise, its board game-style gameplay makes it an accessible and entertaining introduction to the universe.
In this cooperative, tile-based dungeon-crawler, players band together as a team to battle monsters, defeat villains, evade traps, and, ultimately, complete their adventure’s objective.
It’s a relatively simple dungeon game to pick up, however, the randomness of the tiles and the multiple available adventures mean you can get some pretty extensive use out of it before the story starts to feel too familiar.
Unboxing Wrath of Ashardalon
Breaking into the hefty box, you’ll notice there are a lot of pieces to become acquainted with – most notably, the red dragon himself, Ashardalon, standing high above the rest. Make sure you look below the plastic tray, too, where you’ll find a whole extra pile of tiles and tokens hiding away.
In all, your box should include:
- 1 “Start” Dungeon Tile
- 40 interlocking Dungeon Tiles
- 5 Hero Figures (Blue)
- 7 Villain Figures
- 30 Monster Figures
- 5 Hero Cards
- 4 Villain Cards
- 1 die
- 200 other Cards (5 Sequence of Play; 33 Treasure; 50 Power; 5 Adventure; 53 Encounter; 14 Chamber; 4 Adventure Encounter; 6 Boon Cards; 30 Monster Cards)
- 114 Tokens (10 Condition; 7 Monster; 33 Treasure; 1 Wizard Eye; 3 Mirror Image; 3 Flaming Sphere; 1 Cleric’s Shield; 5 Blade Barrier; 3 Caltrop; 5 Villager; 1 Gear; 5 Healing Surge; 5 Time; 9 Encounter Markers; 8 Closed Door; 10 Shield Markers; 1 Adventure Marker; 1 Item Marker; 1 Vast Gate Marker)
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Adventure Book
Wrath of Ashardalon is a well-made game – there are no buts about it. Ashardalon comes individually bagged (who’s going to say no to that guy if he wants his own room?) with your heroes, monsters, and other villains jumbled in together separately.
I found the cards to be more than adequate in quality. Although I’ll be the first to admit I’m not as precious about cards as some other board gamers. So some of you may prefer to use protectors on these.
As already mentioned, there’s a barrage of tiles to pop out. This makes for a game that can be played numerous times, each time with a totally different dungeon to explore. The tiles are very thick and chunky, able to sturdily lock together into place.
If there was one area for improvement, I found the artwork on the dungeon tiles themselves to be a little dull and lackluster. It means that, on its own, the dungeon can be a little bland, however, it certainly brightens up a little once it’s crawling with monsters and traps.
Otherwise, the box itself is nicely laid out with good separators, so you can easily keep everything neat and tidy while you’re not playing.
How to Play Wrath of Ashardalon
One thing I really enjoyed about Wrath of Ashardalon is that the players work together as a team: you either lose or win together. It makes for a different style of gameplay from many other board games. This also means you don’t need a teammate in order to play. One person can just as easily take on the dragon as several (max of five).
There are 12 different adventures you can choose from before starting the game, all with different objectives and challenges along the way. One day you might find yourself destroying the evil dragon, on another you might be tasked with freeing prisoners and escaping from the dungeon.
It’s important you follow the instructions for setting up the game carefully to allow for a long and (hopefully) successful adventure. Not all the dungeon tiles are the same, so make sure you shuffle them as directed in the instruction manual.
Choosing your Heroes
First things first, you must select your hero. In this box, you can choose from Dragonborn Wizard, Human Cleric, Elf Paladin, Half-Orc Rogue, or Dwarf Fighter, however, you could also select a Hero from another game in the Adventure System series.
This is about more than just looks! Each character has different attributes that can come in handy at various points in the game. So choose wisely.
Cards (outfitting your character)
Each player then takes one Treasure Card and a number of Power Cards – the precise number for each character is written on the Hero Card. These give your Hero special abilities and items that can be used throughout the game.
You also take two Healing Surge tokens, which can be played when your character reaches zero HP to bring them back to life. Be careful though, if you run out and your player is defeated then your whole team lose the game.
A turn is made up of three phases:
1. Hero Phase
This is your time to shine. You have three options in this phase:
- Move and then attack
- Attack and then move
- Move then move again.
We’ll explain a little more about how to attack below.
2. Exploration Phase
If you moved your character to the unexplored edge of a tile in the Hero Phase, this is when you can bring a new tile into play and see what’s there. (If you didn’t reach the unexplored edge of a tile, then move on to the Villain Phase.)
When a new tile is introduced, you need to also draw a Monster Card to see which Monster you’ll be facing. Place the Monster on scorch mark on the tile.
Note: You only interact with Monsters that you draw – Monsters uncovered by your teammates are for them to worry about. So keep the Monster Card in front of you in order to keep track of which ones are yours.
3. Villain Phase
Brace yourself. This is when the Monsters, Villains (the Big Bosses), and traps you’ve uncovered get to retaliate. You may also be unlucky enough to have to deal with an Encounter Card – a situation your character must handle before continuing with the game.
As you work through, act out the tactics on each enemy’s card. Their actions usually differ depending on where your character is on the board.
How attacking works
The fun part! You can attack an enemy using either your Hero Card powers or a Treasure Card or Power Card. There are three attributes to be aware of when attacking or being attacked:
- Armour Class (AC): how hard the Hero or Monster is to hit.
- Hit Points (HP): the health of the character.
- Attack Bonus: the higher the Attack Bonus, the more likely it is to hit.
To make an attack, roll the die and add the number to the attacker’s Attack Bonus. If the total is higher than the defender’s Armour Class then the attack was successful. If so, then the defender is dealt the damage listed on the card and it is removed from their HP.
Levelling up your hero
You have the option to level up your hero throughout the game, which greatly improves their attributes. There’s a total of two levels.
To do so, you need to naturally roll a 20 on the die while making an attack. You then have the option to spend five Experience Points to level up your character.
You can gain Experience Points by defeating Monsters.
Moving through the game
So, those are the very basics of game mechanics. Your job now is to explore the dungeon, defeat Monsters, and work your way through to your objective. On the way, you’ll encounter all manner of obstacles, such as Lava Flow Traps, or having to fight the temptation for a quick snack on some bad mushrooms to avoid being poisoned.
You’ll gradually up-skill your character and kit them out with the latest D&D bling. New items include the Boots of Striding, making you particularly light on your feet, and the coveted Amulet of Protection, giving you an extra AC point on your stats.
Winning (or losing!) the game
As your character progresses through the game and your dungeon expands, you’ll eventually find yourself reaching the game objective. Each Adventure has different rules for winning – although it goes without saying that most of them include dispensing with a whole host of Monsters along the way – so make sure you read these carefully before you pop open the champagne!
You lose if any one of your characters is at zero HP at the beginning of their turn and they have run out of Healing Surges. There may also be other rules in your Adventure that could mean you lose the game.
Your First Game of Wrath of Ashardalon
As mentioned, it’s important you follow the rules of the game setup closely to make sure you get the most out of the game. Helpfully, the game comes with a ‘Sequence of Play’ card for each player, outlining how to take each turn.
You will find your first game of Wrath of Ashardalon probably takes some time (even up to 2.5 hours). But don’t let this put you off if you were looking for a speedier Dungeons & Dragons experience. Once you’ve played through your first game, it should all be over in an hour or two.
One area of confusion players should keep in mind is that characters can move in diagonal lines between squares when making their moves. But they cannot move diagonally between different tiles.
Pros & Cons
- Extensive variation
Those that like to get their money’s worth won’t be disappointed with Wrath of Ashardalon. The huge number of tiles, random gameplay, and 12 different Adventures mean there’s the potential for multiple games without it getting repetitive. There’s also a Campaign Mission, which ties several Adventures into one.
And, while Wrath of Ashardalon is a standalone game in its own right, it can also be integrated with the other Adventure System series games. This means even more variation!
Wrath of Ashardalon could open doors, too, to those new to the D&D universe. As a board game, it will be more familiar and less intense in style than its role-playing predecessor.
The cooperative game nature also adds an extra element of teamwork not seen in many other games.
- Relatively simple (this could go either way)
- Limited character development
- Dungeon artwork
Wrath of Ashardalon is incredibly entertaining for gamers of all levels. However, if you’re after a more complex dungeon-crawler, you might find this doesn’t quite go far enough. Similarly, with only two levels to progress through, character development is also limited.
The game, on the whole, is well made and sturdy. However, those that like expansive terrain might be a little let down by the dungeon tiles, which leave a lot to the imagination. That said, the lively miniatures – and the adventures you can have with them – really liven it up when the game gets going.
Wrath of Ashardalon Review (TL;DR)
As you can see from our Wrath of Ashardalon review, this game is an overwhelmingly entertaining cooperative dungeon-crawler for gamers of all levels. You’ll find yourself battling orcs, defeating cave bears, evading traps, and (hopefully), achieving your objective.
With multiple Adventures to embark upon – from defeating dragons to breaking out prisoners – there will be weeks of exciting and fresh gameplay to be had.
Wrath of Ashardalon is an easy board game to pick up (despite being quite a heavy box), making it perfect for groups of varying experience, or families. With multiple scenarios to dictate the storyline of the game and its random tile reveal, there are hundreds of possible outcomes to the game. Its cooperative gameplay also adds a great ‘team’ element.
Seasoned board gamers shouldn’t necessarily be put off by its simplicity, though, as there are still hours of fun to be had here. That said, it’s probably most appealing as a way to integrate new gamers into the group, or the wider D&D universe.
For those weighing up the Adventure System games, Wrath of Ashardalon does well to clean up a few frustrations gamers had with Castle Ravenloft. The new Heroes and Monsters bring great color to the game, and the possibility to add more from other Adventure System releases just makes its potential even more exciting.
Wrath of Ashardalon is a great extension of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. It should be a welcome addition to the collection of any board gamer or Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast.
Have you tried Wrath of Ashardalon? What did you think? Drop a comment below!
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