Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Wrath of Ashardalon and HeroQuest (Redux)

Yeah, I insisted on using some of my miniatures...
Last night I got the chance to try The Wrath of Ashardalon boardgame again--this time I had somebody willing to explain it to me. I ran another HeroQuest adventure, afterward this new acquaintence told me he really liked WotC's Adventure Game and Dungeon Command series. So I was more than willing to sit back and let somebody else take the helm running a game.

HeroQuest had turned into a disaster for the players. The barbarian and dwarf kept opening up doors and not attacking the monsters inside. They were specifically looking for Verag the Gargoyle to kill and then somehow escape. The problem was that the elf and the wizard ended up getting the short end of the stick--especially the elf.

Somebody drew a wandering monster in the very first room--and orc. The orc scored three hits on the elf. Later, another orc took out the poor elf.

The elf is dead. The barbarian unleashed orcs and goblins.
The dwarf stumbles upon a couple chaos warriors.
The Wizard hides.
The dwarf and barbarian kept opening doors, releasing more monsters. The dwarf made it to the chamber with the gargoyle. A healing potion staved off death for a round or two as he got surrounded by the gargoyle, two chaos warriors, and an orc. The barbarian came to the rescue. They killed the gargoyle, but died as the gargoyle's minions pilled on them.

The wizard barely escaped with his life, using a well timed Veil of Mist to get past a Chaos Warrior who had moved to guard the stairs. 3 out of 4 heroes, dead in the very first adventure. The players just didn't coordinate at all.

The dwarf opens the room of the gargoyle, while two chaos warriors
are coming up behind him.

In The Wrath of Ashardalon, however, it doesn't seem to matter much if the PCs coordinate. We played two games, in both it didn't seem to matter if we got split up. The chance of death seemed slim--the Dragonborn wizard almost got taken out in the first game, but a healing surge saved him. I played the cleric--in neither game did I have to use my healing powers.

But we all seemed to fall victim to random crap that just made the game last longer just for the heck of it, even though the crap really didn't damage us.

From what I can tell, the game works like this: If you don't explore off the edge of a dungeon tile, you get an encounter. But if you explore and put down another tile, half the time you get a monster and encounter anyway. And about half the time these trigger more monsters and encounters.

In the first game, I ended up controlling like 5 or 6 monsters at one time because I had triggered so many encounters and monsters that brought in new monsters--just because I ended my exploration phase at the edge of a tile.

When comparing HeroQuest and Wrath of Ashardalon, the turns in HeroQuest are much faster. There's far fewer cards. The monsters, admittedly, do have a disadvantage of defending only on black shields--but this helps the game move faster. It also isn't as random.

In Wrath of Ashardalon there's randomness just for the sake of randomness.

I really don't like games where you sit patiently, waiting for your turn, only to have things to go screwy for the sake of screwy but really have little long term affect on the game. 

The best instance of this is what happened happend with my cleric. I tried to position him to help out the fighter but at the end of his movement he drew the "Time Rift" encounter card. The cleric vanished from the tabletop only to reappear the next turn. Why? Just because. At first, I was a little worried because the fighter was surrounded by monsters. But it didn't matter. He took care of himself. My cleric  appeared at another spot the following turn and the game went on.

I've checked out other reviews, it seems that a lot of other people really The Wrath of Ashardalon. Maybe its poor form to criticise a board game that been out for a couple of years. If somebody offers to run it, and there's nothing else going on, I'll probably try it again. But it definitely won't find a home on my shelf.

Still, I'm glad I got to try it out and play something different.

The best part about trying new things is figuring out what you like and don't like.

I'll stick with HeroQuest or maybe Dungeon Command... or something OSR.

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