Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections on Ravenloft

Saturday I got together with my cosplay group, which happens to be a smaller subgroup of my D&D group. In theory, the plan had been to record the audio for our skit and work on costumes for Animazement (May 27-29 in Raleigh, NC). What really happened: I did some costume work, we played with the kittens, I did a little more costume work while watching Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog with one of my friends who hadn't seen it before, while the rest of the group watched my husband sand Zuko's swords outside. During that time, season 3 of Avatar: the Last Airbender had been playing on the TV; the kids were watching that, but around this time, the rest of us got sucked in. One guy did get up and get fabric for part of his costume cut out.... but then we were back in front of the TV.

When Disc 4 went in, we decided to start up a game of Ravenloft (the board game version). The game took most of an entire episode to set up; in it's defense, I should mention we were going to take on one of the more complicated difficult missions. We took a break (yes, a break from playing a board game) to watch "The Ember Island Players" episode on Avatar. The game itself only took 1.5-2 episodes to play, so we got to watch the conclusion of the confrontation between Aang and Ozai and the wrap-up to the anime.

The Ravenloft board game is nothing short of awesome--at least in my opinion. If you like board games and table-top roleplaying, then chances are you'll enjoy it too. This game is what I call a tile game--the Munchkin board game plays like this as well. Based on the scenario, we have an objective of defeating a certain monster (or monsters), escape from the dungeon, or simply survive for a given number of rounds, to give a few examples. We were going after Strahd (part 1) where we had to defeat his body guard--a random drawing from one of the mid-level boss monsters--and then confront Strahd; in the end of that battle, Strahd would go into mist form and retreat deeper into the dungeon, and thus would begin part 2 of that mission. We only played through Part 1 this time.

Although fun, it is worth mentioning that this game is incredibly tough--in traditional Ravenloft style. Even on the easier missions, the heroes are set against encounters that range from equivalent in power to significantly stronger than them, and these encounters are coming constantly--each player wants to explore on their turn which opens a new dungeon tile and brings a new monster into play; some tiles force the player to draw an encounter card as well (usually nastier than the monster), and if the player does not explore they have to draw an encounter card. You can imagine how overwhelming this could get just from the sheer amount of stuff that ends up on the board. I think we've only managed to beat a mission once on hard mode (i.e., use no healing surges meaning no player reached 0 hp). Typically we win on normal or easy mode (2-3 healing surges), or we party wipe (3 healing surges used and a player at 0 hp), or we cheat (use 4+ healing surges). I think this game is a lot of fun; of course, keep in mind that I'm coming from a strong D&D background, and Ravenloft was one of my favorite settings. Still, it's a game I'd recommend. =)

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