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Board Games Edition
Joining the Party
Tracy Hurley

A s mentioned last column, board games were a huge hit at PAX East. It's not surprising—gamers tend to love games of many varieties and the huge free play area and lending library made things pretty easy. So for this article, we'll explore some of these board games in greater detail.

D&D Adventure System

Three games—Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt—compose the D&D Adventure System. Each board game comes with a number of scenarios, for variously sized groups. These different scenarios involve their own mix of components—everything from the tile configurations to the monsters. Not only can you play the scenarios included (as well as those available on the website), but you can create your own, either by using the components in one board game or by combining games.

Additional scenarios available online include the Castle Ravenloft contest winners, as well as bonus scenarios for Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon.

Individual components also have their fans. The tiles can be used as battle maps for the D&D roleplaying game, as can the minis. Forum poster Packbuckbrew created 3D versions of the Castle Ravenloft tiles using Hirst Arts molds.

Some fans also decided to spruce up the unpainted minis, and posted their work on the community forums. Three such fans are BulldogUK (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt), Pewfell (Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon), and Foxiferous (Castle Ravenloft). There's also a thread full of painting tips. (And thanks to Teos (Alphastream1) for the forum research.)

As a quick final note, Dungeon Command releases later this year, which includes cards for the sets' miniatures allowing them to be integrated into the Adventure System board games.


Conquest of Nerath

This D&D-based strategy wargame positions players as the leaders of various Nerathi factions, allowing them to cultivate their armies and fight one another for dominance over the region. Players gain victory points through battle and by gaining treasure through dungeon delves. The game also reveals a fair amount of Nerathi lore. Community member ObsidianCrane was kind enough to put together a list of articles about the region.

Lords of Waterdeep

In Lords of Waterdeep, you play one of the 11 lords of the City of Splendors, persuading adventurers to complete quests for you, buying buildings to profit from the needs of your competitors, and all while amassing victory points. The newest of the D&D board games, it explores the rich D&D heritage of the Forgotten Realms city, including touches like using earlier edition currency designs.


Small World

Small World, by Days of Wonder, is a strategy board game where fantasy races compete against each other to take over the world. Each race has a randomly assigned modifier or adjective that gives it additional special abilities. One of the interesting twists in this game is that you can decide to put your current race in decline and choose another one, keeping the former race out of any player's control. This simulates the effects of ages on the world. TableTop, an online gaming series on Geek & Sundry, featured Small World in their first episode, including how to play. For one or two player games, there is also an iPad app.

Ticket to Ride

Another Days of Wonder game, Ticket to Ride is railroad-themed Euro-style game where players attempt to connect destinations and claim train routes between cities. The company produced a number of sets, each with different maps including the USA, Europe, Germany, Nordic, Asia, and India. It won the 2004 Origins award for best board game. The game has a number of digital versions including online through their website, iPad, PC, and Xbox.

Carcassonne

Named after a medieval fortified town in Southern France, players build the town Carcassonne as the game progresses. Each turn, players place one of the terrain pieces on the board following the rules for tile placement: roads connect to roads, cities to cities, and fields to fields. They may also place their followers on the newly added tile. Scoring happens through a number of avenues, including completing roads and building cities of ever-increasing size. The game's little wooden follower pieces, commonly called meeples, have become a staple of other games including Lords of Waterdeep. It also has an iPad version.

Pandemic

Four diseases break out around the world, threatening to grow to pandemic status and wipe out the human race. Each player takes on a specialized role: dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, or operations expert. They travel around the world treating patients and researching cures for the disease. Every time an outbreak isn't contained, the world gets one step closer to a pandemic. Can you save the world in time? Published by Z-Man games.

I asked my D&D followers on Twitter to provide the names of board games they love, and collected their responses on Storify. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments.

If you're interested in exploring the wide world of board games, the Board Game Geek website lists many of them including details, requirements, and links to designers, publishers and more.

Tavern Tales

  • Split the party? Not every attempt needs to face the same end as Aeofel. Dungeon's Master provides some tips for a successful attempt on their site as does Wizards of the Coast designer Rodney Thompson on The Tome Show.
  • When adventurers meet for the first time, the experience can be awkward, especially as they feel each other out. Dire Flail explores skipping the introductions and building the group's backstory as you play through flashbacks.
  • On the Kobold Quarterly blog, Steve Winter provides rules for running a chase scene with a deck of cards and some dice.
  • Organizations in the game world provide a number of benefits, a sense of community, a set of beliefs that the character can follow (or ignore), and points of conflict.
  • New DMs can feel overwhelmed by the choices before them. Geek Ken suggests they focus on Fallcrest, the city provided in the Dungeon Master's Guide and calls out some sections of interest.
  • While the city guard is a frequent law enforcement trope in fantasy, the RPG Athenaeum provides medieval forms of law enforcement that might bring an interesting twist to your game.
  • Instilling fear in PCs isn't always easy, but if you find the right avenue it can create a satisfying game experience. What's your character's worst fear?
  • For some, trying to come up with just the right name—or even just a good name—is a stressful experience. Campaign Mastery is running a series all about naming things.

Community Reactions to D&D Next

About the Author

Tracy Hurley is a D&D blogger, podcaster, and freelance game designer. On any given night, there is a 50% chance you will find her on Twitter as @SarahDarkmagic, a 10% chance you'll find her on the Tome Show, 4Geeks4e, or the DM Round Table, a 25% chance she's home plotting world domination with her husband, and a 15% chance she's planning a sneak attack. She is rarely surprised, never flat-footed, and uses Encounter powers as At-Wills.

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