After my short visit earlier last year, I would like to once again venture into the colorful world of board games. I recently had the opportunity to take a closer look at the newly released cooperative board game, The Legend of Drizzt from Wizards of the Coast. Although the four or five sessions I played with friends hardly make me an expert, they provided me with enough oversight that I feel confident sharing my impressions of this latest iteration of the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden.
For any of you not familiar with Drizzt Do’Urden—the renegade dark elf and perhaps the most well-known fantasy hero after the Fellowship of the Ring—I highly recommend purchasing a few novels based on his adventures. Although the board game does not require any previous knowledge of the back-story, knowing the underlying universe and the characters certainly gives an extra dimension to the game. Furthermore, thanks to the excellent penmanship of R. A. Salvatore—the author of the Drizzt books—it is hard to imagine any fantasy-loving person walking away dissatisfied from purchasing his books. But let us get back to topic.
In The Legend of Drizzt board game, one to five players assume the roles of archetypal fantasy heroes from the above-mentioned books and try to tackle one of several scenarios included in the game’s adventure book. A typical game session takes the heroes through a maze of randomly placed dungeon tiles and make them fight hordes of monsters until they reach and complete the objective specified in that particular scenario.
Principally, what defines the game is its cooperative approach. Unlike many other role-playing-oriented board games, The Legend of Drizzt does not require a dungeon master to direct the flow of the adventure. One of the more obvious advantages of this is the ability to play the game alone, either by completing the few, one-player scenarios that come with the game or by commanding multiple heroes at the same time. On the other hand, if you and your party prefer having a person in whose hands all events come together, you might not be satisfied with the random card mechanic The Legend of Drizzt uses to replace the dungeon master.
Concerning rules, the game is straightforward and easy to learn. In a nutshell, a player-round consists of three phases: 1) the action step, in which the player moves and/or fights; 2) the exploration phase, in which able heroes add new tiles and monsters to the current layout of the game; and finally 3) the event phase, in which random events and the actions of monsters get resolved. Monsters "behave" by simple guidelines presented on their cards, while fighting and random events get resolved by the game’s sole twenty-sided die. When all the players completed their turns, the cycle repeats itself until the heroes either complete their objective or die trying. Throughout the course of the game, players never have to deal with overly complicated rules, ensuring that the game remains quick and easy to follow. This simplicity—along with the myriads of figures and accessories the game comes with—certainly makes The Legend of Drizzt appealing to a wider audience.
As the novelty fades away, however, more dedicated players may find fault with some aspects of the game, such as its strong focus on fighting, which can make the game rather dull on the long run. Although the illusion of exploration and problem solving never stops lingering in the background, at the end, all scenarios come down to fighting monsters. Traps and some clever plot twists do spice things up in later scenarios, but the core mechanics always remain the same: fight until you win or die. Of course, that is not to say the game is boring! Given the appropriate number of players—four or five—The Legend of Drizzt can be, and usually is, fun to play. The bosses—villains, as the game calls them—especially require some planning and team play. In the end, however, it is hard not to see the one-sidedness of the game.
Regarding production value, The Legend of Drizzt is definitely on the upper end of the scale, with only minor mishaps. As the most important elements in this particular board game, all the figures look quite nice—especially if someone takes the time and effort to paint them, which really brings out their detail. Furthermore, although the rubbery, semi-elastic material used in the models can make some of the figures look slightly distorted, it certainly helps to protect them against accidental damage. In fact, all pieces in the box—and there are a lot of them—are of good quality and seem quite capable of withstanding the test of countless gaming sessions.
The only negative aspect I would like to mention here is the similarity of the dungeon tiles. To put it plainly, they all look very much the same: dull and grey with very little variations on them. While this uniformity is somewhat understandable—after all, the game takes place entirely in underground caverns—it certainly makes the dungeons very uninteresting to the eye. Frankly, I cannot think of any reason why this game could not have used a bit more colorful and varied terrain.
In the end, despite its limitations, The Legend of Drizzt is not a bad board game. It comes with high quality components and delivers a solid, easy-to-learn dungeon-delving experience that can be appealing to a wide range of people—but mostly to those who do not want to mess with long rulebooks and game sessions, people who only want a short 2-3 hour game experience after school or work. If you are a more dedicated player, however, the lack of real depth can quickly render the game uninteresting for you. Going through the various scenarios in the adventure book is definitely fun for a while; but, after only four or five sessions, similar patterns start to emerge and the game becomes predictable. Therefore, if you are—like myself—someone who likes a more varied dungeon-delving experience, have the time and patience for a little complexity—and similar-minded playing partners—I recommend finding something else. Perhaps invest in the upcoming second edition of Descent or dig up a copy of the classic Warhammer Quest.