New To Me Games (2/28/2011)

Today’s article will outline a couple of games that ranked very high on my “Want to play list”. One has gotten a lot of buzz on BoardGameGeek and the other hasn’t really been talked about all that much.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft

Photo by neurot chaos via BoardGameGeek.com

So far after playing 2 games (one 2-player game and one 4-player game), I’m having a really hard time figuring out why I’m just not feeling Castle Ravenloft. Both plays have been with the base rules, but my gaming partner has brought to my attention many small variants that might affect how I view the game. But, at this point, I just feel that it is missing something.

In my first 2-player game I was the Ranger and he was the Cleric. Now, maybe I was expecting too much from the Ranger, but it seemed like every attack I made was unsuccessful and every time I was attacked I took big damage. Now I get that because the combat system is largely affected by a dice roll, we are at the mercy of luck a lot of the time, but it just felt like we were at such a disadvantage against every monster that came on the board. What this did was keep me from wanting to explore, which, I would think, would be one of the most interested parts of this type of game. Of course then you would have to face an encounter card. This is where I have another issue. Without having seen all of the encounter cards, it appears to me that they are all really brutal cards. Again, I might have had the wrong expectations, but I would think that every so often the heroes would stumble across a hidden treasure or a secret passage into a room with some kind of cool weapon. So far all of the encounters I’ve seen have either brought more monsters onto the board, added exceptionally difficult traps or simply taken life points away from everyone on a tile.

Now, I’m not ready to give up on this game just yet. Some of the variant rules were created to fix the very things that I have issues with. So it’s only fair to try them and then reassess what I think of the game. Unfortunately my first impression was not a good one, so it will take a substantial turn around for me to become a full fledged fan of D&D: Castle Ravenloft.


Photo by Andreas Odendahl via BoardGameGeek.com

As many other people are, I am a big fan of the game designer Stefan Feld (Macao, Notre Dame, Roma, etc.) and the illustrator Klemens Franz (Agricola, Le Havre, At the Gates of Loyang, etc.), so when a new game displaying both of their names on it came out, it got my attention.

At it’s core, Luna is a worker placement game, but it really plays more like a puzzle. Each player is essentially moving their novices around the islands in the most efficient way possible in order to score influence points. Points can be acquired by a variety of ways, but one of the most interesting ways is by sending your people into the Temple. This can happen if you are willing to sacrifice one of your novices (unless you’re next to a shrine) and your novices are on the island matching the tile they are attempting to move to. That tile is located on a path around the temple, so it takes one more action to actually move the novice into the Temple. Performing this action is really the only interactive part of the game, because when a novice enters the Temple, he will displace any other novices (other than his own) next to the spot where he resides (unless the opponents posses a book).

The game is played over 6 rounds, with the end of each round being determined by the players. One of the action choices is to advance the “end-of-round” marker. Once the marker has been completely advanced, the round ends immediately and then everything is scored. I’ve seen this used very effectively as a way to prevent the other player from completing an action that might take them a few steps to finish. It’s a way to put pressure on the other players to get things done in the fewest actions possible.

Yes, many of the thematic elements are pretty tacked on, but if you can get past that and just look at the game as a big puzzle, then I think this can be a very enjoyable game. I’ve enjoyed both of my plays and I’m definitely looking forward to playing it with more than 2 players.
Next week I will look at 2 games that are certainly not newly published, but are new to me. Dominion and Arena: Roma II.

5 Comments to “New To Me Games (2/28/2011)”

  • Chris K. February 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    From what I’ve read of Castle Ravenloft, it seems like it might play a lot like regular Dungeons & Dragons with a lazy and unimaginative Dungeon Master. 4e is set up to make things fairly easy for lazy DMs – throw down a map, put some monsters on there, let the heroes duke it out – and it can get really old really fast when that is the case. Castle Ravenloft sounds as though it may have “lazy DM syndrome.” Then again, I haven’t played it, so I will reserve full judgment until then.

    I really want to play Luna. Almost bought it the other day.

  • ianoble February 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    “it seems like it might play a lot like regular Dungeons & Dragons with a lazy and unimaginative Dungeon Master”

    That’s probably a good way to put it. My friend, who owns the game, says that it’s like a full game of D&D in an hour and a half. So I guess they couldn’t make the system be too tough of a DM or know one would get anywhere or get to do anything cool.

    Luna is probably a try before buy for a lot of people, but I definitely recommend playing it if you can! I have a feeling some people (*cough* Scott Nicholson *cough*) will hate it and feel like they are doing random things in order to get a random amount of points. But I really enjoy the way it takes many mechanisms and incorporates them into one game. It’s just such a different type of game.

  • Chris K. February 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Haha, yeah, Scott didn’t really cotton to Luna. But his blog post was amusing, nonetheless. ;)

    I’m going to hold off and see if anyone has a copy I can try out at MACE West at the end of March.

  • tomg February 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I love Stefan Feld games. Macao is my number one. So I am interested in Luna. But I think I’ll take Chris’ track and wait until MACE. By the way, have you tried The Speicherstadt?
    Ravenloft – It looks cool but need to play it first.
    Go Forth And Game,

  • ianoble February 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I would like to learn The Speicherstadt since yucata.de has an online implementation.

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