Dungeons & Dragons: Adventure Begins
2 to 4 Players
Mechanics: Cooperative, Dungeon Crawler

How to play / win
You and your friends assemble characters, collect gold and items, and roll to defeat monsters. Work together to fight your way across four tiles and then defeat the Boss Monster at the end of the adventure to claim your victory! Players take turns as the Dungeon Master to read out the encounters and track the hit points of the enemy creatures.

Choose one of four characters and which one of the four adventures with a signature Boss Monster
More complex than Candyland but not by much

What I liked
This game was way more fun than it ought to be. Essentially, it’s move and roll high on your d20 to overcome obstacles. The fun came from the storytelling that came out of the backpacks, items, and even some of the descriptive encounters. Several of the encounters simply instruct the players to come up with an imaginative way to use an item from their backpack to overcome an obstacle. Whoever wrote the item cards had a sense of humour and there are a few puns sprinkled in as well.

“See, I’m going to use this crowbar and the ball of yarn to set up a trap against the fire beetle …”

The characters are similarly written with an emphasis on descriptive terms. There are four per character to choose from for the special ability and outlook.

Choose your character and their outlook and special ability –
Is your spellcaster a rational sage or a merciful healer?
Is your dwarf a daring gambler or a grumpy enforcer?
Your character, some assembly required as you customize your character

The monsters are icons pulled from classic D&D lore and their actions are resolved through a simple d20 roll against the player characters.

Your choice of an adventure built around a Fire Giant, a Beholder, a Kraken, or a Green Dragon
Each has its own special attack and over twice the hit points of any other monster in the game

Overall, the game is a quick D&D lite experience with a surprising amount of narrative freedom to describe the adventure. As an added bonus, the pieces are pretty sturdy and player friendly in layout.

With this I took issue …
The standard attacks of the characters are identical in effect and only differ in name. On one hand, it makes choosing your character and attacks really simple as they are all the same minor attack (roll 5+), bigger attack (12+), and descriptive attack (describe a thing and roll 11+, stun on 17+). There is some depth to the encounter decks for each Boss Monster, but overall the variety is limited.

If the dice hate you, some items can help you but there is only so much that they can do. At least as a cooperative game you have your fellow players to rely upon.

Other Similar Games
Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Board Games – a step towards a more involved game with no DM as the monsters having a clear tactic resolution for what actions they need to take.
Dungeon! – the original dungeon crawling game that was developed alongside the original D&D
Descent – a gorgeous game but a major investment in it and multiple expansions and even a 2nd edition with a single player taking on the role of a DM
Heroquest – recently a new Kickstarter edition has been released and for good reason, with quick adventures and campaigns and all kinds of figures and props and a reusable board

*Inspired by the excellent podcast, “Into the Meepleverse” and their discussion of gaming resolutions for the year, I decided to make some resolutions of my own including trying to play at least ten boardgames new to me for 2021.