When Heroscape came out from Wizards of the Coast I was livid. It was a board game that had fantasy elements and yet nothing in common with Dungeons & Dragons, and yet the Open Game License had been adopted by publishers everywhere to spread the D&D brand far and wide. It was like Hasbro thought the D&D license was good enough for everybody else but their own games. That all changed with 4th Edition. The Legend of Drizzt is the culmination of a synchronized brand strategy that’s been decades in the making.
Long before Drizzt Do’Urden was a duel-wielding archetype envied by every power gamer, I read his originating tale in the Icewind Dale trilogy – along with Bruenor Battlehamer, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar. That was twenty years ago. Now the guy who was originally conceived as a sidekick for Wulfgar has his own board game, The Legend of Drizzt. Drizzt, you’ve come a long way baby.
The first thing you notice about The Legend of Drizzt is the sheer size of the thing. The box is heavy and for good reason – it includes over 40 plastic figures, 13 heavy cardstock sheets of tiles and a bazillion cardboard accessories, 200 encounter and treasure cards, a rule book, a scenario book, and a 20-sided die.
Let’s start with the plastic figures. They’re unpainted but molded in a variety of colors that match their appearance – water elementals and ghosts are in blue transparent plastic, trolls and goblins are in green, heroes are in dark blue, villains in gray, drow elves in purple…you get the idea. Speaking of villains, Drizzt’s archenemy Artemis Entreri is here too in case you’re interested in playing an antihero. Up to five players select a placard representing their character that includes critical stats (HP, AC, Speed) along with power cards for that character’s class. There are at-will powers and encounter powers. Fans of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons will recognize how much the tabletop role-playing game has in common with the board game. Critics of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons will notice how easy it is to turn the tabletop role-playing game into a board game.
This isn’t really so much a game about Drizzt as it is a modular system that can accommodate any setting. Change the tiles around, switch out the characters and molded pieces, and the same game could easily take place in Castle Ravenloft or in a dragon’s lair, which is why the game is compatible with Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon. You could just as easily use the components to complement your own role-playing game.
And that’s the brilliance of The Legend of Drizzt. It takes the elements and branding of the role-playing game and takes it to its logical conclusion as a board game. The Legend of Drizzt is filled with dozens of fiddly bits, from stances to damage counters to healing surges to treasure chests. You can even level up from first- to second-level, which officially makes this the real “Basic Set” for converting gamers to the role-playing hobby.