A Solo Dash through Castle Ravenloft

One of the main reasons that I picked up Castle Ravenloft was for its potential as a relatively light, dungeon-crawly solitaire game.  Over the weekend, I made my first solo attempt at the game using the “Escape the Tomb” scenario.  I looked through all the characters, and decided that I’d try out the Ranger because of her versatility and balance between ranged and close-combat attacks. 

As I mentioned last week, I went through all my pre-painted D&D Minis collection and found both direct and thematically related replacements for all the minis included in the game, so be aware that what you see in the picures below is not what you get in the box.

How it Played Out

I began on the Strahd’s Crypt tile (since he had apparently abducted me and done thoroughly inappropriate things to me on the previous evening), and had to find the Secret Staircase (placed semi-randomly down in the stack of tiles) before I died either to wandering monsters or to Strahd himself, who might wake up at some point during the game.  Thankfully, I found that I had an amulet that increased the effectiveness of my armor, which proved to be very valuable throughout my adventure. 

Almost immediately, I discovered a zombie as I started my exploration, and the walls in the crypt began closing in on me.  The wandering undead was no match for me, however, and his mate further down the corridor proved to be no more of a challenge.  After rounding the next corner, I found myself surrounded by slightly more living opponents: namely a swarm of rats and a wolf.  It also seemed like every other step that I took revealed another trap that I had to evade.

But I knew that the only path to freedom was finding that blasted staircase, so I continued to press on, running then into a Wraith and setting off an alarm that summoned a Ghoul.  These new undead threats seemed to pose far more of a danger to me, however, so I thought it best to fall back and try to use my ranged attacks on them.  Despite tripping over a Fire Trap, however, I was able to keep my distance and pick them off without taking too much damage.  

In trying to avoid the Alarm and other monsters that it might summon, I continued down a different hallway and eventually ran into another set of undead beasts, this time including a Blazing Skeleton.  But I was light on my feet and sure with my weapons, so the monsters fell one after another without causing much harm to me at all.  And then in the next two tiles, I discovered the secret staircase.  A giant spider and an Elemental Gargoyle tried to stand in my way, but I swept them aside with ease and found freedom while the sun still hung firmly in the sky.    

What I Think…

First of all, this is not intended to be a review.  It’s just a session report of my first solo play of the game, and it was using the “introductory” solitaire adventure, which is intentionally “basic” in its complexity.

Compared to my first play, this session went very smoothly.  After looking around on BGG for rules clarifications, most all of my questions were answered, and I pretty much had the turn sequence figured out.  And overall, I enjoyed this session, even if it did seem a little bland or (at times) boring.  

I was never really challenged in the game.  I never used a healing surge, never felt like I was in real danger of losing, and Strahd never even woke up!    Partly, it was due to my initial treasure pull being something that increased my AC, especially when I was able to level up later on and make it even higher.  And while the game’s not overly tactical, I think that I did play a rather solid game in that regard, so I did feel that my choices also had a decent effect on how well it went.  

The thing that I was most disappointed in was that the Sun never set and Strahd never woke up.  The movie I saw in my head as I set up the scenario was that the game would end with me fending him off for the last turn or two as I struggled to reveal the staircase and escape into freedom by the skin of my teeth.  But moving the Sun token down the time track only happened when I revealed a tile with a white triange, and I just happened to those with black triangles (and therefore, the need to draw encounter cards) far more often.  So Count Strahd was still all warm and cozy in his coffin as I walked out into the sunlight.

I also thought that the nature of the player turn and exploration made it a little hard to vary your tactics very much at all.  In order to find new areas, you had to reveal new tiles.  And even with the Ranger’s scouting ability, she’s still “within 1 tile” of the newly revealed monster, who can usually run on up and take a swing at her.  I did have the option of running away after that point each turn and shooting from a distance, but that would usually mean that I wouldn’t be revealing new territory and that I’d have to draw another Encounter card.  So, with the limited tactical choices, it probably would have been better to play one of the more “tanky” characters, such as the Dragonborn Fighter or the Dwarf Cleric.

Still, though, I had fun.  And more than anything else, I’m looking forward to trying out some more advanced and complex solo scenarios, or possibly even playing multiple characters in some of the multiplayer scenarios as well.   

Strahd woke up grumpy, since his evening snack had apparently seen fit to escape…