Did you know that you can buy a cardboard box and instantly get an experience that is pretty darned close to Dungeons and Dragons? The Tomb of Annihilation Adventure System board game by Wizkids is a cooperative board game that allows you to play through scenarios without a dungeon master, yet give you a basic feeling of the pencil and paper tabletop roleplaying game.
To understand this, I need to explain the Adventure System that is used by the Tomb of Annihilation board game.
Review of the Tomb of Annihilation Board Game
The Adventure System allows 1-5 players (yes, you can play this board game solo) to cooperate to beat the bad guys the game throws at you. Each player uses one of the five included heroes and form an adventuring party. The adventure unfolds as the game directs you to lay down more and more cardboard tiles, some of which will trigger traps, uncover treasure, or even introduce a new monster.
It is themed around the Tomb of Annihilation adventure recently released for Dungeons and Dragons, which means jungles, Yuan-ti, zombies, velociraptors, and even the dread lich Acererak, the big bad from the classic Tomb of Horrors adventure.
Jungles and dungeons are represented with tiles that interlock and are dealt out based upon which of the 13 included adventures you play. Player powers and magical items are depicted on cards. The game includes tokens for traps, gold pieces, and more.
The game also includes sweet miniatures for the five heroes (ranger, wizard, druid, paladin, and bard) and for the monsters. Wizkids did its typical excellent job with the miniatures and the box includes a whopping 42 of them. There are two versions of the game: a less expensive version that comes with unpainted miniatures and a premium that comes with fully painted miniatures.
You win the particular scenario (again, there are 13 included in the box) by completing the objective of that particular adventure. For example, the introductory adventure is called Favor for Jessamine and calls for players to retrieve four poisonous mushrooms from the jungle.
As the campaign progresses, players level up (flip their player card to the other side) and the treasure deck and monster deck will go through game directed changes. By the time you’ve gotten to Adventure 9: Ras Nsi you’ll be ready to face a deadly Yaun-ti villain. It’s great fun and balanced extremely well.
Review of the Tomb of Annihilation Board Game
While too many board game rulebooks read like the Knollwoood Mall food court employee break room policy guide, the Adventure System rulebook is clear, concise, and excellently organized. It will get you playing quickly.
The Adventure System isn’t meant to 100% replicate D&D. But just because you don’t *see* Jimmy Dean grinding up animal lips, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some delicious sausage. Designer Kevin Wilson has done an amazing job of creating a means to enjoy the flavor of Tomb of Annihilation without any of the hard work that would normally befall a Dungeon Master.
Too many big games like Tomb of Annihilation feel unnecessarily like opening up a walnut. You spend all that time to get through a dense and inedible shell that by the time you find what you are looking for you’re like, “Huh. It’s a walnut.”
The Adventure System isn’t dense; you can jump right in. The basics are easily understood and provide a really solid and entertaining play experience. Then you’ll simply tweak around the edges as different scenarios unfold and more cards are introduced. I assure you, it’s an easy nut to crack and once you are inside, you’ll find it is way, way better than just a walnut. It’s a…uh, what’s way, way better than a walnut? IDK, just hop over to Facebook and let us know so we can make our social media engagement goals.
Jokes aside, Tomb of Annihilation is an easy and whole-hearted recommendation.
I sheepishly must admit that I hadn’t played the D&D Adventure System games that have gone before this one, though there are older ones that feature Drizzt, the hugely popular drow character, as well as one set in the world of Ravenloft. Having loved Tomb of Annihilation, I now plan to give the others a look.
The Tomb of Annihilation board game is excellently designed and the production quality is impeccable. It would make a perfect game for a group of friends who want a little D&D, yet don’t have someone who is willing to step up to become the dungeon master. It would also be an easy purchase for a solo player who doesn’t have a regular play group, but doesn’t want that to stop him from experiencing a little D&D.
It’s a great game.
[Disclosure: Wizkids provided Nerds on Earth a copy of the game for review.]