Temple of Elemental Evil board game

A brief review on this one: it’s not for me.

A slightly longer review: it’s a good game, well-constructed, and if you’re really into the combat side of D&D, you’ll love it. Production values are high, and the (co-op) game is not easy to win (this is a good thing). We played it four times over the weekend, and I had to threaten to gouge my eyes out with a spoon to get out of playing a fifth time (I was voted down, but it was a narrow vote; we played something else).

For me, though, the game takes everything I enjoy in D&D out of the game, leaving a stripped-down version of the combat system. It suffers from having not enough die-rolling, and from having very, very limited actions that a player can take. The die-rolling comes up because most turns, you’ll be lucky to roll one die once, and that leaves too much to randomness, which combines badly with the limited actions: if you have a run of, say, three or four bad rolls, you could be effectively useless for half an hour of play, and that’s not a lot of fun.

The distinctions between the classes are sanded off too, or some of them are. Wizard still gets really low hit points, and has precious little advantage gained by it; Rogue gets no bonus whatsoever to finding/disabling traps. Cleric will find they use Blessed Mace almost exclusively, with the occasional dip into a scarce healing power when things get hairy. But I didn’t feel different playing with the Wizard vs. the Cleric, except that I had a worse AC and fewer HP. I didn’t feel like, “I call down a lightning strike on the gnoll archer, avenging the death of my father with a blinding stroke!” so much as “I roll an 8, +7, that’s a 15 and a hit for one point.” For me, the theme has fallen so far off the original as to be only tangentially related to D&D. For those who remember this, it’s more like Chainmail than D&D.

The rulebook could be better written and organised, too; for example, nowhere does it specifically say “only place monsters on a new tile where there are monster icons requiring it”, but this does appear to be the implied rule.

It’s not a bad game, and for those who like the combat parts of D&D to the exclusion of all else, it’s a fun and challenging one. It’s just not in my wheelhouse, as it were.


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