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Why the New D&D Board Game is a Big Deal

Hasbro’s recent announcement of new D&D board game is welcome but not necessarily new—Wizards of the Coast has published several D&D-themed board games in the past. What is new is that the product is listed under Hasbro Games rather than Wizards, which might be indicative of the parent company finally putting its muscle behind the tabletop role-playing game.

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D&D’s Always Been a Board Game

Dungeons & Dragons’ roots originated with tabletop play, albeit not on a board but rather a sand table with the first iteration of Chainmail. The game that inspired D&D, a freewheeling Braunstein campaign that featured a dungeon crawl, also inspired Dave Megarry DUNGEON! board game.

TSR dabbled with a variety of crossover formats for the tabletop game, returning to the concept of a “game in a box” again and again as a means of getting the game on toy store shelves and making it more accessible to new and younger players.

Since then, Wizards of the Coast has flirted with a similar approach to introducing the game to a new audience. Wizards used the same molds for its miniature games, repurposing them for the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System series with the launch of Castle Ravenloft back in 2010. WOTC even produced Dungeons & Dragons: The Fantasy Adventure Board Game … distributed to the European market only.

One thing all these games had in common? They didn’t use the D&D rules!

But Not Recently

Although DUNGEON! is much venerated as the premiere dungeon crawl board game, the most popular is HeroQuest. Created by Milton Bradley in conjunction with Games Workshop, it was in print until 1997. A worthy successor, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, from Fantasy Flight Games followed in 2005. And yet, although all three of these games feature dungeon-crawling adventures, they are not actual D&D.

Hasbro has been willing to license the D&D brand to many of its longstanding game staples, like Clue. And Wizards of the Coast has produced other board games set in D&D settings, like the Euro-style Lords of Waterdeep. But the last proper game in a box using D&D miniatures and rules was back in 2004 with the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game, produced by Wizards of the Coast.

Like the invisible wall that Wizards of the Coast built between Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, there seems to be something preventing divisions within the company from cross-pollinating. With the arrival of new CEO Chris Cocks, those obstacles were removed, which is why D&D now has several Magic: The Gathering/D&D crossover supplements. With this new board game, we may see history repeating itself.

What’s Different This Time

What makes this new version of the D&D board game unique? For one, it’s a D&D starter set using the full production values of Hasbro’s board game division. A quick glance of its listing on Amazon confirms that the game is being produced by Hasbro Games, not Wizards of the Coast. Moreover, it’s listed as available on Hasbro Pulse. What’s Hasbro Pulse?

Hasbro Pulse is a place where fans come first. As fans ourselves, we have an idea of what you – our fans – want. Hasbro Pulse is where you’ll find some of the best product offerings and experiences from the brands you love, a glimpse at more behind-the-scenes material and insider details that you can’t get anywhere else. We made Hasbro Pulse with you, the fans, in mind. We hope you’ll make it your first stop when you’re looking for insider info about your favorite Hasbro brands.

Given that Dungeons & Dragons is a brand powerful enough to launch a battle over the film rights, you’d think that there would be several D&D products on Hasbro Pulse. But as of today, the only product that is listed under the D&D brand is this new board game. Not even the My Little Pony/D&D crossover figures are listed under D&D!

In short, something changed, and from the looks of it, Hasbro is finally embracing D&D as a brand worthy of the parent company’s publishing muscle. Here’s hoping the board game is just the beginning.
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

My experience of 4E as RPG and the Adventure system board games is that they are identical, though the Adventure system streamlines the experience slightly.

Yeah, soon after adopting 4th Ed (dropped later), I played that Ravenloft game and thought:

"Why is 4th Ed not this? No real need for a DM, might as well commit to making a full fledged dungeon-crawl boardgame."

I love dungeon-crawl boardgames.
 

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Dausuul

Legend
I don't know who was running 4E for you, but it's very different IME. You don't have randomly spawning monsters every turn. You don't have traps that keep resetting after every action. You gain levels, get treasure, gain controller and AoE powers, you get flanking (positioning matters), you can perform combat manuevers, you can do skill tests, a DM controls the action, etc.
Agreed. 4E and the board games used similar combat mechanics (streamlined in the board game, of course), but there's a lot more to D&D - even 4E - than combat mechanics.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I think the difference is that we're no the target audience, therefore it won't show up on our radar. This is going to be marketed to kids and teenagers as a game, rather than as an RPG. Since we play the RPG, the game is likely to feel like a watered down version. However, because it actually uses the 5E rules, it can work as a gateway for the players to look into the RPG. If I got it, it would be primarily to play with boardgamers as a way of introducing them to 5E D&D.

I still would expect some level of marketing or ads. And I haven't really seen any, and I have kids. You don't create a product and spend time and energy on it just to not promote it at all.
 


This year has been a weird one for retailers. This was likely in production pre-pandemic and now they're trying to figure out how to promote it, with brick and mortar retail in big trouble and online sales -- where it has to compete with essentially infinite competition on Amazon and the like -- where it's at now.
 

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