…The Return of the Red Box!
Is the D&D Starter Set a true return to the Red Box of old? Well, more on that at the end of the review. First, the disclaimer.
I still don’t like 4E. I’ve tried. I’ve tried a lot. I can see the appeal. Shoot, I even had fun on the Dark Sun game day. But I still just can’t fully grok 4th Edition. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with the mechanics of 4E. The game flows. Combat is relatively streamlined. Skill checks leave me wanting, but I am the first to admit that it’s a personal choice. (Hell, I’m someone that liked Secondary Skills – At least I’m up front about it).
With all that in mind, I like what Wizards of the Coast is going for with the new Starter Set.
Clocking in at $20.00, this is an introduction set in the truest sense of the word. If you’ve never played D&D and have always been curious or, (as I believe the intended audience) have a kid that wants to know more; but you can’t justify the $90 for a full Core Rules books, this is the purchase for you. The Starter Set includes everything a completely new player needs to enjoy their first game. Short Players Guide, short Dungeon Masters Guide, character sheets, PC and Monster tokens, Battle mat, and dice. It even has rules for a solo adventure, so you can test out the game without a DMs involvement. (Though to really experience the game, you need a DM. Still, glad WotC included the solo).
The game mechanics have been streamlined a little more from the standard 4E rules. Combat and skill checks are extremely basic. PC characters are limited to the classic Fighter, Wizard, Rouge, and Cleric. Races, again are limited to the fantasy baseline of Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling. In that respect, the new Starter Set feels akin to the old school D&D of the 1970s and 80s. Character creation is simple, though the younger gamers may find the process a little boring. It may not be a bad idea to make some ahead of time and let kids pick their favorite if you want to get them right into the thick of play.
I know I keep referencing small kids in this review. Intentional or not, the new Starter Set feels like an ages 10 and under introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. This isn’t a bad thing. If you have a kid that likes fantasy and expressed an interest in games, (and you don’t want them on a PC or console all the time) you could do a lot worse than the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. The rules are simple, while not being boring. The Starter Set will take a fresh group of players and DM up through 2nd level, by then you will know if the game is for you or not. (And, whether or not you’re ready to make that $90 commitment). The graphic presentation is strong, this is one gorgeous box set. There are only a couple of rule typos – like failing to mention how Magic Missile no longer targets multiple creatures. However, these are minor complaints about a box set that really does deliver on it’s promise:
Your First Step on the Road to Adventure.
Wizards of the Coast is never going to sway the old fuddy like me. They will never get me to like 4th Edition. I can play it with friends, but I’ll never shake that nagging feeling in the back of my fanboy head. “This isn’t MY D&D”.
But, if I wanted to get new players into the hobby. Players that never once picked up a set of poly dice. The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set is the way to go.
So yea, this is the Return of the Red Box!