Playing Dungeons & Dragons Like Royalty!

Dungeons & Dragons (or any roleplaying game, for that matter) is about telling a story together. Many Dungeon Masters go above and beyond to immerse players in the roleplaying experience.

Some use miniatures or models atop battlemats to help players visualize the events that are taking place (especially combat). Others use music to set the tone, create atmosphere, or provide dramatic effect.

These little bits of set dressing can be simple or elaborate, but they all contribute to a better roleplaying experience.

Now imagine if you could turn the dial up to 11 and really immerse yourself in your setting. Say, by playing D&D in an actual castle.

That’s the idea behind D&D in a Castle, a special event being held in Challain-la-Potherie, France, from July 1st to the 5th.

Check out the sales pitch:

Spend four days playing Dungeons and Dragons in a castle with world class DMs in a vacation like none you have ever experienced. Retreat into a magnificently restored castle for a spot of luxury, relaxation, and, of course, role-playing.

Yup, a team of professional Dungeon Masters help attendees to build their characters and familiarize themselves with the game before they even walk through the door. And after that, there are two daily RPG sessions and optional ones in the evening.

Over the course of the five days, you are guaranteed to play at least 24 hours of Dungeons & Dragons.

Now THAT is immersion.

With names like Jeremy Crawford (the lead rules developer for D&D) and Satine Phoenix (actress, artist, and DM) involved, this is sure to be a massively creative event, and I am thoroughly envious of anyone and everyone attending.

This will certainly raise the bar for D&D night at the house afterward. Dimming the lights and putting on some mood music will pale in comparison to the palatial spread at Challain-la-Potherie.

Of course, if you’re looking for a more affordable option here in the US, I highly recommend Troll Haven in Sequim, Washington. The Gate Keeper’s Castle is absolutely awesome, and the perfect setting for a LARP, an escape room, or some immersive D&D.

Just be careful if you invite a rogue to the castle, folks. They have sticky fingers.


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Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Cash Money

Monopoly is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, no small accomplishment in the world of board games. Available in 43 languages and sold in 111 countries worldwide, the most ubiquitous board game in history is launching a few special promotions to commemorate their eight-decade anniversary.

In the US, they’ve released a special anniversary edition of the game, featuring game tokens representing different decades.

In France, however, the prize is a little bit sweeter.

You see, 80 special sets of the game will be distributed to stores, each with a special bonus: real money mixed in with the Monopoly money.

From an article in The Guardian:

Only one set will land the major jackpot, in which every game note is replaced by real money — for a total windfall of 20,580 euros ($23,268).

In addition, 10 sets will contain five real 20-euro notes, two 50-euro notes and one 100-euro note.

A lesser prize can be scooped in 69 sets, which will have five 10-euro notes and five 20-euro notes.

Evenly distributed among the many variations of the game currently available — junior and electronic editions included — the anniversary sets are out there right now, waiting to be claimed.

This follows in the fine tradition of other specialty Monopoly sets over the years, like the all-chocolate entirely edible version of Monopoly Neiman Marcus sold in the ’70s, or the $100,000 version produced for FAO Schwarz that included emeralds and sapphires embedded into the game board and real U.S. currency.

[Check out this solid gold edition of Monopoly!]

And you can’t help but wonder if other board games will follow suit for their big anniversaries. Imagine Mouse Trap with a real mouse, or Fireball Island with a real gemstone in the center. Heck, an anniversary edition of Hungry Hungry Hippos that includes a real hippo would certainly make for some great press!

As long as nobody tries to release copies of Pandemic with an actual virus, we should be good.

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PuzzleNation Product Reviews: Veritas

Here at PuzzleNation Blog, we’re constantly on the lookout for any and all things puzzly, happy to spread the word on anything that will appeal to puzzle solvers.

And we think Cheapass Games’ board game Veritas fits the bill nicely.

Veritas is a strategy game in the same vein as Risk and other map-based board games, but with a much quicker pace and a delightfully wicked sense of humor.

The game is set in France during the Dark Ages, and each player represents some version of the Truth, printed in a few books at a random monastery. As you make more copies of the Truth and spread the word to other monasteries and cities, your fellow players are doing the same with their own versions of the Truth, as each of you tries to become the prevailing Truth in the country.

Sounds like a pretty straightforward strategy game, right? But that’s where the element of luck comes in.

Every round, each player pulls from a set of tiles, each tile representing a monastery that will burn down that turn. As monasteries burn, the books they contain are scattered, and the map becomes a little smaller, a little more claustrophobic, and one player’s Truth begins supplanting that of others.

Veritas is a marvelous mix of chance and skill, encouraging both short-term and long-term strategizing (skills that puzzle solvers and puzzle gamers have in spades).

The element of randomness is key in separating Veritas from games with similar territorial stakes. There’s a fun element of the unknown as you pick your tile, and since books are scattered instead of destroyed, there’s significantly less chance of hard feelings when one player burns down another player’s monastery.

(Plus it’s always fun to explain to coworkers in the lunchroom what you’re doing. “Burning down French monasteries” is never the answer they expect. *laughs*)

(Confession: We were so involved in the gameplay that I forgot to take pictures of the board. Please enjoy this dramatic recreation.)

The Cheapass Games rationale is simple, but elegant. They know you’ve got board games at home, so why jack up the price of their games by making you buy another set of dice, another set of chips, another set of tokens and supplemental pieces?

Cheapass Games arrive in a slim white box — as our complimentary review copy did — containing exactly what you need to play the game, and describing precisely what you’ll need from other games to play.

In the case of Veritas, you receive the game board (split into 8 well-rendered cards), the monastery tiles (for randomized burning), and instructions. Simple and elegant. All you need are chips to represent books filled with your truth.

Dime-sized ones will work best, especially since they need to be stackable. Monasteries in key positions can start to resemble miniature games of Jenga, as opposing players keep adding to the stack.

We used Rolco plastic chips in our playtesting, but they didn’t stack particularly well. (The game’s designers highly recommend using smaller poker chips like the ones featured here, since they’re designed to be stacked and won’t take up too much space on the game board.)

The game’s setup is a snap, though you’ll want to give the instructions a thorough read before starting, since the multiple actions available to players on a given turn can take a minute or two to suss out completely. (Any rules we were fuzzy on became instantly clear after a round or two of play.)

Veritas is a terrific strategy game that will appeal to plenty of puzzle solvers and gamers of all ages, continuing the Cheapass Games tradition of clever games with their signature sense of humor.

After all, what’s a little monastery burning between friends? =)

[You can find more information on Veritas (or pick up a copy of your own) by clicking here.]

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