If you have one of the infamous ‘wandering assassins’ in your party (known for trying to fight literally anything and everything), introduce them to D&D Onslaught. Distilling Dungeons and Dragons combat to crunchy brass thumbtacks, it’s all about beating each other’s snot out in exchange for shiny loot. Think Fight Club, but with swords and magic.
However, D&D Onslaught faces a very similar challenge to the adventurers in the pen-and-paper RPGs that inspired it. The world of war games is already overloaded, so what does this one do differently to help it stand out from all the other board games that occupy shelves right now?
For the people behind Onslaught, their secret sauce is a mix of two very specific things: flexibility and monsters. A lot of monsters
Although there are some exceptions, war games tend to have a learning curve. Warcry: Red Harvest needs a certain level of commitment from its players, for example: the rules offer a lot of depth, but can also be dense. D&D Onslaught aims to buck that trend. As a system based on one of the most popular and widespread tabletop RPGs, it’s eager to break down those barriers with a well-placed warhammer.
As a result, the elevator pitch is easy to digest. In Onslaught, you control one of two rival factions that raid a tomb in search of treasure and glory. Whoever accumulates the most victory points (earned by killing enemies and collecting loot) will win. It’s short, sweet, and focuses on glorious battle.
But there is a catch. You see, the loot you’re hunting isn’t just lying around. It is guarded by monsters that Really don’t take it well if you steal their valuables, and these non-playable creatures (controlled via preset actions that usually boil down to ‘hit the closest character really hard’) will do their best to cause a nuisance. Consequently, you will have to balance scrapping with the other player and keep hordes of snarling beasts at bay.
This in itself offers a one-two punch of staying true to the game’s inspiration – D&D’s monsters are some of the best in the business – while also helping Onslaught stand out. Even though the idea isn’t entirely new (The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms explores the same idea with its ‘Delve’ mode), it’s still pretty uncommon to feel fresh here. And from initial inspection, it also seems a bit more accessible.
This also applies to character cards. Simply put, these might be the best player aids I’ve seen in a wargame to date. Much like the health and magic trackers seen in fantasy favorite Gloomhaven, these are sturdy cardboard pieces that feature everything your character can do along with integrated dials to keep track of health cooldowns and ability. This immediately eliminates the need for numerous tokens littering your board, and also means you’re not juggling multiple sheets or army lists to see what your warriors are capable of. To be honest I wish I had some of these for my normal D&D games.
That’s because Onslaught’s mechanics are based on the system established in the Dungeons and Dragons books. Because the initiative (ie, turn order), terminology, and the number of actions you can take per turn are the same, D&D players will feel right at home here.
They can even use their own minis if they prefer. While D&D Onslaught is not model independent, its character cards feature vague silhouettes rather than detailed renderings to give you room for customization. And since it’s from the same people behind the WizKids thumbnails, there’s plenty to choose from. In fact, the team let me know during a video preview that a full list of suggested sub-in models is coming later.
Likewise, you’ll be able to use WizKids Warlock Tiles if you prefer to go with 3D terrain instead of the provided 2D maps…of which there are more programmed.
This is where things will get interesting for fans. WizKids has been very open about supporting the official game in the store and in tournaments, and the team behind Onslaught gave me a sneak peek of all the content that was brought to us, including the specific scenarios for the competitions, after the launch.
Because games like this can be an expensive investment, that dedication is a relief. This is not a “we’ll see how it goes” type of deal; the team is committed to supporting the game for the long term. While we’ll have to see how that works out, there’s at least some assurance that it won’t turn into a cool-looking paperweight in the coming months.
Soon? At first glance, the prospects for D&D Onslaught look good. I’ll be able to delve into its systems soon, but for now, it’s worth keeping an eye out for before it launches in January 2023.
Do you want to make your own minis? Be sure to check out the best 3d printers. As for more tabletop action, check out the top board games for adults and these board games for 2 players.