I’ve tried a lot of D&D board games, from Betrayal At Baldur’s Gate to Dungeon Mayhem and even Dungeons & Dragons Trivial Pursuit. But Trials Of Tempus, the latest D&D game from Wizkids stands out as an odd duck for not just the license but for board games as a whole. It combines so many different mechanics together with the patented D&D dungeon crawl in a way I’d never have expected. Unlike fellow Wizkids title D&D Onslaught, which fits into the general “Skirmishing” genre of games like Unmatched, I can’t place Trials of Tempus. So let’s dig into the game itself and I’ll explain what I mean.
What’s In The Box?
- 9 Map Tiles
- 4 D20s
- 25 highly-detailed painted plastic miniatures
- 1 Rulebook
- 344 Cards
- 333 Tokens
So there are actually two editions of Trials of Tempus you can buy. There’s the base version and then the “Premium Edition,” which is the version I got sent. I would say that if you’re gonna invest in this game (which is $99 for even the base), I’d go for the Premium. I don’t necessarily think either price is well justified, but the minis being fully painted makes the game feel a lot better. They’re honestly at a higher quality paint-wise than most other Wizkids minis, though the adventurer-sized ones still have some issues getting the eyes right. The rest of it is fairly standard D&D board game aesthetic featuring a lot of good art and plenty of colors to help track things on the battlefield.
How’s It Play?
At first glance, I thought this was going to be a skirmishing type game akin to Unmatched or Horizon Zero Dawn, with players moving their pieces around a grid and using cards to perform actions. But Wizkids already has that going with the Onslaught game. While Trials of Tempus is a competitive game, it not only has a co-op element but ALSO an asymmetrical enemy element as well. See, players are divided into adventuring parties as you’d expect in a D&D adapation. But you’re not really trying to murder each other you’re instead fighting to gain victory points via loot and quests. It’s very on theme for the god of war to test groups of adventureres like this but it’s still funky. It also evokes the big climax of Honor Among Thieves, come to think of it.
Players “build” their character by selecting a Class, a subclass, and an individual character to control. Those choices build out your hero deck, the cards which determine your actions and abilities in the game. Interestingly, you “level up” in the game whenever you “cycle” your deck (you run out of cards). When you do, you get to upgrade attacks and choose a new deck from your discard pile. It’s a really neat mechanic and allows for that leveling up mechanic to work without getting overly complicated with things.
Each team gets a turn in initiative with the “AI” monsters and each turn you get two actions (alongside any free actions). These can be moves, regular actions, class-specific interactions, or action-enhancing “chain” cards. You can also enter combat. Combat in Trials of Tempus is a simple d20 roll, with set damage going against DR or other mechanics. It’s simplified but still retains some of the fun little strategic choices from the tabletop game, like inflicting ailments or using piercing damage to get through armor.
Victory points are usually earned by completing quests, which can be everything from regular “beat monsters” to more complex tasks like gathering herbs or even guiding an ogre around. Teams can naturally interfere with the other team’s quests. Loot is also a source of VP, gotten from camps, from chests and, of course, from beating up other players. Defeat loses you your loot and most of your deck, but it’s not permanent as you will eventually respawn. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the events that come into play each round, since they can alter things for better or worse depending on the “luck” of the draw.
This is a game 1000% for enthusiasts and die-hard D&D nerds. There’s some really elegant choices being made design-wise here and the combination of different game mechanics is really intriguing. But its held back by the fact that it needs to mirror D&D as much as possible AND the fact that it just costs so dang much! d20’s are a hard dice to balance for, in my opinion, and that swinginess can be rough in a board game setting. Hell, it can be rough on the tabletop too! And at $99 dollars it’s clearly meant to be more collectible than anything, which is a shame since I’d love to see these mechanics done in a more accessible way similar to Onslaught. I absolutely can recommend this to people who fit into that slice of D&D players and board game consumers, but I fear it won’t be able to get far from it’s niche.
Images via WizKids Games
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