The new Dungeons & Dragons “battle game” announced on Thursday during D&D Direct is a full-fledged board game, says Wizards of the Coast, and will include plastic miniatures. Titled Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn, the board game will function as a standalone experience. But it is also fully integrated into the companion tabletop RPG campaign, titled Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen. The designers on this project? None other than Stephen Baker and Rob Daviau. I can’t imagine a better pair to team up on this project.
Also announced on Thursday was a reboot of the Spelljammer setting, but Wizards says these new Dragonlance products will have a very different tone and feel.
“We zero in on this notion that Dragonlance is a war story,” said Ray Winninger, head of D&D at Wizards. “Classic Dragonlance is set against the backdrop of this massive conflict, and these sort of massive military battles are an important part of Dragonlance. One of the original 12 Dragonlance modules [published by TSR] was a wargame [called Dragons of Glory]. They asked you to stop your role-playing game experience and start playing a wargame for a bit.”
In the spirit of that, at the same time we are releasing Shadow of the Dragon Queen, which is the role-playing experience, we are releasing this battle game. [It] allows you to play out sort of massive military battles in the world of Krynn. But one of the interesting things about that game is that it has a lot of narrative elements, just like a role-playing game. It’s a board game, but you’re asked to narrate what’s happening and whatnot. If you choose, while you’re playing the role-playing campaign when major sort of battles break out in the story you can break out the board game and start playing the board game. Your characters from the RPG import into the board game. You keep playing your characters in the board game, and you can learn what amazing, incredible, heroic things they do in these battles. But that experience is entirely optional.
When playing the tabletop RPG, the board game will be entirely optional Winninger added, since the campaign book will include rules for resolving those same battles. Vice versa, players can pick up the board game without diving into the larger role-playing experience. But this is the first time that Wizards is directly integrating its 5th edition TTRPG products and its board game products in this very specific way.
So why are Baker and Daviau the perfect designers for this project? Well, both have had a lot of experience working in the genre of wargames. They share excellent design credits on the Risk franchise, for instance. Baker, on the other hand, is the designer behind Battle Masters, a sprawling tabletop wargame using 28 mm miniatures and a massive plastic playmat. Daviau of course is the creator of the legacy system, which creates board games that change every time you play them.
But Daviau is also one of the co-founders of Restoration Games, a company that specializes in resurrecting older games and giving them new life. Expect him to go back to the original source material to bring forward as much of that excellent TSR design work as possible.
But why didn’t Hasbro just task its hobby board games division, Avalon Hill, with that project?
“Avalon Hill was in-house with Wizards of the Coast [...] until very recently,” said Winninger. Recently, however, that studio spun up its own dedicated design and production team outside of the Wizards organization. That team has been busy bringing the reboot of HeroQuest to life, and on a spiritual successor to the original Risk Legacy. That left Wizards in need of some outside help.
“Avalon Hill and Hasbro were not really involved in the creation of the board game,” Winninger continued. “We in the D&D studio oversaw the creation of it, but that said the designers of the board game Rob Daviau and Stephen Baker are very well-known board game designers, [they] have worked on a lot of games for Hasbro — most recently, [Return to Dark Tower] was one of their efforts.”
Both Shadow of the Dragon Queen and the Warriors of Krynn board game represent a “whole new story” Winninger said. Also, the events portrayed in both products do take place around the same time as the original Dragonlance novels, a beloved and best-selling series by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. He also added that neither Laura or Tracy Hickman, the creators of the Dragonlance setting, or their collaborator Weis were directly involved in any of the products mentioned on Thursday.
A new series of novels, likewise written by Tracy Hickman and Weis, comes out this August and will carry the Dragonlance timeline into the future.