Temple of Elemental Evil Boardgame: By the Numbers

ToEE is a bit harder to quantify than the previous D&D boardgames, due to the built-in campaign mechanics. Cards are taken out of and added to the deck over time, and characters accumulate gold, which basically serves as xp to buy level up and bonuses. A number of mechanics that were present in previous sets are simply absent, and others work rather differently (such as trap tiles). ToEE also has the Town adventures, which use a pregenerated map and often have different rules for some of the cards.

Since which cards are added to the deck vary based on one’s performance, each group’s encounter deck will look different at the end of the game, and not every treasure or event may even get seen. Thus, it’s essential look at the cards both by the ‘basic’ versions, and the ‘advanced’ cards that can be added.

Basic Encounter Deck (30 Cards)

Events: 22 (73%)

Attack Events: 8 (27%)

Advanced Encounter Cards (15 Cards)

Events: 8 (53%)

Attack Events: 7 (47%)

Aggregate Deck (45 Cards)

Events: 30 (67%)

Attack Events: 15 (33%)

Entirely missing are Trap cards, Environments, or Curses.

This is three more Cards than Legend of Drizzt, but all 45 cards are unlikely to be in the deck, so it continues the trend of smaller Encounter Decks.

Out of the Attack Events, 7 attack the active hero, 3 attack all hero’s on the active player’s tile, and a whopping 5 attack everyone (I count the especially nasty Acid Fog here- it attacks everyone who has a treasure, and they must discard a treasure card, hit or miss.) 7 of the cards only do damage; 8 of them have other effects, but are fairly uninteresting. The aforementioned Acid Fog strips treasures, along with Invisible Stalker attack, but Magnetic Rocks allows one to lose gold instead. None of these require a hit. Frightful Presence inflicts Disadvantage (and 4 damage!) on a hit, Choking Ash activates a monster, and Distant Shot adds a new one. The most interesting are probably Whirlpools and Avalanche, which move heroes around in different ways.

Out of the events, 6 summon or activate monsters, 15 straight up deal damage (including 4 copies of Rage of Imix, which puts down lingering tokens. Included in that is two copies of Dark Gift and the advanced card Dark Temptation, which allow you to take damage, or have another player take more damage and you get a Treasure. There are also two positive cards, Appease Ghosts and Treasure Cache, which force another draw. Also in the stack is 2 cards to steal your magic items, and 3 to steal your gold.

Treasures

Basic Treasure Cards: (30 Cards)

10 Treasures (9 Consumable) (33%)

16 Gold (53%)

4 Fortunes (13%)

Advanced Treasure Cards (15 Cards)

9 Treasures (5 Consumable) (60%)

6 Gold (40%)

Aggregate: 45 Cards

19 Treasures (14 Consumable) (42%)

22 Gold (49%)

4 Fortune (9%)

Note that “Consumable” includes cards that say “Flip Over After Use;” these stay with the character from adventure to adventure, but normally can only be used once in a given adventure. The only basic non-consumable item is the Claws of the Umber Hulk.

The quantity of gold is so high that flipping a treasure card is about 50% likely to not impact the immediate gamestate. This actually increases as play goes forward, because treasure cards get pulled out and set aside, starting the game in the hero’s possession.

Also, some of these cards are completely bananas, like the Wings of Flying which cause you to ignore traps, or the Potion of Haste that gives two extra actions. Others are appreciated but underwhelming. The treasure deck is easily the most underwhelming part of the set.

Monsters:

Basic Monster Cards:

3x Air Cultist (ranged, debuff, 1 xp)

3x Doppelganger (melee, spawn effect, 1 xp)

3x Fire Bat (melee, 1 xp)

3x Troglodyte (melee, debuff, 1 xp)

3x Fire Cultist (melee, death explosion, 2 xp)

3x Gnoll Archer (ranged, 2 xp)

3x Hobgoblin Fighter (melee, aoe, 2 xp)

3x Water Cultist (melee, movement, 2 xp)

3x Earth Cultist (melee, 3 xp)

3x Bugbear (melee, 3 xp)

30 cards, 10 different monsters, 1.8 xp average

Advanced Monster Cards:

3x Empowered Air Cultist (ranged, debuff, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Fire Cultist (melee, death explosion, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Earth Cultist (melee, 4 xp)

3x Empowered Water Cultist (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Air Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Earth Elemental (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Fire Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Water Elemental (ranged aoe, 4 xp)

16 cards, 8 different monsters

Fully Upgraded Monster Deck:

3x Doppelganger (melee, spawn effect, 1 xp)

3x Fire Bat (melee, 1 xp)

3x Troglodyte (melee, debuff, 1 xp)

3x Gnoll Archer (ranged, 2 xp)

3x Hobgoblin Fighter (melee, aoe, 2 xp)

3x Bugbear (melee, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Air Cultist (ranged, debuff, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Fire Cultist (melee, death explosion, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Earth Cultist (melee, 4 xp)

3x Empowered Water Cultist (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Air Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Earth Elemental (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Fire Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Water Elemental (ranged aoe, 4 xp)

34 cards, 14 different monsters, 2.6 xp average.

1.8 xp average is par for the course, however the monsters seem to be weaker compared to other sets, making the basic deck mostly a pushover. With a fully upgraded deck, the xp value soars to 2.6, however with a couple of exceptions (the Water Elemental), there aren’t many area of effect attacks. The upgraded Cultists are tougher and do 2 damage instead of 1, but they are much less nasty compared to some of the previous 3 xp creatures. The extra xp does help against the generally nastier event cards.

Bosses:

ToEE features 8 boss monsters, the same as Ravenloft, and 1 more than Ashardalon or Drizzt (which have double-sided bosses). Four of those are Elementals, which mean they are mutually exclusive with the Elemental monster cards (the monster card can be unlocked after defeating the boss.)

My experience playing the set was that the bosses were fairly weak- but this is because the heroes get so many upgrades.

Of the Elementals, the strongest and most interesting is probably the Water Elemental, which always has an AoE attack, and the Fire Elemental which changes its behavior when under 6 hp.

Swerglemergle the Ettin has a fun name, but ends up just being a bag of hit points with a club and a really big rock. Arkashic Thunn the Salamander can spawn new monsters or activate ones in play, which is interesting.

Velathidros the Black Dragon deserves the most attention. It has two versions, one for a town encounter, but there’s really no reason it can’t be used that way in a dungeon. It features a flying mini on an elevated base, which is incredibly impractical- mine kept falling out of the base, and one of the wings fell off. We ended up just using the stand.

The weaker town version tends to hit and run, and the stronger dungeon version has some truly frightening massive damage attacks. These are certainly bosses worth fighting, though probably with a different mini (maybe Shimmergloom from Drizzt, or even the Asharalon mini).

One way to judge the difficulty of a boss is how hard it is to kill. An easy way to eyeball this is its AC times its hit points. I call this its Defense Factor (DF).

Here’s the Dfs for the ToEE bosses:

Air Elemental: 100

Earth Elemental: 150

Fire Elemental: 140

Water Elemental: 154

Arkashic Thunn, Salamander: 130

Swerglemergle, Ettin: 150

Velathidros, Village: 196

Velathidros, Dungeon: 224

The average DF is 155.5. If we look at just the non-dragon bosses, it’s 137.33

For reference, the DF ratings of the other sets are (everything/only non-ubers):

Ravenloft: 156.75/123.33 (Ravenloft features the two weakest and the two strongest bosses, the highest hit point variance of any set)

Ashardalon: 135.8/121.2

Drizzt: 142.85/124.8

…which basically shows that the bosses are actually fairly high, in terms of hit points.  The problem is that their abilities are typically underwhelming, and the players receive stat increases.

Tiles:

The Tiles are where the set is the most interesting. Like Drizzt, the set has tiles that are more mechanically diverse. This set has tiles with no monsters, tiles with multiple monsters, and tiles with built in trap tokens. There aren’t any tiles with printed on game effects, but the tiles play radically different from one another.

There are 32 tiles, same as in Drizzt. As in Drizzt, they are split evenly between White and Black tiles.

White Tiles:

No monsters, traps, x4 (25%)

One Monster, plus traps, x2 (13%)

One monster, no traps, x1 (6%)

Two monsters, no traps, x7 (44%)

Three monsters, no traps, x2 (13%)

Black Tiles:

No monsters, traps, x7 (44%)

One monster, plus traps, x1 (6%)

One monster, no traps, x7 (44%)

Two monsters, no traps, x1 (6%)

Notably, if you get an encounter card, you’re going to get fewer monsters. On average though, it balances out: 1.03 monsters per tile.

Nine of the tiles are Named Locations: The four elemental Altars, the Oubliette, the Guard Room, the Pool of Olhydra, the Furnace Room, and the Massacre Site. Mildly interesting: they all have white arrows.

Tile Orientation:

4 Left Turns (12%)

4 Right Turns (12%)

6 Straight Paths (19%)

4 T-Junction (12%)

4 Left T-Junction (12%)

4 Right T-Junction (12%)

6 4-Way (19%)

Average Exits/Tile: 1.75. (Compared to Ravenloft’s 1.78, Drizzt’s 1.72, and the claustrophobic Ashardalon’s 1.67, many of which are behind possibly trapped doors). In terms of exploration, I never felt trapped.

The Heroes:

ToEE has 5 heroes, the same as Ravenloft and Ashardalon (Drizzt had 8, and they’re all funky.)

Alaeros has the best Fighter stat block so far- speed of 6 rather than Arjhan or Vistra’s 5, and the full 10 hit points. All of the Fighters get one or two fixed powers; Alaeros’s is an at-will.

Barrowin, the Cleric, has the same stat block as the other Clerics. All of the Clerics get a fixed at will and a choice of other powers.

Nymestra the Wizard has the same stat block as the other wizards. Her fixed power is the at-will Shocking Grasp.

Talon, the Ranger, is the same as Alissa, and 1 slower than Drizzt. Both Talon and Drizzt get a 2nd utility power, but are limited in their choice of at-wills. (I throw Cattie-Brie the Archer in with the rangers; she has a weaker stat block, and fixed at-wills.) Alissa, from the core set, is the only character to get only 4 powers.

Ratshadow the Rogue has the weakest stat block of any of the rogues- 14 AC, 8 HP, speed 5, compared to Regis or Tarak, who have AC 15, HP 10, Speed 6. (Kat, from the core set, has 14/8/6). However, it has probably two of the best abilities: first off it gets a free non-attack action each round, which can be used to use the Reliable Talent power, which either automatically disarms a trap or grants advantage to a roll. Compare to Kat, who gets +5 to trap disarm rolls. Granted, Traps in Ravenloft and ToEE work very differently, but the two powers are simply not compatible.

Looking at the power cards themselves, the Cleric’s powers seem just slightly weaker, though Warhammer itself isn’t bad.

For the Fighter, Battleaxe is pretty weak- the Fighter has plenty of at-wills that hit at +8 instead of +6, and Sure Strike is likewise better than Dagger. The utilities are all pretty good- some of the stances from Drizzt are a bit better, but simplicity has its upsides too. All the Dailies are generally worthwhile.

For the Wizard, Shocking Grasp isn’t bad, but Ravenloft’s Thunderwave is probably better most of the time, and it’s much better than Poison Spray. Disintegrate is a pure DPS power that lots of Wizards will probably want.

For the Ranger, Longbow is a straight +2 to hit vs. Cattie-Brie’s Taulmaril, and Scimitars is rather better than her Khazid’hea. (Cattie-Brie is terrible for a number of reasons.) Natural Explorer is quite strong- disarming a trap or giving an extra move. There are a number of daily powers that are straight up better than Cattie-Brie’s stuff: Volley is strictly better than Clustered Shot, and Colossus Slayer is strictly better than Point Blank shot AND Head Shot.

Lastly, for the Rogue, Reliable Talent is just really, really good-too good, since it does not expend itself. Ratshadow’s Shortsword and Shortbow are both pretty terrible, compared to other Rogue at-wills. Sneaky is far worse than Stealth (passing a monster on, rather than discarding it), and Use Magic Device is terrible, throwing away a treasure to do a damage to someone else. Other than Deadly Assault, her Daily’s are pretty bad too. In a vacuum, Ratshadow is probably balanced against the other Rogues, but if the cards are mixed together, most of her cards are not worth taking.

Conclusion

Most of the components, taken individually, are pretty bland.  What makes the box work is the campaign mechanics, but if your group is like mine, we blew through the last few scenarios without spending a single healing surge.  Some mechanics of interest are developed- I quite like the trap tiles, even though it’s such a departure I won’t be able to use them in the gestalt set.  The highest impact cards are some of the treasures, the Dragon boss.  Getting a new Ranger, Cleric, and Wizard is also nice for variety.  When I update the Gestalt set, there will be less elements (pun not intended) from this set than other sets, but that’s okay.  It works as a coherent whole.

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2 thoughts on “Temple of Elemental Evil Boardgame: By the Numbers

  1. SabreCat says:

    Cool analysis! I would never have thought of counting exits/tile to get a sense of how restrictive the layouts might feel, that’s clever.

    Were the trap tokens a substantial gameplay factor earlier in the campaign? Having only played the last few scenarios, where the characters were able to completely trivialize them, I feel like I didn’t get a good sense of how they were supposed to work.

    The bosses are pretty brutal without kitted-out characters, then a joke with. I guess the D&D board games have the same issue that D&D4 itself did, where the difficulty curve just can’t keep up with players’ escalating abilities!

    Looking forward to seeing what you do to incorporate this into the big dungeon box!

  2. Willow says:

    If you don’t have the Rogue in your party, the traps can be pretty brutal- you can either step on them or suck it up, or use an action and have a 45% chance of it hitting you anyway. They are definitely much more of an issue if you have a smaller party and no one takes the rogue.

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