If you have one of the infamous 'murderhobos' in your party (known for trying to fight literally everything and anything), introduce them to D&D Onslaught. Distilling the combat of Dungeons and Dragons to crunchy brass tacks, it's about beating the snot out of each other in exchange for shiny loot. Think Fight Club, but with swords and magic.
However, D&D Onslaught faces a gauntlet much like adventurers in the pen-and-paper RPGs that inspired it. The world of wargaming is already over-stuffed, so what does this one do differently to help it stand out from all the other board games weighing down shelves right now?
For the folks behind Onslaught, its secret sauce is a blend of two very specific things - flexibility and monsters. Lots of monsters.
Although there are a few exceptions, wargames tend to have a learning curve. Warcry: Red Harvest needs a certain level of commitment from its players, for example - the rules offer plenty of depth, but they 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 around, it's keen to smash down those barriers with a well-placed warhammer.
The elevator pitch is easy to digest as a result. In Onslaught, you control one of two rival factions raiding a tomb for treasure and glory. Whoever racks up the most victory points (earned through slaying foes and gathering loot) will win. It's short, sweet, and focused on glorious battle.
But there's a catch. You see, the loot you're hunting down isn't just lying around. It's guarded by monsters that really don't take kindly to you filching their valuables, and these non-playable creatures (which are controlled through preset actions that usually boil down to 'smack the nearest character very hard') will do their best to cause a nuisance. Accordingly, you'll have to balance scrapping with the other player and holding off hordes of gribbly beasts.
This in itself delivers a one-two punch of being true to the game's inspiration - D&D's monsters are some of the best in the business - whilst also helping Onslaught stand out. Despite the idea not being entirely new (The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms explores the same idea with its 'Delve' mode), it's still uncommon enough to feel fresh here. And from initial inspection, it seems a bit more accessible too.
This is also true of the character cards. Simply put, these might be the best player aids I've seen from 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 alongside built-in dials for keeping track of health and ability cooldowns. This immediately removes the need for numerous tokens littering your board, and it also means you're not juggling various 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.
Roll for initiative
That's because Onslaught's mechanics are built on the system established in Dungeons and Dragons books. Because Initiative (e.g. 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'd prefer. While D&D Onslaught isn't model-agnostic, its character cards feature vague silhouettes rather than detailed renderings to give you room for customization. And seeing as it's from the same folks behind WizKids miniatures, there are plenty to choose from. Indeed, the team let me know during a video preview that a full list of suggested sub-in models will land further down the road.
Similarly, you'll be able to make use of WizKids Warlock Tiles if you'd rather go with 3D terrain over the 2D maps provided… of which more are scheduled.
This is where things will get interesting for fans. WizKids has been very open about supporting official play in-store and at tournaments, and the team behind Onslaught gave me a sneak-peek of all the content coming our way - including specific scenarios for competitions - after launch.
Because games like this can be an expensive investment, that dedication is a relief. This isn't a "we'll see how it goes" kinda deal; the team is committed to supporting the game long-term. While we'll have to see how that pans out, at least there's some reassurance that it won't become a cool-looking paperweight in the months to come.
In short? At first blush, the outlook for D&D Onslaught seems good. I'll be able to dive deeper into its systems soon, but for now, it's worth keeping an eye on ahead of its launch in January 2023.