By 1994, TSR’s 2ed Advanced Dungeons and Dragons setting was in full swing though the extensive rules and the stacks of source books could easily intimidate newcomers. Games Workshop, the creators of the immensely popular Warhammer series, had branched out to do something simple with HeroQuest in 1989. Set in Warhammer’s fantasy setting, it took the novel approach of creating a board game with simple RPG mechanics reaching potential players. It was a combination that proved to be quite successful earning the game accolades and praise from fans.
Seeing that, TSR would also hit board games with DragonStrike in 1993. DragonStrike was Dungeons and Dragons Lite; it used very basic rules lifted from the series to create the board game which, like HeroQuest, came with miniatures representing monsters and characters. However, it also allowed for a bit more complexity in combat and came with a larger variety of maps to play on when you flipped them over. And like HeroQuest, a deck of cards covered things like treasures, traps, and even spells.
It even had a DM, called a Facilitator, running the show, which HeroQuest also had under a different name. Both, however, succeeded in bringing the harder RPG tabletop stuff to the masses by making things remarkably simple for anyone to jump right in. The mountain of material both wielded like +5 halberds didn’t need to be mentally filed – they just pieces of the whole that were used as the game went along. They were also open enough to allow for a number of imaginative adventures to be created using the basic rules. Modules with new maps released in later years to expand DragonStrike’s core with custom, professional adventures straight from TSR. Just like AD&D.
What people may remember most about DragonStrike may not be in how it distilled Dungeons and Dragons into a welcome introduction for the genre, or as an attempt by TSR to steal HeroQuest’s summoned thunder, but just how far it was willing to do it with over a half an hour’s worth of VHS video. That’s right, it actually came with a movie filled with live actors, crude CG, and real sets. It was like having a pocket version of the Renaissance Fair packed into every box.
The short film was written and directed by writer, Flint Dille, which, despite the high corn factor, appreciably attempted to take players by the hand into the ideas of what role-playing gaming was like. It laid out the setting for the game and showed how a session could go, though as some who remember the game have said it really didn’t show exactly how the game was actually played.
The question of “Is it a Video? Is it a Game?” that is asked below touts the AdventureVision experience with a little burb dedicated to the actual game. A dragon’s claw clutches the black, rectangular cube of sanity-checking video. In the game, the dragon can annihilate characters for dawdling making it a fire breathing sword hanging over the heads of every character.
While players may or may not have graduated from DragonQuest to head off into TSR’s high-level offerings set in the Forgotten Realms, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, or Planescape in later years, it’s probably safe to say that no one expected medieval cosplay and CG dragons to help front a board game from TSR.