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619 of 626 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy it.
The bottom line is, D&D is a lot of fun. But it's confusing at first. You have to do some homework, familiarizing yourself with some complicated rules. But soon it all starts to flow and you get the idea. Don't listen to all the other whiners about how the 4th edition rules ruined everything about the game, etc. Rules just provide a rough framework. The role...
Published on May 1, 2011 by michael a. higbee

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147 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What it is, what it isn't
So I've read through and examined all the contents (a sample copy) and here's what you need to know. The Red Box is NOT a "basic" set, in that it would provide you everything you need to create a character and play through at least 3 or more levels of the game. This is not at all like any of the basic sets that TSR or Wizards of the Coast have published to introduce new...
Published on September 16, 2010 by Cinemaphile


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619 of 626 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy it., May 1, 2011
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
The bottom line is, D&D is a lot of fun. But it's confusing at first. You have to do some homework, familiarizing yourself with some complicated rules. But soon it all starts to flow and you get the idea. Don't listen to all the other whiners about how the 4th edition rules ruined everything about the game, etc. Rules just provide a rough framework. The role playing/imagination element is up to the people playing the game. This isn't chess. You CAN just make it up as you go. The starter set gets you going and has what you need to make several cool characters and take them through a pre made adventure with battles and challenges up to level two.

However, the D&D product line is very frustrating and confusing for the beginner, like me. It's full of redundant products, so I couldn't figure out what I really needed to buy beyond the Starter Set. I've wasted a lot of money. So here is what I wish someone had told me.

You DON'T need to buy the "Core Rulebooks" ($66). They can be easily substituted with other things. For instance, if you buy the Starter Set, you'll make characters using powers and abilities that don't even come from the Player's Handbook (PHB), but come from "Heroes of the Fallen Lands", which is a "supplement," but fills the same role as the PHB. If you buy Heroes of the Fallen Lands instead of the PHB, you'll have info about making characters that's more compatible with your Starter Set.

What about the Dungeon Master's Guide(DMG)? Buy the Dungeon Master's Kit instead. It comes with an equivalent book, plus a bunch of tokens for characters and monsters, maps and a cool pre written adventure to take characters from level 2 to level 4. Oh, and a dungeon master's screen, too.

And the Monster Manual? The "Monster Vault" has an equivalent book (a few less monsters, but still plenty to work with) plus more monster tokens, maps and another adventure ready made to send 4th level adventurers up to level 5.

To summarize, if you get the "Core Rulebooks" you'll spend $66 and have three cool books, but no stuff with which to actually play the game (maps, dice, something to represent characters, monsters, etc. and you'll have to create your adventures from scratch, which can be fun but difficult. OR, you can spend $73 for the Starter Set, Monster Vault, DM Kit, and Heroes of the Fallen Lands and have the equivalent of the core books, PLUS all the other cool stuff to play with and get characters up to level 5 and beyond. By then, you'll have all the experience you need to create your own adventures a lot more easily. You won't need to buy minis, graph paper or battle mats or anything, except maybe a few more sets of dice for each player.

You'll probably end up buying the core books sometime anyway, just because they're cool. But do it only because you want to, not because you think you need them to start and enjoy a long career playing D&D.
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147 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What it is, what it isn't, September 16, 2010
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
So I've read through and examined all the contents (a sample copy) and here's what you need to know. The Red Box is NOT a "basic" set, in that it would provide you everything you need to create a character and play through at least 3 or more levels of the game. This is not at all like any of the basic sets that TSR or Wizards of the Coast have published to introduce new players to D&D.

It IS a "starter" set, in that it will be a good intro for new players or those new to 4th Edition D&D. As a starter set, it excels by giving you a run-through adventure, a Dungeon Master book, cardstock counters, a map, etc. to learn the game. The quality of the kit is not in line with the previous 3.0+ D&D box sets, (this set has flimsy cardstock and uses counters instead of miniatures) but the price is right for what you get--especially on Amazon.

Main Strength?
I'm not a 4E fan per se, but there's a lot to like with this introductory set, that simplifies the rules and provides a very easy to grasp description of the main game elements. It would make an excellent gift for someone who might be interested in trying the game (great for kids).

Main Weakness?
The main downfall is that once you understand the game, you're never going to need it again. It's a springboard and little else. You'll need to buy the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Compendium anyway. In that sense, it makes this box crippleware, but really good-looking, fun to unwrap crippleware!
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63 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but limited starting point, September 12, 2010
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
This new presentation of the renowned classic RPG was designed to appeal to old school gamers who did the boxed set & ADnD back in the day, like me. I hoped it would be a good way to introduce the hobby to my children, and those hopes were well-founded. The kids are having a blast. It's a fabulous starting point for D&D 4th Edition.

BTW, 4E is vastly different from any previous version, barely recognizable compared to 1E. I think that the changes are for the better, but YMMV.

My main gripe with Red Box is that it very carefully fails to include any straightforward listing of class features, weapon & armor stats, prices, etc. For example, my son wanted to use a bow, but it wasn't an option in the book. I ended up just winging it. There's really no way to use this box alone and run a proper campaign for 2 or 3 levels, the way that the original box set could do. This is a starter set, and ONLY a starter set. If you want to continue, WotC expects you to buy the (more expensive) followup books.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I was hoping for., September 8, 2010
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
Wizards of the Coast definitely got me with the nostalgia factor with the Red Box, a throwback to some of my favorite sessions of D&D with my cousins, a simplified version of the game that my older brother was playing with his friends. It always seemed like the basic set was more about the telling of great stories rather than being tied down by a bunch of rules.

Flipping through the box set tonight I see this same thing, a simplified introduction to a wonderful game.

This is definitely an upgrade to what I played before, each book has color illustrations, rather than black and white, a little more basic drawings than what you will find in the nicer hardcover books. But still a nice touch.

Bravo Wizards of the Coast on this, describing it to my wife tonight, I may be able to get her to sit for a game or two...maybe.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective introductory product, with some mistakes, October 8, 2010
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
This introductory boxed set to the 4th edition of the Dungeons & Dragons is mostly "hit", with a few "misses". Generally, it is way better than any of the other introductory product to the game that preceded it during the 3rd or 4th edition of the game.

It is *not* the equivalent of the legendary "Red Box" D&D authored by Frank Mentzer in 1983, in the sense that it does not provide a fully functional game system in and of itself. It is more comparable to the Holmes "Blue Book" D&D of 1977, in fact, in that it does provide a few character levels, means to create characters via an entertaining "choose your own adventure" text which also manages to teach you some of the fundamentals of role playing games, and then provides whoever chooses to run the game as "Dungeon Master" with enough material to run a few adventures up to the end of the 2nd character level, at which point it assumes you will upgrade to the full D&D Essentials line of products, that is, Heroes of the Fallen Lands: An Essential Dungeons & Dragons Supplement (4th Edition D&D) for players, Dungeon Master's Kit: An Essential Dungeons & Dragons Kit (4th Edition D&D) for DMs, and Rules Compendium: An Essential Dungeons & Dragons Compendium (4th Edition D&D) for both players and DMs, at a minimum.

You get a lot of stuff for the price you pay. Maps, tokens to represent monsters and characters, seven sheets of power cards (9 detachable cards per sheet), four printed character sheets, a coupon giving you access to another "choose your own adventure" module you can download from WotC's website, a set of polyhedral dice for use with the game, the Player's Book, and the DM's Book. That's a very good value for the amount of money spent on the product, in my opinion, whether you end up playing the game or not.

Now, there are some areas in which the game can be confusing. Some options in the "choose your own adventure" Player's Book might make you miss some steps in building your own character, which you'd have to figure out on your own by flipping back and forth through the book at some point. Some of the powers and abilities for characters described in this book does not match the powers and abilities of characters in the wider Essentials line of products. There is a strong emphasis on tactical, board-based game play, which may or may not be a plus to some people, depending on their own play styles and tendencies.

So it's far from perfect. Nonetheless, I think that it does its job nicely. It's a decent, good game product that you will play for a little while, before upgrading to the other Essentials product. In that sense, it hits the mark. In the sense of a fully playable, self-contained and endlessly replayable game, it fails miserably. But that is not what this game brands itself: it is an introduction product, and I rate it as such: Good, or 4 on 5.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My girlfriend and I are newbies, this rocks!, August 25, 2011
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
Hello all, long time gamer here. Always had an interest in Pen and Paper games but never had the friends (a common problem I hear). Well my girlfriend and I bought this just for fun to try together, and let me tell you what: This is a fantastic little box o' goodies. I doubt we'll even PLAY DnD 4th edition (3.5 is just far too appealing for me to deny), but that doesn't even matter. For the price of a movie ticket, I got this beauty delivered to my door!

It has been designed EXACTLY for people who have no idea of what to do, but need a little push out the door to get started on their own adventures. The "player's book" is where you should start, and helps you through the otherwise daunting process of character creation. You actually play during character creation, and the story is affected accordingly!

Pros:
-SUPER, SUPER high value purchase for anyone even remotely curious about DnD 4th or a newbie in general
-Nice fold out, double-sided map with several different areas to use for referencing
-PC and NPC tokens for easy referencing on a map or even just a table
-Almost full set of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20) Not made of jade or anything exotic, but they are fine starter dice. Only missing d% which isn't necessary to play.
-Both the Players Book and Dungeon Master's Book (Not the full, core rulebooks, but still PLENTY of information given)
-Classic box design graphics. It feels like I'm stepping back in time 40 years when I look at the box and realize how much fantasy games have come over the decades. Very, very cool feeling of "coming home" as a PC gamer who never played growing up.

Cons:
-DnD 4th edition in general seems to favor schwag items (things that are only aesthetic serving and even sometimes required?). The biggest thing comes to mind is the grid-based combat and the almost literal need for an ARMY of miniatures in order to play by the rules. I personally prefer using my imagination and maybe just a token with the number of enemies. The drama and suspense felt between the DM and players could easily be ruined by instead players trying to better position themselves on a grid for numerical advantage.

-Combat is perhaps over-simplified. I have dual degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, and I was almost insulted coming to this from my 3.5 players manual. Wizards rolling like fighters for attack rolls? I can't even find a spot for concentration checks in this little set, so I'm guessing they are removed from 4th?

Final Words: I was trying pretty hard to think up Cons for this package, but in all fairness they are null and void given what you DO get. Buy this now, maybe several. They could change a young girl or boy's life forever as gifts, and at less than $15 for this you would be hard pressed to find a better value for your money.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but not D&D, March 19, 2011
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
This is a decent intro into 4E D&D. It will take characters to the second level of experience. The two books are rather short, being 32 and 64 pages long - including the back cover, and I would have preferred a little more depth. This just covers the barest of the basics. The presentation is simple and direct, and the art work is very good. The game also comes with a nice looking double sided map, some cardboard tokens to represent players and monsters, dice, and cards representing players skills and items. The cards are not of card stock quality, but are serviceable enough.

The game itself is VERY different from previous renditions of Dungeons and Dragons. It is simpler, much more structured, and cleaner than previous editions. This reduces gray areas where the DM has to make difficult judgments, and reduces the chance for bickering between the DM and players. However, much like a computer game, I couldn't help but feel constricted tactically. On that note it is clear that Wizards borrowed heavily from computer games - particularly MMO's when designing this game. Weather this is good or bad will depend on the players perspective.

First level characters start off with a litany of powers that make them feel much more powerful than first level characters in previous editions of D&D. Mages and clerics have far fewer spells available, but many of those they have are usable repeatedly and at will. Likewise tank and thief types also have an assortment of powers (Basically spells, just called something different) available right from the start. This makes first level characters feel heroic right from the start, but what is lost is that delicious sense of danger and week ness that gave low level parties such character. The rise to prominence and power from obscurity was all the more enjoyable. Again, some players will love the change, and others will hate it.

All in all, this is a pretty entertaining, if simple, tactical combat game with RPG overtones. If that is what you are looking for, I would recommend this unabashedly. If you are looking for a Dungeons and Dragons experience similar to what you had in previous editions, I would stick with those.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Falls A Bit Short, September 17, 2010
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
Everything old is new again. Sort of.

Here's the new 'Red Box' D&D Starter! Overall I like it; the DM book looks very good. The player book is half as long, and I wish it had a bit more crunch. A few more pages could have made it possible to roll up a new character without going through the OMGoblin! solo game every time. Ah, well. I'm sure they want us all to run out and buy Heroes of the Fallen Arches. It worked on me! What can I say?

The box itself is deeper than those you might remember from years gone by. Lots of room for your new handbooks!

The power cards are a nice idea but problematic in use. You get one copy of the 'elven accuracy' card, for example, so if you have two people playing elves you're a bit out of luck. Personally, I plan to put all the power cards for an individual character in plastic CCG binder page. Photocopy that and - hey, presto - you have a personalized character power page. It's like, well, magic! But do be careful when you separate the cards. Hasbro-Of-The-Coast saved a bit of cash when they bought this card stock.

The tokens, now that's a different story! Thick, sturdy cardboard printed in full color. Very nicely done! One look at these and Monster Vault: An Essential Dungeons & Dragons Kit (4th Edition D&D) just landed on my Christmas list. One odd thing is that they show different critters on both sides of the same token. That could be fun, though. That giant rat you were fighting? It just morphed into a drake!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A decent, but not great introduction to D&D. Don't pay significantly above its $20 MSRP., March 20, 2014
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
At this product's $20 MSRP, you would be getting a reasonable value: it includes a fair, if overly hand-holding introduction to Dungeons and Dragons, along with some game aids that you might continue to get value from once you've exhausted the slim adventuring content in the box: a set of polyhedral dice, cardboard character/monster tokens, and a couple double-sided poster maps. What it does NOT include are a comprehensive set of rules sufficient to continue playing the game very far beyond what you get in the box.

Another thing to note is that this is an introduction to the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, which no longer being supported or updated, and as of Summer 2014 will be neither the most popular nor most recent iteration of D&D. The most popular version of D&D is currently 3.5 (and a 3rd party derivative of it called Pathfinder), and D&D Next will soon be released. Different editions of D&D are not compatible with each other. While I personally prefer 4e other the other systems I've experimented with, just know that if you're buying this product, you're only getting a taste of one, somewhat niche conception of D&D.

As of the time of this posting, this product appears to be out of print. With WotC's focus on the upcoming D&D Next, I do not expect this Starter Set to receive a reprint any time soon. As of March 2014, the Starter Set is selling for $70 new and $53 used, plus shipping. With those prices, your money can be better spent elsewhere, even if 4th edition is the version of D&D that you want to play.

Using Google, it is possible to find many free 4e adventures, as well as a Quick Start Rules guide PDF, which also includes some pregenerated characters. If player interested in being the DM downloads an adventure, like Keep on the Shadowfell or Island at the Axis of the World and has everyone check out the quick start guide, I'm convinced you can get started with only a bit more stumbling than would be the case if running the game out of the Red Box. Other products to purchase in lieu of, in addition to the Red Box include, each of the following:

* Heroes of the Fallen Lands (alternatives/supplements: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, the 4e Player's Handbook)
* The 4e Dungeon Master's Guide (alternative/supplement: the 4e Rules Compendium)
* The Monster Vault (buy a new or like-new copy so you can be sure you get all of the included components)

Also, some game aids:

* A blank, reusable flip-mat, like the Paizo basic flip-mat, plus some dry- or wet-erase markers.
* Alternatively, a 1" gridded easel pad, which you can probably get at an office supply store.
* Enough dice for everyone. Bulk dice like Chessex Pound O' Dice can be a good way to go.
* Tokens or character markers. The Monster Vault and Starter Set include some. You can make your own (Google the NewbieDM's token tutorial), buy miniatures or products that come with miniatures, like the Descent board game or the Legend of Drizzt, or WotC's Dungeon Command games.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, October 11, 2011
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) (Board book)
The Essentials Starter Set (Red Box) is a good starter for people who have never played D&D before. It gives you a slow introduction to the game without giving you an information overload. It does this by simultaneously helping you to create a character while also introducing a few of the game mechanics. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Red Box:
1. A set of 6 dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20). Nothing wrong with this!
2. Character sheets. These are simple Essentials character sheets, if you want more detailed ones search online for free ones (its not illegal).
3. Tokens. Good: Miniatures can be expensive; if you want to cut costs, collect as many of these guys as possible. (You get more in the DM Kit, the Monster Vault, and MV: Threats to Nentir Vale). Bad: There aren't actually two sheets but rather one double-sided sheet to save space. Typically tokens have a normal side and a "bloddied side;" on these there is a completely different monster. Also, a few of these are repeated in the other token sets (but like I said collect as many as possible if you don't want to pay for minis).
4. The player booklet. Good: This is a nice little solo adventure in case you don't have anyone to play with yet. The Red box also comes with a free download for another solo adventure so that is a plus. Ugly: The worst part of the Red Box is that it does not give you all of the options for your characters. If you create the same character using the Red Box and then with Heroes of the Fallen Lands, you will realize that they are not exactly the same. The Red Box is good for people who don't know any better, but once you understand how to create characters, you will realize that the Red Box does it wrong. It does not give you all the options (weapons, armor, powers, feats) available to your character, and, in the case of the Thief (Rogue), you are given attack powers in the Red Box that are not even an option in HotFL.
5. Power cards. Good: There are 3 rougue utilities and three transmutation wizard powers that are not available in HotFL Bad: There are inconsistencies between some of the powers on the cards and in HotFL.
6. DM booklet and maps. Good: I have yet to play the adventure but it looks pretty cool for a first adventurer. Also, it leads into the "Orcus" storyline of the H1-3, P1-3, and E1-3 adventures, if you are planning on taking that route. Bad: Only gives you the most basis rules for running a game. You will need the Rules Compendium and/or the DM kit to run it properly.
Before you buy this product, you need to decide whether you want to play D&D 4E Essentials, D&D 4E, or D&D 3.5. D&D 3.5 is outdated and out of print but still fairly popular and a lot of free content is available online. When it come to the 4th edition, you have two choices: the older version that has a lot more books directed towards it, or Essentials which is a little more up to date but is a little more simplified, but is also going to be the standard for most of the upcoming D&D products. The bottom line is that the Red Box gives you some nice extra things, but when it comes to starting out with D&D, any intelligent person can read the other Essentials books and figure out how to play the game just as easily as by reading the Red Box material. However, I still like the product, as I have committed to buying the Essentials. 4 stars.
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