19 November 2019
This kit comes along as a replacement of sorts for the D&D Starter Set that first hit shelves five years ago.
There’s something wonderfully precise about the naming of the Essentials Kit. In one smallish box it holds everything needed to sink your teeth into the latest version of D&D and, though veterans might find it a little lacking in substance, there’s no better place for newcomers to hop on and get rolling dice.
This kit comes along as a replacement of sorts for the D&D Starter Set that first hit shelves five years ago. Just like its predecessor it provides a stripped-down set of the core game’s rules, providing just enough to get rolling with the most iconic combinations of classes and fantasy races.
Of course, the open-ended nature of RPGs means that even this limited slice of the ruleset is enough to keep a table happily hacking their way through several months’ worth of dungeons. With that in mind, the Essentials Kit comes packed with just over a dozen short adventures and encounters that can be woven into a neat little campaign or just used to give the players a taste of the game’s many elements.
These quests will probably be the greatest lure to existing players looking to snaffle up the box set, and don’t disappoint on that front. They’re generally well-written and mercifully concise. Even the most complex takes up just four pages an ideal length for newer DMs looking to avoid overly complex plots or mysteries.
Alongside the books the kit is stuffed with a solid fistful of cards showing magic items, important NPCs and noticeboard quests, as well as a set of dice and a DM screen. In all honesty the quality of these accessories is a little shaky – the screen is thin enough to barely qualify as cardboard – but when you consider the price it’s hard to complain with any real conviction.
If you’ve never dabbled with the latest version of D&D this is the easiest, cleanest way to do so. It offers a delightful taste of the dangers and delights of tabletop roleplaying in a way that should be instantly familiar to anyone who has so much as glanced at pop culture in the past 40 years.
RICHARD JANSEN PARKES
PLAY IT? MUST- PLAY
Designer: Wizards of the Coast
This review originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.