Review: D&D Essentials Kit

If you’re searching for a reason why Dungeons & Dragons’ latest edition has been so incredibly successful, just cast an eye over the Essentials Kit. This affordable little box set may not be the most exciting or revolutionary RPG product in the world, but hot damn it’s good at getting new players rolling dice, delving dungeons and having plain, simple fun.

A beginners’ set in all but name, the Essentials kit is packed with everything needed to get a game running from scratch. This includes dice and character sheets, but the bulk of the box is made up of a pared-down ruleset and a slab of easy-to-run adventures that can be woven into a short campaign that climaxes in a battle with the most iconic D&D enemy out there.

‘Pared-down’ is an incredibly relative term, of course, and while the slim little rulebook pales in comparison to the full Player’s Handbook there’s still an entirely reasonable range of classes, races and gear on offer.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a set you’ll play once or twice and then find yourself running out of material. Both the ruleset and adventures can easily last several months of weekly gaming sessions before you absolutely need to dip back into your gaming budget – though if you’re able to get through that many nights of D&D without splashing out on the full set of books you have more patience than most of us.

The Height of Adventure

The adventures in question are perhaps the best thing about the Essentials Kit. Again, this isn’t because they’re the most inventive or surprising quests out there – though a rather lovely encounter in a gnomish enclave is utterly lovely – but because they succeed at exactly what they set out to do.

None of them go beyond four pages and most manage to squeeze onto just a single spread, maps and all. The writing is clear and concise, and generally pushes the players into action without sticking them on a railroad.

If you’re an established player looking to pick up some cool new material from the box set you might be a shade disappointed with the relative simplicity of it all, but this is a major part of what makes the kit so well-suited for newcomers.

Frankly, this is kind of how it goes for every almost every criticism we could possibly level at the Essentials Kit. The scope is limited compared to the core books, the accessories are a shade flimsy and the themes of the adventure are typical D&D through-and-through, but that’s exactly what you want from a set like this.

Put simply, if you want to get started with Dungeons & Dragons you should buy the Essentials Kit. It’s affordable, easy to understand and the absolute best way of leaping into the game without any prior experience.


An absolutely first-class starter set for Dungeons & Dragons 5E. If you want a simple first step into the hobby, this is your best bet.

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $24.99

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