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Max Caine
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Got nothing against void spiders and stranger per se... just find them boring as they are. These are some house rules my group introduced to make them more interesting.

VOID SPIDERS

Cull the Weak: Void spiders will always target the hero with the highest number of wounds. If more than one hero has the same number of wounds, divide the spiders as equally as possible. If a void spider cannot attack the hero with the highest wounds, the void spider will target and attack the next highest, etc. etc.

Leap: A void spider may ignore up to three squares worth of impassable terrain (e.g. models) when moving. A void spider may not finish its turn in impassable terrain.

So what happens is every game after we did this the spiders keep changing target every game crawling over each other to get the most wounded characters! Void spiders aren't particularly strong so swarming one hero isn't that bad. The leap rule means that spiders don't suffer conga line of death syndrome and can use the special targetting rule.

STRANGLERS

Pan-Dimensional Throttle: If a Strangler cannot reach its targeted hero, and the targeted hero is next to a wall, the Strangler may roll combat dice and attack the hero as normal. The strangler does not benefit from the ensnare rule if it uses this rule.

The box art has Stranglers appearing out of a portal, so what we thought would be cool is if the Strangler could reach through walls and strangle any unsuspecting hero! It's added a little extra tension to the game especially when looking through a door from a corridor tile.
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Aaron Lambert
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I like your idea for the spiders. I think having them hop around and go for the wounded makes them a more interesting, challenging and thematic enemy than they are at present.

I'm a little confused about the stranglers variant. As long as you are near a wall, a strangler can attack as if it's adjacent to you, but without the rules for needing to make an escape roll? I feel like this might be too strongly in their favor. Does the attacking strangler need to be near a wall as well? I think this would make more sense. And maybe there should be a range limit, after all, their tentacles are only so long.
 
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David Griffin
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I'm not sure I want every monster to be a near death experience. Plus, I've seen some YouTube videos where the spiders and stranglers are supercharged with elite abilities and they seem plenty powerful. If you think they are too weak, just give them all their elite abilities. Problem solved.
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Max Caine
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@carbon_dragon

So, full disclosure. We play as a 4-man team. This is our experience of void spiders/strangers.

1) Marshal and Saloon Gal form 2-man front in doorway. Bandido and Gunslinger in the back in box formation.
2) If the fight is a normal attack, we setup stranglers/void spiders as per normal.
3) Void spiders bum rush the box. Only up to 4 spiders (depending on tile) can actually attack. Marshal and Saloon Gal with the best saving throws weather the initial attack. Saloon Gal has Acrobatic because a reroll (even just for one die) in defence against a monster set which is mostly about doing damage is better than the other two skills. Marshal has rolling thunder because rolling thunder+comforting presence = lots of healing.
4) If there are spiders and stranglers, the Gunslinger will blast away at the Stranglers, because quite frankly void spiders are weakass. They have to be powered up a LOT to be a real threat. The same for the Bandido and and Marshal if the Saloon Gal can clean out the spiders next to the Marshal and Saloon Gal.
5) Rinse and repeat.

If the spiders/stranglers Ambush then we clean out the enemies on the Bandido/Gunslinger first, because their saving throw is weaker. The biggest problem with Spiders and Stranglers is there is never any reason not to stay in box formation at the door. Spiders and Stranglers suffer Conga Line of Death Syndrome. The enemies in the front shuffle forward as they get killed while the enemies at the back take a number and wait their turn. I'm pretty sure Flying Frog saw this quite quickly as an issue seeing as lot of melee enemies from Swamps of Jargono onwards have one of many special rules which boil down to "don't be standing next to this guy" or ignore models or force models to move (knockback).

Powering up Spiders/Stranglers in terms of damage dealing (because that's what most of their elite abilities are) doesn't address this fundamental issue. By adding an ignore models rule to spiders, spiders can force a box formation to get hemmed in. By attacking the weakest whenever possible, a hero can act as bait for spiders to form up in a pre-prepared killing zone - you can actually be tactical about what damage/healing you take. (Although what usually happens is the spiders all try and swamp the most damaged every turn, so it didn't quite work out like we imagined).

@Sharga

The way we imagine it is a tentacle snaking out of a portal in the wall trying to strangle an unwary victim! So any Hero that's standing next to a tile wall is a target. We treat it like a ranged attack because of Conga Line of Death Syndrome, although your idea does sound more thematic. But how would the movement ruling be done? Something like "If Strangler cannot move next to an enemy, move Strangler next to nearest wall?"
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David Griffin
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I'm not saying you can't make the monsters as powerful as you want, but shouldn't there be SOME monsters that can't rip your face off. There are a ton of monsters with really powerful attacks. Why not just use those. The more new monsters they sell, the more powerful the monsters seem to be. There seems to be a sort of power inflation going on that should suit you.

For instance, Void hounds have an defense based on YOUR initiative (6 for the gunfighter). Try getting through that. It seems like they have provided a bunch of different monsters at almost all power levels. And provided scaling in case that still isn't powerful enough.
 
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Max Caine
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I'm afraid you appear to be missing the point. I'm not interested in "really powerful attacks". Powering up void spiders/stranglers combat, damage, to-hit, defence or any other stat directly related to combat does not change how they play. It is always Conga Line of Death with void spiders and stranglers. You sit the box in the the doorway and roll dice as this is the most optimal way of playing. Sitting a box in the doorway every fight is boring. I'm interested in thematic ways of making sitting in the box less of an optimal strategy, which is something that Swamps of Jargono achieves.

Hungry Dead and Slashers have fear. You don't want to start your turn next to a hungry dead or a slasher because of the horror hits which for most Heroes are harder to make and their are fewer opportunities for rerolls (especially at low level). So in a hungry dead Ambush, you fight your way clear of hungry dead and focus on helping each other get clear of the ambush to minimise horror hits. This is something achievable because they have such a low movement. This is not possible with a void spider ambush because they go first and will always go first until you've got some levelled up characters. You can't pick targets with spiders right next to you, so an ambush is a stand-up slugging match. With hungry dead, you want to stay clear of them, which livens up the combat without them needing them to have powerful attacks.

If a void spider, like a Hellbat, can ignore impassable terrain (and in the case of spiders is limited) then they don't become in terms of combat more powerful. They become more flexible - more able to hem in a box or exploit a poorly formed box - just like Hellbats can. If spiders attack the most wounded then party order has to be more carefully considered before peering through a door. Remember that void spiders hit on 4+ without a certain elite ability. That's not that awesome even when mobbing one Hero.

If Stranglers can target Heroes standing next to walls then character positioning becomes more important to evade a Strangler. If that's not possible then rushing stranglers or changing up targeting priorities to create corridors for Stranglers to attack becomes important.

The abilities our group uses don't up the damage a monster can do, instead they create options for monsters which are otherwise waiting in turn for their chance to attack. We find it livens up the game without making spiders/stranglers individually more powerful. But that is our experience.
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David Griffin
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This game isn't going to be very tactical. It's true every player learns the "block the door" strategy, but if they don't they get mobbed by infinite monsters on all sides (and you do anyway with ambushes or monsters that can move through models or fly over them). The block the door/fighting square maneuvers are basic but critical.

There's really very little actual tactical movement going on in this game. For one thing, the game pressures you to move ever forward with darkness roll and potentially continual introduction of more monsters. That alone makes backtracking or maneuvering questionable. Also despite the beautiful tiles, there is no tactical use of obstacles except for the town adventures where you can get cover from objects or the edge of a roof, door, or window.

The game could introduce terrain to the tiles, spots where you could jump up on an obstacle to give yourself a height advantage, or something to hide behind, but they don't. And if you want someone to run around and use that terrain, you'll need to relax the pressure of the darkness rolls. Right now the smart money seems to be to just sit there in a square in the door blasting away at the enemies till they are dead or you are. Not very satisfying for a wargamer but I'm just not sure what the alternatives are.

Maybe it's boring to do the one fighting maneuver the game seems to allow you to use, but it's what we have.

It's a good game as it is, but if I were asked, I'd like more tactical play, terrain, obstacles, and a little less pressure to move on. Then I'd be using different tactics.
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Scott Laman
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I like these variations. Especially the spiders. I have been using a similar house-rule (that they can climb over/through about anything, but I like your addition of the "Cull the Weak". It's a neat they've caught the scent of blood idea and fits in very well thematically for them ;-) but does also make them much more of a threat than they'd normally be. I'm Ok with that. I adjust other things to compensate.


[Digression Alert ]
"...you'll need to relax the pressure of the darkness rolls".
This is a good point from Carbon Dragon. The HBTD "timer" really is the #1 factor (in my head anyway) that discourages experimenting with tactics.

Why bother trying things like backtracking, using cover, positioning (other than "the box") when we're under pressure to use the fastest, most efficient mechanisms possible to get through the mission as fast as possible - or suffer the consequences of failing the mission.

Some of the newer enemies seem to be on hyper-speed (Swamp Slugs and Harvesters easily outpace everyone in the posse. To me they seem more like big 'lumbering' things that you might want to keep using terrain as an advantage and backtrack tactically... but you can't really)

And that's where variants come in. I'm under the belief that it's OK to modify the game to suit our own play style and to make adjustments and variations as needed to make it more fun. That's why I hang out in the Variants section way more than the Rules section.

For kicks - try a variant where you don't roll HBTD when a fight is already in progress. That removes a lot of pressure of the constant "timer" and possibility of getting ganked on by several additional enemy groups. Muck around with enemies movement options or targeting, or toss some barrel and crate tokens on the map and allow heroes to move them around and use them as cover. Use the new frontier town cover rules in the mines - why not?

It's a great game and would be very difficult (or impossible) to match everyone's tastes right out of the box(es). It's a nice sandbox that we can adapt to our liking ;-)
 
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Max Caine
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@cabon_dragon. Very fair point. The HBTD is analogue to the timer on XCOM 2 missions, and oh how people hated those! I guess we'll have to wait until Trederra comes out for rules on partial/full cover items.
 
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David Griffin
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If you're going to do that (and I think it might be a lot of fun, so I'd encourage it), but I would also open up the frontier town expansion and use the cover rules. I'd look for some likely terrain from some other game to play on the tiles (or just use likely looking graphics from the existing tile) and allow yourself to be in "cover" around them.

Heck if you're going to experiment with tactics, might as well have something to jump on top of and hide behind.
 
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MT Dav

Maryland
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I just let the spiders move through other models and, to reflect the fact they are spiders and should be able to crawl on the walls and roof, I allow them to treat any bit of the tile (especially the black edge of the tile) as a viable space for them. So against spiders, 2 heroes standing in a hall with 2 standard spaces in front of them actually have 6 viable squares for spiders to attack from--2 regular spaces and 4 black edges.
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