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Red Dragon Inn: Battle For Greyport is a cooperative game set in the Red Dragon Inn universe by SlugFest Games. The

Theme and motivation:

Battle For Greyport is a cooperative battle game where the heroes from the Red Dragon Inn games cooperatively fight monsters in various locations in the town of Greyport. In general, the heroes want to save their town from getting destroyed so they can go back to their beer and alcohol.

The game set up through a scenario, which determines up to three locations that heroes will travel to in the game. After clearing all of the monsters at location 1, the heros advance to location 2, which often involves fighting some kind of very strong boss monster. When the game starts, each player's hero (2P-5P) has a set of what the game calls "monster groups" in front of him/her. The location also has a group of monsters. The heros have HP, as well as the location.

Gameplay:

To actually play the game, heroes use cards. There are two kinds of cards: hero cards, and item cards. A hero can play one hero card and then equip that hero card with one item. One of the heros the player can play is the named hero, which is represented by an oversized card, so for example, the player can play "Fiona the Volatile" to help defeat the monsters. When the player plays the cards, they resolve effects on the cards; Many of them allow you to do actions like deal damage to any monster on the board, draw extra cards, receive shields that reduce your damage, play extra heros or items, deal damage to multiple monsters, or attack two monsters of the same time, but the most basic function of the cards is to add damage to the heros damage. The heros deal damage to a monster and when the monster takes enough damage, it dies and is removed from the game.

Typical round:

The game is played in rounds, and proceeds as follows:

1) The "defending player" receives a big token called the "Taunt" token. If you kickstarted the game, it's a nice, hefty bronze token that feels really nice to handle and plop in front of the next player.

2) Everyone can play one hero and an item for that hero, and then declare that the hero attack a monster in the defending player's monster group. You have to focus on the defending player's monsters first: you generally can't attack other monsters on the board.

3) The defending player can choose to "taunt" a monster from elsewhere on the board. When they do so, the monster moves from another group into the taunting player's group. Players who have cards with the "taunt" ability can also taunt, but the monster will go into their own group, not necessarily the active player's group.

When every player's played their cards, monsters deal damage. Only the active monster group deals damage to the defending player, then monsters on the location deal damage to the location every round.

Finally, the defending player can use tokens (usually, you'll get 4 of different types, copper/silver/gold at the beginning of the scenario) to purchase one card from the reinforcements pile to add to their hand. Reinforcements are items or heroes and many of the heroes are other characters from the Red Dragon Inn universe. The defending player can then discard cards and draw back up to 5 cards and play passes to the next player on the left. Your main hero also refreshes at this point (meaning that in every turn of players, you can use your main hero once).

In this sense, with the recruitment mechanism, it's kind of like a deckbuilder where you buy reinforcements so you can have cool effects to play each round. During a round, it's up to the players what order to resolve their effects in and the game doesn't dictate that the players do actions in any specific order. In that sense, the game is cooperative. There are no mechanisms in the game to prevent quarterbacking, so be aware of that as you play.

This Game is Too Damn Hard:

Let me get this out of the way: this game is immensely difficult - like brutally, "normal people can't win this" difficult. I've tried playing this game four times now with their "introductory" scenario (newcomers should play that scenario first): one 2P game, one 5P game, and after losing both times, two solo games: a 5P solo, and a 4P solo, just to see if I was missing mechanics or something.

For their introductory scenario, "The Interrupted Party", I've lost every time. We were close to winning in our 5P game, but we unintentionally cheated the entire game and we still lost (though by 1 failed dice roll). I'll get to this in a moment.

Why is this game so hard, exactly? I'm not sure, but I think something must've gone wrong in tuning, or the incorrect version of the rulebook was published, or some numbers were misprinted, because there's virtually no way I can see ordinary players win this game.

It's a shame, too, because the mechanics aren't too bad. The game has a bit of a feeling like you're fighting a raid boss in an MMORPG actually - you have to deal with little monsters in front of each player, you have to taunt them away and move them around, you have to figure out when to deal splash damage or cleaves to maximize your damage to the group, and you have to think one step ahead so that you can keep enough resources for a long fight. It's actually nice in a problem-solving sense from that when you want to decide whether to blow all of your cards to burn down a monster and prevent damage, or save them for the threat that you know is coming in the next group.

In-Depth Analysis of Why This Game is Too Damn Hard:

But the game's wildly difficult. Here's an example of how hard it is:

* In a 5P game, you're going to get 3-4 monsters in front of each hero, and these monsters generally have 4 to 12 hit points each. To give you a sense of how much you can do in your default hand, your hero rolls a 1-4 and your deck of 8 cards is filled with 5 or 6 heros that deal 1 damage, and 3 or 4 items that deal 1 damage (though the wizard gets two that deal 1-4 damage). In other words, if you play in your default hand, a good starting round where one person uses their hero and everyone else plays one or two cards would be 6 damage. If everyone plays all of their heros on round 1 (and if you did that, you'd have to ask yourself how you're going to handle the other 10 monsters down the line).

In general though, the first encounter is beatable with most players taking anywhere from 1-3 damage. The first player is almost guaranteed to take damage since the party simply can't do any damage, but the second player's active monster group is usually worn down quickly with the help of reinforcements from the pool.

* The second encounter though summons more monsters: 2-4 monsters with 11-14 damage. The monsters are stronger, they deal deadlier effects (many of them give you blank "curses" when they hit you; one even disallows you from drawing cards while it's alive), and then you have the boss monster Drog, who has 65 hit points, a "slash" that deals 1 HP to every other hero in addition to the 2 damage that he does to the defending player, and the inability to be taunted around the board. Oh, did I mention that he has 2 armor, which basically means that anything with 2 attack or under is negated?

To date, I've not been able to defeat this boss Drog: I simply do not have enough life to outlast him. When you start the scenario with 8 hit points, and taking 2-3 damage a round isn't unusual, it only takes a total of 8-10 rounds before the party is wiped out entirely.

This might be arcane-speak to anyone who hasn't played the game, but anyone who's played Greyport will relate: the game is difficult to the point of being virtually impossible as written in the rules. The problems include:

* There's no healing effects. Once you take damage, it stays.
* Monsters deal damage every turn. As mentioned, in the first rounds, it's very difficult to destroy 3-4 monsters and thus players take a lot of damage.
* Card replenishment is very slow. In a 5P game, you have only 5 cards plus your hero to play, so if you have a hand with a lot of items, it's going to disappear quickly. As a result, your options are very limited. Worse, your starting hand (of 1 damage heros) is extraordinarily weak and difficult to discard.
* Player success is heavily dependent on whether the right reinforcements come up for sale. If you get the right item at the right time... it's great. You can buy it and use it next round. But if you get nothing but weak heroes, you're going to have a really rough time. (In particular, Shield is very powerful given the lack of healing).
* Player success is also very dependent on the monsters that you get in the initial shuffle. Some monsters are much harder than others (in particular, monsters that deal 2 damage, or that have armor are very hard to deal with).

I think I'm doing most of the decisions correctly. I'm buying strong items into my hand, I'm using shields to reduce damage, I'm taunting away from the active hero to set up strong area damage, and I'm using the location to tank as much damage as possible while I deal with the player's monsters. But in 4 plays I haven't managed to win a single time and this is on the "Introductory" scenario that players should play for their first time.

This all said, I actually enjoy the mechanics, as I said above. I think the game is vastly overtuned to the point where there must've been a mistake in the rules or in the card numbers.

I haven't played enough times to suggest variations of rules that will make the game easier, but I have a few proposals in mind that I'd like to try out that'll make the game not only easier, but also more fun for players.

* Everyone gets to refresh, not just the defending player. However, only the defending player can discard. We played this by accident in my first 5P game and we ended up missing the boss by only one damage.

The reason that I think this rule starts making things easier and more fun is because you cycle your cards MUCH faster as a party, which means that you can get to your powerful cards faster and play them (it's fun playing big cards!), you always have options (it's NOT fun when you don't have anything to play), and all of that means that you can deal more damage in a turn and kill monsters faster and take less damage. It's really satisfying to set up huge combos and equip big items and this rule allows that to happen more frequently.

* Everyone gets to recruit X cards before the game starts. This will help players shore up their decks at the start of the game and give people some power at the beginning to do fun things. Drawing a hand of soldiers and acolytes that do one damage each isn't that entertaining.

Concluding Thoughts:

Battle For Greyport is a brutally-difficult game that's on the verge of impossible to win. I'm eager to watch a playthrough or two of people doing the first scenario that will prove me otherwise, but my assessment so far is that without the alignment of a few stars, you're not going to get the survivability to live through more than 10-12 rounds.

It may be that the "introductory" scenario is just poorly tuned and that other scenarios do better, but perusing the game's numbers doesn't seem to give me hope that it's much easier. In fact, my wife refuses to play any other scenario on the rationale that if the tutorial is not winnable, why would anything else be?

As I mentioned, it's a real shame, too. The heros are fun, the effects are fun, the artwork is nice, the components are solid, the gameplay is interesting, and you get to do cool role-playing game kinds of things. You have to decide what monsters to taunt, whether you should use your big items to blow away a group, decide what items to buy, and so forth. It really feels like you're doing a World of Warcraft raid boss... except your raid group came in wearing starter gear and didn't quite level up enough.

3/10
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Jean-Michel Larivière
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This is a great game honestly, but I totally agree with you that it is way too BRUTAL! I don't know what happened during the beta testing or the printing, but something must have gone terribly wrong if Slugfest was aiming at casual gamers.

I've beaten the introductory scenario thrice (out of 5 attempts) so far, but we had the combination of timely reinforcements, lucky die rolls and careful planning of actions (keyword: SHIELDS). Any one of these misses and you're dead! We made it to the final encounter of the Easy scenario, but were nowhere near to having a chance; the location had 14 HP and took 7 damage PER TURN. We nonetheless managed to save the location by taunting away all the monsters, which ended up killing our party.

Suggestions for Slugfest:
- You could implement a customizable difficulty level in the rulebook. For an easier game, players could either start with 12 or 14 HP, one player could start with 17 HP, or decrease all threat values by 1. For a harder game, all threat values could be increased by 1.
- Provide greater rewards associated with the location. For instance, in addition to the current bonuses, players could heal 1-2 HP during the cleanup phase or retire 1-2 cards from their hand or discard pile.
- The current recruitment pace doesn't keep up with the need to clean up the crap for the starting deck and the ongoing addition of curses. Therefore, at the end of each encounter, players should be allowed to retire one card.
- If the recruitment only contains worthless options, players could become stuck in not being able to buy a recruitment that could save their next turn. At the beginning of the recruitment phase, the defending player should be allowed to scrap one card from the recruitment display to keep the chance for good options to come in.
- All players should recover 1 HP after surviving an encounter (Easy: 2 HP; Hard: None).
- At the end of EACH turn, all players should be allowed to draw a card (not exceeding their hand size).

I think these changes would be sufficient to make the game "beatable"... at least for the easy/medium scenarios!
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Marc Bennett
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im not sure what you mean by your opening hand being difficult to discard.... you can discard any cards you want before you refresh.
 
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Jean-Michel Larivière
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He was likely referring to "retire"; you want to get rid of the weak starting cards as soon as possible.
 
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Marc Bennett
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onewingedangel777 wrote:
He was likely referring to "retire"; you want to get rid of the weak starting cards as soon as possible.


ah maybe. thats why people should play zot. lol he is awesome.
 
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Jake Brown
United States
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I completely agree with you about the difficulty. We managed to defeat Drog on our first try but it was challenging, and we had maybe one lucky pull through the recruitment cards.

The game is way too chaotic for my tastes, and I'm sad that you could literally change the names of every character and this would no longer be a RDI game. Nothing mechanically ties this to RDI and that bothers me. Plus the use of random "heros" makes your character feel like less of a star, which is the whole point of RDI.

We were kind of wishing you could purchase healing using left over coins at the end of a round. so you put yourself at a slight disadvantage in one place in order to gain an advantage in another.

Using taunt effectively is the way to win, such as having Fiona taunt a monster off turn so it can't attack, for another hand of rounds.

I'm so glad my friend kickstarted this and I didn't (though I own RDI and he doesn't, so he gave me Chronos and the promo drink. )
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Emerald Arcana
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Good point, I didn't mention the expectstionsmin my review but I can see some people being turned off by the fact that RDI is a fun, casual affair whereas RDI: BFG is a min-maker number cruncher's drram.

I'm not against hard games and RDI: BFG is appealing to me simply because I want to know if the game is repeatably solvable with the right strategy (especially 4P-5P) but this game is too much for many of my groups who want to be able to beat up a few monsters, set up cool combos, and have a reasonably casual time.
 
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Robert Laird
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My group played the first scenario five times and lost every time. We then tried one of the more difficult scenarios and we ended up winning the harder scenario. For some reason the harder scenario was easier to win than the introductory scenario. The harder scenario we did win was on first try.
 
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Matthew Henning
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Completely agree. Played this twice, tried really hard to like it. Too many good games out there to force myself to enjoy one that doesn't feel tuned.
 
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Rico Cordova
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I think the game is difficult, but I didn't find it that difficult. My wife and I won our first game - she played Chronos and I played Fiona. We even played it wrong, making it more difficult that it should have been (we didn't shuffle in the second subdeck, replaced the original subdeck instead).

We're going to play it again today during our lunch break. Maybe we just got lucky?
 
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Jason Pollard
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I finally played the game last night with my group. We were unable to beat the introductory campaign either time. Having only three hit-points we only make it two rounds to three rounds before we are all dead.

We moved on to The Goblin King and were able to do that campaign even though it was a little tough.

I'm wondering if we are all missing something or Slugfest just gets really lucky on their roles and so the game is easier for them?

I don't understand how you can do the alternate rules and start with 3 or 6 HP when we can't even do the intro campaign with 8.

The only way I think it may be possible is if you're lucky and get a lot of shield items. The first time we played we had zero.

 
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Jean-Michel Larivière
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Okay, we failed the Easy scenario twice, but just beated a Medium scenario (Ripsnarl) rather easily on our first try with 3 players. An issue with the game is possibly the non-representativity of the Easy/Medium/Hard classifications. I'll try each scenario before making up my mind...
 
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Sam Waller
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Yeah, we're keeping our eye on Drogs difficulty. Many folks seem to be having an easier time grasping the game by moving on to the other scenarios.

Maybe we should have mentioned that Drog is a tutorial scenario where you lose but learn everything about the game because he's literally beating it into you? /kidding

Keep up the work and thanks for the review!
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Jamel Rha
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Sam Waller wrote:

Maybe we should have mentioned that Drog is a tutorial scenario where you lose but learn everything about the game because he's literally beating it into you? /kidding


I see you took the Demon's Soul way for tutorials.
 
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Darren T.
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Agreed, after slowly getting through the rules & having the game take a lot longer than expected. At the end of the session we didn't get to the boss as we ran out of time but the guy who owns the game was looking through some of the higher up bosses past the first few & just seemed ridiculously insane on trying to beat them.

Think that after that one evening of playing the game I'll definitely go back to happily play more of Red Dragon Inn & whatever else comes out for it. If I want more combat, I'll just get Dragon & Flagon.
 
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Emerald Arcana
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An interesting balance choice is that many of the more difficult scenarios have increases in the Location HP, but the Tutorial/Intro scenarios don't have increased HP - Drog's location has 9-10 all round for all players but (IIRC) the Hydra scenario has 11 for 2P but goes to 17 for 5P, which probably makes the game much easier to handle!

If there's an errata issued for the game I'll likely give it another shot. Balance is difficult to achieve but at the same time if I want to break out a game I want the players to look at the situation and think, "We can win if we try hard enough" and not "There's no way that this can be done."
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SummonTheRats
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ricomoss wrote:
I think the game is difficult, but I didn't find it that difficult. My wife and I won our first game - she played Chronos and I played Fiona. We even played it wrong, making it more difficult that it should have been (we didn't shuffle in the second subdeck, replaced the original subdeck instead).

We're going to play it again today during our lunch break. Maybe we just got lucky?


If you played with 2 players, that's not surprising. Because of the refill mechanics, 2P is far, far easier than 5P. Particularly for the tutorial quest--at 5 players, you have far more monsters, Drog has more than twice as much HP, and yet you're far less likely to have enough cards to play every turn.

EDIT: Basically, I agree with the original post--at 5 players, the tutorial quest is difficult to the point of feeling impossible. *Maybe* if you get all the right cards at all the right times... But you're just as likely to pull a bad draw, end up with a bunch of trash acolytes and items, and then be unable to kill almost anything for 5 turns until you get to refill again.
 
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Jean-Michel Larivière
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I wanted to comment on the difficulty after a few more games. After 10 games, here is my game records so far:
- Introduction scenario (3 wins out of 5)
- Easy scenario (0 wins out of 2)
- Medium scenarios (2 wins out of 3)

This means a 50% win rate, which is quite by the cooperative game standards. Strangely, it seems that the hardest scenario is... the Easy scenario! We never even got close. However, we defeated both Ripsnarl and Hydra rather easily on our first attempt (we even got very close to the "That was too easy" achievement when beating Hydra). Baelfire is quite hard though and we died miserably. Therefore, this game doesn't appear TOO hard; we just need to develop experience, learn to better anticipate and hopefully bribe Lady Luck to our cause. This being said, I haven't yet tried the Hard scenarios.

To contextualize, all of our games were played with 2-3 players, so the quick hand refill is definitely an advantage, but the Taunt mechanics are not as strong compared to 5-player mode.

Some advice, based on our gameplay:
- Choose your heroes based on the final boss you'll be facing. For instance, Zot won't be a great pick when facing the Hydra as his Splash may spawn more heads if he splashes on the Hydra, in addition to Splash not being the most valued ability in a scenario where threat values remain low throughout Encounters. However, Gerki's Snipe will be extremely useful to kill other players' heads (and he attacks who he wants) and keep the Hydra's damage to minimum. Actually, you want to kill all Hydra heads on the table in the very first round to make your life quite easy! Then, one big blow on the Hydra, Fiona cleaves the newborn head and the remaining player kills the new-newborn head. Rinse and repeat.
- Do not save the location at any cost. Sometimes, the consequences are quite trivial (especially for Encounters 2-3 of the Hydra scenario). Sometimes, abandoning the location may save your party precious HP.
- Shields are EXTREMELY important, which is why Deirdre is a nearly-automatic pick. For the Easier (!) scenarios, shielding Drog's damage also negates its Slash ability.
- It may be tempting to recruit only to optimize the next round (or save entirely the next round), but think longer term. For instance, when you face Ripsnarl, you may want to recruit more Items than Heroes when fighting Werewolves. Even an equipped Acolyte is better than an empty-handed Fiona.
- With 4-5 players, give a special consideration to Draw Card and Taunt abilities. If everyone around the table has many Taunt options in their deck, a lot of damage can be prevented by simply shuffling monsters around.
- Arrive prepared for the next Encounter. You want to have your best cards IN YOUR HAND when starting a new Encounter, not in your discard pile due to lust for overkill. Sometimes, taking a few more damage at the end of an Encounter may become an investment if it improves your chances to clear off multiples monsters on the first round of the next Encounter.
 
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trevor leitner
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Wife and I finally managed to beat a game.

So far tally is:

0/4 tutorial scenario.
1/3 on the easy scenario.

We'll see how it goes from there.
 
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