Context: Dauntless Hunters (I know there was no 3DTotal post this week, I'll try to get one up on approaching shops to carry your games next week, I've been doing a lot of that and learned some interesting things)
So the testing with minions for the monster didn't go particularly well. It seems like no matter what I do, the game drags on - ultimately because the core game is a good length and giving the players more things to kill (that respawn) drags that out and makes it overstay its welcome.
Today I started trialing a different approach to making a challenge for two groups (To enable cooperative and three player games): Legendary Monsters.
Possibly as a result of playing too much Diablo as a teenager I've created some prefixes and suffixes to add to the monster so that rather than fighting the Slime Demon you can fight the Vicious Slime Demon of Destruction.
The design goal for these is to make the monster a match for two groups, without making the game drag out for ages as the players spend lots of time on respawning trash mobs. They're also looking to introduce tactical elements that force players to switch up their strategies rather than doing the same thing with twice as many people.
I've had time to test two sets today: The Deadly Direwolf of Darkness and The Merciless Dragon of Fire.
"Deadly" makes all monster attacks deal double damage or (if they were already double damage attacks) become instantly fatal. It very much worked, the wolf chewed through opponents twice as fast and the game came to a close finish with 80% of the hunters dead or dying.
"of Darkness" means that whenever the monster is hit it teleports two spaces. This didn't carry its weight so much, since a human player could probably do much more with this than the monster AI. On the other hand a very simple AI (maximise the next attack card in the queue) meant that it wasted few turns moving and all of its attacks hit something - which magnified the effects of deadly. More testing needed to see if this works.
"Merciless" means that if the monster deals damage, it immediately takes another turn (max two). I was expecting much more from it - in the post-game analysis this only lead to one extra hit over the course of the entire game. I'm not sure whether to put this down to bad draws and crappy dice or to conclude that it's strictly worse than 'Deadly'.
On the one hand a hit grants an extra turn rather than an extra damage, so hit then roll to hit rather than hit then automatic hit. On the other hand in principle it should allow a monster with a move and attack ability (like charge) to move attack kill and move onto a new target rather than wasting the bonus.
This needs some thought.
"of Fire" deals a 3 dice fire attack to any person who wounds the monster. This really pulled its weight and over the course of the dragon's lifetime accounted for more than half of the kills it inflicted. It also had a solid impact on how we approached attacks, sometimes forgoing an attack while waiting for characters with abilities like "Medic" "Interpose" or "Shield" to make attacking a less suicidal option - especially for characters on their last hit.
All in, legendary monsters will probably add something to the game, but my first draft of prefixes and suffixes needs work if they're to achieve their design goals.
Other progress was made today in adding some new options to each monster and hunter faction. All of the monsters now have optional substitute heads (For if you want to play a slime demon that swallows people whole so that they must be rescued rather than vomiting slime and closing off areas of the battle field) and all of the hunter groups have a couple of new characters to try (Should you fancy a demon that has an almost unblockable attack but changes sides if you don't dedicate actions to controlling it).