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Subject: Catacombs Primer (original version): Heroes and Catacomb Lords Overview rss

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Christian Busch

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A user pointed out that there was no quick overview of the Heroes and Catacomb Lords for Catacombs so I thought I'd fill that void with some info on the Heroes/Lords, general concepts, and strategies.

Heroes (Core set):

Barbarian:

With 12 Life, the Barbarian has the most health in the Base set. He is your all-around beat stick and can withstand jumping into the fray and taking a few hits. This doesn't mean he is invincible and you can watch that health advantage deteriorate pretty fast if you leave him exposed too often.

His special ability is Rage, a 4 chained Melee shot that cannot damage the same target twice. This is a good room clearing ability when faced with multiple weak enemies. You only get two Rage actions in a game (or 3 if you buy an item to give you an extra Rage action later) so you have to conserve them for only the most necessary times. Of course, if the heroes are all about to lose, there is no glory for losing and having Rage actions left at the end of the game. Another concern is that after you perform the Rage action, you will be stunned afterwards. Care must be taken that this doesn't inadvertently kill you or defeat the party (by having the rest of the party also all stunned or killed). This can be especially true in rooms with Ghouls and Crypt Spiders or the Gorgon Catacomb Lord. You'll want to make this Rage count so try not to use it to set up shots but rather, have another hero bump you into position (or teleport you, more on that later) so that even your first melee shot is useful.

Elf:

Weighing in at a weak 8 life, the Elf is quite the opposite of the Barbarian but has a similar, straight forward approach.

Her Special ability is to fire missile shots twice per room. This may seem like it's not enough but you'll be surprised how many players don't use this power enough. Being able to move into a hidden position behind another hero (like the Barbarian) or an obstacle is key here so that you can fire your missiles while not being a target yourself. Placing a missile disc 1 inch from your character gives you a lot of freedom and can open up attack options that other characters would need an extra turn to set up for. Missiles are also handy against turtling monsters that have missile shots of their own or an alternative to melee-ing into a group of monsters to take out a key target. It also begs to be used against Retaliation monsters like the Minotaur or as a first strike option to try to eliminate a particularly nasty monster before it has a chance to go.

Thief:

The Thief sports 10 Life so will be doing her fair share of the rough and tumble. I see her overlooked quite a bit as a weak hero but don't let her subtle powers fool you, she can make or break a hero team depending on how she is used.

She has 2 powers, neither of which are flashy but both have some great uses. First, she has a passive ability that allows her to take a second melee shot if she doesn't hit a monster with her first melee shot. This second shot deals no damage. This power has "poor flicker" written all over it as its a chance to flee back to safety after a poor shot. The cunning player will see it differently however. She is the ultimate positional piece: Since so much can rely on lining up good shots and working as a team, she can use two shots to get her allies into prime position at the beginning of a Hero turn.

Her second power can get obscene if the hero team is paying attention and engineers it well: the Thief gets a bonus 100 Gold for every monster she personally kills. Gold is a premium in this game and some rooms can double their gold haul if you let the Thief do all the hard lifting. That extra gold needs to happen in the first two rooms where gold availability is low due to weaker monsters and they are immediately before the Merchant room where you can upgrade your heroes with better items. Her role shifts later when she pulls back on the the offense and lets the rest of the heroes soften up the 2 Life monsters and she swings in taking the kills. That extra gold will equate to healing after the 4th fight and since this is a game of attrition, any extra healing will go a long way to winning against the Catacomb Lord.

Wizard:

Ah the Wizard. Like the Elf, he is a weak 8 Lifer but is arguably the most powerful Hero in the base set due to his spell book. This jack of all trades ability allows him to "Elf" when he needs to, position like the Thief, cause carnage like the Barbarian and more. The key is to not hold onto your spells but use them to mitigate damage to your allies. If that fireball can take out an enemy or two in an early room, go for it. That is an enemy not dealing you damage later and there is no prize for winning and having a hand full of spells left over.

To briefly touch on a few spells, let's look at the offensive ones first. Drain Life, Fireball, Skeleton, Magic Missile are all offensive (though the skeleton can start off defensively) and all are ranged of sorts. Fireball is a bigger disc so it's easier to hit monsters with and has some weight behind it so it can be used to offensively push monsters around. Skeleton can act like a poor man's 5th Hero and either block or kill off weak monsters. Drain Life is a simple missile but makes the Wizard a bit more beefy than he appears since it can heal the Wizard when it deals damage. Magic Missile is the crowning jewel in this set as it is one of the few times in a game where you can hit multiple times without any negative drawback.

Defensive spells are comprised of Shield, Heal, and Teleport. Shield is a great positional disruptor as it can protect a hero from a bad set up or bad flick. Heal is like earning 900 gold immediately by healing 3 life for any one hero. If the Wizard uses Drain Life (2 copies) and Heal solely on himself, he has become the equivalent of a 13 life hero, outclassing even the Barbarian. This is important to remember. Since this is a game of attrition, spreading damage around your party is important and so don't let the normal fantasy norms fool you. Get this Wizard into the fray and get him there often. Spend those spells and make the Catacomb Lord take note of you and hit you often. Hits against you can be healed up later or saves your arguably squishier allies from harm. If you need to take a breather, you still have all those nice ranged spells in your back pocket but the Thief and Barbarian get no breaks. When they are in the thick of it, they are in it for the long haul. Lastly, Teleport. You only get one because it is that good. It can save a foolish ally that overextended themselves or can be a first strike nuclear attack by sending a pre-raging Barbarian behind enemy lines to cripple a difficult room or the Catacomb Lord himself. This combo alone can catch a weak Catacomb Lord unaware and be a very quick end to his evil reign.

Caverns of Soloth:

Ice Princess:

Mimicking the Elf, the Ice Princess is a feather weight, 8 Life hero with some ranged attack. She is more powerful than she seems as the Ice Shard has more benefits than are immediately apparent.

Her special ability is once per room so you don't really want to squander it but you want to make sure it's getting used every room. It is a melee shot followed by an "ice shard shot" which is flicking a blue fireball-sized disc at an enemy. The Ice Shard does no damage but freezes an enemy by placing the shard disc on top of the monster. Until that disc is knocked off, the monster below it can take no actions. The way to really manipulate it is using it on a tough monster at the end of the room. If that monster is the last monster, it basically auto-kills it. Otherwise, it's a delaying tactic as it forces the Catacomb Lord to burn a monster's action hitting his own guy to free up the (likely) better monster below it. It's not foolproof as a savvy Catacomb Lord might be able to ricochet a monster into hitting both the frozen one and a hero to free the monster and not completely waste the monster's turn.

Paladin:

Another beefcake with his 12 Life, he is the ultimate tank. Where the Barbarian can hold his own in a fight, eventually he'll come crying home if he's in the fire too long. The Paladin thrives in the fray and is where you want him almost every room. That doesn't mean you can leave him unsupported but you want to make sure the Catacomb Lord is forced to make easy shots against him vs hard shots against your allies so that his ability can get the maximum mileage.

His ability is that he can completely ignore 2 separate hits per room. By completely ignore, I mean completely ignore. He isn't stunned, critically hit, damaged, etc. You choose when to activate the "ignore field" so gauge your enemies' attack options wisely and don't waste it against some Skeleton Archer shot when a Scorpion is about to go next and hit you for a critical. Every shot you absorb is 300 gold your party doesn't need to spend healing your broken body. Played well, that can be 3000 gold not needed in healing over the course of the game.

Sorceress:

The Wizard replacement is one, to be honest, I don't play very well. Elzra games (Previously Sands of Time) mentioned that they notice players don't use her as intended and is likely why she falls flat. I'm likely one of those players but she has some interesting abilities that shouldn't be overlooked.

Instead of spell cards like the Wizard, the Sorceress uses a Magic point system where she has 3 magic-like effects and 6 magic points. Each effect costs one magic point so she basically can run these effects about 6 times a game. She can start drawing on her Life points to substitute for magic points but that starts to walk a dangerous line and is likely only for desperate situations.

Her 3 ability options are pretty unique though: "Mystic Flare" let's you mimic the Wizard's Magic Missile effect by firing 2 missile shots but it stuns her afterwards. "Open Portal" allows her to switch places with another hero or switch the places of 2 other heroes. This is pretty hot as it can set up some fun combos like letting the Barbarian Rage against the Catacomb Lord's machine, stun, then get switched out for a Poison knife Thief (her first melee shot in a room is a critical) to clean up the leftovers. Not much can survive that kind of onslaught and she can play that game multiple times unlike the one Teleport spell the Wizard has. Lastly, "Alternate Form" allows her to shrink down to the size of a missile disc. Likely her weakest power but against a weak Catacomb Lord player, the size difference may make it quite difficult for them to hit her. Wish it lasted until you decided to unshrink instead of the end of the turn though.

Witch Hunter:

This guy breaks the mold and is usually the most sought after hero in my play circle. He is the only hero in the game that gets more powerful by himself as the game progresses. One can argue that all the heroes have the option to gain a bit more power after the Merchant room but the Witch Hunter takes that idea and uses it at the end of every room. Unfortunately, it's a pretty selfish character so having the right player dynamic is key.

The Witch Hunter's ability is to create personal items for himself by discarding killed monsters that are on his playmat. This means the Witch Hunter wants to get the kills much in the same way as the Thief but instead of getting gold (which can benefit everyone) he gets personal items that make him better. A hero team can mitigate this by giving the Witch Hunter access to weak or cheap monsters that fit the "family color" he is looking for while taking the harder and more lucrative monsters down for the rest of the team. On the plus side, he also is less likely to need or want Merchant Items so the gold haul is only split amongst the 3 other heroes.

To craft items, the Witch Hunter has to spend certain monster discs to pay for specific items. This can make the experience a little luck based because if you don't really pull any fire (orange) monsters, the Witch Hunter won't be able to make certain items. These items range from a sword that can (once per room) launch 2 fireball shots, a necklace to summon a weak Centaur ally (once per room), a "favored enemy"-like dagger that can critically hit a chosen monster group, and other fun and powerful toys. If the hero party supports him, the Witch Hunter can become nigh unstoppable with a bunch of items.
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Christian Busch

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Now for the big bads, the Catacomb Lords (CL) themselves. Like the heroes' segment, I'll start with the base game and then tackle the Cavern of Soloth additions.

A Catacomb Lord is made up of a few more elements than the Heroes so I'll try to bring some order to their discussion. First is the Wandering Monster the CL brings to the specific game, next the final board including what monsters will accompany the CL, and finally Life and Special Actions.

Wandering Monsters are the (?) circles that appear on some of the room cards. It's nice subtle way to have the CL influence the entire run of the campaign depending on what Wandering Monster continuously shows up.

Core Set:

Dragon:
Wandering Monster: Fire Spirit
Board: Lava board (as if there was another option for this king of fire). Joining the Dragon are 4 Fire Spirits
Life: 8 (The beefiest CL in the Base Game)

The Dragon has 3 special abilities:
1) Summon up to 2 Fire Spirits and let them activate in the same turn
2) Melee shot > Fireball shot
3) 3 chain Melee shot

The Dragon is interesting. The room it comes in isn't necessarily that dangerous as it's just Fire Spirits and after they hit you, they're just walls (painful, burny walls but still walls). After the Fire Spirits turn into walls, it's up to the Big Bad to do his business which likely means constantly chain-shotting the Heroes until they die. Success will depend on how wounded the Heroes are before they get to the CL room and how well the Dragon can use those Fire Walls to inflict more damage as he Chain shots heroes around. The best case scenario is the Dragon doing about 4 damage to one hero and 2 damage to another. You might be able to eek out more damage if you can get a hero to hit multiple walls in a turn but the more you hit those walls, the more they collect on the edge of the board and out of alignment. With 8 Life, it only really takes 2 round of all 4 Heroes connecting with each shot to take you down. Try not to be too aggressive with the Fire Spirits unless the Heroes are sufficiently beat down.

Gorgon:
Wandering Monster: Skeletal Archer
Board: Green Board. Joining the Gorgon are 2 Minotaurs and 3 Centaurs.
Life: 5

Special:
The Gorgon has an interesting and nasty attack pattern:
Critical Melee > Stunning Missile

To add to the misery, if you are stunned in the previous turn or current turn, another Stun Missile gets you stoned and not in the hippy-let's-all-be-friends-and-eat-fritos way. Rather, the dead way. This should really get your Barbarian to perk up pay attention to strategy for once. You Rage in this room and don't drop the Gorgon, you will die next turn. Even with all that death potential, she is actually probably the easiest CL to take down. 5 Life does not get her very far and she is likely the most common to fall to the Teleport/Rage trick. The issue with her is getting to her final room. That Skeletal Archer as a Wandering Monster can really eat up the Hero's life as they snipe at you behind pillars. Also, the Teleport/Rage trick can be countered by stacking all the monsters around the Gorgon and putting her in the corner. Even teleporting into a great position means you'll likely only do about 2 damage to the Gorgon (which is all you would have done anyway) but the real danger of that trick is pushing the Gorgon out into firing range of all the other Heroes. With her already starting on the edge, she'll just go back to the edge and the Barbarian will have a hard time sweeping her downfield. If she doesn't fall and you spent most of your turn not working on her minions, it is likely going to be a quick game as this is a nasty group of minions. Centaurs can be brutal and in a group of 3 as they gang up and wipe even a half-health hero off the board. The Gorgon can also eliminate a team that only has 2 heroes left by stunning each hero consecutively.

Lich:
Wandering Monster: Skeleton Warrior
Board: Catacomb board. Joining the Lich is every Zombie and every Skeleton Warrior (6 each) plus a dash of Crypt Spider for flavor.
Life: 5

Special:
Every turn, the Lich summons back to the board a skeleton/zombie or a Ghoul. If he is lucky and keeps snagging ghouls with the Crypt Spider in play, the Lich can end the hero party quickly by stunning the entire hero team. His normal attack sequence (melee > missile) isn't too bad and his life isn't bad either but with 12 minions running around and a spider, they can really choke up the battle field. If the heroes have the health, cleaning out the room (starting with the Spider) is likely the most important job and it might be better for a Rage to work on wiping out all the undead weenies than trying to get a first turn CL kill as a stunned Barbarian can leave a spider stunning 2 other heroes and a 50% chance a Ghoul arrives to stun the fourth hero for another TPK (Total Party Kill).

Sorcerer:
Wandering Monster: Zombie
Board: Ritual board. Joining the Sorcerer is a Cerebus, 2 Fire Demons, and 2 Scorpions.
Life: 4 (The weakest CL in the Base Game)

The Rulebook recommends starting with the Sorcerer and I can see why as on paper, he seems pretty weak. He gets the weakest wandering monster, he has a weak attack sequence (just a Stun shot) and has some strong monster minions but Heroes at this point can likely wipe half or more of them out on their first turn. What isn't weak is his special ability and it can take that "4" life and turn it into 10 or more if the heroes get bad Sorcerer deck pulls. While statistically unlikely, it is possible for the Heroes to "hit" this CL all day long and never damage him. This is the only reason why I hesitate using him first as it can be a frustrating experience doing everything right only to watch him slowly kill your party because you can't draw the right card to damage him. I've seen him die most every time he's the Catacomb Lord but there have been some very long last rooms because of crazy CL luck.

Cavern of Soloth:

Cavern of Soloth introduced 4 new CLs and they seem to have a bit more flash to them than the Base CLs. They also come with a built-in difficulty slider allowing all of them to optionally slide up to 8 life. I will put their base life total in their description but be aware that all of them can start at 8 Life if the players so choose.

Hydra:
Wandering Monster: Skeleton Archer
Board: Catacomb board. Joining the Hydra are 3 Skeleton Warriors, one Minotaur, one scorpion, one troll, one manticore, and a shade.
Life: 7

The Special for the Hydra is that it's shot sequence gets better as it takes on more damage. Starting with a simple Melee > Critical Melee and ending with Melee > Critical Melee > Critical Melee. This guy is pretty tough as he alone can do quite a bit of damage and his minion crew aren't slouches either. Luckily he doesn't have a lot of ranged options so the Minions have to come to your a bit more. With all the CLs in the expansion coming with more Life in general, the teleport/rage trick really sees minimal use here unless your party can absorb or mitigate the loss of the barbarian. Picking off minions with ranged attacks via the Wizard, Elf, Sorceress, or Witch Hunter is an effective early tactic. When taking on the Hydra, you should plan to knock it down to 4+ life and then kill it next turn as keeping it in 3- territory is asking for a hero to die next turn.

Orc Warchief:
Wandering Monster: Orc (duh)
Board: open field board. Joining the Warchief are 2 Orcs, one scorpion, two trolls, one wolf rider, and a rust monster.
Life: 6

The Warchief special is interesting in that it can really snowball against the heroes. 1) if he damages at least one hero, another minion can take a turn and 2) if he kills a hero, all his minions regen (which can affect all of them as they each have 2 health) and take actions.

Since the Warchief's shot sequence is Melee > Critical Melee, he has a good chance at picking off a weak hero or one that has been recently roughed up by his goons. The Rust Monster is an interesting addition since the CL can use it as bait. If the Heroes ignore it, it can come out and start eating precious weapons and items and generally pissing off the Hero players until they are forced to deal with it.

Queen of the Underworld:
Wandering Monster: Wight
Board: Brown/web board. Joining the Queen are 4 zombies, one ghoul, one Fire Demon, two Cerebus and one troll.
Life: 6

While the Queen sports an interesting ability, I consider her the weakest of the new CLs. She has 3 "spirit" discs that can flit around the board (doing no damage) and allow her to warp as part of her shot sequence and then follow up with Melee > Melee. This is the weakest attack of any CL in the game and so it will make her rely on her minions to really get the best of the heroes. If she happens to kill a hero, she can turn them into a Shade. It's nice but if the heroes focus on wiping out her heavy hitting minions like the twin Cerebusses (Cerebes? Cerebi?), she will have a hard time competing even if she is warping all over the place.

Shapeshifter:
Wandering Monster: Fire Spirit
Board: Lava board. Joining the Shapeshifter are 3 Skeleton Archers, one Fire Demon, one wight, one orc, and one Cerebus.
Life: 6

I question the wandering monster and final board choice on this CL but I can't deny that it has one of the more fun special abilities. You build a deck of 6 monsters (Crypt Spider, Manticore, Scorpion, Gargoyle, Rust Monster, and Infernal Acolyte). At the start of the CL turn, you choose a monster and use a Melee + chosen monster's shot sequence/ability. You can't choose the same monster again until you run through all the other monsters in your Shifter deck. It can create some really powerful attack sequences and since you are basing your monster choice off the current board position, you are in a good place to make optimal use of each monster's unique power. The Shifter's Minions are also heavily favored towards ranged attacks and can make life pretty bad for the Heroes if they can't make good use of obstacles.
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Kelly Beyer
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Thanks for putting this together!
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Christian Busch

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rowe33 wrote:
Thanks for putting this together!

Sure thing! I want to get a few more plays in of the third edition and then will make another primer for them.
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