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Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)» Forums » General

Subject: Rebalancing of Power Mid-Campaign? rss

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David Williams
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I have been playing as OL with my teenaged kids, and although it's been great fun things are looking pretty rough for them.

They have 1 character each - Syndrael as a Knight and Avric as a Disciple. They won First Blood and Death on the Wing. I won A Fat Goblin, The Masquerade Ball, and most recently The Overlord Revealed.

In terms of wins v losses that doesn't seem too bad, they have 1 relic, I have 2 plus a bonus XP for Fat Goblin. However they have struggled to find any cash, partially due to me being evil and blocking them with monsters, they never seem to have enough time to risk trying to get the treasure and as a result have not made very much gold to spend in the shop. I made 1 bonus XP plus Bones of Woe, and most recently the Shadow Rune.

I won the last 2 with relative ease, despite deliberately not playing many OL cards just to keep things interesting.

Gear they have acquired:

Shield of the Dark God, Crossbow (found in a Treasure chest on First Blood!), Leather Armor, Iron shield, and 125g in the bank.

My concern is even after the interlude they didn't manage to buy any new gear; Syndrael is still using her starter weapon and is just not the damage-dealer they need her to be!

We were discussing how to remedy this - for starters we are planning to replay the interlude now they know how the quest works and can perhaps win it plus get both treasures. But this might not be enough as the Shadow Rune won't really help them, they will really just be denying me of it.

I also wondered if we should try sticking with Act I monsters.

Another idea I had was to 'reset' it and beef them up by letting them use the Epic Play rules for the first quest of Act 2, so they get 500 gold minus the cost of the shop items they have acquired so far, which gives them 500-300 = 200 gold to spend on any items from act 1 or 2.

I actually don't feel this is because the quests are imbalanced, in fact I think they had chances to win all 3 of the quests they lost, but had a combination of bad luck and being the first time they tried the quests. Usually afterwards we could discuss where they went wrong. That said, I'm very wary that this game encourages the snowball effect and being trounced every time will sap the fun for them.

Anyway, opinions would be welcome. Are things only going to get harder for them and we should take remedial action now to keep it fun? Or will things pick up quite quickly for the heroes in Act II?

Cheers.
 
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David Wann
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You could let your children know that in many quests it is IMHO better off for the heroes to generally ignore the quest objectives and aim at getting all the search tokens.

As an experiment one campaign I decided to do just this. The heroes only won the intro and lost every other quest but getting in a 4 hero game 6-8 search tokens each quest. I only bought armor and trinkets from the 1st act. Come the finale I trounced the OL due to having some really great gear on my heroes. I still made a point of attempting to go for the quest objectives and generally won the 1st encounter.

It was this more than anything else that made me give my game away.
 
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David Williams
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Obi Wann wrote:
You could let your children know that in many quests it is IMHO better off for the heroes to generally ignore the quest objectives and aim at getting all the search tokens.


Thanks for this - I have suggested that to them, pointed out that some quests they ended with nothing but 1 XP. They have been trying, but it's always easier said than done, especially since they don't generally know in advance what the quest rewards will be.

I actually think that might be another part of the problem - we have been going for a somewhat 'authentic' exerience where they don't know what will happen. So it was a surprise to them when Zachareth turned traitor on them. But we agreed afterwards that this lack of knowledge was actually quite a big disadvantage for them, as had they known they would not have closed the first portal so quickly but killed off a couple more monsters first to secure the centre and protect the Shadow Key.

Hence the idea of repeating that quest, though I think that would be of limited use at this point since all they get for winning is a relic which is not much use to them.
 
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Dean L
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Orion3T wrote:
I actually think that might be another part of the problem - we have been going for a somewhat 'authentic' exerience where they don't know what will happen.


Well yes, in that case, you're massively biasing the game towards the Overlord as the quests are just not designed to be played that way. Not to say that you can't, but do need to give the heroes an equally strong advantage somewhere else to offset it (and accept that some quests will be basically unwinnable for them). 100g a quest seems fair.
 
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David Williams
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Deano2099 wrote:
Orion3T wrote:
I actually think that might be another part of the problem - we have been going for a somewhat 'authentic' exerience where they don't know what will happen.


Well yes, in that case, you're massively biasing the game towards the Overlord as the quests are just not designed to be played that way. Not to say that you can't, but do need to give the heroes an equally strong advantage somewhere else to offset it (and accept that some quests will be basically unwinnable for them). 100g a quest seems fair.


Yes I think you're right, at least in this particular case as not knowing Zakareth would betray them was a big shock. The only other disadvantages to this point were that they were guessing which quests to choose and don't know what the rewards will be.

I don't think there was anything major in previous quests, just some strategic and tactical errors plus bad luck.

Can any experienced player tell me if their current gear is way underpowered for this stage in the campaign? If so, maybe suggest an amount of gold I could give them which would allow them to get up to power by purchasing freely from the shop items before we reattempt the Interlude quest?

I want to be able to play my best while still providing a winnable challenge for them.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Uh, oh. Things you pointed out like gear, not enough gold from searching and having only starting equipment surely are factor for them losing. That, and the fact they are playing with only 2 heroes which is the worst. You might start over with each of them having 2 heroes, so total would be 4. But if you are not telling them everything from quest description it's the worst. Winning when you don't know everything about quest is close to impossible in many cases.
 
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David Williams
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Yes I get that now.

It was really just to avoid spoiling the story, and so if they win a relic it's a nice surprise. It seems a shame to spoil the plot, if I have to do it again I will either reward them with extra gold or not take the OL reward.

I don't think any of us want to start from scratch, and I was keeping it to 2 heroes for speed & simplicity but perhaps they would like 2 each.

But my real question is how I can balance things up again so we can go on from here? We don't want to start over if possible.
 
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Ryan Stripling
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I wonder if you could give them two more heroes with the same number of XP and however much gold they might have accrued. Then let them do either the shopping phase after the interlude or replay the interlude. Really, the game is not balance with only two heroes, so continuing on without doing something like this is a bad idea.
-ryanjamal
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Jeramy Poulin
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Wow...even two very experienced players going at it 'in the dark' vs an overlord would be highly challenged.

As has been pointed out 2 heroes generally favor overlord, 3 heroes favor the players, 4 heroes is the most balanced.

However, as you have found out, it's not really the wins that are important but the lack of gold that can cause the players to lose more and more (and not have fun). I usually recommend that first time player groups (of any number of heroes) include a thief or treasure hunter, and/or Aurim to help with the gold hunt. Using rumor (side quests) and treasure rooms from the expansions can help as well.

If they did have the Shadow Rune it actually would help a lot. Have Avric use it, and Syndrael can swap between crossbow/shield, starting weapon/shield, or shield/shield as needed. Depends on skills of course.

Without starting over the simplest solution would be to give the heroes extra gold (200?). A more fun and involved way would be to pause the main campaign and run the heroes through an entire mini-campaign from one of the small expansions and then continue the main campaign.

 
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Chase Toffee
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2 heroes is OL favored indeed, you really should try 2 heroes for each of them... Syndrael + Avric also in particular means, that these heroes will lose any quest where you can pick Shadow Dragons, since they will be both melee whistle

Our group plays the quests, reading the story an encounter at a time. This way it will still remain interesting, since we dont know what is going to happen in the 2nd encounter (no info for the OL or heroes), but playing as you seem to have done it, will favor the OL too much.

 
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David Williams
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Ok thanks for the suggestions everyone.

You're right about the shadow rune, it would have its uses. I was just thinking they had rejected (shop) and sold (treasure chest) runes before so wouldn't want it.

I will tell them the consensus is they had it rough for a first run through so they know its not just them. They have enjoyed it even when losing (they are 14&16 so don't get upset easily) which should help their confidence.

I will offer for them to take on 2 extra heroes and level them up. If we stick with 2 I will let them draw treasure for all the searches they missed then buy from the deck. Then we replay the interlude now they know what happens and see how they get on; if they win then I think that would suggest they are ready for Act II. My concern with more heroes is the games will take twice as long.

We don't have the small expansions but they could try the Act I quests they skipped, which should help level them and earn more gold. It seems XP alone doesn't make a huge difference to the overlord and if I don't reduce my deck to 15 it will dilute what it des give. I will consider this plan B if they lose the Interlude again.

On a slightly different point, Labyrinth of Ruin is on its way to us. I am thinking of letting them be OL as I definitely have more experience and would relish the challenge. Is that campaign similar in difficulty?
 
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Selwyn Hope
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If you would rather play WITH your kids rather than against, try the D6 Overlord variant Nerdook put together. Still play through the campaign, but the monsters are controlled by a random "AI" instead of needing a human player.

This would: increase the number of heroes, remove bias of the Overlord being the only one to know the win condition, and give you some fun time with your kids overcoming the challenges.
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Ryan Stripling
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If four characters would take too long, maybe just add one character that they both share. Just a thought. This is the most hero-favored construction.
-ryanjamal
 
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David Williams
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Cesspit wrote:
If you would rather play WITH your kids rather than against, try the D6 Overlord variant Nerdook put together.


Thanks for this - looks really useful!

I don't think we will start again just yet, they seem happy o replay the interlude today, and I will let them invest in some better equipment first. I might make some house rules for the rest of this first playthrough while we are learning the game and quests a bit better.

Like any searches they don't manage, they can still draw a card at the end and get 1/2 the total gold, rounded up. This way they always get some gold after a quest but there's still use in the searches for the potions and more gold.
 
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M M
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Do what you want, but it sounds like you're doing way too much adjusting.
 
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Jim Ant
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Orion3T wrote:
However they have struggled to find any cash, partially due to me being evil and blocking them with monsters, they never seem to have enough time to risk trying to get the treasure

Gear they have acquired:

Crossbow, Leather Armor, Iron shield,


I'm a little late to the discussion and skimmed the above posts but I do agree that you shouldn't get too deep into houserules in your first campaign.

Maybe give them a better chance to get gear, which is absolutely crucial to winning as heroes in this game.

How about just let them draw 3 cards from Act II shop and, if they want to, they can "swap" any Act II item for an Act I item (they seem to have only 3 not-so-great items from Act I). That would be an easy re-balance.

As for Labyrinth of Ruin, it's a fun campaign, our group played it twice, first with our easygoing OL (we won) and then with our TPK-OL (we lost but it wasn't a terrible beating). No houserules necessary.

The 2-hero game does seem to be the most difficult, it might be that the OL has to go a little easier (I've only tried it once and realized immediately that I had to back off as OL).

 
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Dean L
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Orion3T wrote:

I don't think there was anything major in previous quests, just some strategic and tactical errors plus bad luck.


Depends how much info you gave them really. For example, in Fat Goblin, did they know what your win-conditions were in terms of moving the hay for example, so they could try and block you?
 
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David Williams
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I agree, I don't want to overcomplicate things but I would also prefer to stick with just 2 heroes, and they agreed they have enough trouble keeping track of 1 at a time and remembering the skills just for those 2.

In the end I gave them 200g for free to compensate for how many treasures they missed, and let them buy whatever they liked from Act I shop cards. Also rather than going all-out on them, when we replayed Overlord Revealed I am giving them tactical advice - so we are pretty much playing it as a puzzle to see if it's even possible to beat the OL with 2 heroes on this quest.

One thing that became clear is that tactics in this event are crucial. The first thing we tried was for the heroes to rush south and try to clear the bottom passage of both barghests to thin out the monsters. Of course the Shadow Dragon from the North passage blocked them in, and by the time they had escaped my Flesh Moulders from the West were making off with the key. A couple of rounds later they had killed the moulders, but not before the master had got the key through 1 door and half way to the exit. Not good! We decided they were worse off than they started and started again. This was similar to what happened the first time, though with opposite passages.

The second time I suggested they start out more defensive by blocking the passage West and waiting for monsters to come to them. With Avric's powerful healing and Syndrael's ability to take hits for him and spend fatigue to get extra attacks, this is a fully defensible position for them provided they remember to use their skills properly. We figured this would let them thin out the monsters by killing both barghests or both moulders together, buying some time and creating an opportunity to go for a runelock without the masters grabbing the key.

This worked quite well - after a few rounds of killing monsters they managed to clear the south passage, close a portal and get back into position to prepare for closing the 2nd portal. Since they managed to kill both Barghests and that was the portal they closed, things looked quite good for them when we stopped for the night.

That said, I haven't used any OL cards so this is still very tough going but we're having fun trying to figure it out together.

Is this quest considered particularly tough for 2 characters? It does seem like even 1 more hero would make a huge difference, allowing 2 to guard the key/door and one to go off and lock portals.
 
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David Williams
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Deano2099 wrote:
Orion3T wrote:

I don't think there was anything major in previous quests, just some strategic and tactical errors plus bad luck.


Depends how much info you gave them really. For example, in Fat Goblin, did they know what your win-conditions were in terms of moving the hay for example, so they could try and block you?


Yes they knew the objectives in every quest, just not necessarily the consequences of winning/losing encounter 1, or the prize for winning the quest. In this case they just didn't know what the result of me getting the hay i.e. Splig getting extra HP. For Overlord Revealed they knew they had to close the portals, they just didn't know Zachareth would betray them and appear when they opened the first one. I'm not that cruel!!

In retrospect I think in A Fat Goblin the Heroes are well advised to prioritise getting both treasures, if they can store any bails that's a bonus. All they get for winning the whole quest is 25g each - a single treasure is probably better than this! Much better to get 4 treasures and lose the quest than win the quest and no treasure.

Of course if they get lucky the treasures could be good enough to help them win the quest anyway, especially if they build up potions during encounter 1 these could make encounter 2 much easier. The goblins are bound to get at least a couple of bails anyway, 4 more HP for Splig is only 1 decent whack.
 
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Darren Nakamura
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Orion3T wrote:
It was really just to avoid spoiling the story, and so if they win a relic it's a nice surprise. It seems a shame to spoil the plot, if I have to do it again I will either reward them with extra gold or not take the OL reward.


For what it's worth, the story itself is not particularly good, so you shouldn't feel too bad about spoiling it.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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I heard that Nerekhall has pretty nice story(for Descent standard anyway). And it also comes with surprise betrayal mechanic, where OL decides in secret before the encounter which NPCs will be loyal to him.
 
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David Williams
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Dexter345 wrote:
Orion3T wrote:
It was really just to avoid spoiling the story, and so if they win a relic it's a nice surprise. It seems a shame to spoil the plot, if I have to do it again I will either reward them with extra gold or not take the OL reward.


For what it's worth, the story itself is not particularly good, so you shouldn't feel too bad about spoiling it.


lol - yes it's not exactly an enthralling and fluent storyline, but still it adds some theme and it seems best to avoid spoilers on the first playthrough.

Thanks for all the suggestions, I think we will be fine.

My daughter seemed to actually like that they were getting whooped more often than not, saying heroes are supposed to suffer. lol

I'm probably worrying about this more than I need to.
 
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Dexter345 wrote:
For what it's worth, the story itself is not particularly good, so you shouldn't feel too bad about spoiling it.

Not to us, sure, but if I were playing this as a kid I probably would have eaten it up. Plot elements only become cliche once you're overly familiar with them.
 
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Jeramy Poulin
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When I played this with my kids (I as the overlord) I found it more fun and more balancing by playing at least one overlord card per turn (unless it didn't make any sense) rather than hoarding them for Act II's. Also this sort of negated the stalling tactic in order to draw the entire overlod deck (which is even more brutal and easier to do against 2 heroes).

I think playing a houserule of allowing the heroes to concede at the end of any overlord turn works well too.
 
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David Williams
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Jeramy - That's quite a good idea. However it wouldn't help much in this case as it was the interlude, so only 1 encounter.

We finished it off last night and I basically helped them through it as a puzzle we were trying to solve together. I deliberately made a few tactical errors and didn't use as many OL cards as I could, and it came down to Avric passing his willpower test in 2 attempts else Zachareth would have escaped next turn, so it was close.

My conclusion is that this quest is particularly difficult for 2 players, even more so than most quests. At least with this combination of characters and the monsters I chose (Moulders, Barghests, Shadow Dragon).

So the end result was they earned 75g plus the Shadow Rune relic. They are under no illusions that I will not be taking it easy on them from now on. devil

(but I will be telling them the rewards for winning etc!)
 
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