Owen Compton
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
So I've run up a Descent campaign with my regular game group and we've just finished the Interlude of the Shadow Rune campaign - just the core set, nothing else. The OL (myself) has won everything but the Fat Goblin quest and my recent victory in the Interlude was so crushing that the heroes are feeling pretty deflated. I don't think the game's unbalanced but it's feeling like the heroes are in a bit of a rut and we're about to go into Act 2 with majority OL victories and the monsters about to get stat upgrades. Kinda wondering what to do about this?

You don't need to read the rest of this post but I'm just going to try and summarise the way things have panned out over the missions in case that's helpful.

Heroes: Jain Woodward (Wildlander), Syndrael (Berserker), Avric Albright (Spirit Speaker)

First Blood - because we were getting used to the game then strategic mistakes were made on both sides in the first few quests and this was no exception. I mostly just kept knocking down Avric and running the Ettin round to avoid damage - it was narrow but I squeaked the win.

Character development - I take Web Trap because I sense the heroes mobility (between Syndrael's and Jain's heroics) is too good and they need locking down a bit more. I don't remember the heroes taking anything significant at this point. I believe Jain got a better bow.

OL Pick - Masquerade Ball - This was our first proper quest and the heroes took the "kill everything" approach, which resulted in me getting guests out with relative ease, it helped that I got a bit lucky and most of the guests were either in the central room near where I spawned or in the room where I spawned. Going into the second encounter having won the first then the bonus of not having to roll for each door meant Eliza just swept straight through without the heroes even really getting to the Tomb tile (they made it but only to do the search as they knew they had lost). I took Barghests as my first open group in this scenario to wear down their fatigue early on so they couldn't catch up and between the spiders and the howling then they struggled. If they had made it to the tomb then I had chosen Zombies as my second group to try and use the Grab ability on the master one to keep them from chasing too effectively but it never became relevant.

Character development: At this point Syndrael took Whirlwind and bought a weapon with an automatic Pierce 1 and a surge for a second one (some kind of axe). Syndrael's development here completely warped my strategy for the next few quests as I had to be constantly aware of how far apart my monsters were and trying to find placements that minimised the devastating effect of the piercing whirlwind. From the OL's side then I got Bones of Woe, which has proved pretty much as powerful as it reads. I also took Explosive Runes because I didn't want a second Web Trap (though now I do!), the option of having it gives me utility in missions where it might be useful.

The hero group's strategy from this point on became: Get Syndrael in the best position possible to Whirlwind and then use it to maximum effect. Avric makes sure the group keeps standing and Jain searches, chases down any runners or provides extra damage on big monsters. Syndrael's Whirlwind is the absolute centrepiece of their strategy.

OL Pick - Castle Daerion - IMPORTANT! We didn't play the errata for this mission (I had remembered seeing it but completely forgot which mission it applied to) so after the game I offered to take back the mission and we could either play it again or play a different one - the heroes agreed to just soldier on. In the first encounter I plumped with Merriod (truthfully, because it looked fun) and Barghests. I had a loose idea about using the Barghests speed to chew up the villagers before they could get to safety and the Merriod to immobilise them down in the early section. The end result was the Merriod kept getting the door shut in it's face at the first cabin and I could never really get it to land effective hits on the villagers - the Barghests got slaughtered to double Whirlwinds and the Merriod could never catch up as it had to waste actions opening doors and the heroes could make a fighting retreat from it, using villagers to shut doors as they went. We realised that post-errata then this encounter wouldn't have ended any differently. The second encounter went intially well (Whirlwind to clear the initial staircase and then militia spawning in to get in and defend. However without the errata then I was able to hide the Ettin in the corner of the main chamber, surround it with monsters so it couldn't be hit and continually hit Palamon as he doesn't have his move action pre-errata (or an extra defence die upgrade). As I said I offered to take the mission back but we decided to press on.

Character development: Avric took Cloud of Mist, nothing else significant as far as I can remember - I think I might've taken Wicked Laughter because the Web Trap's were proving devastating against their group mobility and being able to reroll it as well was just too good to pass up.

OL Pick - Fat Goblin - I had played the first encounter of this quest as a one off with another game group before and done poorly so I wanted a second go. First time round I had used Cave Spiders as my open group but decided to use Merriod this time round as the Whirlwind would clear the spiders too fast. Merriod was a bit of a damp squib because they slipped past him without him getting an immobilise. The goblins were ultimately trashed by Syndrael's Whirlwind and barely got away with one hay bale. Going into the second encounter I plumped for an Ettin as my open group, I know I had the option to Shadow Dragon (which I hadn't used at all by that point), but it felt unnecessarily mean given that the heroes had lost everything up until then. It also felt unthematic to have a Shadow Dragon in a goblin lair the heroes opened really well by annihilating the spiders and getting a search in before heading on to the Ettin. On reflection the Shadow Dragon would've been a lot better as the Ettin did do a very impressive Dark Charm-Throw-Frenzy combo that brutalised Jain but it went down shortly after. After that the heroes rested up while I dithered in the last corridor trying to work out how best to rush Splig + prisoner past. Unfortunately for me then the heroes blocked up the corridor and the narrowness of it all meant the Whirlwind was working at maximum efficiency. Avric kept a Cloud of Mist up to make hitting really tough so I couldn't get a knockback in from Splig to make some space to dash out and he went down a round later.

Character development: The heroes had a LOT of cash after this mission and went a bit mad buying a Mana Weave, some Leather Armour and two other items that I can't remember at the minute.

Interlude - The Overlord Revealed - My open groups for this were Shadow Dragon (Green Portal), Goblin Archers (Blue Portal) and Barghests (Red Portal)*. The heroes almost immediately tried to get the Runelock of Strength shut. I had plonked the dragon right on top of it so while they tried to find a way round (or through) the dragon then I moved everything else up behind them. I managed to lock down Syndrael through a Web Trap -> Wicked Laughter combo that meant she wasted her Heroic Feat and did nothing for an entire round while I moved the dragon into the entrance to the room dividing Syndrael in the room with no way out and the other heroes in the middle chamber where they had retreated to battle the encroaching goblin-barghest horde. They did get the Strength Runelock sealed and it turned out that it was the Shadow Dragon one. Zachareth appeared and crowd-controlled the hell out of Syndrael to ensure she had to use at least one action to keep moving towards things to hit them. Unfortunately, as I had Syndrael on lockdown then this took out a vast majority of the hero team's killing power and I effectively butchered the other two in the central chamber while the master barghest picked up the shadow key and headed out.

* I thought pretty hard about my open group choices and I don't think I would've changed anything about them, even the controversial Goblin Archer vs Whirlwind Berserker inclusion. A very quick line of reasoning behind my choices is that the map is pretty big and if you rely on those large monsters too much (Ettin, etc.) then when they go down then it's going to be a lonnnnnnnnnnng time before they get back to the fight as the Blue and Red Portals are either far away or have tough terrain and I need to save Dash cards for running the key out (Green Portal is being used by Shadow Dragon). Ultimately the goal is to get that key out as fast as possible so I plumped for high mobility (goblins/barghests) with something to act as a stall (Shadow Dragon), and just enough utility abilities (Goblin scamper to prevent blocking, Barghest howl to prevent chasing and Barghest size to block corridors for ranged attacks on the key carrier or other chasers).

Extra thoughts:

- The hero team's reliance on Syndrael for damage seems quite high, I'm not sure if that's intentionally how groups should be set up (they seem to have a damage, support/tank and utility) because it makes them very vulnerable to control effects (of which I stock up on because to do otherwise and let Syndrael run about it just insane).

- Jain (Wildlander) has felt like the weakest hero in the group. She doesn't seem to lay out damage that effectively (she has the ability to reroll one die), at least not compared to Syndrael - but she has also had miserable dice rolling for a lot of the times we've played - maybe her time will come? Her abilities don't seem that amazing. I think she has an ability to shoot through allies and another that ignores adjacent enemies and while the ability to shoot through allies has been quietly effective then, as I said, she seems to have significantly less damage output compared to Syndrael.

- Avric's tankiness and his healing has proved quite frustrating for taking down Syndrael. On one hand I feel like I should focus Avric before Syndrael, but Syndrael does SO MUCH DAMAGE that it feels like depleting both their life pools + healing is too hard and my monsters won't last long enough - that said, if Avric has nothing to heal then he doesn't seem able to do much else. Avric has taken Drain Spirit & Cloud of Mist. Drain Spirit never seems hugely threatening as I generally try and focus one character at a time but Cloud of Mist has been very annoying on the few times it's seen use.

- Syndrael is devastating and forces me to literally plan my entire turn around how far she can move and what she'll be able to hit (taking into account ability to use fatigue to move and her heroic). That said if I get enough control options (Pit Trap vs fatigue moves, Tripwire vs standard moves and Web Trap for group lockdown + Wicked Laughter to enhance any of those) then I can somewhat mitigate her effectivenss. Dividing Syndrael from the rest of the heroes was critical in the Interlude to mopping up in the central chamber.

So, any thoughts? Are there any inspiring stories of hero teams losing out through the missions but still emerging victorious?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Clearihue
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think when you're playing the campaign, you really need to take the longview. The first time I played, my group dove straight in with me as the Overlord and the heroes as follows;

Widow Tarha(Necromancer), Grisban(Berserker), Avric(Prophet)

Full disclosure, we were playing with several expansions together, and we got into it enough each session that we acquired the rest as we went, so more monsters, items, etc populated the game as it went on.

Back on-topic; The heroes were having a rough go in the beginning, until they realized how important those search tokens are for generating gold to shop with, potions to help close out Encounter 2's, and the almighty Treasure Chest.

Some missions can be more or less optimal for the Heroes/Overlord, which I think is what I enjoy the most about it; there's just so much variance that we can really take it for the tactical experience it is.

It just sounds to me like Vanilla Descent might not have enough variance with the abilities and monsters to make things pop for you. Having never played it Core-only, I can't offer you much other than to say that the game is terrific with all the expandable bits mixed in to your options.

I'll easily be able to get another campaign going with the group, because we're all eager to try a different campaign with different heroes/classes and see where that takes us.

Even when one side was getting raked over the coals, we had a laugh about it, and kept playing and having fun. Don't take it too seriously as a hardcore miniatures wargame, and enjoy the swords and sorcery tropes.

For your Overlord playing, Berserker is just an unstoppable force if they get their hands on the Bearded Axe. You'll really have to get creative to not have your minions get shredded if that combo hits.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Owen Compton
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
cleardave wrote:
For your Overlord playing, Berserker is just an unstoppable force if they get their hands on the Bearded Axe. You'll really have to get creative to not have your minions get shredded if that combo hits.


Did a quick search and that's a Labyrinth of Ruin item so I'm safe!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan Stripling
United States
Lowell
Arkansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
You could encourage them by giving them the win bonus for Castle Darien so that you both got it (they didn't have a prayer pre-errata). And tell them that the quest they did win was the most balanced among them. Also, remind them that those search tokens are almost, and sometimes more, important than winning quests. They only have to win the one that counts to win the campaign.
-ryanjamal
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J Conway
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Ironically, your report sounds really interesting (and the extent to which everyone seems to be considering their tactics sounds, to me, like a good time!)

I can't say anything to change the mood of the hero team necessarily, but I would point out that the campaign will ultimately come down to who wins the final - not who won the most games leading into it.

The monsters get the same powerup in Act 2 whether the Overlord is winning games or not, and the heroes don't get access to Act 2 shop items until after the first quest, one way or another. So actually, aside from what I expect is your slight XP advantage as the overlord, things aren't looking as bad for the heroes as they may think!

It might be worth letting the wildlander player respec to the thief (or whatever it's called, I forget just now). My experience is consistent with yours that the wildlander is pretty weak. So, if the player isn't having any fun, maybe the break in continuity would be worthwhile?

Otherwise I would say stick it out - my friends and I only finished the one Shadow Rune campaign, and I as the Overlord met with a similar level of success that you're having, but series overall was still pretty successful for us. The Act 2 quests are fun, as well, in my opinion - and there are several opportunities for the heroes to win powerful artifacts. Maybe try to appeal to their sense of greed!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Summerfield
United States
California
flag msg tools
mb
cleardave wrote:
For your Overlord playing, Berserker is just an unstoppable force if they get their hands on the Bearded Axe. You'll really have to get creative to not have your minions get shredded if that combo hits.

I believe the axe The Sacred Voice is referring to is the Iron Battleaxe. Either axe will work well for the Berserker class; really they only differ in potential by pierce 1 and how they spend their surges.

The Sacred Voice wrote:
Did a quick search and that's a Labyrinth of Ruin item so I'm safe!

"Safe" is a relative term unfortunately. As far as classes in Descent go, the Berserker is the damage dealing class; that's all it's good for (except for Cripple; love that card). The only way to deal with one is to slow it down. I'd suggest investing in another Web Trap and any cards that activate on Awareness if the Berserker is your main concern.

Of course, if you're worried about steamrolling the heroes, keep in mind that it is very possible for them to lose every single quest in the game, only to win the finale. The game can be somewhat wish-washy in this regard.

I suggest that if things look too overwhelming for the heroes (which it just might, now that you're entering Act II, which is INSANELY difficult during the first outing) that you pull a few punches here and there. Build in to the stronger monsters and just use zombies or goblin archers until they can begin to compensate. Just don't pull too much if you're still looking to win.

I hope you find this information helpful.

(Also: Hooray, my first post!)
4 
 Thumb up
8.30
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justin B
United States
flag msg tools
Stats not guaranteed accurate. May be made up entirely.
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Spirit Speakers are pretty weak compared to Disciples, and a Wildlander in the base game without Danger Sense isn't utilizing their class fully. Further, the Wildlander actually has some pretty good options for mobility or attacking at range that the thief lacks. However, in a 3 hero game I think Warrior, Healer, and Mage is a better setup generally. I would suggest a Wildlander build of Danger Sense (1XP), Fleet of Foot (2XP), Bow Mastery (2XP), and then either 3XP skill to cap it off (optional).

Other than that, it seems like your group is starting to understand it's not always about killing all the monsters.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark O'Reilly
United Kingdom
Chester
Cheshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Harkodos wrote:


(Also: Hooray, my first post!)


Here, have some and buy your first badge thumbsup
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Cameron
United States
Charleston
South Carolina
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb

Have you thought about treating this as a 'training mission' and starting the campaign over? With a different character mix and a couple of different quests chosen, it would be entirely fresh (with the exception of First Blood, which the heroes should win handily -- if they don't, they might need to rethink their tactics in general...)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Summerfield
United States
California
flag msg tools
mb
biffta wrote:
Here, have some and buy your first badge thumbsup

Cheers, mate!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin Manrique
msg tools
For my gaming group, it is the complete opposite. Heroes have won every single quest, though some were close. Like someone said earlier for having a Wildlander in your group and not taking danger sense is the biggest mistake, that should always be the first skill to get with that class. That ability is so OP, that our Overlord can't stand it. Every turn we would remove a card from his hand. Now we would play with 4 heroes, so having 1 player use up an action for that wasn't bad, while the other 3 did the objective and killed the monsters.

My advice to you would be is maybe pick a quest that looks in favor for the heroes to win. Only problem with this game is the snowball effect, being that you won all the quests so far, you have the advantage, same with my game with the heroes. But it may be too late already. You having 2 relics, especially the one from the interlude is really powerful.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John E
United States
Cary
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It sounds like the heroes started off making some very basic mistakes and it has just continued along. For instance, there is no way an Overlord should win First Blood. Also as mentioned, the spiritspeaker is a quite tough healer to use -- disciple is much more useful, especially in the early going. In our last LoR campaign we had elder Mok spiritspeaker and he didn't really get into gear until probably the second quest of Act 2. Of course by the end he was totally awesome, but it's a slog to get there and be prepared for the complaining of the other heroes who aren't getting the healing they would like.

Also, wildlander has some AMAZING skills that it sounds like they aren't using. It's understandable; as new players they might not realize how it should all work together. For instance, with Fleet of Foot Jain can fatigue move 10 squares, attack (or maybe more importantly search a token), and then rest with her second action to be fresh for next turn. Also, Danger Sense is just a must for Wildlander.

If they are truly despairing of turning the campaign around you could offer to restart it now that everyone really knows how to play. But honestly if they can scrape some cash together the gear that they get in Act 2 will make them quite powerful.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.