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Subject: Adventure card gaming done right rss

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Damon Asher
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This game deserves a more well crafted review, but for now I just wanted to post some thoughts about how much fun I've been having with this game.

Just so you know where I'm coming from, after about 7 sessions or so, I found myself becoming bored with the Pathfinder card game. My problem with it is that it is just not that interesting mechanically. Draw a card, assemble your dice, and try to roll higher than X. The decisions mainly revolve around deciding whether to use your buffs now or save them for later.

Enter Assault on Doomrock. The game is just as thematic, but with much more interesting decisions.

The goal of the game to win 3 battles of increasing difficulty. Between battles your party has the opportunity to explore a series a map cards, each with its own set of potential activities. You must balance a number of things in this stage: healing, leveling up, finding loot, purchasing items, and advancing towards Doomrock. You have a limited amount of time before the next battle starts, so you need to make some tough decisions. Powering up your heroes is essential for success in the battles ahead.

I really enjoy the way the game separates out this prep phase from the battles. This gives the game a nice tempo, and the story plays out like a three act story.

The combat system is the real prize here, though. The game utilizes an abstract positioning system where each creature or hero is either distant or in a group with others. Characters maneuver between groups to make close attacks or fire at range. There are only a few basic elements to track, including hit points, armor, shields, "expose" tokens that leave characters vulnerable, and "heroism" tokens that let heroes power up their abilities.

The heroes control their actions by assigning dice to their various ability cards. Here you need to balance doing the best you can with your current roll, or risking rerolls that may yield less useful results.

Each enemy is controlled by a unique AI deck. The result is that each battle presents a new tactical puzzle. You will need to play smart, find synergies, and occasionally think outside the box to prevail. It is hard to effectively describe how well this system injects flavor, tension and tactics into each battle, so I'll try an example.

I was fighting an enemy whose main power was that the first hit against each of the six soldiers did not damage them, it only pushed them away. I was playing a Heroic Paladin and a Stinky Witch. Paladin's prize powerup was his "Whirlwind" ability to strike hard all the enemies in a group. This ability encourages you to bunch your enemies then charge in. However, I quickly realized this was useless against this particular enemy. I was only wasting my actions to charge in and disperse my foes harmlessly like chasing pigeons in the park. My Witch's ranged attacks were also ineffective, as the first hit was still doing no damage and her most potent "barrage" ability was being blocked due to being surrounded.

Clearly I needed to be smarter about this. So for the next round I did some very different planning. I loaded Paladin up with dice to allow him to move and do a single Whirlwind attack. The Witch was given as many Heroism tokens as possible and activation of her Barrage ability that allowed her to target 3 enemies at range as long as she was not herself surrounded. The enemies converged mainly on the Witch, as I hoped. The Paladin then charged and used his Whirlwind, doing no damage but pushing all the enemies away from the Witch and leaving them vulnerable to a second hit. Witch was then able to unleash Barrage, buffed with 3 Heroism, to strike three soldiers for 5 damage each, killing them. A repeat of his tactic next round turned the initial threat of being henpecked to death into a decisive victory.

The abstract nature of the game pieces encourages you to envision the action in your imagination. Paladin charged in and flung the enemies back. As they staggered, the Witch skewered them with her mystic arrows. The scene is as vivid in my mind as a movie. The best thing is, next time I face these guys I'll have different heroes and different abilities, and will have to think up a new solution to combat their elusive tactics.

The game plays great solo because you need to coordinate your heroes actions and share resources. Multiplayer also works well, but only if the group is able to cooperate closely. Lone wolf tactics will get the party killed.

I'd also like to say that I really enjoy the game's sense of humor. It's nice to have a less serious fantasy game that still has strong depth of gameplay.

It seems like this game has had some negative reviews, and frankly this baffles me. Do we really want yet another Decent or Pathfinder clone? Doomrock has some innovative guts and brilliant design. I'm looking forward to playing this game lots more, and eagerly await future expansions.


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Vasilis
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Re: In praise of Doomrock
The amount of negative reviews is baffling indeed. The game is great, not a clone of anything and provides enough innovation and entertainment to actually call it 'unique'. Yet people are whining left and right.

The only problem I see is the Zombie encounter which seems way overpowered and in general I can understand that some gamers may not like the long duration of the game. That's it. Certainly not enough issues to make me call this game mediocre or bad. It is a really good game.

As for Pathfinder, I found it extremely boring, easy and monotonous. Doomrock actually is what I expected Pathfinder to be... IMHO, there is no contest between the two games, Doomrock is waaay better in terms of gameplay.
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Thomas King
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Re: In praise of Doomrock
The negative reviews don't baffle me. It seems to mostly be the combat that is the source of negative feelings, and that makes sense. It's a thematic game with somewhat abstract combat. That's going to be a big dividing line for those that enjoy it and those that don't.

I think euro gamers will probably (and seem to) favor it much more than other gamers. There's dice rolling, but it's much more puzzly than just lucky. You have to plan and manage resources, not just draw a card and chuck dice.

It's okay for a game to have very different views, and I think this one has people on such opposite ends because typical adventure RPG gamers were probably expecting something different, where euro gamers have been pleasantly surprised.

Just my thoughts on it.
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Damon Asher
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You may be right Thomas. But I have to say that the "abstract" combat in Doomrock feels much more thematic to me than the gamey tracing of line of sight, counting range, and managing of spawn points that happens in some other fantasy games.

The system is simple, but very flexible, and able to create a wide variety of tactical experiences, as demonstrated by the very disparate challenges offered by the different monsters. A lot of neat effects can be implemented, and I'm wondering what may come next. I just hope that sales of the game are strong enough that there will be more to come!
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Dustin
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I agree there is lots of cool ideas and none of the mechanics bugged me. But the game is just unfun. Between adventure cards being doing the obvious most of the time. And the fights being hopeless, makes for a game that may be my biggest disappointment of 2014.
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Thomas King
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drasher25 wrote:
You may be right Thomas. But I have to say that the "abstract" combat in Doomrock feels much more thematic to me than the gamey tracing of line of sight, counting range, and managing of spawn points that happens in some other fantasy games.

Even though you're using your imagination to enhance the experience, the combat isn't as thematic as the types of games you were describing. AoD abstracts out ideas like line of sight, types of terrain, changes in height, even range to a degree.

Line of sight can be a pain to check, but you're literally trying to look with your character's eyes. In reality things are limited to certain ranges, arrows don't fly for infinity and you can't walk 20 feet in a split second.

"Thematic" doesn't necessarily describe how well your imagination can transport you there; that varies from person to person, as not everyone has the same strength of imagination. "Thematic" usually describes a game where you don't need imagination to become immersed in the game's setting, but imagination always helps. A game can still be immersive if you use a little imagination, even if it's not very thematic on its own (many euro games fall into that category).
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Knut K
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Montag451 wrote:

"Thematic" doesn't necessarily describe how well your imagination can transport you there; that varies from person to person, as not everyone has the same strength of imagination. "Thematic" usually describes a game where you don't need imagination to become immersed in the game's setting, but imagination always helps. A game can still be immersive if you use a little imagination, even if it's not very thematic on its own (many euro games fall into that category).


But if you look at such a game as a simulation of a action movie and some skirmishes in this movies (like Lord of the ring) the hero is never unable to shot at enemy because of range issues. And every character normally reaches an other in a heartbeat. It's all about getting rid of your adjacent enemy to focus on the next.

Think of Dain in "The Battle of the Five Armies". He just smashes one Orc and targets the next. To me it's fresh that there is no counting spaces for positioning. 'cause that felt really abstract to me. And here in Doomrock you get getting in fight and being sorrounded and hoping for help of your teammates.
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Thomas King
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Zottelmonster wrote:

But if you look at such a game as a simulation of a action movie and some skirmishes in this movies (like Lord of the ring) the hero is never unable to shot at enemy because of range issues. And every character normally reaches an other in a heartbeat. It's all about getting rid of your adjacent enemy to focus on the next.

But movies are scripted. It's written however it needs to be. Games aren't scripted. If the design was trying to more closely mimic a movie, where a lot of the elements of combat are ignored for the sake of simplicity, then sure, it's thematically like a movie. But that's not how things work in reality. The less like reality it is, the more abstract it is.
 
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Tim McCormley
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drasher25 wrote:

It seems like this game has had some negative reviews, and frankly this baffles me. Do we really want yet another Decent or Pathfinder clone?

Well, I was really looking forward to this one, I even ordered it from Europe, based on a glowing review. I ended up selling it.

I certainly wasn't expecting another Descent or Pathfinder clone, and the game is definitely *not* that. And while I enjoyed the adventuring part of the game, I found the monsters to be WAY too variable in their strength. E.g. In tier 1, the exploding tomatoes were quite manageable, while the Zombies were virtually impossible. My gaming group never even came close to beating them.

We played it about 15 or 20 times, and I don't doubt that we must have been taking the wrong approach during the adventure phase. I figure that there must be a basic strategy that we were missing in terms of what to prioritize for our characters. But we tried a lot of variations: emphasizing buffs, shooting for items, prioritizing leveling. Nothing seemed to make a difference.

In the end, although it was a neat take on the genre, we found it more frustrating than entertaining.


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Joel Carr
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I definitely think if the challenge was scaled back a bit, the impression may start changing. Lets be honest PACG is luck and pretty dern easy to boot. Eg being successful is easy, and as we all know success breeds success. Descent, PACG, SoB, etc.. all get you to invest in your character as well so the carryover is there. Here you get a random hero who randomly levels and randomly get items. also it is often that you lose in the first 1/3 of the game, so the lack of investment also is a downer.

I am guessing the people that enjoy LoTR LCG, Robinson Crusoe and other devilishly tough to beat solo/coop experiences may possibly think more positively of this game as they are used to investing time in non-success, and enjoy it.

This is my favorite solo game right now followed closely by Robinson Crusoe. It is one of my favorite games too.

Edit: just finished a short session, was the best yet in terms of luck/preparedness going into the 2nd battle, unfortunately I ran out of realtime time, tier 1 was tomatoes... Each time I play I get better at optimization/location choice in the adventure phase... and tactic choice in combat. The expansion hopefully will add MORE of just about everything. Just hopefully not too many fiddly bits. I love how streamlined and 'minimalistic' the game is...


armor_11 wrote:
drasher25 wrote:

It seems like this game has had some negative reviews, and frankly this baffles me. Do we really want yet another Decent or Pathfinder clone?

Well, I was really looking forward to this one, I even ordered it from Europe, based on a glowing review. I ended up selling it.

I certainly wasn't expecting another Descent or Pathfinder clone, and the game is definitely *not* that. And while I enjoyed the adventuring part of the game, I found the monsters to be WAY too variable in their strength. E.g. In tier 1, the exploding tomatoes were quite manageable, while the Zombies were virtually impossible. My gaming group never even came close to beating them.

We played it about 15 or 20 times, and I don't doubt that we must have been taking the wrong approach during the adventure phase. I figure that there must be a basic strategy that we were missing in terms of what to prioritize for our characters. But we tried a lot of variations: emphasizing buffs, shooting for items, prioritizing leveling. Nothing seemed to make a difference.

In the end, although it was a neat take on the genre, we found it more frustrating than entertaining.


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Knut K
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Montag451 wrote:
The less like reality it is, the more abstract it is.


OK, so thematic games are abstract games. I never met Zombies, Dragons or Orcs in reality. Did you?

But I will not nitpick about this term. If you state battle has to be realistic it's ok for me. But my opinion is that it has to be a little bit like an actionmovie when you are fighting fantasy characters like orcs, troll or demons.

And besides this in reality there is nothing like thinking about: "I can move three meter and when I go to the green dragon there is a... Oh wait it's three and a half and when I take my breath to move I can't use my heavy double handed hit because I'm out of breath. So I will run away. But the dragon is faster than me and can firebeath so I will not run down the corridor. Just move around the corner so it has no line of sight."

For the mechanism: "I will hit that zombie." (Programming move and hit with my dice) and if another Zombie steps in I can't move away because they engaged me and sorrounded me leaving me unable to move so I have to hit one of these unhurted Zombies. That is more thematic than the countign spaces that you have in alle grid-based games. In reality there is no grid on the ground that limits your movement. Normally you try to reach another one and you only vaguely know if you will do.

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Georg Bauer
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B Wumpus wrote:
I am guessing the people that enjoy LoTR LCG, Robinson Crusoe and other devilishly tough to beat solo/coop experiences may possibly think more positively of this game as they are used to investing time in non-success, and enjoy it.


Yeah, I love love love LOTR LCG and Robinson Crusoe is on my wishlist on very high rank, and one of my favorite bigger coop board games is Legends of Andor, which often is touted as a more euro-ish optimization puzzle than being a dungeon crawler, too. And I really love AoD. My main problem so far was the longer play time (everthing longer than GoW has a hard time to hit the table for solo play), but I think now that the official "quick game" rules are out, I will give those a try and see how it goes - they sound like they could move the game even more into the sweet spot for me.

And actually the battle system is one of the things that really makes the game for me - I don't actively dislike position based systems like in GoW, but battle rounds go that much smoother in AoD with it's pure-egngagement system. I really love it, because it keeps table space down for me, which is quite important due to shared table space with my wife
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Thomas King
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Zottelmonster wrote:
Montag451 wrote:
The less like reality it is, the more abstract it is.


OK, so thematic games are abstract games. I never met Zombies, Dragons or Orcs in reality. Did you?

But I will not nitpick about this term. If you state battle has to be realistic it's ok for me. But my opinion is that it has to be a little bit like an actionmovie when you are fighting fantasy characters like orcs, troll or demons.

And besides this in reality there is nothing like thinking about: "I can move three meter and when I go to the green dragon there is a... Oh wait it's three and a half and when I take my breath to move I can't use my heavy double handed hit because I'm out of breath. So I will run away. But the dragon is faster than me and can firebeath so I will not run down the corridor. Just move around the corner so it has no line of sight."

For the mechanism: "I will hit that zombie." (Programming move and hit with my dice) and if another Zombie steps in I can't move away because they engaged me and sorrounded me leaving me unable to move so I have to hit one of these unhurted Zombies. That is more thematic than the countign spaces that you have in alle grid-based games. In reality there is no grid on the ground that limits your movement. Normally you try to reach another one and you only vaguely know if you will do.


Well, we can't seem to see each other's point of view, and we're just going in circles. So, I guess that's the end of the discussion.
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Damon Asher
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Just wanted to say that I've faced the Zombies 3 times now and haven't lost to them yet. On the other hand, the Goblin Shaman keeps slaughtering me. I think it's is usually a good sign for game balance when you hear people complaining that certain elements of a game are overpowered, but different people think it is different things. Each time I've lost to the Shaman I knew it was due to my own tactical error, or not being prepared for an inopportune turn of a card. You need a little luck, but mostly good strategy wins the day. And if you make a mistake you'll be dead, just as it should be in a game like this.

I am 10 games in and still loving the challenge. Doomrock is looking like a keeper.
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So far, anyone who posted that has beaten the zombies, mentions losing to a monster that we easily win.

So I'm inclined to believe that the way different players approach certain situations provide different results. Which actually is a good thing and a sign that balance may be ok after all.

The game rocks! I enjoy it thoroughly. I like the challenge, the co-op discussion to beat the tough monsters, the struggle to create a powerful hero by equipping and/or choosing the best skill card and so on. An expansion that adds to that, provides even more challenges and even fixes some errors if they do exist in game balance is more than welcome and an instant buy for me.
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Bowmangr wrote:
So I'm inclined to believe that the way different players approach certain situations provide different results. Which actually is a good thing and a sign that balance may be ok after all.

Don't know. But I never lost to the tomatoes and never beat the zombies.

The monsters are definitely asymmetrical, but I just don't see how one can compare the "on paper" strength of the tomatoes to the zombies.

The zombies are just *way* better.

This game also has a lot of variation in terms of how characters and abilities synergise. I always picked random heroes and abilities. Maybe I just got a few bad draws when facing the zombies.

 
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armor_11 wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
So I'm inclined to believe that the way different players approach certain situations provide different results. Which actually is a good thing and a sign that balance may be ok after all.

Don't know. But I never lost to the tomatoes and never beat the zombies.

The monsters are definitely asymmetrical, but I just don't see how one can compare the "on paper" strength of the tomatoes to the zombies.

The zombies are just *way* better.

This game also has a lot of variation in terms of how characters and abilities synergise. I always picked random heroes and abilities. Maybe I just got a few bad draws when facing the zombies.



For my group, the easiest 1st encounter is the Beasts of Doom. I have yet to see a game session where the Beasts where involved and we lost. The one and only time we managed to beat the game was when the boss's minions were Beasts of Doom!

I've lost 1-2 games to the Tomatoes and 100% of my encounters with Zombies.

If I have to guess, my group's tactics can handle better a few big fat armored targets rather than many smaller ones, based on those stats.
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Stephen Martin
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armor_11 wrote:
This game also has a lot of variation in terms of how characters and abilities synergise. I always picked random heroes and abilities. Maybe I just got a few bad draws when facing the zombies.


The zombies are definitely much harder with a party that doesn't have a lot of initiative-enabled attacks. Witch + Paladin vs Zombies, for example, can be quite challenging compared to any combination of Ranger, Rogue, and Mage. When I have a Witch I especially lean toward an initiative attack of some kind for the party, simply because Hex is relatively useless against the Beasts of Doom who are constantly stripping them and her base offensive capabilities suck against the Zombie Horde.
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