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Subject: After 8 hours with the new stuff... rss

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Jack Wraith
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I have to say: it's a total blast. We played 3 games, back to back. The new skills make some KILLER characters. However, the new Overlord cards are even better. I'm not going to give a blow-by-blow account. I'll just talk about exciting moments and how new cards worked and so forth.

We started off with the first quest in the expansion, the Collapsing Mine. The heroes start off with 8(!) Conquest tokens, but they soon realized that dying is really the least of their worries, because the mine is collapsing behind them. At the end of every Overlord turn, you remove a map section. Anything still in that section is dead. If all the characters end up in town and there are no activated glyphs for them to return to, they lose. Almost as bad, if only one or two characters are left in the dungeon and that last open glyph just went away, they're going to have to slog through some heavy heat to try to get their friends back in the action.

Couple component things: The new character cards are not laminated in the way the old ones are, so if you're doing random draw, it's pretty easy to tell whether you're getting a new character or not.

Also, all of the new cards were cut with a die that was about half a mm too big. The backs are fine, but when stacking them together, if I wanted to show off my cutting chops, I could separate new cards from old pretty easily. No big deal. Just little points.

I had 3 players for our first game and they were all geeked about the new characters and selected Runemaster Thorn, Laurel of Bloodwood, and Lord Hawthorne. Hawthorne had Parry, Taunt, and Tough. With 20 wounds and +1 armor against Melee AND the ability to redirect those Beastmen away from Thorn, he was the tank extraordinaire. With Reach, he also can pick off any, say, Master Beastmen hanging back to employ Command... Laurel had Unmoveable, Precision, and Master Archer. Needless to say, she was going to be making a lot of Battle actions, but discovered later that moving slowly or not moving in this quest was not the greatest idea. However, her ability to convert range to damage is HUGE with the right weapons. Thorn had Willpower, Holy Aura, and Earth Pact, so he was going to be fairly solid for a spellcaster. The ability to move through rubble only enhanced his natural teleportation power.

As noted, it's difficult to break out of the mindset in quests that says "Don't get killed, even if it takes moving slowly and cautiously!" You simply can't approach this mission that way. You'll lose every time. It's challenging and the Haunt occasionally seems a little over the top as he sucks away fatigue from the heroes.

The new skeletons rock. I liked the old skeletons as guerrilla fighters, anyway, but with pierce they're now a genuine threat to the heroes. As many mentioned on the FFG boards, I don't know that Beastmen really needed to replace Pierce 1 with +1 damage (+2 for Masters) because they already do awesome damage for what are supposed to be low level monsters. Master Beastmen attacking solo were routinely doing 9 and 10 points of damage. While I had included the new Ferrox Tribe card in my deck, I didn't get it until the last few minutes of the third game, but having used Scything Blades a couple times, I can say that Bleed is a pretty terrifying ability. It led to one player keeling over and dying in the following turn, without me having to do anything.

Kobolds are cool, but take some thinking. The Swarm ability reacts to any monster that is adjacent to heroes, not just Kobolds, so you have to plan out your sequence of attacks and move that Razorwing and those two Beastmen in before bringing in your Master Kobold with 1 Red die and 4(!) Black. Even better if you can get a couple hits in beforehand with regular Kobolds with almost as many dice. Obviously, they won't last long, having only 3 health and no armor at level 5, but the Red die does a lot of damage, and you can spawn a LOT of Kobolds pretty easily.

For my Treachery cards, I had 4 points for Traps and put in Lightning Runes, Scything Blades, and Welcome Mat. I got the bolt off twice with Lightning Runes and it is quite effective (and HUGE.) Slapping on a few Daze tokens before the heroes charge through a door takes the sting off a lot of attacks. Blades are also a great trap card. But there is a new 'one of, if not THE best' card in the game: Welcome Mat. It's a middling threat cost, so it's easy to get off and it opens a two-space pit in front of a door when the door is opened. Remember all those times when heroes would bunch up against the door before bursting through to slaughter? Well, the first two are going to have to roll a blank on a power die or suffer 4 wounds (ignoring armor) from POISONED spikes. I can't overemphasize how horrible it is to take that much poison damage in the midst of a tense situation. That card has been stamped 'Overlord Approved'sauron for every game.

There are two new power cards for each type (Trap, Spawn, Event), too. The vicious one in Traps is Sloth (Heroes lose one Conquest token everytime a hero returns to town.) The other is Greed (gain 3 cards and 5 threat everytime a hero opens a chest.)

I only had 2 points of Spawn Treachery, so I took Lone Manticore (who proved quite effective, especially combined with Rage...) and Bane Spider Nest. What's better than the occasionally difficult-to-spawn-spider-so-you-only-end-up-taking-the-Master-and-one-other? THREE Master Bane Spiders, so now you could get two, on average. Web is HUGE in this mission, as you might imagine, and Bane Spider Nest led directly to the loss of the first game, as too many heroes were stuck in place for too long. I would have taken lone Golem, but didn't have the points. Both of the power cards are pretty cool in Spawn (Dark Armor: all of your monster gain +1 armor; Wrath: Heroes are worth +1 Conquest token when you kill them.)

I only had 2 points for Events, too, so I took Crushing Blow (destroy an item based on how much threat you pay, instead of doing damage) and Empower (heal a monster based on how much threat you pay when you activate it.) The former only came up once, allowing me to get rid of the new Blast rune that you can buy at the store (Sunburst.) I had Empower in my hand multiple times, trying to save my Ogres, but the timing never worked out. I think it will go over better with even larger creatures (Dragons, Demons, Giants, Golems) that are harder to kill. The three power cards for Events are slightly more situational, but still solid (All-Concealing Shadows: after a hero makes an attack, spend two threat to let the monster Dodge; Guiding Force: similar, but spend two threat to Aim your monster's attacks; Dire Warnings: every time a new area is revealed, you may immediately activate 2 monsters, and the revealing player then finishes his turn.)

The new treasure is good, but the store items had the most impact on the game, especially the two new runes you can buy (Sunburst: WG, 3 surges for +1 damage or Blast 1; Blinding Light: WY, 2 surges for +1 damage or Stun.) The latter was especially huge. Stunning the big creatures with an item you can now buy at the start of the game is pretty powerful, especially since it's often going to a spellcaster who has enough black dice and/or skills to easily get the 2 surges on almost every roll. I, personally, really like the Walking Stick (RY, 1 surge for +1 damage, Reach) but it requires a mage willing to get close, like Jaes or Andira.

So, in the first game, Thorn, Laurel, and Hawthorne were laid low at the end of Area 2 by a combination of Master Bane Spiders, the Welcome Mat, and the collapsing mine. In the second game, the same group with the same skills made it to area 3 before being crushed by the mine (and nailed pretty hard by the Bolt and some Scything Blades (not to mention a Master Ogre who wouldn't die, as I was now the Brilliant Commander.) My wife decided to join the third game, where she assumed the role of Thorn with Fire Pact, Holy Aura, and Blessing; Nanok of the Blade came in with Battle Cry, Able Warrior, and Lucky; Brother Glyr replaced Laurel with Unmoveable, Mighty, and Weapon Mastery; and they decided that the key to this quest would be playing Runewitch Astarra in the fourth slot.

They were probably right. The constant stream of Conquest tokens and relief of pressure from the collapsing mine by almost always having the next glyph working was extremely important. I did manage to get them down to 5 tokens at one point and they were desperately rushing ahead of the mine in the last few turns. The Ogre Chieftain managed to revive himself twice (Undying; my players often ruefully remark on my seemingly uncanny aptitude with Undying (and, in this game, in rolling surges to get rid of Burn tokens left by Thorn's Fire Pact, too)), but it wasn't enough and the quest was successful at 2:30 AM.
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Matthew M
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Mine appetite hath been whetted, good sir. Sounds like a GREAT expansion!

-MMM
 
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Brent Lloyd
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Great session report! The new info on all the cards and abilities is welcome info, I can't wait to try them out myself. I am not clear if you are discussing 3 different scenarios or just the Collapsing Mine one.

You just made my wait for the expansion all that more unbearable.

Peace
 
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Jack Wraith
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Just the Collapsing Mine quest. It took them three tries to do it because, alas, the one real weakness of the game is that it doesn't scale very well. The earlier quests in the original game can be done with 2, 3, or 4 heroes. We've found that, with a capable Overlord, the later quests (6 and up) can only be done by 4 without appreciable luck on the part of the heroes and equally bad luck on the part of the OL. Changing the monsters' wounds and armor just doesn't have as much effect as I think the designer intended. You're still wading through hordes of Beastmen and Bane Spiders that do the same damage and have the same side effect (Poison, Web, et al.) It's simply not enough of a difference to make the game appreciably 'easier' for fewer heroes in the more complex quests (especially when you're dealing with exotic things like the Eternal Guardian, Soulbiter or, in this case, a very obvious clock and an invulnerable guy who drains the stat you might otherwise use to move faster (Stamina.)

Granted, one can suggest that it may take a couple times to get through the quests because they were designed to be similar to puzzles: once you have a plan of attack, you can strategize around the variable elements (cards, dice, etc.) in the same way that players of Warhammer 40K try to minimize the impact of the dice on their tactics, for example. If the intent was that it takes 2 or 3 run-throughs to beat the quests, fine. Even so, I still think the scaling function is just not viable.

However, it's not a real problem, since we almost always have 5 people to play (thankfully.) Up next is the new Cult of the Rune in Runebound...
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N Burghardt
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We scale by simply allowing 1 OL card vs. 2 heroes per turn, 2 OL cards vs. 3 heroes and 3 OL cards vs. 4 heroes. Works quite well for us!
 
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Brent Lloyd
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I agree with your comments about game scaling. What chews up time and resources for the chartacters in this game is dealing with each monster. Because most of the monsters are "Balloons with claws/spells/bows", the different armour and health values have minimal impact on game play.

I much prefer the Doom method of player scaling. More guys = more monesters, fewer marines = fewer monsters. I do prefer the damage model of Descent though, the subtractive rather than the divisive. Its more intuitive and less fiddly.

Thanks for clearing up my confusion about the scenario played.

Peace
 
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Jack Wraith
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Yep. I think that's true. I ended up trading my Doom expansion and am trying to trade Doom because if the Invader is even marginally competent, the Marines stand no chance. A friend of mine insists that the game works great with one Marine because of the minimal number of monsters already in the base, but if you go above that, there are simply too many monsters there for 2 or 3 Marines to handle. In the same way, Descent seems to work best with the maximum number of heroes and not so well when you cut the number back. Oh, well. I like Descent better than I did Doom, anyway.
 
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Randall Silver
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Thanks a lot for a cool review! Some points aren't clear (because I don't know the new abilities, probably), but you certainly made me look forward to buying it myself, when I go on a boardgame shopping spree in London! Argh! Another month of waiting!robot
 
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Mikko Karvonen
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Damn you! That sounds so, so, so sweet! I can't wait to get my hands on this one next week!
 
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