Casey Weston
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I have attempted to play this system several times with my family and each time I come away with thinking there are some serious problems with it. The problem is difficulty balance and it isn't rectified simply by # of healing surges.

Problem #1 - If anyone played D&D like this, they wouldn't be invited back. When you explore a dungeon in D&D, you stay together, you move methodically through the dungeon. The way this system of games (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath, and Drizzt are no different) is designed, you are encouraged to spread out, all stay on separate tiles (to avoid damage) and explore the dungeon as if it were Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Nobody explores dungeons like that. Why does this system encourage that kind of reckless play?

Problem #2 - The game is too hard, damage is too plentiful and healing is too rare and useless. You will stay below your healing surge value in health within a couple turns and then forever. Healing a single point of health is useless when encounter cards can automatic damage are the norm. This isn't something that can be remedied with more healing surges as the problem isn't whether you win/lose the scenario, but whether it is fun to be constantly taking damage and being on the verge of death.

We tried removing encounter cards to only black arrow tile reveals, but then the game was too easy. We accumulated too many experience too quickly (because monsters are plentifully spawned on each tile) and we could handwave all the encounter cards.

This game is fundamentally unbalanced and designed poorly. The components are nice. The play is streamlined and not too complicated, but it simply isn't fun to struggle constantly. Wizards needs to take these games back to the drawing board and redesign them to actually mimic D&D play, which is not running through a dungeon like a madman to find the one room you need as fast as you can.
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Team Ski
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I had no problems with the balancing of the game (Ravenloft). If you are looking for a D&D roleplaying game, this isn't it. I somewhat disagree with your assessment that you have to spread out to win. While I agree that depending on the scenario, you need to spread out, I found a lot of situations where you really needed your figures close. One example is having a weakened figure on the same or next tile to a monster you know is going to be activated soon. Having your strongest figure intercede by moving close to or next to the monster was critical in saving many games.

Sure, the game has it's quirks; weak treasure, randomness, etc, etc.... However, every time I played, my group really enjoyed the experience. I know of a lot of other games that can't say that about. This game is about discussion and how to work together to complete the scenario.

-Ski
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Paul DeStefano
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My group doesn't separate that much.

And, maybe because we stay together - the game is kind of easy.

It's odd that you complain you separate and that its too hard. Seems one problem creates the other and the system really is encouraging you to stay close.
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Alan Stewart
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randomengine wrote:
which is not running through a dungeon like a madman to find the one room you need as fast as you can.
It's not?

I think you are confusing this BOARD GAME with an RPG game. It's not an RPG game. It's sorta-kinda like an RPG game, but it's really a BOARD GAME. Where the goal is to work together (or apart some times) to madly rush through the dungeon, killing monsters and stealing their stuff, until you find the one room you need to trigger the end-game condition.
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Jonathan Bailey
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randomengine wrote:
Wizards needs to take these games back to the drawing board and redesign them to actually mimic D&D play, which is not running through a dungeon like a madman to find the one room you need as fast as you can.
My problem with reviews like this are that they knock games for not being something they were never intended to be. The D&D Adventure System games are not designed to provide an RPG experience, they are designed to be dungeon crawlers. Likewise, Dungeon Command and Attack Wing are designed to be skirmish and tactical miniatures games. We can debate the merits of each based on the type of game it is designed to be, but all of them fail miserably if they are judge on the basis of an RPG.

The flip side to this argument is the perspective that the Adventure System games aren't really board games, strictly speaking. They are a tool kit of components that can be used to make differing game play experiences, the scenarios in the adventure books are really just starting points. If you don't like an aspect of the rules, change or ignore it; if you think it comes up short in an area, add to it. There's a wealth of custom content and house rules around for just that reason. Wizards added some RPG elements in ToEE with the campaign rules, but it is still adding RPG aspects to a dungeon crawl, not making the game and RPG out of the box.

It's completely fair and valid to say that ToEE did not meet your expectations, but it sounds to me like that is less the fault of bad design and more that you expected it to be something other than what it was designed to be.




Edit: How'd I get ninja'd in 15 minutes on an eight-hour-old post??
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Hassan Lopez
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I would encourage you to keep exploring the game, as I do think the games are generally well-balanced in terms of difficulty. Ravenloft felt hardest to me, with each successive instantiation slightly easier. Sometimes the game *will* just slam you on the first turn and not let up - but it's a cooperative board game, and if it was too easy, it would lose its luster faster.

Make sure each of the characters is taking an item to start the game with. Consider playing with 3 healing surges instead of 2, if you want an "easy mode". Save up your monster XP to cancel potent Encounters. Don't be afraid to activate your Daily Power early in the game to get past a 3+ monster zone.

I've also found that the game (and esp. boss monster battle) is harder with 1-2 characters vs. 3-4. If you are playing 2 player, consider controlling 2 characters each.

I love the system, so I hope you don't give up on it yet!
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severian73 wrote:
Sometimes the game *will* just slam you on the first turn and not let up - but it's a cooperative board game, and if it was too easy, it would lose its luster faster.



True,i once had all 5 heroes on the start tile in ravenloft, and the first one decided to explore to the left side of the tile (so not moving and keeping all 5 on the same tile, and first encounter was a spear trap, and first monster a rat swarm. safe to say that everyone was in bad shape after that first hero's turn zombie
it was decided that the best option was just to run up the stairs and leave the dungeon again

severian73 wrote:
Make sure each of the characters is taking an item to start the game with.

I forget this 50% of the time shake
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Alan Stewart
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Geosphere wrote:
My group doesn't separate that much.
How separate is "separate"? I've found that in general, we (two players) play in such a way that we leapfrog past each other. One will more, explore, reveal a monster, then the next will move onto the new tile and explore and reveal another monster. We're rarely on the same tile (unless we're clearing out a buncha monsters) but we do tend to go in the same directions (sometimes anyways).
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Alan Stewart
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severian73 wrote:
Make sure each of the characters is taking an item to start the game with.
Is that still true for ToEE? Since it's got a campaign mode, I assumed (and I can't find it in the rule book) that you keep all your items (or sell 'em off) so after the first adventure, you should have some nice items. Most are one-shots of course, and some are better off being sold for gold, but you should always have a little more of a "boost" before going into the dungeon (or town) for further adventures.

For the OTHER three games, yeah, you ALWAYS gotta remember to start with a useful ITEM (not blessing or fortune).
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Mark Campo
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deleted post i ramble and don't makes sense
other then that I like the system other has said it better :-)

tend to feel the difficulty is about right some times down to the wire
and the last few rolls..


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Purely as a data point in regards to difficulty: I have a dozen plays in between Castle Ravenloft and Drizzit and have won 2/3 of the time. I feel the difficulty level is about right.
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peter cooman
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EverywhereGames wrote:
severian73 wrote:
Make sure each of the characters is taking an item to start the game with.
Is that still true for ToEE? Since it's got a campaign mode, I assumed (and I can't find it in the rule book) that you keep all your items (or sell 'em off) so after the first adventure, you should have some nice items. Most are one-shots of course, and some are better off being sold for gold, but you should always have a little more of a "boost" before going into the dungeon (or town) for further adventures.

For the OTHER three games, yeah, you ALWAYS gotta remember to start with a useful ITEM (not blessing or fortune).


Just checked, and the starting treasure rule is no longer in the 'start playing' list on page 4 of the TOEE rulebook.

Now the question is, since you take 200 GC per missed adventure, and since the first adventure is solo, Do the other heroes start with 200 GC on the first 'cooperative' adventure? This could compensate a bit for not having a starting treasure (but still not as awesome as drawing a holy avenger as starting treasure on your dragonborn fighter )
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Alan Stewart
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petercooman123 wrote:
Just checked, and the starting treasure rule is no longer in the 'start playing' list on page 4 of the TOEE rulebook.
Yeah, that's what I was noticing.

petercooman123 wrote:
since the first adventure is solo
*Could* be solo. It doesn't have to be. We played it co-op because there were two of us ready to play and I don't think either of us wanted to sit around while the other was playing through a solo game.

petercooman123 wrote:
Do the other heroes start with 200 GC on the first 'cooperative' adventure?
I played it that way. I've got all the heroes in sandwich baggies so every time we finish an adventure (it's been WAY too long since we played last) I toss another 200gp into the other heroes' bags. I *could* just do the math, but this feels "more fun".

petercooman123 wrote:
still not as awesome as drawing a holy avenger as starting treasure on your dragonborn fighter
I'm not sure much else IS as awesome as that!
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Ubergeek
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A nice "out to lunch" useless review. You should have just posted a session report with a summary indicating you just don't like it.
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Cracky McCracken
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If you can drop pre-conceived notions about what these games could be, and accept them for what they are... they are challenging, but not impossible.

I've found Wrath to be balanced and Dryzzt to be easier.

This is probably the nicest thing i will ever say about these games. laugh

 
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Luca C
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I just think that if you don't like the rules like they are written, just change it!
There are dozens examples here that covers all the aspect of a RPG, and if you don't like them too, just add yours; the really beauty behind this serie is that it gives you everything you need to create a totally different game if you like.
I've played Legend of Drizzt every single evening for about two months, and I'm still having lot of fun, and I own also Wrath of Ashardalon and Castle Ravenloft (loving so much both too).

I like the vanilla rules; but when I like to try something different or more tactical or more similar to a classic RPG, I did some personal house rules that work perfectly (for ex. I added a initiative system with cards like in Savage Worlds, I use traps in a different way, put together the non-item treasure and non-trap/attack encounters, saving throws, added some special tactics, different monsters with cardboard printed miniatures, using some advantages and disadvanges in some occasions, in a sort of d&d 5e, treasure and monster tokens exc... and i can change the difficulty in different ways too : adding more monsters, changing the DC of saving throws, powers of the monsters, using more or no allies, putting more home made "events", decreasing or increasing healing sources, potions exc...)

My suggestion is to just set free your fantasy and creative mind if you don't like the rules as they are; these games will fit perfect with almost everything!
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Rudeboy John
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I just picked this game up for $70 and I have to say, I agree with you.

Before I get into our first five sessions of game play, I'll point out that when I played this it was with one other person. So, two players. It just seems very, very aggressively unbalanced with only two players.

The difficulties seem to lay in the drawing of Encounter cards. If you aren't exploring--say, because you are mobbed by three or four monsters--you will draw an Encounter card anyway. This component seems...out of place. While engaging in combat, it seems thematically odd to ALSO deal with an AVALANCHE or an EARTHQUAKE that ONLY deals damage to players, leaving the monsters ignored and unscathed.
With two players this is exaggerated, since BOTH players will be drawing Encounters back to back.

These cards are what, 90% bad? As in, they usually do anywhere from 1 damage to 5 damage, depending on our luck (Which granted, we kept drawing Black Arrow tiles as well).

So, characters get TWO attacks, ideally--with ONE paltry extra action granted by the Fighter's special ability...which is a one-off. Typically, you get TWO actions versus--from our experience--an average of FOUR monsters attacking you and TWO additional attacks coming from Encounter cards.

When your BEEFIEST character has 10 hp, we quickly found ourselves reduced to 1 or 2 hp within the third round.

Personally, we are going to keep plugging away, changing up our strategy. Your initial strategy was EXACTLY what we reasoned would be the best course of action: Rushing ahead to find the Guard Room. The FIRST adventure is called "Escape", which lends to the thought that you want to GTFO as quickly as possible and NOT linger around taking on the hordes of the Temple.

Anyhoo, that's my experience for the first five playthroughs, changing up the two party makeup. So far, I'm pretty miffed about spending such a large lump sum on a game that lasts...15 minutes and 3 rounds.
 
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Rudeboy John
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To be completely reactionary; if a game requires or even suggests HOUSE RULES to make it playable, I tend to view it as an unbalanced game. It's like the tabletop equivalent to a AAA videogame that needs two DLC patches to make it playable.
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rudeboyjohn wrote:
I just picked this game up for $70 and I have to say, I agree with you.
You got ripped off. MSRP is $65 ($45-50 online):
http://www.coolstuffinc.com/p/211821
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rudeboyjohn wrote:


Anyhoo, that's my experience for the first five playthroughs, changing up the two party makeup. So far, I'm pretty miffed about spending such a large lump sum on a game that lasts...15 minutes and 3 rounds.

Add two more players and get back to us.

-Ski
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Alan Stewart
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rudeboyjohn wrote:
Rushing ahead to find the Guard Room.
Yeah, that's pretty much what the strategy is. Keep running. If you can get away from monsters then they can't attack you. Plan your moves so that every time (as much as possible) that you stop to attack a monster (or multiples, sometimes you just need to burn that area-of-effect) you are on an edge tile so that you can explore and not draw those dreaded Encounter Cards (except when there's a black triangle). Remember that when you are on a corner of a tile and a monster is on the *opposite* corner, the monster is adjacent and you can attack it, but YOU are two tiles away so that monster's got some running to do to catch up to you!
 
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Going to attempt it with at least four players tomorrow, most likely.
And yea, the mark-up was above MSRP. It was a birthday gift, so y'know.
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Luca C
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In my opinion it doesn't need to be house ruled because it's really fun and involving just with the vanilla ones;
but it is nice that you have so many many different possibilities too if you like. More choices.
For ex. if you find "encounters" too bad, just make some rules like saving throws (i did like it's no more possible to discard encounters with 5 xp, but you have a chance to skip them with a saving; DC 18 with no exp; DC 12 if you pay 1 Exp; DC 11 2 Exp, and DC 05 with 5 EXP)it's just an example; i also added a 1d100 rolls with different % when exploring black or white or no exploring, with different results about encounters and splitting the "item" from "non item" treasures, and adding these last ones into the encounter deck.
It doesn't mean that the original one is unbalanced, but with these adds on I just find more excitement for the unpredictables.
(sorry for my english).
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rudeboyjohn wrote:
It just seems very, very aggressively unbalanced with only two players.
Did you remember to remove the advanced cards from the decks?

Because it really shouldn't be that hard with two characters. I normally play all scenarios with two characters, trying out all possible class combinations.
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Rudeboy John
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jhaelen wrote:
rudeboyjohn wrote:
It just seems very, very aggressively unbalanced with only two players.
Did you remember to remove the advanced cards from the decks?

Because it really shouldn't be that hard with two characters. I normally play all scenarios with two characters, trying out all possible class combinations.

http://wizkidsgames.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ToEE_Rule...

I didn't see anything about removing cards--save for the part AFTER resolving the First Adventure "Escape" about Adding the Bag of Silver and Hidden Traps cards, should you finish it with a certain amount of used Healing Surges. Which, from a design point of view, seems odd to put a clause into a game that alters the Encounter Deck AFTER it has been used, with the removed cards untouched prior to the Adventure Set Up. It's a simple typo, and a minor nitpick and didn't affect us since we never drew them during play. However, I could see those traps being a bit of a bummer for others should they have not skipped ahead to read the Resolution before sitting down to play.

Just completed a 3-player/3 character ( Rogue, Cleric, Fighter) playthrough, and I have to say, my original view stands: It's not a balanced or well designed game.

Concessions: By adding a third player and an additional Healing Surge (As is permitted in the rules to "adjust difficulty"), we were able to successfully complete the first scenario. This was made possible due to our INCREDIBLE luck of drawing only a SINGLE Black Arrow (Encounter) Tile and using the Fighter's One-Shot Utility to Cancel an Encounter card.
I say incredible luck, since our first four playthroughs (With only 2 players) saw us drawing Black Arrows EVERY turn. That's four games of straight Black Arrows and one or two monsters EVERY persons turn.

Disclaimer: I will be referring to the Rules as Written quite a bit, because...that's how you should form your opinion on a game; by its merit and design and ultimately how those factors contribute or detract from the gaming experience. I"m not trying to be a dick and "bitching about little things."

Here are some of the issues we observed:

1: Phases feel wonky. When your Hero moves, he either moves for free and does some other action, which could be to move again. However, rules as written, your hero can not go onto the Exploration Phase until he completes his Hero Phase. So, in every turn, the players end up moving to the edge of a tile and ENDING their active phase to "Add a new tile to the board". (Page 6, Rulebook)
This means that whatever Monsters are revealed (and the odds are that there will be 1 or 2 of them appearing) Get to react; moving and attacking the Hero.
On one hand, this makes sense, since you are escaping an unknown dungeon and monsters are "getting the jump on you". On the other, it FEELS like your Hero has some weird vision disability and can't see five feet (one square presumably) in front of him.

2: The Encounter feel...arbitrary or completely random. If you do not Add a Tile on your Exploration Phase, you draw an Encounter card. This is a good attempt to keep play pace active, however, the nature of these cards seem incongruous to the actual events of the game.
For instance, while our Heroes are engaged in combat for two or three rounds with the Water Elemental, Fire Elemental, and the two Cultists that now occupy the explored tiles we've covered, EVERY Hero will have to draw Encounter Cards while they also fight the horde of monsters. During these three rounds or so, there are: Earth Quakes, Floods, Avalanches, Distant Shots that have passed 5 tiles and around numerous corners to damage one of us...by a monster that is armed with a Cudgel, and random dudes wandering into the hectic melee to offer us Dark Gifts (while damaging us) and then politely frolicking away unimpeded by everything else going on (I imagine Mephisto from Marvel walking up to our Cleric, tapping him on the shoulder, telling everyone to take a breather, engage in a sales pitch, and then walking away and giving everyone the Time-In signal).
These natural disasters that take place are rationalized to be just the nature of a place that calls itself the Temple of ELEMENTAL Evil, so that's cool. However, the four or five enemies that are wailing on us just ignore the torrential downpours, tsunamis, earth quakes, and whatnot, while our Heroes are thrown around across entire tiles.
This seems...weird.

3: Leveling Up seems thin. Now, I can't base this on ACTUAL play, since we never got to level in our half dozen or so playthroughs, but reading the options (Page 14, Rulebook)don't sound...stylized. Before the lynch mob descends about "How this isn't a Roleplaying Game", allow me to elaborate.
Your Heroes have 2 levels, which are identical across all classes (Gain 2 HP, AC increases, and Surge Value increases, and 1 more Utility Power.) Additionally, you can spend Gold to add tokens that either give you +1 Damage at scaling costs, to Regain (or heal) lost hit points, or Recharge a spent Power, and Re-Roll a die.
Your Hero will NEVER get those Daily Powers nor the Daily Powers that he did not choose--not from Leveling at least-- at the beginning of the game. (I say this because there MAY be a Treasure card that may grant them to you at some point? I'm not sure. I haven't looked through the entire Treasure deck).
This seems stunted, from a thematic and a mechanic aspect. You are stuck doing the same things, never learning anything new no matter how much you pay off the Leveling Gods (As you are paying Gold for "skills" and not learning from Experience).
I suppose you can change it up every time you sit down to play...which seems to be subtly implied when looking at the Advancement Sheet that came with the game, as it only has a spot for Advancement Tokens--and not Powers. But still, meh? Playing through the Campaign--as the Adventure Book is most certainly intended as a Campaign or single, continuing story (In a game that most supporters have vehemently stated should NOT be approached as a Story or Roleplaying game in any manner), it seems odd that my Fighter would go from one level of the Dungeon knowing how to Sweeping Attack and then forget how to on the next level (when we sit back down to play again).
Honestly, I can overlook that stagnant powers, especially from a story concession. Switching things up is a good thing; it allows players to flesh out and explore mechanics within the system. It just doesn't feel that Leveling is the way to do so.

4) Healing Vs Taking Damage. Overall, your Heroes WILL be taking copious damage every turn, from multiple sources. Encounter Cards, Monsters, Traps, Rage of Imix Tokens, etc. Your only source of healing, ESPECIALLY at the first stage of the game, is your Cleric. However, his ability mitigate damage seems hollow. If your Heroes are taking 3-4 damage (Which would CRIPPLE a Wizard or Rogue), your Cleric (if you even have a Cleric in the party) can heal 1 or maybe 2 hit points. This is a losing battle. The only recourse is to recover your Surge amount by depleting a Healing Surge Token. Granted, the game DOES ALLOW to add or remove any amount of Healing Surge Tokens to curve the difficulty. (So, specifically in regards to Healing Surges, the rules are not unbalanced in this fashion)
In 2 player games, this is brutal. In our 3-player game, we added one additional token (1 per player) and barely got by. Hey! That's a success! You can't knock a game for being difficult if you managed to win. The difficulty is elevated; the point isn't that. It's if, As a whole, does the game have an unbalanced experience.

5) Players and Character limitations: Each player selects ONE Hero (Page 3, Rulebook). A lot of people are arguing that if you MAKE A HOUSE RULE, the game is NOT UNBALANCED. Now, not trying to be combative, but if a Rule set has to be augmented or changed, then the original Rule set is unbalanced.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT HOUSE RULES ARE WRONG.
It simply means that some people CHOOSE to alter a game to increase its playability or its enjoyment factor. Which I FULLY think you should do. If a Game that you PURCHASED doesn't function in an enjoyable way, then CHANGE it.
HOWEVER, if you do so, you can't berate others when they say that the game is unbalanced. You can't FIX what ISN'T BROKEN. I think that's where a lot of contention arises among reviewers of this game.

Anyhoo, that was really long winded. In summation, in my PERSONAL opinion--after several play tests with different party make-up--I just did not enjoy the experience. And yes, I did pay WELL OVER the MSRP, which adds a bit of salt to the wound. If asked, I would NOT recommend purchasing the product, given the above reasons. I'm sure that I'll read ahead and try to play through some of the other adventures given in the Adventure Book. Alas, it boils down to hands-on experience with the game and its mechanics, and for me, it just seems unpleasant. I COULD sit down with a group of friends and trudge through every single "adventure" that the game offers, which would take up several hours to do so. But then again, why? If a game doesn't leave me with the desire to play more sessions of it, then that should be the verdict: A game that isn't enjoyable to the player failed in its design.
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