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Subject: Problems with combat puzzles rss

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joe dagostino
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Three of us played our first game today and we had fun working through the examples and it took working our way through the step by step solution to the combats to really help us understand the sequence and impact of the decisions we would make in picking our monsters and traps. I didn't think of the exercise as wasted. I figure we learned we can be more or less efficient in our choices. Because those combats will defend all those things we created and selected it made sense to me to really understand the process.

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Ben Kyo
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The puzzles are quite hard, and *usually* you won't end up with such knife-edge situations to puzzle out during combat. You'll either be over-prepared or under-prepared and feeling confident/despondent! I think the puzzles are there partly to give people some hints as to how they can sometimes finagle things to get better results than they might spot at first glance.

I haven't used the puzzles when teaching recently, and I've found that when we get to the combat some people just don't approach it as a puzzle at all, and throw what they have at the adventurers in ways that can fairly obviously be improved on. Still, there's enough to get to grips with in the meat of the action selection that we just haven't dwelled too long on that, and most people seem keen on further games in which I hope optimizing combat can be focused on a bit more.
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David desJardins
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It doesn't make much sense to me. The idea of the game is that the interactions are complicated and so one monster or hero is not universally better or worse than another, but there are patterns and strategies that you might learn to recognize, over time.

I guess it's like a chess puzzle. If you don't like solving chess puzzles then you probably won't like playing chess, even though playing a game of chess requires that you develop some intuition for what is a better or worse position, you can't just learn to search through all possible combinations of moves to determine when you have mate-in-4. Such exhaustive search is not possible and is not supposed to be possible; you are supposed to develop your intuition over time.
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Benjamin Wack
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I think you've overseen some of the benefits of these practice puzzles.

First, you've stated that you were learning the rules without the material ; remember that efficient learning is achieved no only through seeing or hearing, but also through manipulation. And DL comes with a ton of material, so if you had actually unpacked it all on a table, you probably wouldn't resist fiddling with it a bit ; the training puzzles also give you a chance to put that urge to good use.

Another point is that it's a 20-pages rulebook, which can be a lot to digest for most players, so getting a bit of actual "play" in the middle can prevent some people to fall asleep before the end of the explanation.

Don't take too long on those puzzles : they're just here to help you discover how annoying thieves and priests can be, and how traps and monsters need to be combined to get the most out of them. The idea is not to get the perfect score on every puzzle ; and if you think you've got the knack of it by the 2nd or 3rd puzzle, you may shamelessly skip the remaining.

Finally, your concern about downtime : in the actual game just like in the puzzles, all the players will be preparing their monsters and traps simultaneously. And once one is ready it puts some pressure on the others to get it over with, hopefully reducing AP. Also, some information (namely fatigue and spells) is unknown to some players in the combat phase of the actual game, thus trying to find the optimal solution is not even feasible.
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Ben Kyo
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It's probably worth mentioning that every player faces a unique puzzle - the guy who ended up with two rogues is going to have a very different time to the guy who got a couple of priests, for instance. Planning on facing or inadvertently ending up with a paladin shakes things up, and you never get much choice with what traps you have.

What I really like about the system is that you have a payoff to look forward to at the end of the worker-placement dungeon building that is more than just a tallying of sets and "best of" scoring. You get to see if your dungeon works.

You may be right that you can quickly "peak" at the puzzle part (the combat), with little left to learn, but that just means you can start playing the meat of the game properly. There's also enough hidden information in the combat to always keep things interesting.


... anyway, I think the game could be analyzed almost indefinitely, and your questions are very broad. You should just play it and find out for yourself =)
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Ben Kyo
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OK, I understand what you are getting at and I think my first reply was on topic. The puzzles are not really representative of how the game plays out. You have a lot more on your plate than just which monsters to match to which adventurers and your goal is to be over-prepared, but not so over-prepared that you lose to others on the other ways to score. If you manage to get a really good defence going you take it up a notch and plan on also luring/defeating a paladin. If you are less prepared you avoid the paladin and/or resign yourself to losing some ground and score in other ways.

But when you are learning and playing the game it is actually quite low on AP - you figure out which actions you are likely to be blocked on, then which actions you want to prioritise, then just do the best you can. You try and build the best dungeon you can, and there's no realistic way to puzzle out all the minutiae of combat because during the action rounds there are unknown factors coming up later, and during the combat you probably won't know all the magic and fatigue variables either.
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Carl
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Off The Shelf has a 3 part youtube video series that does a fantastic job of making the connection between the two different parts of the game. It is long, but worthwhile. A warning though: in making this connection there are some strategy spoilers and clues to what you want to try to do during the year to prepare for the adventurers.

The short version is that "it is a game of future planning."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfMWQUVA27M

Edit: I agree with the video author that this is best with two players, but my wife and I have had a great time playing two player as well. I feel it is a little more forgiving as a two player game with the rules-as-written.
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Benjamin Wack
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Of course, Ben's answer is right on spot.

What's fun is that you Sudoku analogy reminds me of Alchemists, another CGE game where all the players compete to solve a shared puzzle and bid on parts of the solution.

Of course, there's more to it than a Sudoku problem, most elements are unknown to the players, there's a fair amount of guessing and bluffing, etc.
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David desJardins
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imlapa wrote:
of course in any auction/bid game theres usually a period of "what is stuff Worth", but mostly those come with time, ie the jester value in Princes of Florence, they dont change and any variations on the value are small and based on you understanding the small levers to pull and modify the flow of Money, I imagine with time you get to recognise certain combos and even recognise when this or that trap or monster is "better" or good enough to prioritise action ordering for, but there still feels like the evaluation is more dynamic (good in terms of being fresh, bad in terms of requiring a somewhat solo period of working out the puzzle).


The fitness landscape in Dungeon Lords is much more complex than in a game like Princes of Florence. A small change in your position can have a much bigger impact on the result you get in the former than in the latter. Again, it's much like chess---moving one piece one space completely changes how well you're doing in a chess game. Only time and experience will determine whether you enjoy that, or not.

Chess was played for hundreds of years without clocks, so to argue that somehow clocks are integral to chess, to me, misses the point.
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David desJardins
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I think it is very intentional that you might be in a position where you can't quite kill the heroes, and yet if you just had a slightly different collection of stuff then you could kill them very easily. This is what the "fitness landscape" is about---is it smooth, so that small changes in your position produce only small changes in results, or is it rough, so that small changes in your position often produce large changes in results?

A game like Princes of Florence has a fitness landscape that is relatively smooth. Sometimes, you will be one point short of reaching the total to perform a work, or you will draw cards and either you will happen to get the one you want or you might pick up a set with nothing useful in it at all. But most of the time, small changes in your position will only produce small changes in your score. Among other things, that means the final results (among players of comparable skill) are often quite close.

A game like Chess, or Dungeon Lords, has a fitness landscape that is much less smooth. This is one thing that the "puzzles" illustrate for the player learning the game---a small change in your resources might have big effects. There might be a "perfect" solution, where you use all of your resources exactly right, and everything is as efficient as can be, and you get a great result. And there might not be any "perfect" solution, you might not have quite the right mix of resources, and you might do way worse.

It is no doubt true that if you spend 5 hours studying a position you might make better decisions than if you spent 5 minutes, and if you spend 5 months then you might make a better decision than if you spent 5 hours. Some people might well not like Dungeon Lords because it is possible to analyze a given position in more and more depth. You could try to enumerate all of the possible things that might happen and assign them all probabilities and then work out the best battle plan for each such scenario, and that could take practically forever. The challenge, I think, is to make reasonable decisions in the time you've got. That's true whether you have clocks to control your speed of play, or not.

I don't know what to say about all of the "you are smarter than I am" and "I am terribly wrong to have any feelings about the game" and "I will endeavor to educate myself more before applying to be allowed to feel things about games". I'm only talking about the game. I'm not sure why you want to get so personal.
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david landes
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Just a couple quick thoughts.
- Dungeon Lords is easily my favorite game

- Dungeon Lords is very complex; between the combat puzzles you wind up with, the simultaneous action selection second-guessing, and the variability of events and timing.. this is a really 'thinky' game that often does not look that way from afar because it is so dripping with theme.

- Dungeon Lords is unforgiving. There are many ways in which you can be 'just' short of perfection.. and go completely down in flames. If you had one more food to activate the higher hit of a troll.. you might have beaten the adventurers in two combat rounds.. instead, they rampage for four rounds and you do not kill them all... a difference of 10-20 points based on one food. Dungeon Lords abounds with little differences having huge consequences. Or as David phrased it smooth versus rough landscape.

- If you don't like taking an occasional colossal pounding, despite your best efforts, then this may not be the perfect game for you. I think it is pretty important to be able to laugh at yourself when that happens here.

- Dungeon Lords is very easy to fall into thinking "you versus the adventurers" or "you versus the game system" and forget that it is really you versus the other human opponents.. it really is that immersive at times

- Dungeon Lords CAN bring out AP in players who are prone to it. This is no different from many other complex games with multitudes of factors that need to be taken into account.

Hope that helps. Cheers! Great game!
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Alison Mandible
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I would think of the puzzles as an interactive version of the 'sample turn' you often see in rulebooks. Those turns are usually set up to illustrate more than one rules detail at a time, even if it's very rare that that exact situation would come up.

Now, those examples usually aren't *overwhelming*, while DL's puzzles can be. But I think they're similar.

You're right that you can't/shouldn't/would have no fun trying to pre-solve your whole combat phase when deciding on actions.

[Edited to add: I think you're totally right about there being a precise/tactical level and an intuitive/overall level to the game. This is very common with Vlaada's games, but not always obvious, and switching between the two systems can be uncomfortable. And now that I think about it, they often have the pitfall that a learner may think, "I have no idea about strategy, but if I totally max out the tactical aspect, that's got to be *pretty good* strategy, right?" -- and it's not, but THAT isn't obvious either.]
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Gianluca Casu
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I'm not really sure what confuses you, but I think the point is to give you an idea of wich monster you will need in the future by consequence of the adventurers' draw
 
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Carl
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Ahh, I think I understand your concern now with regard to the "very specific" solution to the teaching puzzles.

Keep in mind that there is an optimum solution to every puzzle you will play in this game. There are a couple of mechanical differences between the tutorial puzzles and the in-game puzzles (in-game includes spells and you may not have fore knowledge of fatigue). But two practical differences are that there is no book to tell you what the optimum strategy is/would have been, and that the optimum strategy may be something that is still terrible for your dungeon.

So there is a specific solution to the puzzle that is best, but nothing to tell you what it is. The tutorial puzzles are really just there to give you an idea of the kind of thing you are working to achieve during each year, and are designed to do that in a staged way. As in many things for teachers and learners, this may not have connected well for you personally. I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. It really is a fantastic game.
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David desJardins
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imlapa wrote:
I would have thought my posts by now have clarified what I'm confused about, the best analogy I can use is the chess problem, the puzzles feel very specific tactical tricks with narrow solutions, with the game then not being like that


The game is like that, I think. You have to solve combinatorial problems where there may be a single best approach and it may be tricky to find. And you may have to do that several different times so that, for example, you can decide what you need. It seems a whole lot like studying chess problems to learn to play chess better. Playing chess is not only about solving chess problems, but recognizing tactical combinations, and learning to do so quickly, is pretty important.

Quote:
And David seems way too intelligent to be pretending that he cant himself see the difference in his earlier replies and the last one he made above this post here. (personal stuff deleted)


I wish you would just drop all of the personal observations and speculations and conjectures. I haven't said anything about you, which is not surprising because I don't even know you. Could we just talk about the game?
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Nathaniel Chambers
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I haven't read all the comments here, but I got the jist of your posts from the first two posts of yours.

I've always thought the rulebook having a minigame everyone is supposed to play is a bit of a mistake. Kind of. Maybe. I think it should be stressed that this is great for a group that is learning the game together as a whole. But I have never once used the introduction section to teach people the game and they do fine.

It's not remotely the hardest part of the game. The hardest part is thinking about what you need and actually getting it during the worker placement phase. Because with the fighting phase, your stuck with what you got. So, then, it really isn't that hard, because you have pretty limited options. Maybe 2-3 monsters and 1 trap or something.

Can it take up time? Sure! The whole game takes up time. It's fun!

Dungeon Lords is a layered cake game. You have 3 games in one. You have a minigame that you play to place your workers (figuring out what cards to play and what order to play them is by far the most AP part of the game). You have the part where you actually place your workers, maybe not getting what you wanted, but you still have decisions to make: in this new space, that you didn't plan for, will you still pay the potentially required amount of money to perform the space's action. And last, you have the actual Dungeon minigame which only happens twice in the whole game.

All of this fits together wonderfully.
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Andy Y
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I love figuring out a thread that has had many posts deleted.

A nice perk of the puzzles that hasn't been brought up (unless it's been deleted) is that they are excellent teaching aids. All the rules that new players are most likely to forget...the puzzles are built so as to force you to acknowledge them (the slime's second ability doesn't trigger healing/the vampire can't attack the priest/the ghost can't attack front row).
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