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Descent: Journeys in the Dark» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Red Skills Analysis rss

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Andrew Clarke
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Encouraged by positive reception to previous post, I continue, boldly going somewhere. I was going to do Heroes next, but realised one needed to know how good the skills were before properly evaluating heroes. Hence the next one.

There will most likely be fewer numbers and more subjective opinions in this one. Incidently, the Master Naga is the only monster whose average damage is a whole number. No one but me cares, most likely, but there you go.
Bracketed remarks will appear, though only for skills I think are particularly under or over-powered.

I was going to do this all as one post, but I've exhausted myself just doing the combat ones, so will save Green and Purple skills for tomorrow (probably).

MELEE (Red)

Fatigue-Restoring:
(Relentless and Battle-Cry)
These two aren't bad. Getting Fatigue back is one of the main problems in Descent, and anything that helps you with this is nice. (Varikas the Dead has a very nice ability, for example, though neither of these is as good as this) Battle Cry is probably better, as you generally Battle about as much as you Advance, and it affects adjacent heroes. It's also better the more heroes are around (i.e. best in a 5-player game). Be careful to arrange the turn order to take maximum advantage of it, assuming it otherwise doesn't matter much.
Both fall into the category of mildly-useful utility skills, not game-breakers.

Damage-Increasing:
(Mighty and Weapon Mastery)
Both very solid. Mighty is better early on, Weapon Mastery better in the late game (when you don't need it, as all your attacks will be lethal anyway. End cynicism.). I do think Mighty is better generally (Actually it might be shade too good), for this reason, but getting either should be cause for minor celebration. Note that they're two of the three Red skills that affect melee attacks only. Send them back if your hero is going to be forced to use a different attack type (remember you get to replace one of your skills with another when you first draw them).

Action-gaining with fatigue cost:
(Knight and Able Warrior)
Each effectively allows you to do more with your turn (75% more and 50% respectively). This is amazing, but in the case of these two it comes with a steep cost. Knight in particular is actually better for Ranged and Magic heroes, who can more effectively attack three times without moving much. Both are good, but will require substantial investment in Fatigue potions to get full use out of. You should carefully consider how often and when you can afford to use them. Knight is generally better, by the way, I think, but it's pretty close. Knight+Battle Cry and Able Warrior+Relentless are good combos. BTW, Knight+Able Warrior is NOT. Getting multiple action-gaining cards (unless they're Knight and Unmovable, which is an amazing combo) is not a good thing, generally, as you can't use them together.

Action-gaining without fatigue cost:
(Leadership and Unmovable)
(aka What were they thinking?)
Welcome to the best two skills in the game, hands down. Both are simply amazing. Unmovable isn't totally ridiculous. Basically it means you always get three attacks instead of two when Battling, and +1 Armour and option to use the third attack on the overlord's turn. That's very, very good, but occasionally you do need to move, so you can't use it every turn. A comparison with Knight makes Knight look rather weak. The effect is similar, but with +half speed instead of +1 Armour, and a steep cost added in. Worth adding that Unmovable is very much better with Ranged or Magic heroes, not that's it's in any way bad for Melee ones.
And Leadership. Umm...
I just can't quite understand what's going on here. How did this get through playtesting? First off, it is strictly better than Able Warrior (well, OK, Able Warrior can trigger Relentless, but being reasonable here). You can move your speed and make two attacks. Except you don't spend the fatigue, can have another hero make the attack in your place, can subsititute an Aimed attack for two of the attacks, can substitute a Dodge or Rest if the circumstances warrant it, you get to delay one attack if you want to...
Leadership is ridiculous. Period. If you have it, except in very exceptional circumstances when you might have to Run, you Ready every turn.

Toughness-Increasing:
(Tough, Bear tattoo, Ox tatoo, Parry and Enduring)
A mixed bag. I group them merely for neatness. Parry is probably the best now the expansion has arrived. So many monsters have melee attacks, and +1 Armour, even if it fails against 40-50% of monsters, is pretty damn good. Tough is nice, mind. Extra health is good. Bear tattoo is probably slightly better, as Grapple is moderately useful on a hero, stopping things like skeletons and sorcerors from running away into the shadows even if you can't kill all of them at once. Of course, that does rather depend on the hero party being unable to eliminate all monsters on the board each turn. But heh, if they can, why are you worrying about which skills are better?
Ox Tattoo, aka I'M IMMUNE TO WEB!!!!!, is pretty nice when it does do something. All those abilties tend to come up most games, with Daze and Grapple appearing least often. Trouble is, unlike most skills, it isn't doing something constantly. And if you're immune to Web and Knockback, the overlord will just target someone else, hurting the party as a whole about the same. Not that it's awful, but I'd rather have any of the above-mentioned skills.
And Enduring. Great for Nanok of the Blade, competing with some of the junk Subterfuge skills for worst skill in the game for everyone else. Great, you gain +1 Armour. When you do something suicidal. Or gain a minor bonus if you happen to have 5 speed and be a Ranged character (melee characters almost never have 5 speed, which only makes it worse). Heh, one skill gives you +2 speed flat-out, and it's not even one of the best skills.
But Nanok loves this. Otherwise complete junk- ditch it if you can.
(I'm not sure how to make Enduring half-way good without changing the flavour completely. You could simply put +2 or +3 Armour when not wearing armour, I suppose. The former is probably best. Then along comes Nanok, who now loves it even more. I give up.)

Taunt:
Lovely, lovely design. I like this skill more than almost anything else about the expansion. It's pretty damn good, too, but there are lots of tactical considerations when using it. The best configuration is two-abreast in a corridor, preventing melee monsters from attacking whoever you're gaurding completely, and makeing it very hard for ranged attackers. Taunt is good. Best on a tank, obviously. It's next to useless on a caster. Remember that it only works if the attacker could target you. Overlords would do well to remember that too.

Cleaving:
Cleaving is, rather like Knight and Able Warrior, a way of getting more out of a turn at the cost of Fatigue. I discuss it separately because it works only on melee attacks, and comes with an additional restriction (you have to kill your target). Many of the same remarks apply, but I think Cleaving is better. It costs only 1 Fatigue, and killing a target is really not hard, and you can use it multiple times per turn if need be. And I think Knight and Able Warrior are already pretty good. Cleaving is very solid, probably a bit too good. Not quite up there with Leadership, mind, but very good. So much so, that you might consider turning a character with more of an Archer or Caster bent otherwise into a Tank if you get it.


Summary
The red skills are a very solid bunch; better than either of the other two groups. Only one is actually bad, and several are very good indeed (at least the best three in the game are in the red deck). Further, only three actually only work with melee attacks, making red skills an asset to virtually any character.
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Matthew M
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No major disagreements.

The difficult thing about analyzing any of the skills in an actual game is that you simply cannot do it independent of the other skills. There are so many interactions that can make otherwise sub-par skills awesome or render otherwise fantastic skills less useful.

-MMM
 
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Andrew Clarke
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This is undeniably true. I mention a few such interactions in my mumblings. Many others do of course exist. Mighty is amazing on One-Fist, for example, less good on Trenloe the Strong, who already does substantial damage generally (not that's it's bad even on him).

Oh, and in a fit of sumpreme incompetence, I forgot one:

Furr the Spirit Wolf:
Furr is unlikely to kill anything on its own. This, however, is not really the point. Essentially you get an extra 1-3 damage on a monster after your turn ends. The best use of this is generally to finish off an enemy you didn't quite manage to kill with an attack during your turn. On average, Furr then adds 2 damage to one attack each turn. Of course, things are a little more complicated than that. Leaving a monster with 2 health left and relying on Furr to kill it while you could have spent a Fatigue for an extra power dice is risky- Furr might roll a 1. Furr can of course attack even if you choose to run, wounding an enemy to make it easier to polish off on another turn. One has to worry about the within-4-spaces-and-in-line-of-sight rule when planning attacks.
Furr is much better in a 2-hero game, when it can easily finish off weak monsters without assistance, effectively adding an attack.
But if you compared Furr with a Mighty that works for all attacks and is slightly weaker, you wouldn't go far wrong. And like Mighty, Furr is pretty damn good.
 
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