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Subject: First game - first impressions rss

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Chris J Davis
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We had our first game last night, with three players: myself as Master Thorn, and two friends as Lyssa and Lord Hawthorne. I decided to ignore the recommendation in the LtP Guide to play the Margath scenario first mostly because I wanted a shorter game and it seemed the Vorakesh scenario would provide that. The game took about 3.5 hours in total, ending with a loss for all heroes.

The game is certainly an improvement over 2nd Edition. A friend of mine owned 2nd Ed and whenever he pulled it out it always seemed like a good idea at the time, but by the third hour we would all just be wishing for it to end. It would always turn into a dull slog, with each setback dispiriting the players even more knowing that it meant another half an hour had been added to the game. It was also very much of the genre of "do stuff and see what the random outcome is", which grows old quickly, with players at the mercy of the game rather than active shapers of their own destiny.

This newer version is definitely a lot more slick and puts a lot more agency in the hands of the players. The game felt faster and more dynamic, with turns going by quicker and the game state changing to a larger degree and in more interesting ways from round to round.

Here are some of my impressions on the game, along with some comparisons to 2nd Edition. I'll do them in order from "worst" to "best" (though even the worst isn't really a big deal):

Firstly, although the token-based combat works fine mechanically, and the tokens are sturdy and I don't see them wearing easily unless you have the sweatiest and greasiest of hands, the combat wasn't massively interesting. It was definitely an improvement on the completely passive and antiquated roll-and-check mechanic of 2nd edition, but as others have noted in other threads, there are not a massive amount of interesting choices to make; usually the best option is obvious. That's not to say there are *no* choices to make, but the combat pretty much plays itself about 66-75% of the time. Saying that, one of my opponents (who is not a regular gamer) was definitely making sub-optimal choices on quite a few occasions, so I guess experience and choice can still play a part and affect the outcome. It's also probably for the best that it's not *too* complex, so that it doesn't result in AP. Combat never took for than a couple of minutes (except for the combat with Vorakesh). The third player was definitely more engaged with what was happening in the combat compared to 2nd Edition.

I also felt that some of the combat icons were not as strong as they could be, namely the agility and shield icons. It seemed that whenever you had a shield you would rather just have extra damage so you can kill the enemy quicker, and agility would often just sit on the table not doing very much (as you either didn't want to flip your own tokens, didn't want to waste a combat action flipping them, or your opponent had already spent all tokens worth trying to re-cast. However, the hero I was playing as (Master Thorn) was extremely squishy, and I never got a shield token the whole game (and I always died very quickly as a result), so maybe I'm under-valuing shields and I might see their worth more in subsequent games.

The scenario we played (Vorakesh) was okay, though I didn't feel a massively strong sense of theme in terms of zombie hordes sweeping the kingdom. They were just tokens that popped up and occasionally caused a bit of an annoyance. I have a feeling (and hope) that FFG basically included the two most "vanilla" scenarios in the base game and that expansion scenarios will be more interesting. It's also difficult for me to know at the moment whether the other scenario will feel significantly different (having not played it yet), but my initial feeling was that the scenario didn't feel particularly strong beyond the fact that a greater portion of the artwork was undead-themed.

Interaction between players was minimal (as expected), but turns were quick - much quicker typically than in 2nd Ed, as fewer turns involved combat with monsters. There were also some nice moments during other players' turns, such as the time when Lord Hawthorne had the choice between falling in love or having a one-night stand, choosing the latter... and then totally failing to perform.

The adventure system is an improvement on 2nd Ed. The three difficulties of quest do still basically exist - they're just three different types now: event (easy, with low rewards), quest (medium, with middling rewards) and enemy (difficult, with rewards that are pretty much the only reliable way to gain gold). I foolishly tried to take on an enemy as my first adventure for Master Thorn and got promptly squashed. Running away was swiftly in order. The fact that the enemies in the green and purple decks are easier than those in the orange deck is nice so that non-combat players are not completely annihilated.

Combat is still very important in order to face the boss, but we found that the number of companions the hero held when going in to fight him had quite a big impact on the battle; the player with the most had a much easier time of it and almost defeated Vorakesh, while the other two heroes didn't stand a chance.

I liked the tweaks to the movement system. In 2nd Ed, it always felt like the "move 1 space" option was a bit redundant, as you nearly always rolled 5 dice, so you would never choose it. In 3rd Ed, the "move 1 space" option is a real consideration now that you're only rolling 3 dice. And yet the fact that you can perform the move action three times on your turn means that you can move half way across the board in a single turn (rather than it taking 45 minutes in 2nd Ed). Again, this added to the more dynamic feeling of the game.

Shopping is also improved; I was a little dubious when I read the rule that you can sell items for the same price you bought them for, but after playing I felt that again it was another aspect that added to the more dynamic feeling of the game. You're more incentivised to change your hero's build to adapt to the current situation rather than just keep the same build throughout and adding bits on occasionally.

One of the best improvements is simply that neither myself nor one of the other players got bored nor wished the game to end! The third player, unfortunately (the non-gamer), acted kinda disengaged throughout the game, though I think he would have been that way regardless of which game was on the table, so don't think that should be counted. And even he was getting more drawn into it as the game went on (rather than getting more bored of it).

Am looking forward to playing it again and trying out the other scenario. If there's anything specific anyone wants to know, ask away!
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Donny Schuijers
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I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Have you tried the other Scenario (Margath) yet?
I've played it three times now and no player has yet been able to actually defeat him. Maybe we're doing something wrong with combat. But Margath either deals 4-8 damage every round or just heals 3 and still deals 3-5 damage. I think Vorakesh is actually easier to defeat, but the factor 'time' is more strict and harsh than in Margath.
 
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David Williams
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Awesome - thanks for sharing.
 
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Julia
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Chris,

thanks for reviewing the scenario a couple of comments on your thoughts from my side:

- Shields, Agility and all the rest. I agree that agility is possibly the weakest of symbols, but it really becomes crucial for specific results to be triggered when you're better geared up. For instance, in the moment you own a token featuring a doubler, an Agility result means you automatically have the doubler available. Agility comes also in handy in the moment you want to trick your foe: let's say your foe has the 2 Skull damage atop of a doubler, ready for a minimum +4 damage on your head. Agility allows you to force the guy to recast the token, which could result in some awesome results. As for the Shields, true that often you may want to go the hard way and deal as much damage as possible, but Shields can also mean you're able to survive a particularly strong attack and wait for a more proficuous token availability in the next round of combat. Could also mean you dodge the last bullet, you recast the token and having initiative you smash the monster. When I first started playing RB, I also thought the token system was too meh, with very few decisions available. Then I started hunting for items granting me specific combos, and actually I think there are a few options that are really neat. Possibly a couple more plays could help in this sense

- You score a great point when you talk about equipment. The game encourages you to buy crap / average items, since in the end, it's just another way to transport your cash. Considering gold is not a very available resource (on average, during gameplay heroes should be able to earn around 18-20 GP), if items were not re-sellable, players would have avoided invested in weaker tokens and would have waited to have enough money to get the awesome stuff, hence, would have made the city decks half useless. In this way, you get the cheap items, you use them in the first part of the game, you cash them back and get more awesome stuff. This helps hugely on the feeling you're living an RPG-like experience: you slowly level up, get better and better stuff, and in the end you're a fully equipped hero (TM).
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zoran
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Thanks for your thoughts on the game. I'm on the fence on this one, I used to own 2nd ed. but sold it with some small card expansions years ago.
 
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Joel Tamburo
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To me the new combat is a big improvement over the pretty much flavorless Second Edition. The chits are easily handled (two glasses work beautifully) and the choices while simple are still choices, and indeed it makes the combats feel a bit like you are wielding a weapon or blocking it. It's not as evocative as Magic Realm (to me the most evocative individual level combat system I have seen in a fantasy game) but it is enough to make the combat have some "feel" - which is what was needed.
 
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Marc Bennett
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i have not played yet but concerning the tokens and combat,

for those who have played do you see a potential to expand the combat and make it more tactically rich as more items/tokens are released? or is the system simple now with the potential to become more advanced later on?
 
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trevor

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Klaxas wrote:
i have not played yet but concerning the tokens and combat,

for those who have played do you see a potential to expand the combat and make it more tactically rich as more items/tokens are released? or is the system simple now with the potential to become more advanced later on?


It's simple to understand but I like that there are "some" choices to be made, instead of just rolling dice and seeing if you hit your target number or not.

There is infinite potential for expansion, by adding new weapons with different combinations of symbols, or adding new symbols, or adding new uses for existing symbols (like magic and defense)

Overall, we did enjoy combat, and I was VERY skeptical of the token system prior to the release
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Tim Kelly
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bigGameGeek wrote:


Overall, we did enjoy combat, and I was VERY skeptical of the token system prior to the release

Ditto for me on both points.
TK
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Martin Pilon
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Thank you for the very good review!

Do you know if the expansions from 2nd Edition would still be compatible with it?
 
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Chris J Davis
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mpilon72 wrote:
Thank you for the very good review!

Do you know if the expansions from 2nd Edition would still be compatible with it?


No. Nothing from 2nd Ed would be compatible with it. It's a completely different game.
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Cameron McKenzie
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bleached_lizard wrote:

I also felt that some of the combat icons were not as strong as they could be, namely the agility and shield icons. It seemed that whenever you had a shield you would rather just have extra damage so you can kill the enemy quicker, and agility would often just sit on the table not doing very much (as you either didn't want to flip your own tokens, didn't want to waste a combat action flipping them, or your opponent had already spent all tokens worth trying to re-cast.


There isn't really any advantage to finishing in fewer combat rounds, is there? In some cases, I can easily see the the shields being preferably over the damage. Dealing 4 damage and taking 3 damage each round is generally worse than dealing 3 damage and taking 2 damage each round. You generally want the best ratio of outgoing damage to incoming damage, and changing damage to shields is better if the ratio is favorable (if the ratio is unfavorable, you would want more damage and fewer shields)

Regarding agility, it doesn't really seem like something you plan around, but if you have several combat tokens that are great on one side and "meh" on the other side, the agility will be better than it would be otherwise. Not enough to say "Wow, I should really try to get an agility token," but good enough that you will say "this inexpensive item with an agility token is pretty good for me, considering the cost"

That's how I see it anyway
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Thomas King
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MasterDinadan wrote:

There isn't really any advantage to finishing in fewer combat rounds, is there? In some cases, I can easily see the the shields being preferably over the damage. Dealing 4 damage and taking 3 damage each round is generally worse than dealing 3 damage and taking 2 damage each round. You generally want the best ratio of outgoing damage to incoming damage, and changing damage to shields is better if the ratio is favorable (if the ratio is unfavorable, you would want more damage and fewer shields)

Not really. As long as you're not defeated, the amount of damage you take doesn't matter. There is no penalty for being wounded like in 2nd Ed, and if you rest in a city, stronghold, shrine, or town, you heal all damage for free. So the amount doesn't mean anything.
 
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Chris J Davis
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Well, the benefit to finishing in fewer combat rounds is that you won't be defeated, and if it went on for more combat rounds you would be defeated.
 
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David desJardins
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bleached_lizard wrote:
Well, the benefit to finishing in fewer combat rounds is that you won't be defeated, and if it went on for more combat rounds you would be defeated.


But that's backwards. This is why a combat round where you take 0 damage and inflict 1 damage is usually better than one in which you take 1 damage and inflict 2 damage. It may take longer, but fighting this way makes you more likely to win. Also more likely to be able to fight again without having to rest.
 
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Cameron McKenzie
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Right, assuming your victory in the battle is assured, your goal should be to minimize the amount of damage you take.

Sure, you can heal all damage in a settlement thing, but ideally you won't be returning to a settlement after each and every combat.
 
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David desJardins
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MasterDinadan wrote:
Right, assuming your victory in the battle is assured, your goal should be to minimize the amount of damage you take.


I think your chance of winning is hardly ever 100%, the tokens have enough randomness that if they keep coming up wrong then you are going to lose, although the probability may be small.

But minimizing your chance of losing may also mean stretching out the battle for lots of rounds. Turning a round into a 0-0 draw and then going again may be the best thing for you.
 
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Thomas King
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MasterDinadan wrote:
Right, assuming your victory in the battle is assured, your goal should be to minimize the amount of damage you take.

As David said, victory is never so sure. And avoiding unnecessary rounds is important because whoever wins initiative can be a big deal. There are times when initiative order determines who wins, so going as few rounds as possible is preferable. And since the tokens can yield very wild results, you can never assume you're safe to go another round. Especially in act 2, enemies have the potential to do a lot of damage all at once, so losing initiative can be deadly, even if you do happen to have an extra shield.
 
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David Williams
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MasterDinadan wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:

I also felt that some of the combat icons were not as strong as they could be, namely the agility and shield icons. It seemed that whenever you had a shield you would rather just have extra damage so you can kill the enemy quicker, and agility would often just sit on the table not doing very much (as you either didn't want to flip your own tokens, didn't want to waste a combat action flipping them, or your opponent had already spent all tokens worth trying to re-cast.


Regarding agility, it doesn't really seem like something you plan around, but if you have several combat tokens that are great on one side and "meh" on the other side, the agility will be better than it would be otherwise. Not enough to say "Wow, I should really try to get an agility token," but good enough that you will say "this inexpensive item with an agility token is pretty good for me, considering the cost"

That's how I see it anyway


In some situations an agility is clearly better. Say you have a token which has 1 shield on one side and 1 agility on the other. You see your opponent has cast a doubler and a 2 damage token. The 2 damage has a dash on the other side.

In this situation the agility gives a 50% chance to prevent 4 damage - an average saving of 2 damage. The shield is a guaranteed saving of 1. I think the only time I would choose the shield would be if I only have 4hp left. Then the agility would only give me a 50% chance to survive the round, while the shield gives 100%.

Simplified example of course, there's usually more going on than this. But I think it supports the idea that agility can definitely be better. It can also work the other way where it lets you flip a dash to 2 damage, 2 surges etc. Especially if you can then double it, the agility is giving a guaranteed improvement which is probably worth much more than the 1 defense of a shield.

As you said, the better your other tokens (and more unbalanced between sides) the better agility becomes. It also means you can be more flexible and choose the better side of your tokens for a given situation. Maybe that 2 shield side is about to be removed by an enemy surge ability - use agility to flip it to surge!
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