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Subject: About the Rondel -- a Player's Perspective rss

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Byron Campbell
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This is a copy of Kickstarter Update #12, written by me from the POV of a playtester. It explains why I feel the rondel is not only thematic, but essential to the game.

***

ABOUT THE RONDEL

The rondel is one of Perdition Mouth's most unique features, but also its most misunderstood. Is it a European gimmick that has no place in a fantasy game? Is it a mechanically interesting but thematically hollow innovation? What does it add, and what does it take away?

You've already heard the perspectives of the game's creators and legendary designer Kevin Wilson (Arkham Horror, Descent). Now, you will hear a playtester's perspective on the rondel - why I like it and why I think you will too.

Here are just a few ways the rondel gives Perdition's Mouth a unique place in any collection.


COOPERATION

The rondel means that the players have to actively cooperate to avoid swift extermination.

For example, in the image below you can see that Olazabal is wounded. She’d like to use her Special to heal some damage. However, it requires 5 AP (action points) to move from the Defend spoke to the Special spoke. Damaged and fatigued, she can't generate this much AP on her own. But wait! Niffil was planning to Rest this turn anyway; if he goes first, his peg will fill the Rest spoke, allowing Olazabal to skip the over it when spending her AP.

Then, if Elisa or Tyra moves to occupy the remaining Charge peg hole, Olazabal will be able to reach the Special spoke using only 3 AP, ensuring that she and her allies can survive the coming attack.

The best part of this is that, while the players must coordinate to survive, the unique hero decks make sure each player still feels like an individual, not a cog in a machine.



PREPARATION

The rondel ensures that you you always need to plan ahead and can't get away with just being reactive.

In the above example, Bastian took a Charge action last turn, and he would like to follow it up with a powerful attack this round to finish off a Guard. He can easily reach the Bash spoke using his AP. However, that would move him past the Rest spoke, which means he'd then have to go all the way around the wheel again before he has another chance to Rest and refill his hand.

It might be better to take a Rest action this turn instead, leaving the Guard alive another round but giving him a full hand of cards. Of course, since there is only one Rest peg hole, this plan would require Niffil to choose a different option than the one we already discussed. In this case, it would make more sense for Niffil to spend this round Defending, which lets him draw a card now and puts the Rest spoke within easy reach next round.


TENSION

I haven't mentioned the Enemy wheel yet, which also contributes to the game's strategy and adds even more tension.

You can always see what the enemies are likely to do next. Since the movement of the enemy peg is driven by the Response deck, you can safely predict that most rounds, they will perform one of the next 2 actions on the wheel.

Think of it as reading the enemy's body language: does that Acolyte look like he's winding up for a strike or preparing to flee? But like life, the wheel is not entirely predictable; the Response card could be a 5 (enemies perform the next 5 actions!), a 0 (the peg doesn't move, and the enemies perform the same action again), or a -1 (the peg moves one space COUNTERCLOCKWISE).

You have to plan for what's most likely to happen, always knowing that it could turn out entirely differently.


THEME

As you can see, the two rondels create a uniquely thematic depiction of the dark fantasy world that Perdition's Mouth inhabits.

In a typical fantasy game, the heroes are practically demigods, and it's not a big deal that they can move and attack at the same rate round after round without feeling the effects of pain or exhaustion.

But in Perdition's Mouth, the heroes are real people with real limitations; they have to worry about blocking each other's shots in a tight corridor or running out of breath mid-sprint. The rondel, together with the Hero cards, is the perfect representation of the effects of stamina on the heroes. You are stronger than most, but your strength is not unlimited; you can swing your hammer hard enough to crack the enemy's armor, but doing it again immediately would require a much greater exertion. This is represented by the difficulty of circling all the way back around the wheel.

It's much easier, and tactically smarter, to let the momentum of your swing carry you a few steps backward, out of the cultist's reach, or to raise your weapon to block their incoming attack while you wait for another opening to deliver the killing blow.
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Nonoyo Bidniss
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Aesthetically, the font on the rondel doesn't seem in keeping with the rest of the theme of the game.
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Timo Multamäki
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MrMark wrote:
Aesthetically, the font on the rondel doesn't seem in keeping with the rest of the theme of the game.


Indeed. It's prototype. We will certainly "prettify" it to same style as the other materials.
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Johannes Benedikt
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I finally got to read it, but I am still not entirly convinced.

I feel like this mechanism as described above can be a huge source for AP and alpha-player syndrom and thus can halt the game for quite some time, undermining the adventure atmosphere of this game.

In other dungeon crawlers usually you "only" have to decide on what combination of actions your team should execute, what fits best in the situation and how to maximize your individual hero's potential. Even this "reactionary" style of decisions can lead to AP in some cases and it happens more often the more complex your situation and options are.

Now with the rondel, you have all this and then you try optimize your movement on the rondell, potentially overthrowing your plans again and again not because it wasn't a good idea, but because the rondel is in your way.
For example: If this one guy rests, the other can heal, but then your tank can't defend, so he will attack, leaving your damagedealer unable to advance to the next monster, so by enabling your healer to heal, you won't do enough damage to significantly cut down your foes, which means their damage next round will be higher than what you gained from healing, so healing is out of the question. But then the healer dies, so he has to get out of harm's way, which opens up the special for the damagedealer, which will do good damage, but it will leave him in a bad position for the next turn, so the tank will attack as well, but then the damage dealer can't move next turn and the healer is in danger again.....

All this need for a highly orchestrated turn imo puts very little initiative into the individual player's hand and as the discussion ensures, the less expirienced players are likly to step back and let the alpha-player take the turns for them. Of course all of this is not a problem for solo play, but I imagine it to get very problematic with a playercount of 3+ people.

In the end I just can't pull my head around how this evokes a thematic gameplay expirience. Sure it may look authentic when you play out your turn, but I can only see a team of best buddies stand in a hallway discussing these plans and rewriting them so often and in the end require a highly disciplined execution without deveation because of the lack of communication.
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Thibaud Dejardin
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DA_Maz wrote:

For example: If this one guy rests, the other can heal, but then your tank can't defend, so he will attack, leaving your damagedealer unable to advance to the next monster

Don't forget that a lot of actions have actually 2 or 3 peg holes, not only one.
So, choices are never as scarce as you say. For sure, it leads to common decisions, because everything you do impacts others.

At the same time, it's really thematic. Just imagine a groupe in a dungeon. The group members don't really like each others, but they have a common goal. As they progress in the narrow corridors, everyone gets in front of each other and block movement and even vision to others. They have to argue and discuss to not hit each others and sometimes, one of the hero is more loudy or tries to give orders to others.
If the other heroes obey, you have an alpha, for sure. But no one is forced to listen to him.

Quote:
but I can only see a team of best buddies stand in a hallway discussing these plans and rewriting them so often and in the end require a highly disciplined execution without deveation because of the lack of communication.

And then... Leroy Jenkins!
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Johannes Benedikt
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Archange227 wrote:
DA_Maz wrote:

For example: If this one guy rests, the other can heal, but then your tank can't defend, so he will attack, leaving your damagedealer unable to advance to the next monster

Don't forget that a lot of actions have actually 2 or 3 peg holes, not only one.
So, choices are never as scarce as you say. For sure, it leads to common decisions, because everything you do impacts others.

At the same time, it's really thematic. Just imagine a groupe in a dungeon. The group members don't really like each others, but they have a common goal. As they progress in the narrow corridors, everyone gets in front of each other and block movement and even vision to others. They have to argue and discuss to not hit each others and sometimes, one of the hero is more loudy or tries to give orders to others.
If the other heroes obey, you have an alpha, for sure. But no one is forced to listen to him.

Quote:
but I can only see a team of best buddies stand in a hallway discussing these plans and rewriting them so often and in the end require a highly disciplined execution without deveation because of the lack of communication.

And then... Leroy Jenkins!


the Leroy Jenkins bit was funny, but ironically I suspect that the other players could effectivly disable his movement via intelligent rondell-play so he won't get far into the dungeon.

Blocking movement or LoS in narrow corridors happens in most dungeon crawlers without the need of a rondel. What I find unthematic is that a healer is better off bashing or charging into the battlefield instead of doing a normal attack or just defending, if he wants to use his heal ability the next turn, although he might be able to defend and then heal if enough heroes charge into battle and someone rests.

Don't get me wrong, I think this game can be thrilling when playing solo, because finding a way to best react to the cicrcumstances includes another thing to consider (the rondel). I just feel that when played with more people the discussion can quickly revolve just around how to move on the rondel and a disconnection to the whole dungeon and theme may arise, when so much time passes on discussing the feasibility of your strategy when executed with the rondel.
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Byron Campbell
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I have a mixed response to this concern...on the one hand, I think that PM does require more thought and planning than your typical fantasy game, and that is what sets it apart and is a big strength. It is not an "adventure atmosphere" to begin with, but a mature horror-fantasy where every tactical choice matters. On the other hand, I think flow is very smooth in general...most spokes have 2 or 3 peg holes and most action types (e.g. Move, attack) are represented on several spokes. the situation I have experienced is that every player thinks for a little bit about what they want to do on their turn, shares it with the group, then they quickly come to a decision about which order to execute the actions in to perform the turn most efficiently. AP is about on par with a game like Pandemic.
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Thomas Gaczkowski
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What I actually dislike most about the rondel mechanic is the part about "filling up" one part of the rondel, so that another character can then "overjump" that part of the rondel to reach an action which he would otherwise not reach.

When I first read though the Kickstarter page back when it launched this was literally the very first thing which sprung to my mind. I just brushed it off and thought "this can never be the intent of the rondel, can it?" and "I'm sure there are some more rules to that", but now reading through the above example, this seems to be exactly that.

I am very sure that this will spark many discussions at gaming tables around the world when such a situation comes up the first time. It can mean that you would do a suboptimal move with one character to fill up a hole with your peg so that another character gets a benefit out of that. Not only suboptimal - but the move could even be non-sensical. I know that you can turn this around into some thematic (non)sense, but actually this is the most anti-thematic situation which I can imagine.

I am still excited, and I hope we will reach some more stretch goals after funding.
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Thibaud Dejardin
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DA_Maz wrote:
crawlers without the need of a rondel. What I find unthematic is that a healer is better off bashing or charging into the battlefield instead of doing a normal attack or just defending, if he wants to use his heal ability the next turn

I think you might consider that this is not an average hero team.
Those guys are not going along each other really fine. They are independent, and don't like relying on each other. Thus, your "healer" can fight, charge and defend himself. He is not just a healer that needs a tank and a damage dealer, everyone stayoing "on his place".

Sure, they need each other to succeed in this dungeon, but they can fight alone in a lot of circumstances.

Also think of defending like preparing the next action, too. Or charging loke getting in position, spell ready.

Quote:
although he might be able to defend and then heal if enough heroes charge into battle and someone rests.

Like said, a lot of actions allow 2-3 pegs. There's always a way to do things you want (move, attack), but that can't be the best move each turn. That makes you think about what your best move this turn is instead of an obvious choice: I move and/or I attack at full strength.

But, except for the special and rest actions, that must be discussed together, that's more about "where I am on the rondel, and what action do I take to achieve my goal this turn"?
There's enought possibilities for everyone to use an action he wants.

The rondel doesn't usually says if it's possible to do an action, but usually makes it impossible to make perfect actions. You can still run around the rondel, but the action you will take will need more cards from your hand and/or will be less powerful because even if it's the best action, you usd your Action Points to select it.
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Byron Campbell
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Menteith wrote:

I am very sure that this will spark many discussions at gaming tables around the world when such a situation comes up the first time. It can mean that you would do a suboptimal move with one character to fill up a hole with your peg so that another character gets a benefit out of that. Not only suboptimal - but the move could even be non-sensical. I know that you can turn this around into some thematic (non)sense, but actually this is the most anti-thematic situation which I can imagine.


Where does theme come from, though? Is it thematic for heroes to get 1 move, 1 attack and 1 special every turn, regardless of the actions of others? Is it thematic for the roll of a die to determine whether your attack deals damage or misses? All board game mechanisms are abstractions...in the end, it comes down to using your imagination to fill in the blanks.

For those of us who've played the game, the rondel has turned out to create a lot of situations that feel thematic. This is an example from another playtester that came up during one of our internal discussions:

"Bastian, raise the shield and protect Elisa while she looks for an opening to launch a fire ball at them!" Bastian chooses the Defend spoke and prepares to face the badly burnt enemies that barely manage to survive Elisa's Fireball. "Simma and Niffil, out of the way and let me put that ugly bug down." Simma and Bastian fill a spoke and save Tyra an action point that she get to use for charging towards the enemies.

The "suboptimal" or "nonsensical" move in this case is a representation of the heroes actively coordinating with one another instead of charging in like individual rambos, a thematic element that PM does better than any other dungeon crawler I can think of.

Quote:
I am still excited, and I hope we will reach some more stretch goals after funding.


Hear, hear!
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CK Lai
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I must say I was of those that wasn't too convinced WRT to the rondel at first.

Then I re-watched the Rahdo playthroughs and thought about it some more. The rondel really complements the "no dice" system of PM very well. It allows for interesting choices to be made, as well as teamwork discussions.

It's no more different than what we have in Descent 2E, or Myth's Action Cards... it's just different. I guess we're too used to the usual dice + cards system that most dungeon crawl type games utilise.

That said, I do need to also at least give the PnP a spin before I make a final judgement on the rondel, but I'm no longer pre-disposed to dislike it
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Timo Multamäki
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Chinkster wrote:
I must say I was of those that wasn't too convinced WRT to the rondel at first.

Then I re-watched the Rahdo playthroughs and thought about it some more. The rondel really complements the "no dice" system of PM very well. It allows for interesting choices to be made, as well as teamwork discussions.

It's no more different than what we have in Descent 2E, or Myth's Action Cards... it's just different. I guess we're too used to the usual dice + cards system that most dungeon crawl type games utilise.

That said, I do need to also at least give the PnP a spin before I make a final judgement on the rondel, but I'm no longer pre-disposed to dislike it


That is real progress. Maybe we've done something right. And the videos of Rahdo and others have been awesome. I'd highly recommend that you'll take a look at the UndeadViking video:
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Jim Johnson
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Menteith wrote:
What I actually dislike most about the rondel mechanic is the part about "filling up" one part of the rondel, so that another character can then "overjump" that part of the rondel to reach an action which he would otherwise not reach.



I'm kind of had the same reaction to this aspect of the game. The idea to me seems that, as more people take actions, it should limit options, rather than open up new ones. You take a group in a skirmish in a dungeon room. Player A wants to sit back and shoot, players B&C want to charge in and start swinging, while D is casting a spell. You are player E - well you're options have significantly decreased, due to the lack of space.

I would think that the player would still have to pay the AP cost to move around the rondel, regardless of whether or not the space is filled up. That would help prevent people from circling the rondel to easily. Also, if your APs are such that you can't get over to the space you want, you just have to take a different action.

I also have a concern about gameplay centering around the rondel, rather than the game board. I have played strategy games for a lot of years and love to set up a big battle where the turns take 1-2 hours apiece. However, I don't know if this game will stand up to turns that take too long. This is supposed to be a tactical game, rather than a strategic one; and, tactical games usually move at a quicker pace.

That being said, I do like the concept of the rondeles. They certainly add more depth to a genre of games that usually consists of "move-kill-repeat".
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Timo Multamäki
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dakkadakka1 wrote:
Menteith wrote:
What I actually dislike most about the rondel mechanic is the part about "filling up" one part of the rondel, so that another character can then "overjump" that part of the rondel to reach an action which he would otherwise not reach.


I'm kind of had the same reaction to this aspect of the game. The idea to me seems that, as more people take actions, it should limit options, rather than open up new ones. You take a group in a skirmish in a dungeon room. Player A wants to sit back and shoot, players B&C want to charge in and start swinging, while D is casting a spell. You are player E - well you're options have significantly decreased, due to the lack of space.


You're taking the dungeon battle in very organized fashion. IRL I feel that what ever your Heroes (or you) would end up doing in a closed quarter skirmish you'd very rapidly both open new possibilities and close old ones. Which is kind of "organized chaos" which means that you can make a longer term goals which explains "this is what I'd like to do soon" but when you can ACTUALLY do that depends on not only your own actions but others as well.

Next time when you're around with your friends, take some staffs, sticks and such and try it out. When you play that in slow-motion or in-turns, you can plan THIS action. But when you play things out in real-speed-of-life, making "turn based battle" becomes rather complex.

We have actually tried many of these concepts IRL. In retrospect we should have made videos of those. But we didn't. Maybe we'll do next time when we gather up.

Quote:
I would think that the player would still have to pay the AP cost to move around the rondel, regardless of whether or not the space is filled up. That would help prevent people from circling the rondel to easily. Also, if your APs are such that you can't get over to the space you want, you just have to take a different action.


That would either demand more equal AP allocation (which would be not what we want to achieve, as our Heroes are very different from each other) more towards "traditional dungeon crawl heroes" OR it would lead to slower heroes never being able to do anything.

I know this might sound weird, but we've tried this many times with wide variety of variables.

Quote:
I also have a concern about gameplay centering around the rondel, rather than the game board. I have played strategy games for a lot of years and love to set up a big battle where the turns take 1-2 hours apiece. However, I don't know if this game will stand up to turns that take too long. This is supposed to be a tactical game, rather than a strategic one; and, tactical games usually move at a quicker pace.


Typical full Hero turns is 3-8 minutes for all Heroes. Enemy turns are less than that, almost always.

Now after some 400 test games, it's safe to say that even with the worst analysis-paralysis-type-players we have never seen turns that would be hours
or even one hour. Sure, a single scenario can take up to 3-4 hours if you have
a team who likes to debate and talk chit-chat. Typically scenarios
take about 2h no matter how many players you have...

Quote:

That being said, I do like the concept of the rondeles. They certainly add more depth to a genre of games that usually consists of "move-kill-repeat".


That was the design principle from very beginning.


P.S. Jim, do you happen to be affiliated with http://www.dakkadakka.com/ ?
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Jim Johnson
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Eridis wrote:



P.S. Jim, do you happen to be affiliated with http://www.dakkadakka.com/ ?



I am not. I didn't know about this website until you told me about it. They do have some very impressive miniatures - I wish I could paint half that well!
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Timo Multamäki
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dakkadakka1 wrote:
Eridis wrote:



P.S. Jim, do you happen to be affiliated with http://www.dakkadakka.com/ ?



I am not. I didn't know about this website until you told me about it. They do have some very impressive miniatures - I wish I could paint half that well!


Indeed, very nice minis. I just thought there is a possibility for some connection due to your nick.
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