The threat level of this game is regulated by a number of game factors:
1) Threats from threat cards,
2) Holding back the Darkness rolls which might make you lose the game for time, introduce new threats, or amplify existing threats
3) Dice rolls for the players or monsters
4) Threats or disabilities introduced from Encounters
5) Luck in getting clue tokens on the exploration tokens
Suppose we pick a game to compare it with -- Temple of Elemental Evil, a similar looking dungeon crawler (D&D) with the players trying to finish quickly (to avoid encounter tokens) while monsters appear on the new tiles with a boss at the end. Superficially, the two games are similar, though in this game the threats are dictated by the tile legends, and the extra debilitating party effects are based on encounter cards. Dice are still important of course (hard to eliminate that, though to some extent Mage Knight does).
In ToEE, the threat tends to ramp up. Sometimes the ramp is steep if you suddenly get 3 new monsters and they turn out to be powerful ones (some monsters are always going to be more powerful than others, though in ToEE you typically get more XP for them). You can have some bad moments. You can even die, especially if your tactics aren't very good.
People are constantly talking about this game (SoB) as too hard or too easy and the truth is, it's both at the same time. The reason this is so is that the threat level is what I'd call unstable. Unlike ToEE, the slope of the ramp up or ramp down of threat level is unpredictable and potentially fantastically steep. You can go from no threat to "should we run" in a matter of moments. To some extent I think this is intentional. I admit it's fun to see the whole board filled with monsters and actually win the encounter with them. It's amazing what attacks you can actually defeat! On the the other hand, it robs the players of the feeling of being in control (again this may well be intentional). But because the threat level is mostly uncontrolled, you don't just get the "feeling" that you might die -- you might REALLY die (or be KO'd) not because you played poorly or your tactics are poor, but merely because you drew the wrong threat card or you rolled badly on a HBTD roll.
Even if you like this about SoB (and many do, it's a fun game), it seems to me that there are potentially ways to improve things so that your fate is more dependent on your skill than pure blind luck. For instance, using the cover rules from the Frontier Town expansion to allow players to deploy some terrain to the tile prior to any monster placement. Or fixing the threat decks so that the low threats really are low and the medium threats are really medium would help (I think they are pretty inconsistent). Or modifying the darkness rolls so that for every one you miss, the next one's target number is one less (1 minimum). This should mitigate the extra threat problem. Or allowing a single player to straddle two squares to bottleneck the monsters.
You can do some of this yourself by going through the threat decks and moving cards to other decks. Not that you have to, the game is pretty good by itself, but I hate losing when I didn't do anything to bring it about.
How do you feel about the threat level? Great the way it is? Would you like it to be more consistent so you could manage the challenge level a bit better? I'm interested in some discussion on how threat works in SoB to understand it better if for no other reason. It should help me play better.
I agree with you, David. Me and my wife love Shadows of Brimstone, but it´s hard to play the game well. We just roll the dice and hope for the best, basically. Most of the time we get an amazing adventure with lots of epic moments in it, like the time when our bandida Esperanza made a critical bite with her mutated fangs to finish off a particularly vicious Brutal Slasher...
But then again, sometimes the game just slips out of our hands because we draw multiple corridors in a row, then draw Powerful Dread as a darkness card and are forced to move the darkness marker 8 steps on the depth track.
We can basically go from "This is going great!" to "Oh, I guess we ran out of time." in a single turn, and there is very little we can do about it.
Some items help somewhat. For our posse, we have a Tome of Vontarro and 2 Gambler´s Deck of Cards and 2 Lucky Dice. They give us some room to hold back the Darkness or up a few rolls. If possible, we also stock up on as much Lantern Oil as possible (from the Frontier Town expansion) to be able to reroll 1 die from the Old Lantern.
Time is the biggest enemy for us, not the actual encounters. We still don´t have a good way to counter Growing Dread cards, except for a Bounty Hunter´s Badge that gives all heroes 1 Grit each = we can cancel 1 Growing Dread card per adventure.
All in all, the game is amazing when you get a tense adventure and you get the chance to finish the fight. But when you lose to unlucky Lantern rolls and cards like Powerful Dread, it feels frustrating and unfair.
Lately, we have been playing a few fixed map missions, like Seal the Hell Pit and Last Stand, which have felt much more manageable and consistent in difficulty, since they don´t rely on random map tiles and random exploration tokens. They have been some of the best experiences yet in the game for us.
Thanks for an interesting topic. Cheers!
- Last edited Fri Jul 22, 2016 4:12 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Jul 22, 2016 4:11 pm
I've been thinking about this in light of what you have available in the game. There are some options but they're not fantastically effective in controlling the threat.
First, I use grit to cancel every growing dread cards every chance I get. Not all of them are worth cancelling but they contribute to the pile-on effect the game imposes. Heroes or objects that can cancel growing dread cards or darkness cards or keep the darkness from moving etc. can be used to negate bad darkness rolls. Also the capabilities for re-rolling or re-selecting bad threat or other cards that can generate threats.
These cards and capabilities should be nice to haves, given a threat management in the game that gave you consistent scaled threats. However, this isn't really the case. With careful choice of heroes, collecting of those items, and enough heroes to provide a mix of abilities, you can blunt the wild threat surges a little. It's not a good solution which is why I started this thread.
The game deliberately is set up to escalate threats in an uncontrolled fashion controlled strictly by chance. We can jump on the roller coaster and enjoy the ride or we can maybe blunt the probability swings.
I'm not the type for going along with the ride, so even if I can't really solve this problem, I figure it doesn't hurt to try to play the crazy luck swings better than I have so far.
So what do you do to handle those comically escalating threats? What items do you use? What heroes do you pick? Ideas?