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Subject: First crack in the armor? rss

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David Tolin
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I picked up a copy of the KDM base game and all expansions about a month ago. Since that time, I've kinda been a nut about KDM. Building a box insert, assembling various miniatures, trying to clear my decks to start painting everything (trying to get Arcadia Quest fully painted before tackling KDM), and starting up two campaigns with two different groups.

The first campaign is only in LY2, due to busy schedules, but the second campaign just finished LY4 Sunday evening. I am loving the game, and I'm spending an unhealthy amount of time fiddling around with it. This is a good thing, but pretty unexpected.

One of the things I like most about the game is the setting and all the art and production that goes into selling that setting. The miniatures are fantastic, obviously, but I also really enjoy the art in the books, and the writing is surprisingly evocative and intriguing. I loved how the game started with a quasi-storybook feel for adults, setting up the overall goal (very vague, but compelling). As we've progressed in the game, I've also loved how the mechanics somehow manage to create even more narrative out of somewhat sparse text. This isn't a game like Mice & Mystics where each segment of the game is bookended by a couple of pages of text (which is a type of narrative storytelling I enjoy). Nor is it a game like T.I.M.E Stories, where a linear plot is developed and described through copious amounts of text on cards (which I also enjoy).

This is a game where you get hints of what's going on, and the atmosphere of the environment is the most important thing. And, most importantly, it's a game where the antagonists you face are at first a mystery but gradually become known to you as you square off against them and become familiar with their behavior. And I really like this storytelling method, too.

Having said all of that, though, I did find the introduction of the Butcher in LY4 to be kind of clumsy and disappointing. The monster itself is great--cool miniature, very different fighting style, punishingly difficult, and the details we learned about him during the fight were kind of perfectly horrible and fascinating. But, the manner in which he was inserted into the narrative just didn't work. We were introduced to the world of KDM via the wonderful storybook intro, and we had just enough information to build the threads of an overarching plot: we woke in the darkness, found each other, established a settlement, and began to prepare for whatever may be lurking in the darkness. And the goal was simple: survive. We spent each year hunting the only beast we knew of (the White Lion), and the rhythm and tempo of the game was set.

I was eagerly waiting for the first Nemesis encounter. Ready for the next bit of storybook narrative that would set the stage for the arrival of something different that we needed to deal with. The Screaming Antelope was introduced effectively just a year or two before--a story event occurred, we were told about the screaming heard in the village, and we knew we now had a new quarry we could seek out and kill. But the Butcher? There wasn't really any introduction at all. Instead, we were just directed to a new Showdown event, where we got a slight paragraph about who the Butcher might be... and that's it. No description of him arriving at the village. No hint as to the danger or about how the village was reacting. Just "skip the hunt and fight this new guy."

A great fight with a great, new monster. But, man, I was so disappointed the encounter just kind of fell out of the sky and wasn't explained. And to be clear--I'm not looking for a huge narrative or explanation of all the mysteries. I *like* the mysteries a lot. I *like* not really knowing what's going on. But the Butcher deserved at least a descriptive introduction on par with the Screaming Antelope. A couple of paragraphs, at most.

Has anyone else felt the same way? And, more importantly, is this an issue that continues throughout the campaign? My experience so far with KDM is so incredible, so appealing. But, a lot of my excitement is tied up in the promises the game is making and the secrets that still have to be revealed. I know the Watcher is out there somewhere, though I know nothing of the lore or process behind it (I'm avoiding spoilers, so I just know of the miniature, and his entry at the end of the timeline). I also know we'll face the King's Man at some point, and the Hand. But, I'm desperately hoping these things are handled well from a narrative standpoint. It needs to be something more than "A new challenger appears!"

I'm sorry for the rambling... this was a difficult criticism to describe. But, any thoughts?
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Nathan Ehlers
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KD:M is a horror game where allusion is the primary driver of the narrative. It's important to remember that you're playing as the lowest being on the food chain and there is no climbing out of that role. As such, you don't always get told whats going on or why its happening. Sometimes there are just bullies that show up to kick over your sandcastle because they can. There is actually a rich back story to most of the game elements, but it's not all told through Monster.

Mechanically, I really like the Butcher. It shows up out of nowhere and smacks you up side the head to remind you that you're nothing and any success you've had killing lions and deer is meaningless. It also makes you really worried about the next nemisis encounter.

YMMV...just don't forget it's a horror game.
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Nick Wirtz
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Yeah... the game's great, but there are still some flaws. There are a number of false choices, I don't think the balance of random vs. control is really great (short version: the thing you're best at is controlling the monster, the thing you're worst at is controlling your exploration), and some of the events seem either under-established because they got skipped or intended to be shock value.

I've played the game a ton at this point, and am working on a follow-up review detailing some of my criticism after a lot of play with depth that's more aimed for people who've played a fair bit.
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Jacob Schoberg
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In response to your specific issue with the Butcher-- the other three nemesis in the base game include story events that tell of their coming. It's still vague, as most of the game is, but you do get a heads up instead of just walking outside to see the butcher.
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David Tolin
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emodiu5 wrote:
In response to your specific issue with the Butcher-- the other three nemesis in the base game include story events that tell of their coming. It's still vague, as most of the game is, but you do get a heads up instead of just walking outside to see the butcher.


Great, that's very good to hear. I don't need much, but I guess I do need something. If the game doesn't do the narrative work of getting us from point 'A' to point 'B,' even in a simple, cursory way, it would be a real shame.
 
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David Tolin
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sirgalin wrote:
KD:M is a horror game where allusion is the primary driver of the narrative. It's important to remember that you're playing as the lowest being on the food chain and there is no climbing out of that role. As such, you don't always get told whats going on or why its happening. Sometimes there are just bullies that show up to kick over your sandcastle because they can. There is actually a rich back story to most of the game elements, but it's not all told through Monster.

Mechanically, I really like the Butcher. It shows up out of nowhere and smacks you up side the head to remind you that you're nothing and any success you've had killing lions and deer is meaningless. It also makes you really worried about the next nemisis encounter.

YMMV...just don't forget it's a horror game.


I completely get what you're saying. And I want to make sure my complaint is clear: I'm not asking to be told why things are happening or clued in to the Butcher's motivations (though I think his motivations become very clear during the fight itself, which is great). I just wanted that tiny bit of connective tissue to explain what was going on (in an immediate, not global, sense).

A couple of lines of text would do it. Heck, "As you depart on your Hunt, you encounter a strange figure on the outskirts of the settlement" would do it. What I'm saying is the game didn't even explain that the Butcher walked up to the settlement. We can figure that out for ourselves based upon the circumstances of the showdown setup, but it was a narrative disconnect for me. And I was hoping it's not indicative of how future story elements will be introduced.
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Nick Wirtz
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Yeah, it is a bit of a strange exception, actually. I can't think of any other monster (including expansions) that doesn't come with some sort of story or event.
 
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Stevenson Junior
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The only possible explanation could be: there is no warning, he has just arrived. And no one expects Spani... Butcher.

Somehow we get to know his story right away, although he is just a hulking monster appearing from the darkness. His and his kin's, as you can kill one butcher for sure, but still there will be more of them.
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Good observation, OP.

We just assumed that the Butcher tries to bushwhack you when you go off to hunt, hence the lack of interaction otherwise. He doesn't seem to be the conversational type. I agree that it would've been nice to have a prelim event, like finding some remains of a prior victim or something after or before a hunt.

Incidentally, there's some implication that the Butcher is the same Butcher every time. Take a closer look at some of the AI card text and compare that with the stuff on the 'Butcher defeated' chart.

THE BUTCHER IS INVINCIBLE.

Looking forward to your revised review, Nick.
 
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David Tolin
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Styfen wrote:
I hope this might help make the Butcher a little more real for you.

The Butcher wrote:
"The Butcher is the remains of a Forsaker swallowed by long years of wrestling with the primal rage that gave him power. Nothing remains of the man, just a mess of flesh clinging to the insides of the Forsaker's armor, animated by nihilistic fury to destroy on the road through oblivion.

The Butcher collects the lanterns and skinned faces of his victims, a perversion of the humanity that echoes inside its near hollow armor."


Forsakers wrote:
"The Forsakers lose or give up their grasp on sanity in trade for unbridled power and stamina. They see nothing but suffering and pitiful struggle around them, incapable of compassion, they channel their despair into unchecked furious berserk state that makes the Forsaker dangerous to friend and foe alike."

"The Forsaker has lost so much that his perspective has been skewed beyond repair. They see nothing but darkness and suffering, accordingly, they have abandoned their own humanity to better suit the struggle they see all around them. Ruthless, and fueled by despair, the berserk state of the Forsaker is dangerous to friend and foe alike.

The Forsaker's fury is so consuming and violent that they often fix their weapons with rope or chain to their hands in anticipation of succumbing to their mindless rage."


So yes, basically the Butcher does just turn up on the doorstep one day and immediately attack. Settlements get no warning, he's just there and it's time to collect more lanterns.

He's one of the most insane and dangerous of a faction/type of people who are utterly insane and dangerous anyway. And the general suspicion is he's unkillable (he comes back to life whenever he is killed).


Thanks, that's nice background. Where did it come from?

Also, just to clarify again, I didn't necessarily need an event or something to prepare us ahead of time--I just wanted the encounter itself to be described/set up. You say the Butcher just shows up one day and immediately attacks. That's fine by me. But it needed some text in the flow of gameplay that said, "the Butcher shows up one day and immediately attacks."
 
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Nick Wirtz
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The online store has a lot of more detailed blurbs describing characters and whatnot.
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Steve Trewartha
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It is a deliberate design of the game, but yes I would certainly like a bit more story and particularly a bit more description about the world and setting in general. For now we have a lot of mystery in the game and that includes a few things like why did that suddenly happen? It is a pretty open game I guess almost sandbox.
 
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Greg
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Yeah, when I got to the Butcher, I actually thought there was a story event or something I had missed reading, it seemed so abrupt. It's particularly odd because he's the first Nemesis encounter and there's no hunt phase to preface it so it really comes out of nowhere.

One thing I was (tangentially) wondering about: Are the Butcher, The Hand, and the Kingsman all supposed to be representing the same faction? It looks like some of the details of their armor are similar, like they were all intended to be related in some way.
 
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Nathan Ehlers
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Glic2003 wrote:
Yeah, when I got to the Butcher, I actually thought there was a story event or something I had missed reading, it seemed so abrupt. It's particularly odd because he's the first Nemesis encounter and there's no hunt phase to preface it so it really comes out of nowhere.

One thing I was (tangentially) wondering about: Are the Butcher, The Hand, and the Kingsman all supposed to be representing the same faction? It looks like some of the details of their armor are similar, like they were all intended to be related in some way.


Without giving too much away, the Hand and the Kingsmen work for the same group, but the Butcher is kind of a loner (there's a spoiler above that talks about his origin). I think the motif (all the hands, screaming faces, etc) is just the KD aesthetic that trails through most of their art design. That and playing to the "world of infinite darkness" thing.
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