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Subject: Unimpressed by the rulebook and Print and Play version rss

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Brian Lelas
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I normally wouldn't go out of my way to try to talk people off a game, but seeing this at the top of the hotness has made me want to speak up. My group went to the trouble of building this Print and Play and we had a very disappointing game of Thornwatch.

The rulebook is SO BAD that I'm tempted to rewrite it for them. Gameplay is restrictive and very random, with not a lot of mitigation or decision making involved. It's a shame. We really wanted to like it and despite making an extra effort to persist with it, this is a massive lead balloon.

I'll leave you with this gem of a line from the rulebook.

Construct the map using the arrangement of any map tiles in the arrangement of the storyboard tile’s map icon.

Poetry.
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James Mathias
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Laerfan wrote:
I normally wouldn't go out of my way to try to talk people off a game, but seeing this at the top of the hotness has made me want to speak up. My group went to the trouble of building this Print and Play and we had a very disappointing game of Thornwatch.

The rulebook is SO BAD that I'm tempted to rewrite it for them. Gameplay is restrictive and very random, with not a lot of mitigation or decision making involved. It's a shame. We really wanted to like it and despite making an extra effort to persist with it, this is a massive lead balloon.

I'll leave you with this gem of a line from the rulebook.

Construct the map using the arrangement of any map tiles in the arrangement of the storyboard tile’s map icon.

Poetry.


That's for taking the time, I was on the fence, but now I've hopped off and I'm going to buy something else instead.
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Alessio Massuoli
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Nah, I'm backing it because I like the setting and the mechanics are not bad. The rules are still poorly written and there is some room for improvement, but it seems a deserving game.

Anyway, the quote above made me laugh
 
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culix _
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Hey, thanks for sharing. How many people played? What classes did they use? What scenes did you play? Were there any particular things you thought were restrictive about the gameplay?

I ran through a solo play this week and I have two game sessions scheduled tomorrow. I've really enjoyed the game and thought it was fun, so I'm interested to see if you've spotted something I missed.
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Brian Lelas
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We were a judge + 3 players. Played two scenes.
 
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Scott Arnone
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A related warning would be that the game is not balanced to be competitive. As the Judge, you absolutely have to hold back, or else the players will stand very little chance.
 
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Sean Franco
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InkSplat wrote:
A related warning would be that the game is not balanced to be competitive. As the Judge, you absolutely have to hold back, or else the players will stand very little chance.

With the level of role-playing that it sounds like there isn't, this sounds like a problem and not very fun for the judge.
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Are we talking first edition Myth rules bad or what?

I was originally pretty hot for custom deckbuilding in the Thornwatch world, but I've also realized I'm pretty much always going to have to be the Judge getting other folks to play. If the Judge is more DMing than "playing" that's not so hot.
 
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Paul Glickman
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It's somewhat obvious if you notice that ALL players are rewarded for the players winning (through the whole weird gimmicky/cliquey Knot thing). The Judge is there to make sure the good guys win!
 
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Cool, thanks for the reply Brian. I'm interested to see how this plays over more sessions so I'm going to keep at it.

InkSplat wrote:
A related warning would be that the game is not balanced to be competitive. As the Judge, you absolutely have to hold back, or else the players will stand very little chance.


I'm interested to see how this works too. The good news is, with the rules still being in flux, it should be fairly easy to adjust difficulty until it's exactly right.

logopolys wrote:
this sounds like a problem and not very fun for the judge.


I've found the Judge to be pretty fun, but I also like GMing. I'm not there to antagonistically defeat the other players; if everyone has a good time, I have a good time

I actually like the update they posted recently about the Judge, talking about the Judge having objectives to accomplish rather than just being the villain:

Rodney Thompson wrote:
Within the scenes, we’ve varied the objectives so that not only does each scene feel distinct, but also so that the Judge and Thornwatch players have goals to pursue other than direct conflict. While some scenarios do revolve around simply defeating all the enemies, we’ve presented scenario objectives for the heroes and Judge. While the Judge can defeat the Thornwatch and win, we wanted to find goals that were less directly antagonistic, and more about completing some objective on a neutral board.


This is cool because it gives the Judge something to focus on and work towards, and you can figure out strategies for how to accomplish that. That keeps me engaged. I also like how Thornwatch makes it easy for the Judge to customize objectives and scenes. You can go as shallow or deep as you like. Run stock adventures, or change the scene to add a new goal partway through. Or have a branching scene, where Goal A is the better ending, but Goal B sends the players on a different path.

Example: Maybe if a player steps in the only water tile they discover a secret exit from the scene, or a powerup card to put in their hand or deck.

I think this game has a lot of potential.
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Sean Franco
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culix wrote:
logopolys wrote:
this sounds like a problem and not very fun for the judge.

I've found the Judge to be pretty fun, but I also like GMing. I'm not there to antagonistically defeat the other players; if everyone has a good time, I have a good time

That's fine if its an RPG, but if we're talking about a tactical combat game, I'm not going to be content just slowly guiding heroes to a victory. It's very possible to do 1-vs-team games where the point is to be competitive; Fury of Dracula, Descent, and Tragedy Looper all reward competitive play from both sides of the screen.
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Brian Lelas
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Guys, honestly, the game just isn't fun for anyone. The Judge tried to smash us in the first scene and the players squeezed by handily enough. We didn't even really use the charged up powers much, as there was no point. The abilities on the character sheets were enough to progress.

Drawing a hand of cards and not being able to keep any of them at the end of your turn is a massive issue. You're completely at the whim of the draw. If you could even retain one of the cards before dumping your hand at the end of your turn at least you could plan a bit more.

Also, the Die roll resolution is stupid. You can roll multiple d10s and get a result for each one, any of which can absolutely crush you or give you a massive advantage. Again - no mitigation at all on this.

The turn order mechanic where you move up and down the order to eliminate enemies/characters is at first intriguing, but having it reset each turn just makes it even more random. You can work to get the enemy creatures to the end of the turn track and then it's the next round and suddenly they can be at the start again. It's ludicrous.

I applaud the designers for trying to innovate and be interesting, but this game has not been tested properly, the rulebook was put together by someone who did not read back over their own writing (and possibly before ever playing the game, imo) and worst of all, it is just a shoddy, shoddy design coated in pretty visuals to garner kickstarter money. Save your pennies, folks. They need to HUGELY improve the rulebook and the design here.
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clarence
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Laerfan wrote:
Guys, honestly, the game just isn't fun for anyone. The Judge tried to smash us in the first scene and the players squeezed by handily enough. We didn't even really use the charged up powers much, as there was no point. The abilities on the character sheets were enough to progress.

Drawing a hand of cards and not being able to keep any of them at the end of your turn is a massive issue. You're completely at the whim of the draw. If you could even retain one of the cards before dumping your hand at the end of your turn at least you could plan a bit more.

Also, the Die roll resolution is stupid. You can roll multiple d10s and get a result for each one, any of which can absolutely crush you or give you a massive advantage. Again - no mitigation at all on this.

The turn order mechanic where you move up and down the order to eliminate enemies/characters is at first intriguing, but having it reset each turn just makes it even more random. You can work to get the enemy creatures to the end of the turn track and then it's the next round and suddenly they can be at the start again. It's ludicrous.

I applaud the designers for trying to innovate and be interesting, but this game has not been tested properly, the rulebook was put together by someone who did not read back over their own writing (and possibly before ever playing the game, imo) and worst of all, it is just a shoddy, shoddy design coated in pretty visuals to garner kickstarter money. Save your pennies, folks. They need to HUGELY improve the rulebook and the design here.


Totally agree. The charged up powers action are too costly. They are a bunch of interesting ability and design. But in term of ratio. There are useless.

You properly only work on one action slot and save the rest of the card for the character ability. The abilities on the character sheets were much better and cost effective and flexible.

There is also no progression in this game. There is no benefit from winning each scene.
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Scott Arnone
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I actually really like the iniative/damage track, and I disagree about being at the "whim of the draw"--what would you keep, really? If it's a move you want, you can play it to your board. If it's energy, use it to power something up? If neither of those apply, not sure what situation you're in that's super important.

But yeah, the dice rolls are way too swingy, and the ebb costs just aren't balanced at all. 5 Gliders + an Alpha will pretty much destroy a small party, but are easily affordable AGAINST said party.
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Nate S
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Laerfan wrote:
Guys, honestly, the game just isn't fun for anyone. The Judge tried to smash us in the first scene and the players squeezed by handily enough. We didn't even really use the charged up powers much, as there was no point. The abilities on the character sheets were enough to progress.

Drawing a hand of cards and not being able to keep any of them at the end of your turn is a massive issue. You're completely at the whim of the draw. If you could even retain one of the cards before dumping your hand at the end of your turn at least you could plan a bit more.

Also, the Die roll resolution is stupid. You can roll multiple d10s and get a result for each one, any of which can absolutely crush you or give you a massive advantage. Again - no mitigation at all on this.

The turn order mechanic where you move up and down the order to eliminate enemies/characters is at first intriguing, but having it reset each turn just makes it even more random. You can work to get the enemy creatures to the end of the turn track and then it's the next round and suddenly they can be at the start again. It's ludicrous.

I applaud the designers for trying to innovate and be interesting, but this game has not been tested properly, the rulebook was put together by someone who did not read back over their own writing (and possibly before ever playing the game, imo) and worst of all, it is just a shoddy, shoddy design coated in pretty visuals to garner kickstarter money. Save your pennies, folks. They need to HUGELY improve the rulebook and the design here.


All this.
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Cool. It's fascinating that this game has at least a few very different target audiences, including roleplayers and tactical gamers

Okay, so besides Judge objectives to help the Judge have fun, what would you all change to make the game more viable as a competitive tactical game? I'm genuinely curious. The game is still in development, so perhaps suggestions could help shape it to be the game everyone loves.

Some easy levers to pull:

* Judge receives a varying amount of ebb. e.g. 0, 2, or 4 ebb per player to start, and a bonus of 0, 1, or 2 ebb per game round.

* More monsters per scene

* More types of terrain cards, a higher terrain card limit per scene, or even more than 1 terrain card per area

* Player terrain cards, or players choosing where to place some terrain cards. Perhaps if the players succeed at a scene they are given an ancient magic spell or item as a reward that lets them put down a terrain card of their choosing in the following scene.

* Penalty for the Judge rolling 'ebb' (0, or lowest number) on dice. Currently the heroes grant the Judge an ebb token if they roll 0s. Maybe the Judge hands back an ebb token for rolling a 0? This might encourage the Judge to spend ebb and not hoard it, and makes saving up for high cost ebb abilities like Ebb Infusion more difficult. This might be too much complexity to remember or go against the design goals though.

* Some kind of party ability or card that every player gets in their deck. e.g. every player gets one or two Potion of Healing cards that let them remove wounds. You can adjust the number of cards for the difficulty you want.

* Increased or decreased 'shift' adjustment for monster Momentum. For example: maybe each monster gets -2, -1, +1, or +2 shift depending on your desired difficulty.

* More Wound cards. Should each hero be worth 12 Wound cards? 15? (You could also add a different amount of Wounds for each class - e.g. maybe the Sage only adds 8 wound cards but the Guard adds 12. Again, that may be too much complexity and go against the design goals)

* Game world effects, such as ongoing player damage. "This part of the wood is flooded with noxious gas; players take 1 Wound per turn unless they spend their Action covering their nose and mouth".

Other ideas?
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InkSplat wrote:
I disagree about being at the "whim of the draw"--what would you keep, really? If it's a move you want, you can play it to your board. If it's energy, use it to power something up? If neither of those apply, not sure what situation you're in that's super important.


This is a really good point. I found it really nice to keep the moves I wanted and never found myself discarding anything I regretted not being able to use.
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Seth Gregor

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Culix, do you know the creators or have any personal connections to this game?









culix wrote:
InkSplat wrote:
I disagree about being at the "whim of the draw"--what would you keep, really? If it's a move you want, you can play it to your board. If it's energy, use it to power something up? If neither of those apply, not sure what situation you're in that's super important.


This is a really good point. I found it really nice to keep the moves I wanted and never found myself discarding anything I regretted not being able to use.
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Mike Selinker
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Laerfan wrote:
Construct the map using the arrangement of any map tiles in the arrangement of the storyboard tile’s map icon.


Wow, that is terrible. In the next draft, we'll make it:
Construct the map using map tiles of your choice in the arrangement shown on the storyboard’s map icon.
Thanks for the catch, Laerfan.

Mike
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Trailboy wrote:
Culix, do you know the creators or have any personal connections to this game?


Hey, nope. I'm just a gamer that likes board games. I do read Penny Arcade, and I like the lore of this game. I tried to list all of my biases in my session report.

I'm new to BGG but I have to admit I don't really get the reasoning for some of the negative reception. I've only played three sessions but I found the game quite fun. Maybe because we're approaching it from different angles as a "roleplaying light" game vs a hardcore tactical game? I've played years of things like Warhammer 40k, Game of Thrones, and Chaos In The Old World, so I'm not a complete stranger to tactical games. I feel like there are a lot of great mechanics in Thornwatch, and maybe it's just a manner of tuning them. Or could our initial impressions be different because I'm approaching this as a game still in development that could be changed? Is the idea of BGG to review games as though they're a finished product, even if they're not published?

Some of the advice I read on writing a good BGG review suggests playing the game for a while and having a certain number of hours before posting a review. I avoided posting a review because I've only played three sessions. I feel like I could spend dozens of hours playing Thornwatch before I really had a feel for it, or had enough information to answer questions like how Momentum works over long periods of time, how the class decks are balanced, how much the game changes depending on how aggressive the Judge is, etc.

I mean, in Thornwatch your character is a deck of cards. So basically you could have the entirety of Magic The Gathering card selection as a sub-game just to create your character

I also love Innsmouth Escape, and its rulebook is pretty rough I ended up typing up all of the rules myself and creating a copyedited manual that actually made sense.
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Help me understand what you don't like If other games do hero vs enemies mechanics better, what do you like about how they work? I've never had the pleasure of playing Fury Of Dracula.
 
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https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/181279/fury-dracula-thir...
 
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Brian Lelas
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mike selinker wrote:
Laerfan wrote:
Construct the map using the arrangement of any map tiles in the arrangement of the storyboard tile’s map icon.


Wow, that is terrible. In the next draft, we'll make it:
Construct the map using map tiles of your choice in the arrangement shown on the storyboard’s map icon.
Thanks for the catch, Laerfan.

Mike


Might I suggest:

Each storyboard has a Map Icon, shown here: (Accompany with an illustration of where the map icon is on the storyboard.)
Construct the map by following the pattern shown.
You may choose any available tiles that have the corresponding icon.


It's longer, but it's clear.
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Sean Franco
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culix wrote:
Help me understand what you don't like If other games do hero vs enemies mechanics better, what do you like about how they work? I've never had the pleasure of playing Fury Of Dracula.

Good one-vs-team games will let both teams complete without inhibition. Bad one-vs-team games will have the "one" player hold back and guide the "team" players through the game to maximize fun for the most players; alternately, bad one-vs-team games will have the "team" steamroll the "one" every time, presenting no challenge for most players to enjoy.

This isn't an issue as much in RPGs, since the GM/judge wants to participate in telling a story. There isn't as much winning and losing as there is working together on different sides of the narrative. To a degree, the GM in an RPG expects the other players to win most fights, but the payoff is different from "We won the game, guys! We're better than Erich at this game!"
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Brian Lelas
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Here, you can use this

 
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