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I'm not an experienced Descent player. I've played the game about 4-5 times when the base set came out, didn't like it enough to bother playing more. Fast forward a few years and Road to Legends came online. We gave it a try and really liked it! So now we are playing a campaign!

Problem is, I read in the manual that Geomancer's Summoned Stone is targeted by the AI's behavior as a hero. So naturally I had to try and play a Geomancer and try to tank with the Stones. It seemed a good way to absorb damage.

Our party has

a Geomancer
Berzerker
Champion and
Spiritspeaker


Most of the time the Geomancer summons and moves his Stones in front of the party and they do tank attack actions like there is no tomorrow..!

The app usually checks for closest hero.
Even when the stone is equidistant from a hero the rules allow us to choose who is going to be the target of the attack and as you can guess we always choose the stone to defend.

This means that in some scenarios that try to be threatening with big monsters which do high damage attacks, all this damage is just absorbed by the Stone. The Stone is usually disintegrated by the attack but as you can guess we don't really care when we lose a Stone to an 8-9 damage attack.
Actually the only monster groups that are really threatening are those who have many figures because the first one can break the stone and all the rest pour into the heroes hiding behind. For example, our party completely demolished an Ettin group but had serious trouble with Goblin Archers.

After 4 sessions on Hard with all wins and no REAL threat, sure we died a few times here and there but we never came close to dying 5 times in order to lose the scenario, I decided to come here and ask a few questions so more experienced players can provide some insight (Note, that although we have no real Descent experience, my group's players are really experienced on other similar games).

So here goes:

1} When the app mentions to choose among the Heroes with the lowest Strength (for example), does this mean that the Stone is almost always the target for this because it has 0 Strength? The rules seem to support this.

2} Can a Stone be affected by conditions?

3} A general question this one:
Assuming we aren't making a mistake with the interpretation of the rules and our tactic is legal, do you find our strategy viable in general or is it just a cheesy way to take advantage of the AI?
Are people playing party compositions that use targeted familiars as tanks, overlord or not?
We are having second thoughts about this because we feel that this is a cheesy tactic that only works because we take advantage of the AI's targeting behavior. The manual though has a very specific entry regarding the Stone being counted as a Hero for monster activations so one can argue that FFG actually wanted the Stone to work that way.
Moreover, on some missions the damage absorbed by the Stone was huge and we couldn't imagine an average party (ignore for a moment possible super combo-party compositions that I'm sure exist) being able to survive such an onslaught.

Thoughts?
 
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Bruce
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I haven't played geomancer but you can do the same thing in many other configurations. The simplest solution is to always pick a random target when more than one meets the criteria, I found that made the balance reasonable.
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Thorsten Schröder
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AI is always difficult in these kind of games. Either its fiddly and too complicated to be fun or it is predictable and boring. The trick is to find the middle way.
So with all the different classes in the game and their fun and unique abilities its quite hard to not have exploits in the rules.
I suggest either using a different class than the geomancer or try not to use this exploit.
Or maybe have the monsters make a intelligence check (50/50 roll) if they really see the stones as the big threat.
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Kallan Greybe
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RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:

Quote:
DECISION-MAKING

When resolving app instructions, players frequently have multiple options. When this happens, it is up to the players to decide how to resolve it within the confines of the provided instructions.

How the decision-making is approached is largely up to the play group. New players or players looking for a easier experience are free to steer the monsters toward choices that favor the heroes. Players looking for a true test of skill should steer the monsters toward the tactical maneuvers that a skilled overlord would employ.

Regardless of how players approach them, these decisions need to be made
as quickly as possible without excess deliberation.


If you don't like how easy it is to game the system, don't let the monsters make obviously sub-optimal moves. Nobody is checking and FFG even explicitly licensed you to spice it up a bit.
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Chris J Davis
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We've also found that having monsters always attack familiars first lowers the difficulty considerably.

I'm thinking a better rule would be that the monsters only attack familiars if there are no eligible heroes.
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Mr G
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I must be rubbish at this game!

Ran through the goblin campaign and got completely wasted in the final room.

That was FULLY UTILISING the animate of the Necromancer. In fact, the animate was clearly the mvp, as my tank, Grisban, didn't get a decent weapon.
 
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Sean Houston
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ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.

In this case, on an activation card that calls for an attribute comparison, if the familiar is competing with any hero (attack hero with lowest awareness score) for purposes of being targeted, the familiar will be ignored. The only way a familiar would get targeted is if there is no other valid target.

This would not affect normal activation cards that do not compare attributes.
 
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Sebastian Roehrig
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I agree with Sean, but in cases of simple "closest" attacks we houserule, that some monsters are inteligent enough to ignore the familiars.
We roughly sort the monsters in groups, like beast or humanoid. The humanoid in this example would be clever enough to ignore stones, but only the magic monsters would attack the images of the conjurer.
In some cases I rule in favor of the (not existing) overlord, so sometimes, if it helps them more, the monsters will non the less attack a familiar.
 
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SeanLuc wrote:
ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.


There is a ruling in fact that mentions that familiars have an attribute score of 0 on all of them, which almost always makes them lowest when the AI targets a specific attribute.

It looks like FFG ruled Road to Legend completely in favor of the familiars for some reason and I can't really understand why.

I'm starting to think about randomizing target selection when a monster has multiple eligible targets to attack.
 
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Sean Houston
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Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.


There is a ruling in fact that mentions that familiars have an attribute score of 0 on all of them, which almost always makes them lowest when the AI targets a specific attribute.

It looks like FFG ruled Road to Legend completely in favor of the familiars for some reason and I can't really understand why.

I'm starting to think about randomizing target selection when a monster has multiple eligible targets to attack.


Can you quote this ruling, ideally with a date?
 
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SeanLuc wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.


There is a ruling in fact that mentions that familiars have an attribute score of 0 on all of them, which almost always makes them lowest when the AI targets a specific attribute.

It looks like FFG ruled Road to Legend completely in favor of the familiars for some reason and I can't really understand why.

I'm starting to think about randomizing target selection when a monster has multiple eligible targets to attack.


Can you quote this ruling, ideally with a date?


It's in page 14 of the Road to Legend manual

Figures treated as heroes, such as familiars, follow the same rules as a normal game of Descent, with the following additions.

Familiars treated as figures are not affected by quest rules or perils.
When a monster is instructed to target a hero, tokens that can be targeted by attacks and figures treated as heroes are included as possible targets.
For the purpose of targeting, if a familiar or attackable token does not have the statistic the monster is targeting, that familiar or token is considered to have a value of 0 for the corresponding statistic.
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Sean Houston
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Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.


There is a ruling in fact that mentions that familiars have an attribute score of 0 on all of them, which almost always makes them lowest when the AI targets a specific attribute.

It looks like FFG ruled Road to Legend completely in favor of the familiars for some reason and I can't really understand why.

I'm starting to think about randomizing target selection when a monster has multiple eligible targets to attack.


Can you quote this ruling, ideally with a date?


It's in page 14 of the Road to Legend manual

Figures treated as heroes, such as familiars, follow the same rules as a normal game of Descent, with the following additions.

Familiars treated as figures are not affected by quest rules or perils.
When a monster is instructed to target a hero, tokens that can be targeted by attacks and figures treated as heroes are included as possible targets.
For the purpose of targeting, if a familiar or attackable token does not have the statistic the monster is targeting, that familiar or token is considered to have a value of 0 for the corresponding statistic.


Hmm ok, interesting, thanks. I clearly missed that in my couple of readings of the rules.

Seems odd they'd overrule their previous ruling on it, especially considering it allows for the aforementioned taking-advantage of the AI.
 
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SeanLuc wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.


There is a ruling in fact that mentions that familiars have an attribute score of 0 on all of them, which almost always makes them lowest when the AI targets a specific attribute.

It looks like FFG ruled Road to Legend completely in favor of the familiars for some reason and I can't really understand why.

I'm starting to think about randomizing target selection when a monster has multiple eligible targets to attack.


Can you quote this ruling, ideally with a date?


It's in page 14 of the Road to Legend manual

Figures treated as heroes, such as familiars, follow the same rules as a normal game of Descent, with the following additions.

Familiars treated as figures are not affected by quest rules or perils.
When a monster is instructed to target a hero, tokens that can be targeted by attacks and figures treated as heroes are included as possible targets.
For the purpose of targeting, if a familiar or attackable token does not have the statistic the monster is targeting, that familiar or token is considered to have a value of 0 for the corresponding statistic.


Hmm ok, interesting, thanks. I clearly missed that in my couple of readings of the rules.

Seems odd they'd overrule their previous ruling on it, especially considering it allows for the aforementioned taking-advantage of the AI.


That's exactly what bothers me. They added a few rulings about familiars to the game with Road to Legend and ALL of them make familiars completely overpowered.
It almost seems like they WANTED them to work that way. I really can't 'get' what were they thinking here...
 
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Sean Houston
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Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
SeanLuc wrote:
ThatGuyMontag wrote:
RAW stones do count as strength zero and will indeed always get targeted first. There is however another rule in the book they include that I'm rather fond of and really is appropriate right now:


I believe this is incorrect. Unless there is a new ruling that supersedes an old one, familiar attribute scores are treated as [NULL], meaning they do not exist. So they cannot be compared to anything, and they are skipped. I believe the ruling came about regarding Hybrid Sentinels' ability "Prey on the Weak," and it was declared ineffective because it had no score to compare against.


There is a ruling in fact that mentions that familiars have an attribute score of 0 on all of them, which almost always makes them lowest when the AI targets a specific attribute.

It looks like FFG ruled Road to Legend completely in favor of the familiars for some reason and I can't really understand why.

I'm starting to think about randomizing target selection when a monster has multiple eligible targets to attack.


Can you quote this ruling, ideally with a date?


It's in page 14 of the Road to Legend manual

Figures treated as heroes, such as familiars, follow the same rules as a normal game of Descent, with the following additions.

Familiars treated as figures are not affected by quest rules or perils.
When a monster is instructed to target a hero, tokens that can be targeted by attacks and figures treated as heroes are included as possible targets.
For the purpose of targeting, if a familiar or attackable token does not have the statistic the monster is targeting, that familiar or token is considered to have a value of 0 for the corresponding statistic.


Hmm ok, interesting, thanks. I clearly missed that in my couple of readings of the rules.

Seems odd they'd overrule their previous ruling on it, especially considering it allows for the aforementioned taking-advantage of the AI.


That's exactly what bothers me. They added a few rulings about familiars to the game with Road to Legend and ALL of them make familiars completely overpowered.
It almost seems like they WANTED them to work that way. I really can't 'get' what were they thinking here...


I mean, I guess it does allow for more unconventional party make-ups, like healer-less and such. Overall I think RtL (even RAW) has plenty of room for in-built "play as you like." The disparity of "game is too hard!" and "game is too easy!" seems just as drastic as the base game, and that's not too surprising honestly. It's still quite tactical, you're just playing against an opponent who is somewhat predictable, but has cheats of sorts, rather than against another human who may be a tactical genius.

Personally I found it extremely easy even on Hard mode, so being able to hamstring myself with weird comps but still compete makes it more interesting for me. I guess.
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Kallan Greybe
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I wouldn't say the rules makes familiars overpowered. They're a pretty expensive investment as is, costing *both* an action and fatigue to cast: unless you're getting multiple turns with them, they're often actually a waste of a hero action (because your hero's attack will usually be more powerful), especially with the alternating turn order of the app.

This suggests to me that the entire balance of the summoner classes depends on a high familiar turnover because of their relatively high cost and the need to spread the returns across several turns, so in principle this ruling is exactly in keeping with the spirit of the various summoner classes. Add in the fact that positioning is pretty close to the point of these classes and this ruling is precisely the right one because it also allows the summoner players to actually rely on positioning.
 
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ThatGuyMontag wrote:
I wouldn't say the rules makes familiars overpowered. They're a pretty expensive investment as is, costing *both* an action and fatigue to cast: unless you're getting multiple turns with them, they're often actually a waste of a hero action (because your hero's attack will usually be more powerful), especially with the alternating turn order of the app.


The problem with the Stone is not that the mage can have a more powerful attack, the problem is that with one action and 1 fatigue you can make ANY monster, even a boss, lose its attack on a 2 hp figure.

When a Stone can absorb a 10+ damage attack, the original cost of 1 action and 1 fatigue is a complete joke compared to the help it provided the party. Now imagine a big 2 monsters group, the first one attacks the Stone and misses or somehow does only one damage, now the 2nd one will attack the stone. There goes a full big monster activation, with no damage done to the Heroes and just a Stone short. This is completely overpowered.

Quote:
This suggests to me that the entire balance of the summoner classes depends on a high familiar turnover because of their relatively high cost and the need to spread the returns across several turns, so in principle this ruling is exactly in keeping with the spirit of the various summoner classes. Add in the fact that positioning is pretty close to the point of these classes and this ruling is precisely the right one because it *also* allows the summoner players to actually rely on positioning.


Our party has a default Open Door routine, the Geomancer opens the door and summons his stone inside. Then the monsters play and they almosto always target the stone. If there are many, then they may push some damage through to the heroes after the stone dies but if there are few then the stone completely protects the party. Then the Geomancer summons a stone EACH turn which is used as a damage sponge absorbing ridiculous amount of damage especially against bosses. The rest of our party is set up to deal with many small monsters (Whirlwind, Shared Pain, etc.) as they are the only real threat to the cheesy Stone tactic.

I believe that FFG needs to implement a ruling on familiars to make them less powerful when playing Road to Legend, from OP down to normal status of usefulness I mean. At the very least, make them a lower priority target when there is a tie among heroes and familiars for target selection. This will promote better positioning while playing instead of just dropping a Stone next to a Hero and have it absorb attacks for him.
 
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Kallan Greybe
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It's also pretty easy to throw a counter-example. Try the Beastmaster's wolf. There's actually an ability you can buy that means the wolf isn't a legitimate target if a hero could be attacked instead and I was seriously considering buying it! This is because I would very rarely actually get the full benefit of the wolf. Change the targeting behaviour and all of a sudden I don't need that skill anymore and the party have an effectively permanent two extra green dice to roll on attack and an extra brown on defence as well as an extra attack a turn. Something similar will also happen with the Conjurer's images if they aren't being constantly culled.

Basically you're complaining about the stones, but your alternative is arguably even worse. The easiest solution here really is to not completely rely on the programmed AI to do your moves, the solution FFG have already written into their rulebook, which I quote above.
 
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ThatGuyMontag wrote:
It's also pretty easy to throw a counter-example. Try the Beastmaster's wolf. There's actually an ability you can buy that means the wolf isn't a legitimate target if a hero could be attacked instead and I was seriously considering buying it! This is because I would very rarely actually get the full benefit of the wolf. Change the targeting behaviour and all of a sudden I don't need that skill anymore and the party have an effectively permanent two extra green dice to roll on attack and an extra brown on defence as well as an extra attack a turn. Something similar will also happen with the Conjurer's images if they aren't being constantly culled.

Basically you're complaining about the stones, but your alternative is arguably even worse. The easiest solution here really is to not completely rely on the programmed AI to do your moves, the solution FFG have already written into their rulebook, which I quote above.


Problem is the exact same manual you are referring to has a ruling, not about any familiar, but specifically for the Stone. As I said before it's like FFG WANTED the Stone to be able to absorb monster attacks which would be alright actually if it was balanced but it is not.

I would understand the possibility of certain familiars being overpowered by taking advantage of general all-around AI behavior rules but they actually bothered to write a rule about the stone out of all the familiars! Don't you find this a bit weird?
 
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