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Subject: The game I wanted vs. The game I got (A review by a solo player with expectations) rss

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Corey Mayo
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What follows is a realization about Gloomhaven in regards to "The game I wanted vs. The game I got"

Spoiler (click to reveal)
NO SPOILERS!


I'm about a year into what I now realize is my new hobby/addiction. After messing around with multiplayer games, I realized that what works for me best is solo gaming in the fantasy realm. Theme is usually just a nice addition to most games, though I'd argue that it is a BIG reason Roll Player is one of my favorites.

Here are my top five games:

1. Mage Knight Board Game
2. Roll Player
3. Roll for the Galaxy
4. Shadowrun: Crossfire
5. Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game

Getting the game:
The process of going from finding out about Gloomhaven to actually getting it was a bit of an adventure. I was a retail preorder holder that was lucky enough to fall into the small percentage that received a copy. Lots of drama before even getting the game.

The game I got:
Sure enough, it's almost D&D in a box.

The game I wanted:
Turns out I was never really playing D&D when I was young. I was creating characters and scenarios, but rarely ever playing. And I loved creating characters and scenarios...

The game I got:
Has lots of scenarios and characters. But 90% of the game is tactical combat.

The game I wanted:
Last year, I got to sit in on a friend's D&D group for a one-shot appearance. Before the game started, the DM and I fleshed out my 6th level character. After an hour, we had a cool Mage Archer ready for action. The rest of the session was fun, but mostly I was waiting for my turn to announce an action, roll a die, and then wait some more...

The game I got:
The tactical combat is LONG and HARD.

The game I wanted:
I really enjoyed developing the backstory of my cool Mage Archer.

The game I got:
Decides to add a third character to my solo duo. Draws 2 cards, picks one. That's my backstory...?

The game I got:
I added a third character and now the combat is LONGER and not-quite-as-HARD.

The game I wanted:
Would be like my favorite game Mage Knight, only better!

The game I got:
Takes about as long to play a scenario as it does to play a shorter scenario of Mage Knight. The experience of tactical combat for one scenario is not that different than an entire scenario in Mage Knight. And I break a game of MK into several sessions. Only at the end of a scenario of MK, I have to go back to square one when I want to play again. Hmmm...


My review:
I'm going to assume you either have the game or know a decent amount about it. This is not a review of the game. This is a review about expectations and adjusting to the reality of your situation. The game doesn't work for me exactly the way it is. Not completely. So I made some adjustments:

1. I ignore the solo penalty and play on Easy. I may change that at some point, but right now, it's a struggle enough for me to win a battle, and I don't have the patience to grind through the same battle multiple times. If I plan too much, it hurts my brain. So I go from the gut and try to pull off satisfying combos when possible. Playing like that often gets me into trouble, but it's more fun for me. The easier difficulty helps.

2. I'm House Rule-ing some things to ease some of the frustration at being forced to replay a scenario. My general rules is: "If it makes me cuss out loud, I ignore it."

3. I'm going to play as many classes as possible. If I don't, I will be stuck playing two of them for a LONG time. Out of my first three characters, two of them have life goals that are better suited to late campaign characters (will take FOREVER to accomplish). My Brute will retire after another 3 scenario wins, unlocking the Skull w/ Tentacles class. When that happens, I'm going to set one aside either the Scoundrel or Tinkerer and replace it with a Cragheart. (Guessing the unlocked character will be magical and I know I'll need some more muscle.) I am trying to meet the game halfway when it comes to dealing with unlocked characters and backstories the same way a D&D player has to work with his DM.

4. I'm also looking toward creating my own scenarios, so I'm playing fan scenarios when they pop up online (really enjoyed this one: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1740544/pit-fan-scenario-ja...). I'm also considering taking treasure chests I missed in early scenarios and placing them in random dungeons. That way, I can see what content I'm missing without grinding through an old scenario.

5. Mentally, I have met Gloomhaven halfway on the issue of LONG combat. I'm now treating a single scenario the same way I do a scenario of Mage Knight. I know I can't tackle it all in one sitting, but I went into those first scenarios thinking I could. With MK, I will set the game up on a Sunday night and play the first round. Then I usually get finished before Friday. Then I play other games over the weekend before setting it back up on Sunday night. I'm going to start doing this. Play no more than a room and a half at a time, and take my time thinking over my decisions. Break everything down and slow everything down, like I do in MK. I did this last Sunday, and here it is Wednesday and I'll be finishing up the last room of Scenario #5 tonight. Hopefully with a win.

One thing I should mention is that I have been frustrated by other games before (Friday, for example) that demanded I play by their rules or just SUCK. I fought through it, in most cases, and the game got easier. So I know that Gloomhaven with get easier and faster for me as I go. Also, after tonight, I'm going to take a break from Gloomhaven to play some other games before I REALLY burn myself out.

Thanks for letting me rant.
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Alex Florin
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Nice review.

As a solo player, I don't think you shouldn't be having this much difficulty in winning scenarios solo, especially in easy mode. You may want to make sure you aren't miss-playing some rules that are making things harder for yourself - especially since you can tackle mage-knight successfully as Gloomhaven is easier IMO.

Some things to check:

1) Make sure you are putting out the correct number and rank of monsters for your character count and level

2) Monsters only do the abilities listed in the cards they draw. If it doesn't say move or attack, they don't move or attack that round

3) There are several options to resolve damage other than taking all the HP's. You can lose 1 card from the hand or lose 2 cards from the discard pile instead of taking the HP loss.

Tactics advice:

1) Try not to lose cards too early as you will significantly reduce the number of turns before you get exhausted

2) Save up rests until you have a large amount of discarded cards

3) Trying to manage 3 characters may be too much at first. It doesn't make things easier and just makes the scenario and brain burn longer.

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Eric Bridge
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Mind if I ask if you have any friends who will play this with you? Of the 6 games you have mentioned, including Gloomhaven, 5 of them can be played solo. Is that how you usually play?

The reason I ask is because if you enjoyed playing some D&D with your friend, a game that requires a GM, and then hoped your solo plays of Gloomhaven would somehow deliver a similar experience - I just don't get it.

In short, I just find the Gloomhaven experience to be MUCH more fun with friends. Will your D&D buddies try it out?
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Jeremy
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I agree with the assertion that Gloomhaven is better with friends. I've been having much more fun with it at 4 than playing solo (though I've played it solo more).

Mage Knight remains my favorite solo experience, but Gloomhaven has overtaken it for me as a non-solo outing.
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David Latimore
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cmmayo wrote:

I'm also considering taking treasure chests I missed in early scenarios and placing them in random dungeons. That way, I can see what content I'm missing without grinding through an old scenario.



I really like this idea. Find a spot in the back corner of the 3rd room to throw it and there you go.

Enjoyed your review overall.
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A. B. West
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I have not found this game too difficult. You can always dial down to Easy of course, but even on normal, if you hit hard and arrange your characters to properly soak damage, it works. You need some hitters - like Brute or Crag. My best advice is fewer monsters means less damage to you. Focus is important rather than spreading out damage.
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M E
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I'm also playing solo with mostly three characters, on easy without the solo difficulty bump. I find it challenging, but have never had a scenario go down to the wire like I've read about in other posts. The way I see it, I'm missing out on some of the thrill of victory but that's the price for not having to repeat a scenario and slow progress through what is already set to be a marathon gaming experience. I'm sure if I were going through a campaign with others, I could concentrate on one character and would opt for higher difficulty levels and share the joys and frustrations with the other players.

One thing I did starting out was to pool the six personal quest cards drawn by the original three characters, and pick the ones that seemed to go best with my character and party "vision."

I hope when you come back to playing after recharging for a bit, you enjoy the nicely layered tactical puzzle that we have in Gloomhaven.
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Brad Neuville

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I'm playing Gloomhaven solo currently. I've played with both the solo bump and on normal. Since I can usually keep the game set up I don't mind losing once or twice per scenario. I've had most wins and many loses come down to the end. Very tense finishes. With the solo bump I've had lost bad and quickly a couple times. Trying to maintain a balance. Don't want to win each time I play a scenario but don't want to try 3 or more times on one either.
 
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Brad Neuville

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I'm playing with just 2 characters. Has anyone tried 2 and 3? Noticeable difference?
 
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foldedcard
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CoffeeGeek1023 wrote:
I'm playing with just 2 characters. Has anyone tried 2 and 3? Noticeable difference?


I have played a few at 2 and a few at 3. I don't think there's a significant difference in difficulty. At three player the party feels​ more rounded out, but two player is much faster to play. Making sure you have a character who can soak up damage and another who can heal seems more important than player count to me. You can be more easily destroyed with unlucky draws with less resilient characters. I play the standard difficulty with no solo bump and have yet to have enough cards/health left to gather treasure at the end of any scenario.
 
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Jo Bartok
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IMHO the prime setup is 3-4 players not 1-2.
It can be played with one but it is a sign that you have to control 2 heroes.

Other games, like MK or 7th, suffer heavily in the fun camp when play non solo. MK had up to 45min downtime per round when each turn took up to 15mibs and by deck building you could have two turns per player.

This game here has both: story/progression and a lot of tactical miniatures play. Our group loves it for that; the strongest gripe is probably the AI (the FAQ is full of that, too).

You can easily sell it (or gift it) as almost everybody loves it. MK for instance split people a lot because of its high downtime + almost entire lack of player interaction.
 
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Jo Bartok
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Decides to add a third character to my solo duo. Draws 2 cards, picks one. That's my backstory...?

Did you check the backflip?

Also many events trigger of your classes and if they are in your party (another reason to play with 3-4).

So you do encounter vermlings, tinkerers, brutes/inox etc and decisions and your class drive the story
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sam newman

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Mage Knight is a good game, i only played it once be enjoyed it quite a bit.

Kingdom Death Monster is a great solo game, imo its the best solo game you can buy.

Gloomhaven only played first scenario, its fun and i think its going to be more fun as a 2 or 3 player game.
 
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Christian Kløve
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ionas wrote:
K had up to 45min downtime per round when each turn took up to 15mibs and by deck building you could have two turns per player.


You need to play with quicker players. I do agree that Mage Knight is best with fewer players, but 15 min turns? If you're playing Mage Knight with 3 new players, I suppose you could get long turns...
 
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Guillaume Pages
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Battle on brother!

Remember, especially when it comes to solo, no-one is watching you. You want to play with your own house rules that make the game better suited to your likings, NOONE, should tell you otherwise.

Keep soloing!
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Paul Aceto
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You make some very good points here. What has left me a bit disappointed is the 90% tactical combat issue. I now realize I much more enjoy games such as Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients and Kingdom Death: Monster for having more control over character development and containing a much more robust between-mission phase.

I still think Glooomhaven is a fantastic and very well-designed game, but it's not in my top tier of dungeon crawlers in terms of the overall narrative experience.
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Corey Mayo
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aflorin wrote:
Nice review.

As a solo player, I don't think you shouldn't be having this much difficulty in winning scenarios solo, especially in easy mode. You may want to make sure you aren't miss-playing some rules that are making things harder for yourself - especially since you can tackle mage-knight successfully as Gloomhaven is easier IMO.

Some things to check:

1) Make sure you are putting out the correct number and rank of monsters for your character count and level

2) Monsters only do the abilities listed in the cards they draw. If it doesn't say move or attack, they don't move or attack that round

3) There are several options to resolve damage other than taking all the HP's. You can lose 1 card from the hand or lose 2 cards from the discard pile instead of taking the HP loss.

Tactics advice:

1) Try not to lose cards too early as you will significantly reduce the number of turns before you get exhausted

2) Save up rests until you have a large amount of discarded cards

3) Trying to manage 3 characters may be too much at first. It doesn't make things easier and just makes the scenario and brain burn longer.



I may have over-stated the level of difficulty I was experiencing, especially since most of it was based on trouble I had with one of the first unlocked scenarios. For one thing, my Brute/Tinkerer party (using the cards I took into the first several scenarios) had a big slowness handicap--a problem when playing the more sprawling dungeons. What I really needed was some practice, some leveling up, and a third character in my party. Just a few plays with the Scoundrel has shown me the Tinkerer is better suited as a third or fourth party member. My party synergy is much better now.

My Brute and Tinkerer are level 2 now and with a little research and practice, I'm now seeing combos that are deadly effective, such as:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Using the Tinkerer to give +1 on attacks to all adjacent allies, then have the Brute combine Trample (and +2 boots) with Balanced Measures to hit 4-5 monsters for 3 attack, plus a 6 attack at the end. Or even just the ability to combine Juggernaut and Eye for an Eye to make three melee monsters do no damage and take 2 damage each. All of this made more useful when the Tinkerer uses his level 2 card to recover the Juggernaut or Trample card for a second use.


...so I'm learning. It took me 13 plays of Friday before I won, so I'm not the sharpest at strategy. I am going to move the difficulty up to Normal after I finish the random dungeon I started last night. It took me 3 turns to wipe out 8 monsters from the first room and that was only because of bad luck with the combat modifier cards. I'm ready to put on my big boy pants.

I did check that I'm playing correctly. The tactics advice that is most helpful right now is "Save up rests until you have a large amount of discarded cards." That is something that I didn't do the math on until very recently. I didn't realize I was losing turns by taking early rests.

As for managing 3 characters, I do not think it is too much for solo play. As a matter of fact, I'm enjoying the extra options on each turn and Gloomhaven is actually starting to satisfy whatever itch that Mage Knight scratches so well.
 
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Corey Mayo
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ebridge wrote:
Mind if I ask if you have any friends who will play this with you? Of the 6 games you have mentioned, including Gloomhaven, 5 of them can be played solo. Is that how you usually play?

The reason I ask is because if you enjoyed playing some D&D with your friend, a game that requires a GM, and then hoped your solo plays of Gloomhaven would somehow deliver a similar experience - I just don't get it.

In short, I just find the Gloomhaven experience to be MUCH more fun with friends. Will your D&D buddies try it out?


I don't mind at all!

I am primarily a solo gamer. This is because my toddler is about the same age as my (serious) gaming hobby. No time for a gaming group right now, and the friend I mentioned has sinced moved--and it was his D&D group, which has since disbanded.

I would LOVE to play Gloomhaven in a group, and that may happen down the road after my daughter gets older and "Gloomhaven 4: The Gloomening" is out. Right now, I'm just hoping to squeeze in a haircut this weekend.

laugh
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Wes Holland

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cmmayo wrote:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Using the Tinkerer to give +1 on attacks to all adjacent allies, then have the Brute combine Trample (and +2 boots) with Balanced Measures to hit 4-5 monsters for 3 attack, plus a 6 attack at the end. Or even just the ability to combine Juggernaut and Eye for an Eye to make three melee monsters do no damage and take 2 damage each. All of this made more useful when the Tinkerer uses his level 2 card to recover the Juggernaut or Trample card for a second use.



Not to be a party pooper, but...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Tinkerer's Enhancement Field only enhances your attacks when you're next to the Tinkerer. It's a good question on the interaction between Trample and the Field, and my assumption would be only the attacks that happened when you were next to the Tinkerer would count, but maybe just ending the move next to Tinkerer would work?

In exchange for that bad news, here's advice on how to make that combo better:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Get a War Hammer for the Brute, and use it with Trample+Boots to Stun everyone that you hit with Trample, since it counts as a Melee Attack Action.


Some scenarios are noticeably harder than others. Scenario 3 is on the harder end, and Scenario 7 was a bear to tackle.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Yes, pun was intended.


Additionally, I'm playing one group of two players with each using two characters, and I'm noticing that one takes a *little* longer just because you have to make decisions for two, instead of having two people making decisions in parallel.

Finally, Gloomhaven is a game that rewards strategic thinking, instead of 'Eh, this seems cool, I'll do that now.' That'll get you through the first few scenarios, but as you noticed, there's a difficulty bump that almost acts as a gate to make sure you understand what you're doing with your tactics and strategy before continuing.
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Corey Mayo
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CrushU wrote:

Not to be a party pooper, but...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Tinkerer's Enhancement Field only enhances your attacks when you're next to the Tinkerer. It's a good question on the interaction between Trample and the Field, and my assumption would be only the attacks that happened when you were next to the Tinkerer would count, but maybe just ending the move next to Tinkerer would work?

In exchange for that bad news, here's advice on how to make that combo better:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Get a War Hammer for the Brute, and use it with Trample+Boots to Stun everyone that you hit with Trample, since it counts as a Melee Attack Action.




I think you might be using...

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Enhancement Field version 1.0. I'm using version 2.0.


You see, my Tinkerer, Rocket, upgraded the operating software in his equipment recently, and now when there's any question about wording or summons movement, it usually works out in his favor. He uses fuzzy logic chips. Real Next Level stuff.
 
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Corey Mayo
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alphasquid wrote:
cmmayo wrote:

I'm also considering taking treasure chests I missed in early scenarios and placing them in random dungeons. That way, I can see what content I'm missing without grinding through an old scenario.



I really like this idea. Find a spot in the back corner of the 3rd room to throw it and there you go.

Enjoyed your review overall.


Thanks! I thought it might be a good way to avoid the "grind" of re-doing a scenario just for the treasure.

As a matter of fact, I started a random dungeon last night just to test it out. I'm thinking of doing a Let's Make a Deal variant and posting it in the Variant forum. Something like this...

Let's Make a Deal variant:

Make a list of all missed treasure chests from campaign scenarios. When playing a random dungeon and looting a treasure chest, you may trade what you found for the contents of one of these missed treasure chests.

I don't yet know enough about the treasure chest contents to know what situations might break this. I do know that not all treasure chests have good things in them, so I'm hoping a little Monty Hall action will work and give me a chance to see as much content as possible, while avoiding the grind of repeating scenarios.
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Corey Mayo
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CoffeeGeek1023 wrote:
I'm playing Gloomhaven solo currently. I've played with both the solo bump and on normal. Since I can usually keep the game set up I don't mind losing once or twice per scenario. I've had most wins and many loses come down to the end. Very tense finishes. With the solo bump I've had lost bad and quickly a couple times. Trying to maintain a balance. Don't want to win each time I play a scenario but don't want to try 3 or more times on one either.


Also looking for balance, not ease. And no "grinding."
 
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Nice short review. I like that you're playing the game how you want to increase the fun for you. Some folks have a hard time deviating from strict rules and get frustrated instead of tweaking the rules slightly to increase their enjoyment.

Here's to hoping you finish the campaign.
 
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foldedcard wrote:

I play the standard difficulty with no solo bump and have yet to have enough cards/health left to gather treasure at the end of any scenario.


That's another reason I haven't bumped the difficulty level up yet from Easy. Even on Easy, I'm lucky to get to 1 treasure chest. However, adding the Scoundrel has given me some breathing room to loot more and try to get everyone what they need for their battle goals. In my last campaign scenario, I had to make the decision to ignore a treasure chest and just kill the last monster to make sure I got the victory before it healed or summoned something else. And that's why I like my variant of having a shot at missed treasure chests via random dungeons.
 
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ionas wrote:
IMHO the prime setup is 3-4 players not 1-2.
It can be played with one but it is a sign that you have to control 2 heroes.

Other games, like MK or 7th, suffer heavily in the fun camp when play non solo. MK had up to 45min downtime per round when each turn took up to 15mibs and by deck building you could have two turns per player.

This game here has both: story/progression and a lot of tactical miniatures play. Our group loves it for that; the strongest gripe is probably the AI (the FAQ is full of that, too).

You can easily sell it (or gift it) as almost everybody loves it. MK for instance split people a lot because of its high downtime + almost entire lack of player interaction.


Anything other than solo just isn't an option for me right now. Maybe in the future when my baby is all growed up.

I think I did not understand that I was getting a "tactical miniatures" game. I've never had one and I'm not that interested in tactical warfare--I've felt that was since about 1981 when I tried both Avalon Hill boxcase wargames and Dungeons & Dragons from my local hobby shop.

Please don't misunderstand: I think it's a great game--it's in my top 10 already (https://boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/cmmayo?sort=rating...). I was up until 2 am last night clearing out a room of a random dungeon just to try out combos and tactics (also, there is a 50 gold cost item in my Market that I REALLY want for my Scoundrel, so she's got every loot card available in her hand). Had a blast. My Brute drew three bad combat mod cards in a row and blew a Trample + Boots move that should have cleared the room. My Tinkerer had to Ink Bomb them to death while probably asking the Brute if he had his boots on the right feet or not. They are Groot and Rocket, basically. Trying to have a little imaginative role-playing fun here.

I was under the impression that a full dungeon scenario could be finished in 45 minutes. Ha! More like 3 hours. So now, I just play a room at a time. I do this with Mage Knight. One round takes less than an hour, so I tackle it like that.

People talk about the timing aspect of the game--scenarios going down to the wire (last card, last hit point, etc.). In my life, I'm just trying to finish my turn before the baby wakes up. Or finish a scenario before it's so late that I'm going to be brain dead at work the next morning...

...all you damn kids with your free time and friends.
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