Recommend
1 
 Thumb up
 Hide
16 Posts

Shadowrift» Forums » Variants

Subject: Tweaking to increase difficulty rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
We've been quite enjoying this game but we also find it pretty hard to lose - after our first game we haven't lost yet and only one was really close. Once we hit on just focusing on sealing rifts and churning the monster deck with Explore, it seems both too easy to race through the monster deck and seal rifts, and way too hard to deal with walls.

We're looking for something simple and low-impact here. Some thoughts I had:

1) Increasing the rate at which the monsters accumulate power points, from "number of players" to "number of players +1 or +2". This seems easiest but also maybe not directly on point for our experience.

2) Increasing the cost for Explore: The fact that it only costs one coin to churn the monster deck with this card seems to be the core problem - it's way too easy to avoid ever facing the nastiest monsters and to dig for rifts. I'm actually not a huge fan of the Explore card as it is, the primary power (looking at the Traveller deck) seems lame while the ability to churn the monster deck is really strong. I was thinking along the lines of either making it cost two or maybe even three coins to churn the monster deck, or replacing the Explore in the starter deck with a Strike and making Explore a card you have to buy at cost 4.

3) Increasing the cost to Seal: Right now Seal is very powerful for two reasons: it helps you win the game, and you can kick nasty cards out of the Monster Power Area. At cost 4 it's pretty easy for one or two players to build a deck with a sealing engine, making nasty events easy to get rid of and rifts easy to seal, and making Walls look pretty unattractive by comparison. Maybe increasing its cost to 5 would help?

We're still enjoying the game, which I think has a lot to recommend it, but we're also starting to feel like if we can't make it a little more reliably difficult it's going to lose us before too long. It would be nice if the fairly obvious churn-and-seal strategy could be tamped back a little bit to force players to balance a little more.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Bigney
United States
Kingston
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I couldn't agree more with your diagnoses. Trying to win via walls seems like a trap, whereas churning/waiting through the deck to seal rifts is often far too easy.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Beck
Germany
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Did you try the Archfiends expansion?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian
United States
Nassau County
New York
flag msg tools
Gyges wrote:
I couldn't agree more with your diagnoses. Trying to win via walls seems like a trap, whereas churning/waiting through the deck to seal rifts is often far too easy.

If the travelers deck allows, a quick Master at Arms and a wall can be very powerful. Early game you still have a lot of guards in the deck so they are more effective.

Sealing is usually easier but I've definitely had times where winning with walls was easier.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
lankyb wrote:
Gyges wrote:
I couldn't agree more with your diagnoses. Trying to win via walls seems like a trap, whereas churning/waiting through the deck to seal rifts is often far too easy.

If the travelers deck allows, a quick Master at Arms and a wall can be very powerful. Early game you still have a lot of guards in the deck so they are more effective.

Sealing is usually easier but I've definitely had times where winning with walls was easier.


I think the occasional outliers don't invalidate the underlying question We won once by building walls just because that's the path we started down for reasons I can't remember. But once you've done the aggressive-monster-churn/Seal strategy it's hard to go back to messing with walls.

I actually don't necessarily want to see wall-building balanced against seals in most cases. I'm ok with seals being generally the way to go. I'd just like to nerf the churn-and-seal strategy a bit so that the players are pressed a little harder and have to make more compromises in terms of dealing with monsters and maybe even occasionally building a wall. The different hero cards and monster decks provide a lot of variability in diffficulty, so it's hard to say anything too general, but in most cases we've seen so far the churn-and-seal is obviously the way to go and the players may be pressed, or maybe not. If they aren't, the game isn't that interesting after you've mastered the basic techniques.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Anderson
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
cfarrell wrote:
We've been quite enjoying this game but we also find it pretty hard to lose - after our first game we haven't lost yet and only one was really close. Once we hit on just focusing on sealing rifts and churning the monster deck with Explore, it seems both too easy to race through the monster deck and seal rifts, and way too hard to deal with walls.

We're looking for something simple and low-impact here. Some thoughts I had:

1) Increasing the rate at which the monsters accumulate power points, from "number of players" to "number of players +1 or +2". This seems easiest but also maybe not directly on point for our experience.

2) Increasing the cost for Explore: The fact that it only costs one coin to churn the monster deck with this card seems to be the core problem - it's way too easy to avoid ever facing the nastiest monsters and to dig for rifts. I'm actually not a huge fan of the Explore card as it is, the primary power (looking at the Traveller deck) seems lame while the ability to churn the monster deck is really strong. I was thinking along the lines of either making it cost two or maybe even three coins to churn the monster deck, or replacing the Explore in the starter deck with a Strike and making Explore a card you have to buy at cost 4.

3) Increasing the cost to Seal: Right now Seal is very powerful for two reasons: it helps you win the game, and you can kick nasty cards out of the Monster Power Area. At cost 4 it's pretty easy for one or two players to build a deck with a sealing engine, making nasty events easy to get rid of and rifts easy to seal, and making Walls look pretty unattractive by comparison. Maybe increasing its cost to 5 would help?

We're still enjoying the game, which I think has a lot to recommend it, but we're also starting to feel like if we can't make it a little more reliably difficult it's going to lose us before too long. It would be nice if the fairly obvious churn-and-seal strategy could be tamped back a little bit to force players to balance a little more.


Making Seal cost 5 is an interesting shift to the power dynamic, since it (usually) will require you to buy and expend Might, or wait until you've earned some Heroism.

I don't like the idea of replacing the Explore with Strike, because I think most games that will work in the players' favor - It'll actually make the game even easier. Explore's place as a kind of lame card that helps you win but doesn't help you buy or fight is important, and I'd want any replacement to keep that element.
How about: If you've found 1/3 or more of the Shadowrifts, Explore requires +1 coin to mess with the Monster deck. If you've found more than 1/2 of the Shadowrifts, Explore requires ANOTHER +1 coin to mess with the Monster deck.
So in a 2-player game, it jumps from 1 coin to churn to 2, once your first Shadowrift shows up. In a 3-player, it goes from 1 to 2 after the first, and to 3 after the second. In a 4-player game it goes to 2 after 2 show up, and 3 after 3 are found.

For something less fiddly, one idea is just to shuffle in all 6 Shadowrifts regardless of player count.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Jensen
United States
League City
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Increasing the Monster Power has been easy to implement and afforded us a challenge.

I haven't had to increase difficulty beyond that just yet. However if I have an issue I am considering a variant where the "boss" of each monster deck will automatically come in play after some event - or round. The "boss" may have to be separate from the monster deck and cannot be prevented from coming into play - or explored to the bottom. The boss does not prevent normal monsters from coming into play.

Additionally I have considered only allowing one pass at purchasing travelers. After the first cycle you can never again purchase anything but villagers.

Last idea but consider this, to purchase the seal you must spend "magic icon" from hand. This would give the monsters a chance to build up and prevent you from rushing.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Removing the Explore and making it a purchasable card, replacing it with Strike in the starter decks might be more beneficial (from my point of view) than you think.

With 20 monster cards in the monster deck and everyone having an Explore available immediately, in a 4-player game the players can churn through (basically) 20% of the monster deck every deck cycle, starting immediately. If pushed to the extreme, the only real reason even to fight monsters is to get heroism cards to power your Seals. With an extra Strike, they could do 4 extra damage per cycle, plus a little bit from synergy bonuses. This is no comparison in terms of utility - a little bit of extra damage vs. 20% progress towards winning the game. Since the monster deck doesn't meaningfully grow with player count, larger player-counts can churn-and-seal with amazing rapidity.

If you put a Strike in there instead of Seal, it really slows the players down a lot. They can't achieve that kind of churn rate without dramatically curtailing their ability to deal with the monsters. Right now you can churn at a high rate, buy Seals, and still customize decks with at least a couple useful Skill or Attack cards. If you forced people to purchase the Explores, you'd have to chose between getting a churn engine going and being able to cope with monsters. Since at least one player is going to want to buy Seals at every opportunity, you're just not going to be able to achieve the highest churn rates. And that'll mean dealing with more monsters, which is the interesting part of the game.

It's also worth emphasizing that my ultimate issue with the churn-and-seal strategy is not that it's too powerful, but that it's boring. You're sidestepping too many of the interesting bits of the game to race to the boring bits. Fighting monsters, protecting villagers, even building walls is fun. Churning the monster deck to play seals is exploiting the least interesting elements of the game. But it seems to be what the game wants you to do to win.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I do agree increasing the cost of buying or playing the Seal card doesn't seem too smart. The core problem, from my point of view, is the rapidity with which players can churn the monster deck. I'm not convinced that modifying the cost for churning using the Explore card is the way to go though. I think it might be hard or even impossible to price correctly: too cheap and you'll see fast churn strategies all the time, too expensive and Explore becomes a dead card (which isn't great either). Given there isn't that much sensitivity in how to set prices (one coin is obviously too cheap; your other options are really just two or three coins, and who knows if one of those is right?), I think having the churn available as a strategy at all might be problematic. Maybe instead of having the Explore kick the monster to the bottom of the deck for a coin, you could instead pay a coin to push it 3 or 5 cards down. That might give you the option to delay facing nasty creatures and accelerate the game slightly, but not be abusive.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Anderson
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
cfarrell wrote:
Removing the Explore and making it a purchasable card, replacing it with Strike in the starter decks might be more beneficial (from my point of view) than you think.

With 20 monster cards in the monster deck and everyone having an Explore available immediately, in a 4-player game the players can churn through (basically) 20% of the monster deck every deck cycle, starting immediately. If pushed to the extreme, the only real reason even to fight monsters is to get heroism cards to power your Seals. With an extra Strike, they could do 4 extra damage per cycle, plus a little bit from synergy bonuses. This is no comparison in terms of utility - a little bit of extra damage vs. 20% progress towards winning the game. Since the monster deck doesn't meaningfully grow with player count, larger player-counts can churn-and-seal with amazing rapidity.

If you put a Strike in there instead of Seal, it really slows the players down a lot. They can't achieve that kind of churn rate without dramatically curtailing their ability to deal with the monsters. Right now you can churn at a high rate, buy Seals, and still customize decks with at least a couple useful Skill or Attack cards. If you forced people to purchase the Explores, you'd have to chose between getting a churn engine going and being able to cope with monsters. Since at least one player is going to want to buy Seals at every opportunity, you're just not going to be able to achieve the highest churn rates. And that'll mean dealing with more monsters, which is the interesting part of the game.

It's also worth emphasizing that my ultimate issue with the churn-and-seal strategy is not that it's too powerful, but that it's boring. You're sidestepping too many of the interesting bits of the game to race to the boring bits. Fighting monsters, protecting villagers, even building walls is fun. Churning the monster deck to play seals is exploiting the least interesting elements of the game. But it seems to be what the game wants you to do to win.


Ah! Got it:
Change Explore's second half to:
You may discard a Heroism to put the top card of the Monster deck on the bottom.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Sprague
United States
Modesto
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb


*modified explore to require Heroism*

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Sprague
United States
Modesto
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I was wondering... Perhaps if the explore action were limited like to "once per turn you could bottom deck the top card of the monster stack"

or even more devious.... everytime you explore the "Monster zone" the monsters gain 1 power per revealed shadowrift.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Sprague
United States
Modesto
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Kirrine wrote:
I was wondering... Perhaps if the explore action were limited like to "once per turn you could bottom deck the top card of the monster stack"

or even more devious.... everytime you explore the "Monster zone" the monsters gain 1 power per revealed shadowrift.



Or... Surge: If a shadowrift is revealed as a result of the explore action the monsters take a "Gain Power Action" as in step 5.


 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
OK, we've tried a couple of these variants, and even a drastically nerfed Explore (one coin to kick a monster three slots down in the monster deck) is still just way too strong. The heroism variant is stronger still. My current thought is that Explore should just be removed from the game entirely, and each player can replace it in their starting deck with any one 2- or 3-cost card from village.

I was also surprised how much easier the game is with more players; 6 players against the Dragons (who are the only monsters we've come close to losing against) with the heavily nerfed Explore and with a table of mostly newbies (0 or 1 prior game) with one experienced player was still fairly easy. We sealed all the rifts AND had only two walls left to build.

I like the structure and the idea of this game a lot but we've just got to find some way to make it more challenging. I think the Explore just has to be completely eliminated. The only question is what to replace it with. And there needs to be some additional balance adjustment at larger player counts.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Sprague
United States
Modesto
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I wonder.. making it cost a coin & a magic? may put it out of reach of casual or overly frequent access without removing it...?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Anderson
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
Kirrine wrote:
I wonder.. making it cost a coin & a magic? may put it out of reach of casual or overly frequent access without removing it...?


Or make it cost a Heroism AND require that no monsters currently be in play (the idea, after all, was to make the game drag less if you've gotten so powerful you're killing every monster every turn). If that's still not enough, you could revert it to 1st Ed's setup, in which it was what would in this edition be called an Epic action.
I mean, if the problem is that you find it too easy and the reason is primarily the boost effect on Explore, just...play without the boost text on Explore. So Explore just helps you force out Infiltrators, and that's it.
I definitely think replacing everyone's Explore with an extra Strike or other action will backfire if you're trying to make the game tougher.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.