We played a game with the new wound rules to see how they feel. It was good! Overall they seem fine, so long as the Briarlock doesn't become an unstoppable force.
Wounds: Before and After
In the print-and-play version 1.0 update there was a small note about wound mechanics: "A few rules changes to the rulebook, especially in the disposition of wounds at the end of a turn".
The wound rules went from this:
Before: "Return any wound cards in your hand to the wound deck, then discard your hand."
After: "Discard your hand."
They also clarified in a Kickstarter comment: "Your wounds shuffle back into your deck the same way all other discarded cards shuffle back into your deck".
What does this mean?
This seemed like a big change! Before, every Thornwatch character could shrug off lots of damage, healing every turn as wounds appeared in their hand. Now wounds have to be explicitly healed or discarded, making the role of the Greenheart and Briarlock even more important, and heightening cards like the Sage's Scry that allow discarding wounds.
Just get to the game!
Thornwatch Party: 3 players - Briarlock, Sage, Guard
Scene: The Singer In The Dark (with custom monsters)
Setup Time: 12 minutes
Play Time: 35 minutes
Outcome: Thornwatch victory
The Glider Alpha - A worthy foe
Art by Mike Krahulik
We played a modified version of the 'Singer in the Dark' scene, where the party must defend the villagers from Gliders. I modified the scene to purchase enemies, and spent all of my ebb on 1 Glider Alpha (a very powerful beast) and 2 Gliders. I put in an fun, evil mix of terrain cards - Blood Flies for extra damage, Animate Brambles, and some Ley Lines and Ebb Wells to help pay for it all.
I ignored the villagers entirely and focused only on damaging the PCs I didn't care about winning the scene through story points. I wanted to try out wounds!
It was fun. Lots of dice were rolled. I had one great round where everything aligned - the Gliders were all in the same area and stacked their attacks with Blood Flies - I rolled 15 dice and handed out most of the wound deck to the poor unsuspecting Guard
Then the players got smart, backed off, and used terrain cards to keep themselves alive.
At its lowest the wound deck dropped to 7 wounds remaining. It climbed back to 9 wounds before the party won the game on round 5.
Judge Terrain cards
Finding the right mix to harry the players is a lot of fun
Overall the new wound rules seemed fine! It felt like a very minor change, even. I was expecting a big change: my initial reading of the rules was that wound cards should be discarded from the game entirely, which was incorrect. What actually happens is that wounds just stay in the player decks, and have to be dealt with instead of going away for free.
The Briarlock will love the new wound rules; wounds stay around longer, which they can use to buff their abilities
Art by Mike Krahaulik
My one concern is that the Briarlock might become too powerful with these rules. Previously there was a limited number of wounds being held up inside the party's deck and hand, where the Briarlock could use it for buffs. The new rules seem good, but the Briarlock now acts as a siphon - given enough time, all of the party's wound cards will eventually end up in their deck If they don't die, the Briarlock could unleash some devastating late-game spells.
Esentially the Briarlock takes on the profile of a 'carry'. That feels like it changes the flavour of the game; ideally Thornwatch seems to be about everyone contributing equally all the time, and players all having fun together. But who knows - this could all easily be fixed with a few tweaks to Briarlock abilities.
My other concern was that keeping wounds would make the Thornwatch not feel like heroic characters who could shrug off damage. After playing, I don't think this is the case. The shared wound deck still makes the game feel like a team effort, and the players still have multiple ways to remove wounds. More playtime will show for sure.
How much did it impact the game?
Unfortunately I wasn't consciously tracking the number of wounds left in the deck after each game, so I don't have complete stats on this. I'll start now.
Several of my games were intro/easy sessions, just to try it out or get people acquainted. These did not involve a large number of wounds. Roughly guessing, 11 games so far had a high number of wounds left in the deck at the end of the game (e.g. 2/3 or more remaining), and 6 games had a low number (1/3 or less left). So not many games were a close call. This change might bring more games closer to the line between victory and defeat.
Hopefully this change will help to make victories more meaningful. The party will have to strategize to beat the scenario before taking on too many wounds. They won't be able to sit back and delay. That seems like a definite mechanic improvement.
For example - perhaps if the party can't defeat the boss scene this time, next time they could plan better leading up to the boss and defeat them! That would lead to some good strategy and reward the party for doing well.
Open question - Heal between scenes?
Now an interesting question is: what happens when you play multiple scenes back to back?
The rules don't have any new information, so by the RAW you currently do nothing to the deck. That's interesting because it suddenly makes longer games much *harder* - instead of healing fully between each scene, the party has a much smaller wound deck, making each consecutive scene harder and harder. Healing classes become much more important - not just keeping the party alive *now*, but making sure they party can stay alive *later*, and not die from wounds in the first round or two of the next scene.
This feels good. Again, strategy becomes important, and it adds a layer of planning for longer games. It may also make beating a longer string of scenes more *meaningful*: if a session involves three scenes - intro, middle, boss fight - the party may have to really plan ahead and be careful about what they do, to make sure they're in good enough shape to fight the boss. They've baked in some potential for game mastery and party skill improvement with one simple rules change. Masterful.
These wound rules open up many other fun options
Keeping more wounds between scenes opens up lots of other fun options for roleplaying, story, and tactically challenging scenarios:
Start the game wounded (challenge mode/story mode): A previous Thornwatch summoning failed. They died and left. But someone tried to retie the knot. Hastily. Desperately. Poorly. You are the resummoned Thornwatch from the poorly crafted knot - here to pick up where the previous band left off, the blood and ebb of their failure infecting you. Start the game with 5 wound cards each already inside your deck, and the judge gains +1 ebb per player.
Playing well saves you wounds: The adventure consists of four scenes: into, bridge, battle, boss battle. In the second scene there is a 'good' way to win and an 'okay' way to win. If the players accomplish the good victory, they can skip the third scene entirely and head straight to the boss! This saves them many wounds and time, making things easier. A great way to reward clever players and parties.
Endurance runs: This opens up a neat challenge for gaming groups: how *many* scenes can the party defeat back to back? Three scenes? Five? Ten scenes? It becomes more and more difficult as time goes on and the wound deck gets lighter. It could be a fun challenge to see how many scenes the party can defeat without dying!
Carrying more wounds between scenes creates lots of fun options.
If the players play well they could skip an optional scene, saving time and wounds.
My next house rule: Half-heal between scenes (but not for the Briarlock)
To make things a little bit easier, and to experiment, it would be neat to have some kind of healing spell that helped the party recover between scenes. e.g. 5 wound cards per Thornwatch between each scene (a half-strength heal). That would be much better than nothing, while still making wounds have some impact.
You could say: the party has achieved part of their blood spell objective, which strengthens their bond with the knot that summoned them and partially renewed the magic.
My next house rule will be:
Each Thornwatch member can remove up to 5 wound cards from their discard pile between scenes, except the Briarlock, who can remove none.
That should be fun
What do the devs think?
It would be great to see an update about this from the dev team. What made them feel wounds were broken? How did they decide on this change vs a different mechanic? What was the reaction like at PAX East?
Obviously they don't owe us anything, but it would be fascinating to see some insight into *why* they made this change, as well as perhaps helping people through the change to the new rules. Change is easier if you know the reason why it's happening.
What do *you* think?
My group will likely continue using the new wound rules, to get more exposure and see how they feel.
Has anyone else used the new rules? What did you think?