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Subject: Impressions from PAX West 2017 demo rss

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Scott Yost
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I played this demo 2p at PAX last weekend. Here's what I experienced and some thoughts.

This is a co-op deckbuilder that adds a tactical grid. The heroes play over multiple rounds and culminate in a showdown with Karn, the big boss.

Here's what I saw in the game:
Tactical Map
- A full game is three battles. In the first two battles you'll fight a minion per player, and in the third round you'll fight Karn to win
- There are different minions in the game and you don't know which minions you're fighting until they wake up
- There are treasure chests in each battle that give you one-shot powers when you pick them up. These might be free gains from the offer, or magic, or strength boosts to hit a strength threshold that you need.
- You get a few rounds until the minions wake up where you can upgrade your deck and pick up treasure without being attacked. Once the minions are up, they will engage and wound you unless you have enough strength to wound them.
disengage.
- In general you need to be adjacent to an enemy to fight unless you have a ranged attack. Once you're adjacent to an enemy, you get wounded when you disengage
- In a given good turn you might do one wound and minions had a smallish number of wounds (~3) so you could focus fire them down fairly quickly if your decks were performing.
- Wounds go into your deck if you get them, or they leave the wound deck if you disengage. Either way, if the wound deck runs out it's game over.
- Between battles you keep your deck and keep upgrading. There are tuckboxes provided if you want to break the game down between battles and save it for later.
- On each turn Karn comes closer to warping in, and if you don't defeat the minions fast enough then he shows up and beats on you while you clear the minions
- In the third and final battle you can finally fight Karn, and there are other minions on the board that you might need to fight to pick up magic, esp. if your hand isn't good enough to wound Karn
- Both heroes and enemies have a rage track which adds a passive bonus or negative to strength. I didn't completely understand all the ways to manage this, but it seemed pretty important given that a point or two might be the difference between a dead turn and wounding the enemy. Specifically, each attack distracts the minion and ticks down their rage track, so failed attacks on a given turn make later attacks more likely to score a wound
- We had to choose our player order in each turn, which became important tactically for moving and ordering our attacks. I didn't like this - having to pick our player order before seeing our hands meant sometimes we had less effective turns because of the order of our activation. The choice didn't seem tactically interesting. I would have preferred to just activate in the order that we found most advantageous.

The Deckbuilding
- Cards in hand generate money and fighting power, plus may have powers that activate immediately (cycling cards, for exaple)
- The offer is Ascension-style, with a big deck and several cards available at any time. They're immediately replaced on purchase
- On a given turn you probably play all your cards, spend all your charm (money) buying cards, and then you might try to scrape together enough fight to wound the enemies on the board.
- To attack you need to generate enough fight power to beat the strength of the enemy, and if you do you wound them. (beating it by five gets you a second wound) If you don't get enough strength you get nothing.
- When you fight you also roll a D3, so even getting within 2 of the target number gives you a shot at wounding the enemy
- You can spend leftover charm to do a few other things: put a purchased card directly on your deck instead of the discard, immediately replace a card in the offer, or to contribute incrementally towards some long term goals. The first long term goal is to unlock the 2nd tier of the offer deck. I never got this far, but we flipped through it quickly and the cards seemed much better.
- After you have globally unlocked that, there are a few other passive permanent upgrades that the team can unlock by contributing money, such as upgrading the fight die to a D6
- There are five different classes in the box, each one having two sides. The class you pick gives you some initial thematic cards in your deck, and the ones I saw also came with passive powers plus activated powers that cost magic. You get a few magic at the beginning of the game and I saw a couple other ways to get magic, either through killing minions or from treasure boxes. In general the abilities were powerful but only usable a small number of times, sort of like charged powers in Aeon's End. Each side of each class looked pretty different - they generally shared the passive and starter cards but had different charged powers.
- The cards you're buying for your deck are all animals. They come in some different tribes, like birds, reptiles, raptors, and mammals. The tribes appeared to have combos and thematic powers, like the birds tended to help cycle cards.
- After you've spent your charm, you build your attack hand. This means you pick one of your animals to be the lead, and start with its base contribution to strength. Then you flip the rest of your cards over and stack them onto this leader, adding on all the upgrades that are on the bottom of your cards. So you might have a wolverine with 3 strength, and then stack it with four puppies that each give +1 strength to get 7 total power.
- Since the animals have different base power and contributions as upgrades, you may be able to build more than one interesting attack hand.
- Most cards give both charm and strength, so you don't really have the concept of pivoting away from economy and towards strength.
- For what we saw in the demo, it was pretty hard to trash cards, but there was a decent amount of cycling and card draw.


My thoughts:
- I liked the mechanic of building my attack hand after buying things. There's a small puzzle of figuring out what optimal hands you can build, and then once you've got that you need to decide which one you want.
- It was fun to run around the board and pick up treasure boxes, but overall I wasn't sure whether the tactical board was carrying its weight compared to the complexity it added to the game. For me, I got engaged immediately with an enemy, and since disengaging costs a wound and the enemy would then move to engage me again, there was no point in moving after that and we just slugged it out in close range. For demo purposes we only had only one minion instead of the expected two, so it's possible the tactical movement is more interesting in the full game
- I really liked that all of the cards were fighting animals, and it's funny how the upgrades stack onto them. (so you might end up fielding a Cute Cute Loyal Furious Ferret or whatever)
- I like a game with more tactical choices and some randomness in what I can do. The offer is randomized like Ascension so every time a card flips you're excited to see if it's good for you. You don't know which minions you're going to fight and there's random treasure that you pick up in each battle. For me this is a plus, and it's very different than Aeon's End where you can really make a precise plan and try to execute it.

Overall I really liked the variable player powers, randomized offer, consistent theme, and unique hand building mechanic. I haven't experienced a deckbuilder that had so many fun dungeon crawl elements until now. Happy to answer questions, and it's totally possible I've mischaracterized things as well since it was just a quick demo.
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Neko Keki
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I think you made a nice assessment! I also played this and also enjoyed it a lot. Enough that I will back it on Kickstarter whenever it launches.

Yostage wrote:

- After you've spent your charm, you build your attack hand. This means you pick one of your animals to be the lead, and start with its base contribution to strength. Then you flip the rest of your cards over and stack them onto this leader, adding on all the upgrades that are on the bottom of your cards. So you might have a wolverine with 3 strength, and then stack it with four puppies that each give +1 strength to get 7 total power.


This is one of the parts of the game I wish had a little more decision making. You do pick which animal to build, but it felt like that's where it ends. For such a major mechanic to the game, building a "cute cute raptor", I thought I would have to choose which parts to build on my animal. I'm not sure how it could be improved, but it felt like it was a little light in this area for me, whether it's the order of the cards, or a limit and having to pick which ones, etc. I cant' put my finger on it.

Anyways, I'm really excited for where this game will go. I had a great chat with the developer and he seems to have a good grasp on the game.
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Vas Obey

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Hi Neko! You are totally right! In the demo at PAX west you are first building your deck, so in the first few turns the decision making on building the creature is pretty light. Once you have a fairly reasonable deck of creatures, the creature build gets much more relevant. Here is an example that is in the manual!


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Jared Bartels
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The only thing that worries me about the concept is that there is only one Boss.

Is there any variance possible to the way the boss fights you?
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v b
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Any idea what the kickstarter means when it advertises "A magic system that promotes team play" ?
 
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Patrick Dolan
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VasForge wrote:
Hi Neko! You are totally right! In the demo at PAX west you are first building your deck, so in the first few turns the decision making on building the creature is pretty light. Once you have a fairly reasonable deck of creatures, the creature build gets much more relevant. Here is an example that is in the manual!



I decided to break down the stats of the creatures in the example to more easily compare them and to calculate exactly what each one would inflict on the enemy:

Reminder: Attacking an enemy lowers their stamina by 1, poison also lowers it by 1, hence the variable stamina loss shown below.

Dragonfly
7 Attack, 1 Flight, 1 Move, 1 Poison, 0 Knockback
Inflict on Enemy -
Attack: 7-10
Stamina: -2

Ant
10 Attack, 0 Flight, 1 Move, 1 Poison, 1 Knockback
Inflict on Enemy -
Attack: 10-13
Stamina: -2 (-4 total if knocked into obstacle)

Caterpillar
7 Attack, 0 Flight, 1 Move, 0 Poison, 1 Knockback
Inflict on Enemy -
Attack: 7-10
Stamina: -1 (-3 total if knocked into obstacle)

Puppy
6 Attack, 0 Flight, 1 Move, 1 Poison, 1 Knockback
Inflict on Enemy -
Attack: 6-9
Stamina: -2 (-4 total if knocked into obstacle)

Looking at the stats and what you can inflict on the enemy, the Ant seems like the obvious choice. With a potential 13 damage, it stands the best chance of wounding, and possibly critically wounding, the enemy, as well as inflicting maximum stamina loss to soften it up for the next attack.

The Puppy is clearly the worst choice, offering no benefits you can't get from a stronger creature. Same with the Caterpillar, unless its text box an be triggered during combat. The Dragonfly offers a unique benefit, but only if there is a wall that you can get between your hero and the enemy.

It seems like the Ant is the obviously 'best' option. With the exception of flight, it offers all the benefits the other creatures do while delivering a stronger hit.

Of course, I haven't played the game, and I don't know what all the various card effects are, so maybe there are things that make the other creature builds more viable?



 
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Scott Yost
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Yeah, this example doesn't have super compelling choices. You take the ant unless you need the flight, and you never take dragonfly or puppy. Notice also that the ant costs 5, so it's basically the best card in the hand. Puppies are starting cards so you're never gonna use those unless you have no choice. There could be a more interesting example if the hand had more cards at the same value level as the ant.

In general I don't think you're going to generally have a nail biting choice between five cards. Probably 1-3 will jump out at you as the best choice. There's a small tactical puzzle each turn of calculating what those are, and there's some strategic choices of setting up combos inside your deck and giving yourself the situational options that you want to be able to choose from in the future.
 
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