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Subject: Review after 20 plays rss

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Nigel Buckle
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I’ve now played Massive Darkness more than 20 times (in terms of quests) both solo and multiplayer here is my opinion of the game.

I’m not going to go into how to play in detail, there are plenty of videos you can watch to find that out.

I kickstarted this game so i’m sure I have some bias, I like the theme and sound of the game (I wouldn't have backed it otherwise) and obviously want the game to be ‘good’ so I haven't wasted my money. Possibly if I had just played a few games at a club or a friend’s copy I would have formed a negative opinion early and stopped playing.

The standard mode (stand alone quests) are a bit like Zombicide: Black Plague, you start with a low level hero with weak starting equipment and through the quest earn experience to level up and get better equipment. Here the advance is massive, and has to be as the enemies you face can be very tough if they happen to have the right equipment. There is some variety to the quests and some are quite challenging - those where you have a time limit.

Playing this form of the game I think it is pretty good as a one shot dungeon crawl using 4 or more heroes. This game gets harder with more characters, as the enemies get more health but the rate of loot acquisition does not increase. With less heroes it is a bit too easy, unless you get unlucky and find a wandering monster early on that has just the right equipment. At lower hero counts it is quite possible to attack a mob and wipe them all out during that hero’s turn, so they never get a chance to counterattack, it is harder to pull that off with say 5 heroes as the mobs are much larger, so you need to produce more damage. Playing multiple heroes isn't so great as as you level up and get more equipment you are looking through a stack of possible modifiers, just managing one character is usually enough.

The characters are interesting and they have split it so you have unique characters with their own inherent skills/abilities and combine that with classes that you have free choice of. So you could play the Battle Mage as recommended, but if you wanted you could play the character as a barbarian instead. I like that.

What I didn't like was story mode - here experience acquisition is slowed down and the suggestion is you take the same characters through multiple quests retaining the skills and equipment you obtain - a real campaign.

This is what attracted me to the game originally (that and the great miniatures and art) but this doesn't work the first quest or two are hard (less so at lower player counts) but then it just gets easy, you have good skills and equipment and the enemies just can't match you. This was very disappointing and I would probably have discounted the game at this point as playing one shot quests wasn't what I got the game for. It feels like the game is designed to be one and done quests just like Zombicide and the campaign bit was added on after, and doesn't really fit

However the game is pretty simple and easy to change the rules to suit your tastes especially as it is a cooperative game. Lots of people have suggested changes, just look in the variant section of the forum here. I’ve done this and now I have a story mode that works for me, I can slowly develop a character through multiple quests but the game is simple enough to play in an evening and it not feel like hard work. I also changed the rules a bit for 1-3 heroes to make it a bit harder.

My variant is here if you want to try it - Massive Darkness variant rules

TLDR - In summary, this is a great game for 4+ players if you want one shot dungeon crawls. If you have lower player counts or are looking for a campaign game dungeon crawl expect to adjust the rules or be a bit disappointed with how easy it is.

With modifications this is a great game - but if you are someone who doesn't want to make changes I couldn't recommend this if you were intending to play a campaign (story mode).
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Hauni Anderson
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Tested your rules for a single scenario with 3 players. Worked really great and everyone felt it was a good balance.
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Nigel Buckle
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Hauni wrote:
Tested your rules for a single scenario with 3 players. Worked really great and everyone felt it was a good balance.


thanks for the feedback.

I'm testing changing the microXP to 6 rather than 5 to convert to a full XP, mostly because the player boards have slots 0-5, so the existing rules mean you wouldn't use peg hole 5 at all which bugs me. With my variant the microXP is mostly used for paying for signatures, so this seems quite good if you get into a fight with a mob, as you have more space to store it, but that's about it for changes unless we find the game still doesn't work at high levels (I'm hoping the retiring of heroes will help). I didn't do this originally because I wanted to keep the number of changes to a minimum.

Also working on a random dungeon generator, so you can play a quest 'rogue-like' just exploring trying to find the exit. Need to make it simple enough to not be a pain to generate the map but at the same time have enough enemy spawns to make it interesting.
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Drew Olds
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I get the feeling that games either work as one shot or campaigns, but I haven't seen one that actually does both well.

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Nigel Buckle
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odinsgrandson wrote:
I get the feeling that games either work as one shot or campaigns, but I haven't seen one that actually does both well.



Yep, that is a really good point - and with MD the character advancement in a single scenario (quest) is massive. You go from pretty much zero (just your inherent skills and two basic bits of kit, and those won't even necessarily 'fit' your strengths as you need a way to either deal melee damage or get out of it) to a Demi-god, with top level skills and powerful weapons.

Then you supposedly just advance to the next quest keeping all of it. This next quest being one that isn't necessarily designed for high level characters, nope it is one you could play as another starting character. They tried to slow the advance from zero to superhero buy cutting the XP gain by a factor of 5, but all that does is make the first 1-2 quests hard, then you get over the hump and it becomes a cake walk.

The inherent design is experience a campaign in a single quest, get stacks of skills, see loads of weapons. That makes a campaign pretty hard to pull off. I think my variant works because the vast majority of what you gain in the quest is temporary, you drop back to just a bit better than zero after the first quest, keeping just one skill. Sure you could keep the high level kit, but you can't use it, so you retain some low level weapons instead. Hence start the next quest back near the bottom and you then shoot back up to high level, then fall back at the end to just a little bit better.

Some people won't like that, and for those either play it as one and done quests or look for a different game.
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Trent Boardgamer
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I've played 12 Single shots and three campaign games (Three connect missions, not three campaigns) and 100% hold the some opinion as the OP's review.

The sweet spot fir this game is for about 4 players to one shot. Depending on the mission I find it takes about two to two and half hours for a session.
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David Griffin
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I'm playing my 3rd quest in story mode. The first 2 were 4 characters solo and were pretty hard, especially the 2nd game. How many games were you into the campaign before you thought it was too easy?
 
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Nigel Buckle
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carbon_dragon wrote:
I'm playing my 3rd quest in story mode. The first 2 were 4 characters solo and were pretty hard, especially the 2nd game. How many games were you into the campaign before you thought it was too easy?


I think 4+ characters really makes a difference - treasure drop is the same so it is more spread out, and mobs are larger and harder to kill with no counterattack. Also the event deck can hit you hard early on, or if you get an enemy with the right equipment. Heroes or equipment that can apply auto wounds really help.

Saying that we played 4 Heroes, through tutorial and quest 1 (probably should have restarted after tutorial with hindsight) and quest 2 was okay, having a ring that did a yellow die of automatic hits and a weapon that stunned really helped. Quest 3 was a cakewalk, we were all level 3 and some of us could have been higher if we had concentrated on a few skill lines only. Quest 4 we thought would be harder, but we didn't bother opening many doors, as we all had decent equipment of level 3 or so. Seemed pointless to spawn level 3 guards for only level 1 and 2 treasure... After that we abandoned it as not challenging enough (even tried removing the two markers from the lifebringer as per rules suggestion, still too easy).

Tried quest 2 and 4 in standalone mode (starting with basic equipment and no skills, much much harder!), but we wanted a campaign game.

Tried again with 3 characters as soon as we hit level 2 and had reasonable level 1/2 equipment it got easy, that was after killing the spider (2nd quest).

At that point I gave up with rules as written (probably played it about 10 times then) for story mode and stated experimentation to get to my house rules (link at end of my review).

I think party composition makes a difference too - we had a paladin of fury with great armor who couldn't hit a barn door but could inflict lots of damage with payback, who was a tank with taunt, being healed by a warrior priest who had a stun weapon and a ranger with a fire bow to kill from a distance, and a slippery night runner who could do wounds moving past enemies, and generally go looting for everyone.

If people are finding it a fun challenge that's great - maybe we lucked out and got good starts all the time, but it felt too easy once you hit level 2 with some decent equipment, thereafter it was just coasting (and we weren't grinding XP by allowing an agent to live so we could keep killing mobs).
 
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bucklen_uk wrote:

Playing this form of the game I think it is pretty good as a one shot dungeon crawl using 4 or more heroes. This game gets harder with more characters, as the enemies get more health but the rate of loot acquisition does not increase. With less heroes it is a bit too easy, unless you get unlucky and find a wandering monster early on that has just the right equipment. At lower hero counts it is quite possible to attack a mob and wipe them all out during that hero’s turn, so they never get a chance to counterattack, it is harder to pull that off with say 5 heroes as the mobs are much larger, so you need to produce more damage. Playing multiple heroes isn't so great as as you level up and get more equipment you are looking through a stack of possible modifiers, just managing one character is usually enough.

For me this kills any thought of getting the game. Scaling to the number of characters is very important, and here it seems it has to be a certain number, no more and no less.
 
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