jeff bee
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So something that keeps seeming to come up for my play group is the lack of control token cards available for purchase in the expansion. Curious about it, I decided to look at how the skull control tokens are distributed between the base game and the expansion, both in terms of the Dark Arts cards, villains, and the Hogwarts cards.

First up, the Hogwarts cards. The base game has the following skull removals available to purchase: Finite x2, Dobby x1, Expecto Patronum x2, Moody x1, Kingsley x1, Tonks x1, Stupefy x2, Deluminator x1, and Confundus* x2. That means there are 11 cards (13 if you count Confundus) that can remove skulls. There are 108 cards total (including the promos), which means that 10.2% (12.0% w/ Confundus) of the deck can remove skulls. This means that there’s a 48.3% chance that one of the starting cards available for purchase can remove skulls. If we include Confundus in there, those odds increase to 54.6%. Furthermore, by the time you buy 7 cards (and therefore have seen 13 total) your odds of seeing at least one skull removal exceed 75%. Including Confundus, this drops the cards required to 5 in order to have at least a 75% chance of seeing one.
The MBoM adds Finite Incantatem x2, Immobulus* x3, Monster Book of Monsters** x3, and Kreacher** x1 to the list of skull removals, yet the entire card count rises to 178. For the purpose of math, I’m going to consider the dice rolling ones as a 1/6 skull removal each, or .67 skull removal cards total. Note Arthimancy increases those odds from .67 to 1.22, but will be ignored for the purpose of this exercise. So the total number of skull removals is now 13.67, for 7.7% (or 18.67 including Confundus and Immobulus for 10.4%). Obviously these numbers are lower, but let’s do the same comparison of the starting cards to see how it affects the gameplay. You now have a 38.5% (49.1%) chance of having one in the starting 6 cards. And it’ll take you 11 (7) card purchases to have a greater than 75% chance of seeing one in the market. Comparing the two sets of data, it’s fair to say that you will have to go an extra round longer without purchasing a skull removal card. Perhaps there won’t be as large of an impact throughout the game, but it’s clear that this dilution of the skull removals makes it much more difficult to retain the first location. Perhaps this is by design, as many people complained about the swingyness of the base game. But let’s take a look at the DA cards, and what that extra turn may mean as far as holding onto the first location.
The base game has 41 DA cards, but 9 require you to draw another, leaving you with 32 DA “events.” Of those 32, 9 put a skull on the location card and 2 (Heir of Slytherin) have you roll to add one, resulting in a skull being added 29.1% of the time. This is prior to counting any stuns caused by the DAs as those are difficult to quantify in this setting. MBoM adds another 28 DA cards, one adds two skulls, three more add one, and two make you roll for it. So there are now 14.67 skulls added from the deck (excluding stuns), for a chance of 24.5% (counting the double skull as the same as two singles). So perhaps the slight reduction of DA skulls being added offsets the large reduction in skull removal availability.

So here’s where I’m going to make a few assumptions that won’t apply. Feel free to argue with my logic and rerun my math with a different scenario. Year 7 location one has 6 skull slots on it. Ignoring any skulls added via Petigrew or stuns, it will take you on average 21 Dark Art cards to apply those 6 skulls. Obviously this is wrong – there’s a chance that you can do it in 6 turns, and there’s a chance that after 23 cards you haven’t added a single skull, but I’m simplifying the math and saying that each DA card adds .291 skulls. Those 21 turns will give everyone 5 turns. I’m also going to assume that everyone buys a single card on their turn. Again, this isn’t true, but I feel like it’s a fair assumption. Two rounds before that final skull will be placed, you’ll have bought 13 cards and have a 89.4% chance that there is/has been at least one skull removal in the market. I use three rounds because it provides you two additional rounds to shuffle and cycle through your draw pile in order to find that card you bought to remove the skull. Again, another assumption.
On the flip side of things, the MBoM only has 5 skull slots on the first location, but coupled with the reduced DA skull adding potential, it still takes 20 DA cards to add that 5th. Thus far we’re pretty aligned. Keeping everything the same, 12 cards will have been bought, but your chance drops from 89.4% to 78%. So, keeping the assumptions the same about cycling through, your chance of having at least a single skull removal prior to the DA cards adding enough skulls to move onto location two drops over 10%. Obviously a single skull removal card by itself isn’t enough to prevent the team from going onto location two in perpetuity, but the math does seem to suggest that you’re less likely to be able to control it in the MBoM than in the Base game. One more thing to note is that the fewer skulls doesn’t apply just to location one. All four locations have one fewer skull slot in Box 4 compared to Year 7.
Which means you might have to rely on killing villains and/or creatures in order to maintain a location. In the base game, 10 of the 14 villains remove a skull, and 3 of those 10 remove 2. The expansion adds 17 new creatures, 9 of which remove skulls, and 4 roll the creature die. So in general, there will be fewer skull removals from the villains/creatures that you kill as well. It actually gets a bit worse than this when you take into account the encounters and how they bias the selection of villain/creatures towards the newer ones that remove fewer tokens.

So what all does this mean for our heroes? It means that you’re up against the clock even more than before. Which is actually ironic since the pacing of the game seems to be slower with the creatures requiring 1 influence per turn, and the game in general rewarding a more well rounded play style instead of just max damage. It also makes the final Voldemort very painful. Unless you have petrificus totalis, he WILL add at least 7 skulls, and at most a single skull can be removed from the location via enemies (this can be accomplished by killing the final non-Voldemort enemy when Voldy is already in play. Note that since you can’t attack or place influence on Voldy until all others are destroyed, that he will have 6 turns and 6 skulls at minimum to add). In other words, Voldemort himself will consume the entire last location (and then some if you include DA cards) by himself.
Taking a grand (simplified) look at things, you’ll have 14 of 31 enemies, which will remove an average of 10 skulls total (down from the 13 that get removed in the base game). An average win for us has us buying about 60 cards, so we will see 4 skull removal cards available for purchase – let’s say that you go through your deck every 3 turns on average, so by the end of the game you’ll get 1.3 skull removals per round, but since you start at 0, you’ll average .67 skull removals per round throughout the game. Most games that we win go through the DA deck about 1.5 times, so it will add 23 skulls. Note there are 5 + 6 + 6 + 7 = 24 skull slots on the board. If we include the 7 that Voldy adds, 30 tokens are placed via DA and Voldemort. And by our math, you’ll remove 10 from the enemies, and if we average the DA cards to 2/player, we get 11 rounds for another 7 skulls removed from purchased cards. Therefore, an average game without any additional effects from other enemies or stuns will end on location 3 with 13/24 skulls added.
More importantly, it shows that there are only 11 skulls or so that you have for wiggle room throughout the game. These would come from stuns, Pettigrew, Grindlylow, the Werewolf, Encounters, or even delaying the game. Each additional turn a hero takes draws 2 additional DA cards on average, for .5 skulls added.
For comparison sake to the base game, going through the same 90 events means you go through the DA deck 3 times, adding 28 skulls from the DA, Voldy’s 20 health probably takes 3 turns to kill, adding another 3. Going through 60 Hogwarts cards will net you 6 that remove skulls, and averaging 2 DA cards per player gives us 11 rounds of play, for 11 skulls removed via Hogwarts cards. Coupled with the 13 removed via enemies, and you’ll find that you only have 7/28 skulls, leaving you with 19 skulls to be added through other means.

This is a huge difference between the base game and MBoM. Your wiggle room is about half of that of the base game. The question we now need to ask ourselves is what can we do about it? This analysis makes it important to emphasize life above everything else. It also makes it clear that Luna’s spectrespecs should pretty much only get rid of a DA card that’s going to add skulls (or all hero damage that’ll cause stuns). It highlights just how important Petrificus Totalis can be on Voldemort, and helps make a case for Flying Lessons being a very powerful card (compared to the meh response that it got in the base game, and in my recent write up about proficiencies) as it effectively removes half of the effects of the DA cards. Most importantly, it may be the only skull removal you have before leaving location one. It also can help with target priority. The Basilisk might be nasty, but Pettigrew NEEDS to go. The Mermaids may be obnoxious AF, but the Werewolf is top priority. Heck you might be able to use this info to influence whether or not to charms. If Ron is sitting on a single ally in his hand, you might want to reconsider charms (or Lumos) if the Grindlylow is out. You no longer want to stun yourself at the end of your turn via Umbridge if you think there’s any chance at all you can avoid the stun. Besides the above and the obvious, I don’t have specific insights about what to do with this information. But if you’ve been struggling with Box 4 and don’t understand why, this might help you realize that the game can be considered twice as hard, and strategies and priorities need to change in order overcome the extreme shortage of skulls.

TL: DR – You have 11 open skull slots in MBoM for stuns/enemies, while the base game has 19 open skull slots. This alone makes the game much more challenging. You’re not getting screwed by the Hogwarts market, it just sucks this time around.
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Alan Acevedo
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Check out the post I made here: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/26948631#26948631

Talks about a house rule we implemented while playing the original games, and we've carried it through to the Box expansion. Essentially it permits the players to agree to fill an empty Hogwarts market slot with a control token removal card, as leaving that deck shuffle to pure chance can be much too problematic.
 
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Matthew Cordeiro
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I agree that it's definitely harder to remove the control tokens, and your math backs that up. I've won roughly 75% of my games played with the base game vs. roughly 50% with the expansion. Plus, a lot of those base game wins were on location 1, while very few of my expansion wins were on location 1. So, like you said, it was way too easy to remove the tokens in the base game, and I'm okay with it being harder in the expansion.

Another way to deal with the control tokens in the expansion is to use the new proficiency, which removes a token each time you defeat a creature. With the "assign influence" mechanic used to defeat many of the creatures, it's not too difficult to set up the player who has this proficiency to be the one that deals the final blow and remove a token.

 
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David Jones
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I've not bothered with the rigor of verifying your math, but I was considering doing exactly this kind of analysis a few weeks back and just never got to it, so I appreciate the effort. thumbsup

I think the only reason I care about this outcome is that it really provides a level of concrete proof regarding the swingy outcomes of the game. There is certainly a "touchy feely" sense you get from playing the game that it has become more swingy, but I'm the kind of person that prefers to be able to point to a number that can confirm or deny that those feelings are correct.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole situation though. The thing about the base game is that, to some extent, control removal is the game. If you can remove control tokens fast enough, you can never attack the villains and just play Game 7 perpetually. Even if you never reach this point of "location nirvana", there is a certain pace of control removal you are required to achieve to even be able to win the game. Monster Box really throws a hitch into this philosophy because now you can lose the game to Detention flooding. So if you want to be able to put Monster Box in a perpetual state, you need to keep pace on both control removal and banishing abilities. So its an improvement in the sense that the game is a more complex beast and not as simple to defeat as the core game. However, adding the needed banishing abilities to the Hogwarts deck dilutes the count of control removal available and having fewer contol spots on the first location is as good as accelerating the drop rate. (I have yet to get to Voldemort without losing location 1 first, so I'm spending most of the game at location two, thus drawing the extra DA card.) I have to scratch my head and ask if the game has become more strategic or just inflicting a higher level of luck based punishment.

Quote:
Luna’s spectrespecs should pretty much only get rid of a DA card that’s going to add skulls


This is really aside from the main point of your post, but any DA card that is going to cause you to draw a second DA should automatically be discarded. You're going to have to face that second card either way, so why take the added penalty of the first card with it?

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Pettigrew NEEDS to go


I'm happy to see that somebody else agrees with me on this. In my villain guide for the base game, I kind of downplay Wormtail. In the early game he doesn't trigger very often and in the late game, he is a high priority, but you can usually knock him out after two or three rounds. In the new Villain/Creature guide I posted, I pushed him near the top of the list. When you've only got five control drops before you lose location one, even one attack by Pettigrew is going to push you into location two sooner than you want to be there.

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...helps make a case for Flying Lessons being a very powerful card...


Well, I've been a champion of Flying and Charms being the two best proficiencies in the game. I'm not going to rehash my treatise on Flying, but I would say your analysis also helps make the case for card draw. While you rightly clarify your "one purchase per turn" axiom as an assumption, the reality is that there are times when you cannot afford to buy a card in the market and control removal cards tend to be higher cost cards. Card draw gives you a better chance of having more influence in hand. Similarly, once you have the card that allows you to remove control tokens, card draw lets you cycle that card and use it more often. If you've got Charms/Otter/Herbology in play, most players are looking at starting their turn with seven cards in hand. In a 15 card deck, that player is removing control every other turn whereas without card draw they are only pulling it every third turn. If the game is about outpacing the control drops in the DA deck, card draw is the key to accelerating your team's control removal.

 
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jeff bee
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True true Davypi. There's no reason not to discard an imperio or crucio, and we always do, so I mispoke on that. I meant regarding the actual events - you might be tempted to get rid of petrification, especially if it's going to go on the charms player (though that's likely Luna anyways), or Leprechaun Gold, but the point is that those events don't add skulls, and the game is 100% decided by skulls, so they may as well stay.

After discussing my write up with my play partner, she suggested that now that I've put forward some assumptions, we gather data to refine those assumptions. To be a true scientific study, I think it needs to go beyond just data, I need a testable hypothesis. So I'm going to state here that if the stuns/villains add 11 or more skulls, you will lose. If you can keep it under that number, you will win.

Here's what we're going to be looking to collect - can you think of anything I'm missing that might be useful?

Heroes played
Proficiencies played
Turn Order
Villains faced (and order)
Encounters faced
What turn # we lost the 1st location
What turn # we lost the 2nd location
What turn # we lost the 3rd location
What turn # we lost the 4th location
What turn # we won
# of cards bought per hero
# of skull removal cards bought per hero
# of skulls removed by heroes
# of skulls removed by villains
# of skulls added by villains
# of skulls added by DA
Cards played per turn per hero
Cards discarded per turn per hero
# of stuns
# of bonus stun skulls (Avada Kadava, Vicious Bite, and Voldy)
# of Petrificus Totalis bought
 
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David Jones
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ranissi wrote:
So I'm going to state here that if the stuns/villains add 11 or more skulls, you will lose. If you can keep it under that number, you will win.


I would change that to say if you keep it 11 or under before getting to Lord V you will win. I've won quite a few games at location four or with location three nearly fully, but you do have to keep your team at location 1 or 2 prior to this in order to be able to withstand Voldy's onslaught.

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Here's what we're going to be looking to collect - can you think of anything I'm missing that might be useful?


I don't want to be a downer on this idea because I do think it would be interesting to see these results, but data aggregation tends to require a very active player base who is willing to participate. I don't know that enough people play Monster Box with the same vigor you get out of Arkham or Sentinels (games which have a very robust user data set to work with). Also, you are asking for a lot of information that people would have to manually track. Specifically, the game doesn't come with a turn counter, so you're asking for a certain level of meticulousness on the part of the end user. Some of these questions, like cards bought and cards with control removal, simply require the players to add up what is in their deck at the end of the game, so that is easy. But turns and skulls removed maybe asking too much.

If I could be swimming in stats, I would also want to know how many Tergio and Nox cards were bought. I've had two games where Nox was the card that really turned a losing game around for me into something I was able to win. I don't deny that control removal is the primary key to the game, but Detentions seem to be the next significant factor.
 
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jeff bee
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Nah, I'm looking just for my playgroup to collect. Okay, so I've added Detentions dealt and detentions banished by player to my stat sheet. Putting it all together in excel makes it look something like this:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bzgz2ZaG15o-d01Pbms1bW9TcU0...

The cards played area is going to be the most obnoxious to track, and is also the majority of the sheet. Does it look like I'm missing anything valuable? I know you mentioned specifically Nox/Tergeo, but I feel like if you're going to list those out, you might as well add Depulso and Reducto... Or you could just leave it at detentions dealt and banished, as that's likely more relevant compared to cards bought. I personally haven't actually run into detentions being that big of a deal, but I'm curious as to their impact into the win %, and perhaps it's just a hidden correlation that I'm associating to something else (ala "we lost this game because we didn't get enough influence to buy good cards" instead of "we lost this game because we didn't get enough influence because half of our deck was detentions")
 
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David Jones
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Quote:
I know you mentioned specifically Nox/Tergeo, but I feel like if you're going to list those out, you might as well add Depulso and Reducto


I don't have all the new cards memorized that well. Doesn't Filch remove Detention as well? But to more directly address your point, I've seen Nox have a much more pronounced affect on the game than any of the other banishing cards so I don't feel like the single banish effects need to be itemized. I would be interest in # of banishing cards (total) and then, of those, how many were Nox.
 
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Paul Schoonakker
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Aha, I was kind of hoping that a post like this would show up. Only played the first box 3 times (3 losses with 4 player random heroes, random proficiencies and deminishing health variants) and I also got the feeling there was something different in the token control department. The game just felt so increadibly more difficult than any book 7 game I've played with the same variants. Mainly in the first box, the villains/creatures you HAVE to include, only have a total of 2 removal as a reward. You need to be lucky you shuffle an 'easy' base game villain that has removal for any chance of hoping of delaying going to the second location.

I also peeked at the villains of the other boxes, which DO include a bunch of token removal. However, the first Box seems to be lacking for the most part. Since the troll acts almost like a second dementor, they could at least given him 1 location removal as a reward. I was really suprised they only got this 'meh' reward when I first saw the damage he can do.

Don't get me wrong: I always thought the base game was way too easy and every game I've played I secretly hoped we would NOT stay on the first location for too long (otherwise easy win without tension, which is no fun either). They took this problem into account for the expansion, but maybe a bit too much.

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Jay Trundell
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5 plays with 2 wins on Box 1. Early losses had terrible opening store selection (beating the odds) tough villains and chains of “reveal another DA card” using box 1. We licked our wounds, read some strategies on BGG, switched to game 7 versions, dropped Luna and paired with opening store of 3 removal/2 house dice found it much easier. We did lose a game after that with chained skulls on two of my turns in row on 3 player before removal was cycled in but overcame a single chained skull in the following game with us removing 4 skulls in one round and winning with no skulls on the first location.
 
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Justin Rio
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Please consider marking the title spoiler.
 
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jeff bee
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IndyOfComo wrote:
Please consider marking the title spoiler.


A spoiler of what? I literally don't see anything that's spoiler about this title, especially when you consider that this is on the expansion forum.
 
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