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Subject: Why do some think the game difficult while others think the game easy? rss

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al cann
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GH'ers,

I brought up this idea in a different post and it generated some discussion so I thought I'd bring the question to its own post. Many have blown through scenarios rarely, if ever, losing, while others like myself, have had difficulty consistently winning. I am curious why there is such a disparity in experiences with this game? Some of the comments as to why are as follows:

1 -- Skill level of the player(s). My feeling here is that skill level should not be the difference between winning nearly every scenario and a .500 winning percentage.

2 -- Rules mistakes. The most common suggestion of a rules mistake leading to losses seems to be failing to remember that you can burn a card from your hand, or two from the discard pile to avoid taking a wound. I know this rule so failure to use it is not why my won-loss record is mediocre.

3 -- Solo play vs cooperative play. I play solo meaning that there is only one viewpoint involved rather than two, three or four, and the monster level is 1 level higher than normal. How big an advantage are multiple players over one? Is there an advantage at all?


Successful strategy tips and comments on my thoughts above would be appreciated.

Thanks!
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David desJardins
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Character/prosperity level are definitely another factor. While I don't think the game is difficult at any level, the consensus seems to be that it gets easier when you have advanced your prosperity to high levels and your characters are all starting at high levels with decent equipment.
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al cann
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Character/prosperity level are definitely another factor. While I don't think the game is difficult at any level, the consensus seems to be that it gets easier when you have advanced your prosperity to high levels and your characters are all starting at high levels with decent equipment.


That ... I didn't think of. I always start on level 1 with new characters despite knowing that I could start at a level even with current prosperity. My feeling has always been that the difficulty of the monsters ramps up more quickly than the abilities of the characters. Maybe that is not correct.
 
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David desJardins
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albcann wrote:
That ... I didn't think of. I always start on level 1 with new characters despite knowing that I could start at a level even with current prosperity.


Do you buy equipment with your starting gold? If your level 1 characters are starting with better equipment and extra perks due to the progress that you've made, then the level 1 scenarios should be easier than they were when you were just starting out.
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Craig Sawatzky
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We had an amazing run to start out with our group. We won the first 10 or so scenarios in a row. We have been running at about 75% since then. Now I will say that in the first 10 we had at least 3 times where the card the enemies drew literally allowed us to win (ie), no attack, summon a trap that was used against them, boss not opening doors.

The games are so close at the end that I feel we could easily be 50% or worse.

I also feel that we are to the point where characters will have to start buying more/enchanting more to stay ahead of the curve.

Crogstad
 
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al cann
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DaviddesJ wrote:
albcann wrote:
That ... I didn't think of. I always start on level 1 with new characters despite knowing that I could start at a level even with current prosperity.


Do you buy equipment with your starting gold? If your level 1 characters are starting with better equipment and extra perks due to the progress that you've made, then the level 1 scenarios should be easier than they were when you were just starting out.


Yes, I do and those scenarios are easier. I have about 45 losses and 50 wins and the 45 losses are in about 12 scenarios. Usually, I win the first attempt, but when I lose, there are usually a few more losses to follow before I beat the scenario.
 
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Matthew Schoell
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I don't have a good sense of why people lose. Do they get exhausted from damage that leads them to have to lose cards? Do they get exhausted from over playing cards that are lost? Do they not prioritize damage mitigation when possible?

Do they repeat my first mistake and assume that the level of their character is also supposed to be the level of the monster (rather than go through the rulebook's calculation)?

So it's hard to know without that.

I played a full campaign solo, and frankly, I ignored the 1 level higher than normal aspect. I've played half a campaign with four people, and frankly... it didn't feel easier or harder. Maybe once or twice a game, a player has to adjust their plans based on something someone else did during the turn, but I think we all find that communication phase to be enjoyable and we get a lot conveyed while following the spirit of not being specific.

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Justin Boehm
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albcann wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
Character/prosperity level are definitely another factor. While I don't think the game is difficult at any level, the consensus seems to be that it gets easier when you have advanced your prosperity to high levels and your characters are all starting at high levels with decent equipment.


That ... I didn't think of. I always start on level 1 with new characters despite knowing that I could start at a level even with current prosperity. My feeling has always been that the difficulty of the monsters ramps up more quickly than the abilities of the characters. Maybe that is not correct.


Not only can you start a new character at the prosperity level, you can increase your level to the prosperity level any time you are in town. Made a new char, decided level 1, play a scenario or 2 and now want more skills, you can up to the town level anytime you are in town.
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B K
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albcann wrote:
GH'ers,

I brought up this idea in a different post and it generated some discussion so I thought I'd bring the question to its own post. Many have blown through scenarios rarely, if ever, losing, while others like myself, have had difficulty consistently winning. I am curious why there is such a disparity in experiences with this game? Some of the comments as to why are as follows:

1 -- Skill level of the player(s). My feeling here is that skill level should not be the difference between winning nearly every scenario and a .500 winning percentage.

2 -- Rules mistakes. The most common suggestion of a rules mistake leading to losses seems to be failing to remember that you can burn a card from your hand, or two from the discard pile to avoid taking a wound. I know this rule so failure to use it is not why my won-loss record is mediocre.

3 -- Solo play vs cooperative play. I play solo meaning that there is only one viewpoint involved rather than two, three or four, and the monster level is 1 level higher than normal. How big an advantage are multiple players over one? Is there an advantage at all?


Successful strategy tips and comments on my thoughts above would be appreciated.

Thanks!


One of the big factors I have seen is how "old" are the characters. Characters who have been played for many scenarios and have significant loot and perks above what a new character would have will be much stronger. If players are really focused on gold collection, especially to the point they are adding stickers to the action cards, then they will likely be overpowered. We started recycling characters after 5 or so scenarios to avoid this, with the added benefit of increased variety.
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Byron Campbell
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I also wonder how much of it has to do with following different branches at different times. Scenario level should balance a little but clearly some scenarios are harder than others, and if you tackle those earlier (lower level and less equipment) you might find more difficulty.

Party makeup also seems to play a huge role.

I play solo, with two characters, not with the increased monster level, following all the rules, and I win some scenarios and lose some. The ones I have lost have tended to be "kill all monsters" scenarios where certain monsters were able to spawn extra monsters before I could kill them. I have even lost a scenario playing at a level LOWER than recommended. Some scenarios have been cakewalks, but I had a bad streak of losing a bunch in a row. When I do win a scenario, I seldom complete all battle goals, and actually focusing on battle and personal goals has probably been the main reason for my loss several times.

Edit: I should also add that I go after the treasure on my first run through the scenario the vast majority of the time, even if it means a loss. Who knows what could be in there? I think when it comes to things like this and monster spawning, player count must have an impact on how much it has an impact. Like if I send one character from my party of two after a faraway treasure, that's half my team, whereas a larger party can better afford to split up.
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Paul Chamberland
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albcann wrote:
3 -- Solo play vs cooperative play. I play solo meaning that there is only one viewpoint involved rather than two, three or four, and the monster level is 1 level higher than normal. How big an advantage are multiple players over one? Is there an advantage at all?

Solo vs co-op vs semi co-op makes a difference. Are you playing the game to finish the scenario as efficiently as possible? Or does your group of 4 players strive to always reach their battle goals and gain as much XP and coins as possible with minimal communication, even though that may lead to failing and having to replay the scenario?
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J Townsend
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Skill could absolutely make the difference between a 50 and 100% win rate. Gloomhaven is a complex game - inexperienced players can find it difficult to play even one round optimally, much less a whole hand or game.

My group is mostly hardcore dungeon crawl/tactics game veterans with one newbie so we can really see that difference.

Team composition can also be a big factor - having the right mix of healing, damage, and defense can be a real force multiplier.

FWIW - we've played maybe 25 games and have yet to lose (knock on wood). We play low luck rules at +1 difficulty.
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Dillon Flaherty
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FuriousBroccoli wrote:
Skill could absolutely make the difference between a 50 and 100% win rate. Gloomhaven is a complex game - inexperienced players can find it difficult to play even one round optimally, much less a whole hand or game.

My group is mostly hardcore dungeon crawl/tactics game veterans with one newbie so we can really see that difference.

Team composition can also be a big factor - having the right mix of healing, damage, and defense can be a real force multiplier.

FWIW - we've played maybe 25 games and have yet to lose (knock on wood). We play low luck rules at +1 difficulty.


I think this factor has the most to do with it. Each individual character also has a "pace" to their deck that is hard to know until playing it a few times, and even then can be further tailored and customized based on card choices when leveling up.

It's hard to know the real value of losing a card early and whether or not it's worthwhile on your first 3-4 runs.
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al cann
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Thanks for the replies/suggestions everyone ... too many to thank individually. I'd have to say that I'm a fairly hard core and experienced gamer so, although I am not a top player, I've a good idea that I'm better than average. There are probably some factors involved that prevent easy answers to my original question.

Probably the biggest factor is that I am not playing 100% win at all cost mode. I know I can merely repeat a scenario should I fail it and, with that in mind, I probably have lost some scenarios by just throwing experimental ideas against the wall to see what sticks.

That is probably the main problem I have with Gloomhaven, there really is no penalty for failure. I know the spirit of the game stresses the experience over wins and losses so that I is why I was careful to say this is "my" problem with the game. I tried the permanent death variant but it was soon obvious to me that sacrificing characters to win some scenarios is part of the game. I would be curious to hear the opinions of players who have used the permanent death variant in this campaign.

Perhaps another thread is in order!



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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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albcann wrote:
1 -- Skill level of the player(s). My feeling here is that skill level should not be the difference between winning nearly every scenario and a .500 winning percentage.


I think you're grossly discounting player skill differences. Over in the Spirit Island forums, there's people who post about desperately struggling to get their first win even after downgrading from the default difficulty to the special rule that basically gives you a free turn before the game starts, while we never lost a game until we took on a level 2 adversary, and now routinely go for level 4 adversaries because we find them a comfortable experience where we expect to win, and go for level 5 when we want a challenge.
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J Mathews
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I have wondered this too. I run two concurrent groups in the same game world. Group 1 is BR/SW/TI/CH and Group 2 is BR/SW/CH/MT (20 scenarios, 11/9 split). Group 1 has basically run through everything with only one scenario posing an issue (Scenario 15). Group 2 has had an issue getting traction. We've TPKed once, we've been down to our last character on two or three other occasions.

We've played one scenario (Scenario 4) twice with Group 2 and once with Group 1 (G2 #1 TPK, G2 #2 Party Win w/ only CH left alive, G1 #1 Casual Mode). I did my best not to warn Group #1 about what was going to come (we played it partially out of curiosity and mostly to address two of our players' life goals. Both times with Group 2 it was difficult. We party-wiped due to a SW who was red-lining things a bit more than advisable, but the second time through we still had a challenge. When we went in with Group #1, it was a curb-stomping of the enemies. Everything was ridiculously easy. We play at the standard level (and I have checked and double-checked the level) with both groups.

My thoughts on the differences I have noticed (I'm not sure what plays a role here):
1) Group Familiarity: Group 1 is made up of friends that have played games together for 2 or 3 years. We have a lot of experience playing with and against each other in multiple other games. We've played Galaxy Defenders, Heroquest, and Dungeon Saga together. Group 2, the only thing in common we have is me. Everyone is experienced gamers, but no one really knew each other before we started GH (outside of me, who knew everyone). In addition, the past two scenarios with Group 2 have gone a lot smoother and feel better, so maybe there is a variance with how groups work together.

2) Party Composition: Both groups are essentially the same except Group 1 has the TI and Group 2 has the MT. Having the TI has allowed a more aggressive party build because the TI can pull our heads out of out rib cages if things go wrong. The extra heals are great, and the TI has enough offense to allow us to hit really hard when needed.

Group 2 is missing a healer, or really a support character. This has meant that the SW and CH have needed to play that role more than in the other group. And the BR has a more defensive build. Ideally the added damage from the MT would help offset things, but it doesn't seem to make a big enough difference.
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patrick mullen
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Looking for healer...
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Eric Bridge
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Random Ooze spawns. 'Nuff said.
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Daniel Schwarz
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Party comp can make a pretty big difference. We're doing a two player run, and we spent a lot of time choosing our characters for synergy. Ended up going SW+BR for a good mix of tank/heals, melee/ranged, and single target/aoe. When my friend unlocked the Saw class, he looked it over and ended up deciding to not play it. Like the tinkerer, he didn't think it would work as effectively in a small party.

The other thing is prioritization. Once we flip our cards, we can start talking and strategizing together. The most important thing is to focus down the most dangerous enemies early. Anything that can spawn a new creature is an absolute must. After that, things that apply poison or wound, or that deal high damage/pierce. Be careful about taking damage accidentally, be careful opening doors, and try to kill things before they can damage you. Stuns, disarms, and immobilizes can all help neuter a hard hitting enemy.

Communicating and trying to plan a few turns ahead can really help. You need to know how long until you need to rest, whether to use that last set of almost useless cards, or take an early one, remembering to space out card usage so you always have something good to do. Sometimes on SW, he'd ask me to help bunch up enemies so that he could land a good aoe the next turn, or I'd ask him to get ready to tank the next round for me if I had no defences available.

Of course, sometimes you can just get unlucky. We've lost a few rounds. You can often see it coming many turns away. Maybe you quick rested and ended up losing an important card on the mull. Maybe those oozes went out of control. Maybe you only draw nulls. In that case, we just milk as much XP and gold as we can, aim for a quick loss, and give it another shot.

long post...
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David desJardins
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schwazzy wrote:
Party comp can make a pretty big difference. We're doing a two player run, and we spent a lot of time choosing our characters for synergy.


Doesn't that suggest that you don't know whether party composition matters at all? For all you know, any two random characters would have done just as well. That's my general belief.
 
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J Mathews
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DaviddesJ wrote:
schwazzy wrote:
Party comp can make a pretty big difference. We're doing a two player run, and we spent a lot of time choosing our characters for synergy.


Doesn't that suggest that you don't know whether party composition matters at all? For all you know, any two random characters would have done just as well. That's my general belief.

I would tend to agree that any random party can work (possibly not as well with 2-player though). For me, party composition is far more than just the selection of the character, given the flexibility in character progression. There's a melee/off-tank build in the SW just like there is a fringy non-tank build in the BR. The key for party composition is to identify the roles people need to play and build to those roles. I think that may be the biggest issue we have had with Group #2 (above) is that our builds weren't coordinated with specific roles. As we have communicated better and leveled up, we are fitting into roles that are working better. Group #1 never had that problem, as we slipped into roles pretty naturally (possibly due to being more familiar with each other).
 
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David desJardins
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EventHorizon wrote:
The key for party composition is to identify the roles people need to play and build to those roles.


I still don't think so. I don't see any reason to believe there's a need for particular roles. There may be a style of play that uses particular roles, but I think you can play just fine with any set of characters that don't fit into those roles, you just adjust your strategy.

I know we've played with many different sets of characters, swapping characters more or less at random or based on what we unlock, and it never seems to make any difference to difficulty. We also generally build our characters without any regard to what others are doing.
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Giulio
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albcann wrote:
My feeling has always been that the difficulty of the monsters ramps up more quickly than the abilities of the characters. Maybe that is not correct.


Interesting. Our feeling is probably the opposite. We also tend to start at level 1 or 2 and then upgrade the character one level per scenario until it reaches the prosperity level. We do so in order to learn how to play the character before deciding how to actually develop it. In these occasions It occurred that we played a few scenarios on easy, if we weren't confident with the new character deck (I have to admit we do not like to repeat scenarios!). My impression is that if you factor in improved attack deck, better cards and items, higher level characters have an easier life. Or maybe it's just the fact that you learn how to play them.

PS: We mostly play just in two and, contrary to David, we discuss a lot about potential synergies between characters and how to somehow sync our game play. I think with a party of two this is more important. But in any case we find it a very enjoyable part of the game.
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HenningK
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Apart from all other mentioned reasons, I think that Gloomhaven features a need for min-max-ing that isn't familiar to everybody. Not only do you need to maximize your damage and healing output, you also need to make sure to not take too long, or your cards will run out.
Finding a balance between getting a lot done and moving forward swiftly will feel natural for players with a Mage Knight background, but is hard for those who are used to being able to catch their breath after clearing a room.
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