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Subject: Town Portal and Difficulty rss

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Gustav Snyman
South Africa
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Got the game two days ago still going through the rules and forum here.

I'm reading various opinions on the game difficulty. Just curious about the town portal and emporium. From what I gather here they really seem to make a difference to the difficulty. You get a lot of gold and then you can teleport back and forth to restock as you need.

Anyone played enough (as close as possible to the rules) to give a opinion on whether it will be better to house-rule this one. Like make the portal a consumable as well as the items in the emporium?

Or maybe someone could address the balance issues that might be caused by this house-rule.

(Side note: Love everything about the components except those flimsy character sheets. They could really have thrown in another thick board to punch them out. I know the kickstarter had it but oh well... just feels cheap.)
 
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Vasilis
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Snaphaan wrote:
Got the game two days ago still going through the rules and forum here.

I'm reading various opinions on the game difficulty. Just curious about the town portal and emporium. From what I gather here they really seem to make a difference to the difficulty. You get a lot of gold and then you can teleport back and forth to restock as you need.

Anyone played enough (as close as possible to the rules) to give a opinion on whether it will be better to house-rule this one. Like make the portal a consumable as well as the items in the emporium?

Or maybe someone could address the balance issues that might be caused by this house-rule.

(Side note: Love everything about the components except those flimsy character sheets. They could really have thrown in another thick board to punch them out. I know the kickstarter had it but oh well... just feels cheap.)


tl;dr
Make it a consumable item if you don't have an experienced Dungeon Crawling group and/or if you don't enjoy a challenge.
Remove it completely if none of the above applies.




I'm very vocal about Town Portal on these forums so you've probably read at least one of my comments about Town Portal.

In my opinion, this card is HANDS DOWN the most powerful artifact in the whole game and wildly swings the difficulty towards easy mode. From the moment your group finds Town Portal you'll immediately notice how much easier it is to play and complete quests.

I'm kind of a 'power player' when I play co-op games so any card or game mechanic that makes a game easier is a no-no for me. Especially when you don't have to do nothing special to earn it... You just need to wait until it drops.

Some people don't enjoy removing content from the game and resorted to making the card a consumable. This makes it a bit more balanced but it STILL provides a ton of benefits to your party. If you play well, you can thin the Treasure deck enough so it still drops enough times to help you win the campaign.

I've played the FULL campaign (arcane portal, Vastaryous included) two times now and I'm in the middle of my third playthrough. When my group was inexperienced we didn't really notice that Town Portal was making things so easy for us but we definitely commented on how good it is. For the 2nd and 3rd playthrough, we knew what to expect and there were no surprises, the players were considerably better with their tactics and item usage and so on, the Town Portal can be exploited to no end. It's utterly broken.

So removing it is the only option IMO. Unless your group doesn't have much experience with tactical games like this and you do enjoy hard co-op games, removing it completely is the solution.

The game is not that hard in general, if you have at least some experience with tactical games, which is one of the very few things that I don't like. (because I think it is an awesome game and the best dungeon crawler out there). Sure it does have its tense moment and a few spikes in difficulty here and there but overall when you summarize the whole campaign experience, the game is overall on the easy side. At least in my opinion.
Not to be misinterpreted, I don't want the game's difficulty to be at a point where you need luck to win even though you played very well, I just want the game to be difficult enough so that it forces you to manage your resources better (souls and Crowns) instead of having tons of them during the endgame. What to buy with your Crowns should never be an afterthought but during the endgame you'll have money to buy the Emporium items three times over.....

Town Portal exaggerates all of the above to the extreme. Not only you have the money to spare but you can now use a Time stop while in combat, go to the shop and re-buy everything again. At the same time, you dump all your Treasure that you don't need in the Stash in order to free up more Inventory slots so you can haul even more loot back after the quest is over. This breaks the game on so many levels it's not even funny...

Just my 2 cents.
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Gustav Snyman
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Thanks Vasilis.

Weird. I wonder what the designers thought when they implemented it. And sounds like the game is raining coin. Maybe we should half the treasure each time?

If we remove the portal the players can only visit the emporium at the end of each quest, correct?
 
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Vasilis
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Snaphaan wrote:
Thanks Vasilis.

Weird. I wonder what the designers thought when they implemented it. And sounds like the game is raining coin. Maybe we should half the treasure each time?

If we remove the portal the players can only visit the emporium at the end of each quest, correct?

Sometimes several effects don't show how powerful they are when seeing them from a single quest perspective but can be extremely effective when you evaluate it for the full campaign. I believe that town portal is such a case. Note that town portal wouldn't be that powerful if your party wasn't filthy rich during the endgame. Tons of crowns compined with the portal is what makes it extremely effective. One could argue that act 2 emporium items are very cheap and could be more expensive.

If you remove the portal you can visit emporium between quest and several times inside the quests based on the story. Essentially several quests have a similar effect like town portal but with the distinct difference of a) having to do something first to earn the right to go to the emporium and/or b) you just can't do it at will like town portal.
 
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Michael Denman
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First of all, I totally agree that Town Portal as written is ridiculously good. Our solution was to nerf it to be a consumable. We're still in out first runthrough and if we decide that it still seems too good by the end, then we might nerf it further or eliminate it. Perhaps making it a consumable that must be used immediately when discovered or it's consumed anyway? Or maybe it also consumes half of your crowns on transport? Or maybe it can only send one character to the Emporium? Or maybe time doesn't stand still while you're at the Emporium and you have to move through the Event phase once for every item purchased, forged, etc?

Snaphaan wrote:
I'm reading various opinions on the game difficulty. Just curious about the town portal and emporium. From what I gather here they really seem to make a difference to the difficulty. You get a lot of gold and then you can teleport back and forth to restock as you need.

It's not quite THAT amazing. It's use is once per Quest.

Bowmangr wrote:
Some people don't enjoy removing content from the game and resorted to making the card a consumable. This makes it a bit more balanced but it STILL provides a ton of benefits to your party. If you play well, you can thin the Treasure deck enough so it still drops enough times to help you win the campaign.

Really? That Treasure deck seems huge to me. We're doing what we can to thin it but it doesn't seem like we're going to knock it down to even half of it's starting size.
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Gustav Snyman
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Does the Difficulty changes like Legendary, Highlander and Empowered Enemies make any difference?

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Michael Denman
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Snaphaan wrote:
Does the Difficulty changes like Legendary, Highlander and Empowered Enemies make any difference?

Legendary and Empowered Enemies would make the game harder. Some of the combos that can come up can be killer. I'd be hesitant to go that route though because I don't generally like the powers thematically.

Highlander probably doesn't make the game that much harder. If you're not having anyone die, how does cranking up the penalty for death make things harder?

In my opinion, the greatest difficulty factor in the game is your team's composition. Some combinations of characters are just flat out going to have an easier or harder time of it.
 
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Vasilis
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Snaphaan wrote:
Does the Difficulty changes like Legendary, Highlander and Empowered Enemies make any difference?


They do make a difference but please keep in mind that the game is a bit high on the complexity scale as far as dungeon crawlers go and if you are playing for the first time, immediately raising the difficulty may seem too punishing.

You can try playing the game as is (do house rule Town Portal however) and when you end a quest with ease, start increasing it by upscaling Shadow tokens. Giving every single enemy +1 power is strong and will provide with a solid challenge which may not fit an inexperienced group however.

You will also need to have Resurrection scrolls available in your Emporium items so you don't tank your Soul total.
I don't know which expansion included them but the more difficult the game is, the more you'll need to spend money for resurrection scrolls, which is the only good Crown sink in the whole game.

That's another reason why I like an increased difficulty. Because it makes many other things in the game play so much better. They are all connected after all.

Some examples:

If the game is more punishing, you will have to spend money for defensive items. This is not really necessary in normal difficulty beyond buying healing items.

If the game is punishing, you will lose more Souls and you will have to do something so you can preserve them. Namely, protection items and resurrection scrolls which are expensive. Thus, not only you are now losing some Souls because of a few extra deaths instead of having a huge surplus but you also bleed Crowns buying items. In a normal game during the end game you'll have 400+ Crowns if you don't need to spend them on resurrection scrolls. If you are playing decently well, you won't need scrolls.

All in all, an increased difficulty makes the players play the full array of Emporium items instead of just buying extra damage buffs and healing which is just about what 97% of the players do during their first run.

The issue with this is that increasing difficulty on a group that doesn't have much S&S experience may be too difficult because they don't really know what to expect. Difficulty can always be changed in-between quests however so you can always lower or raise it based on your group's performance.

If you start flooding in money and souls, definitely raise the difficulty otherwise you are going to end up like we did the 2nd time around with around 1400 Crowns and 100+ souls to spare..... Not challenging at all.

Note, that the new S&S set that is coming out next year will have a greater difficulty average overall AND ways to make the game harder in an interesting way (changing the quality of the enemies if I understood correctly).

All in all, S&S is great, I absolutely love it otherwise I wouldn't have played 2.5 full length campaigns by now. It just needs a few optional rules to allow players to adjust the above issues in a way that fits the group's skills and desire (or not) to have a real challenge or just hack and slash. Normal difficulty is more hack n'slash, less of a challenge. This is all good but not for everyone.

I'm sure that the Gremlins will 'fix' everything though. I've been playing their games from the Galaxy Defenders days and love them both but GD will always be special for me. Just because it was so much more challenging and memorable when you won that difficult fight. I'd like to relive some of that magic while playing S&S. I'm pretty sure that Ancient Chronicles will be much better in that regard. Maybe the Gremlins will release updated rules for the Immortal Souls campaign too, I don't know. A pdf with Soulrank limits for all Treasure items would be a nice thing to have for example.
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Jeroen
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All Vasilis' posts assume you own expansions. The base retail game doesn't have resurrection scrolls, for example.

In fact, there's not that much to buy in the Emporium. Therefore, Town Portal isn't the most useful Artifact for a new party, imho.
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al Cann
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Vasilis has some wise words ... not much more to add.

I just played the entire Sword and Sorcery Campaign once ... just the base game, Immortal Souls. I had some difficult in the first couple of scenarios as I was learning the game and I didn't realize that the shields and armor activate per weapon, not per attack. So when rolls by an enemy would trigger a secondary weapon, I treated it as if the armor was gone. Made it a lot tougher for me.

That said, once I corrected that rules gaffe, the game as Vasilis said, had challenging moments, but for the next 5 scenarios no one was killed. I never used the Town Portal at all trying to keep the game a little realistic. I found that I gained so many crowns that I ran out of them and had to use proxies to keep track. I also earned so many treasure cards that I just left them there after a while. I was enjoying the game early, but the ease and embarrassment of riches in the later scenarios took me from really liking the game to just wanting to get through it to say that I did. I bought a copy of Arcane Portal and now I am looking to offload it along with my base game. Too many other good games to play.

All this said, I backed Ancient Chronicles and I am looking forward to see how the designers correct some of the flaws in an otherwise very good game. Hopefully, they get it right!
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Warren Smith
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albcann wrote:
I found that I gained so many crowns that I ran out of them and had to use proxies to keep track.
Don't know how much it would actually matter as I've only played the first 2 scenarios, but I thought the crown supply in the game is the limit on what you can get.
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Crimsonsun God
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So I've been looking at conversations around this on the forums as well but am a new player so I have no idea costing it out but couldn't a cost in soul stones and gold as well as a straight inability to use it where the scenario prevents access to the emperium.

I was thinking a cost in Soul = to combined soul rank x act and in gold of combined soul rank x act x 10?

Obviously the cost could be adjusted but it would make the trips no longer as profitable and would have a cost in souls so you'd have another drain on those. A ban on its use in scenarios that don't allow access to the Emperium makes complete sense.

Thoughts? Thing is I like the idea of a Town portal and just making it consumable wont solve anything so a cost that makes it something using is a hard choice that will hinder you in other ways seems the only solution beyond removal.
 
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Timo R
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I have been following discussions around the town portal artifact since we started playing S&S retail a couple of months ago. After completing our first full campaign play-through, I wanted to share what we found.

I have to admit, I do not fully understand why people are so emotional when it comes to the town portal. I think, it is definitively a powerful effect, but to us it never seemed game breaking. And here is why:
1. Except early on, the average party isn't limited in gold
2. This means, you quickly reach the point where you can just buy-out the emporium and where inventory space, not gold, remains as limiting factor
3. Every consumable used during a quest goes into discard piles and returns to the corresponding deck not before the current quest is completed
4. So, the total amount of e.g. emporium healing consumables that are available during a quest is hard capped - the town portal does not change that!

The only thing town portal did for us was providing flexibility in what to bring with us and being able to reconsider load-outs mid-quest. Trade-off here being, that you have to carry it around instead of something potentially more useful in a hero artifact or inventory slot.

The only real issue is, that it allows to circumvent story restrictions: Sometimes, the party is not allowed to visit the emporium between quests. Here I can see how the portal removes some of the tension and potentially can make things easier. However, we barely ever saw the need to fully exploit this.

The real "issue" seems to be, that difficulty in this game mostly does not come from randomness but from the decisions the party makes. If you optimize positioning, hero selection and abilities, load-outs, playing order as well as threat focus while you play, the game has a tendency to snowball. Our drain on all primary game resource mechanics (time, hero hp, consumables) was optimized to be very low, which in turn meant that the income in secondary resources like gold and souls soon became more than we needed to sustain us, i.e. we quickly got filthy rich and SR capped, removing any need to prioritize investments. We always could afford everything: forging, full stock of consumables, swapping powers and buff soul weapons at every use.

Long story short, if you want a challenge, you have to make sure not to optimize play. I.e., select "weaker" characters, a party composition that has gaps etc. - give yourself some handicaps!

I refuse to believe, that the designers made really grave mistakes regarding design of game difficulty. This is the core piece of their work and I think in essence turned out as intended. Maybe like me, the designers are no fans of the concept of randomness to make things difficult. Too much randomness can make more demanding gamers feel not having control and can frustrate quickly. Let's be honest: Would we really enjoy S&S, if we would have characters dying, lose quests or get our asses kicked even if we literally make 0 tactical and strategic mistakes? I think, the answer is no.

You have a lot of control over how hard your game is. Some of this is obvious, most of this comes with experience with the system. Maybe it would have helped if the designers added some of this insight to the section in the rules, which provides guidance on adjusting difficulty?

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Gustav Snyman
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Good to hear another viewpoint about the portal. I thought of actually pitching my question (s) to the designers just to get a clear enough answer. I cant imagine they didn't see this if it was a issue. Then again, thats what house rules are for I guess. Well just limit it if neccasary.
 
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Vasilis
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Callidus wrote:
I have been following discussions around the town portal artifact since we started playing S&S retail a couple of months ago. After completing our first full campaign play-through, I wanted to share what we found.

Nice write-up. Let me answer some of these:

Quote:
I have to admit, I do not fully understand why people are so emotional when it comes to the town portal. I think, it is definitively a powerful effect, but to us it never seemed game breaking.

It's not emotional, it's constructive criticism. If I didn't love the game, I wouldn't be here writing walls of text about it, I would have already sold it...

It's that there are some things that need to come to light just in case the designer wants to do something about them OR thinks that it's fine as it is and do nothing. I'm fine with either case as long as I know that the feedback is read by the people who matter (namely the Gremlins). Let me tell you right now that the Gremlins DO listen to feedback and they DO take action when needed. Therefore, I have motivation to write player feedback for them while I won't do that on other game forums.

Quote:
And here is why:
1. Except early on, the average party isn't limited in gold

This is a bit wrong. Early on is just about the only time during a campaign that the party struggles for money. Mid-game and on, money is in abundance.

Quote:
2. This means, you quickly reach the point where you can just buy-out the emporium and where inventory space, not gold, remains as limiting factor

This again depends on the party's skill level. If a skilled party doesn't take damage then they don't need potions etc. A novice party does take damage and they spend money to cover their healing.

Quote:
3. Every consumable used during a quest goes into discard piles and returns to the corresponding deck not before the current quest is completed

This is wrong and is actually the reason that you find Town Portal less of a powerhouse. Emporium items do not have discard piles. They immediately return to the Emporium deck when spent.

Quote:
4. So, the total amount of e.g. emporium healing consumables that are available during a quest is hard capped - the town portal does not change that!

See above.

Quote:
The only thing town portal did for us was providing flexibility in what to bring with us and being able to reconsider load-outs mid-quest. Trade-off here being, that you have to carry it around instead of something potentially more useful in a hero artifact or inventory slot.

Note that you can dump all unnecessary loot after using Town Portal to your Stash and then have almost all of your Inventory space essentially doubled. This is huge.

Quote:
The only real issue is, that it allows to circumvent story restrictions: Sometimes, the party is not allowed to visit the emporium between quests. Here I can see how the portal removes some of the tension and potentially can make things easier. However, we barely ever saw the need to fully exploit this.

Some missions are balanced around the fact that the players can't visit the Emporium. Now here we have an item that does exactly that. How is that not potentially game-breaking (difficulty-wise)?

Quote:
The real "issue" seems to be, that difficulty in this game mostly does not come from randomness but from the decisions the party makes. If you optimize positioning, hero selection and abilities, load-outs, playing order as well as threat focus while you play, the game has a tendency to snowball.

I agree on this one. The game can and will snowball unless the players are keen enough to increase the difficulty to stop it.
One very simple example to make it easier to understand is that all quests have a 'standalone quest setup' loadout. From around the end of ACT 1 and onwards, we consistently had waaay more resources than what the 'standalone quest loadout' was providing the players. This goes to show that we had been playing over the curve already and it only got worse towards Vastaryous Lair.

Quote:
Our drain on all primary game resource mechanics (time, hero hp, consumables) was optimized to be very low, which in turn meant that the income in secondary resources like gold and souls soon became more than we needed to sustain us, i.e. we quickly got filthy rich and SR capped, removing any need to prioritize investments. We always could afford everything: forging, full stock of consumables, swapping powers and buff soul weapons at every use.

This is also true. Good players will find the game very easy. That's why it needs a difficulty system in place, so it can accommodate parties of different skill levels. S&S's normal difficulty seems easy for an experienced dungeon crawler party. Don't get me wrong, this is NOT a problem. The problem is when you don't really have a solid way to make the game harder for those who want such a thing. The new Ancient Chronicles set will provide that. (remember what I said about the designers listening to feedback? That's it. They also changed Town Portal to 'consumable' as far as I know)

Quote:
Long story short, if you want a challenge, you have to make sure not to optimize play. I.e., select "weaker" characters, a party composition that has gaps etc. - give yourself some handicaps!

This, unfortunately, is not my cup of tea. I do want to optimize and at the same time I want the game to hit me back harder so I can challenge myself to beat it. I know that some people aren't of the 'more challenge=more fun' mentality which is also perfectly normal and noone is asking for the game to become ultra hard for everyone involved, it just needs a solid way to allow players to make it harder if they want. The offered difficulty levels were nice but they felt a bit weak. The newer system of replacing enemies with more powerful version is an excellent idea though and I can't wait to try it out.

Quote:
I refuse to believe, that the designers made really grave mistakes regarding design of game difficulty. This is the core piece of their work and I think in essence turned out as intended.

I may now sound like an elitist a$$hole but please bear with me, that's not really the case.
Their previous game, Galaxy Defenders, was a HARDCORE sci-fi game with difficult missions. I believe some GD fans were expecting the same kind of treatment here, me included.
I was afraid that S&S was going to be watered down because generally (and don't burn me at the stake for this comment) fantasy games are a bit more mainstream than sci-fi and they almost always get dumbed down compared to their sci-fi counterparts to appeal to a not-so-hardcore crowd. This is noticeable for everyone that plays games from both genres.
GD also had some people saying that they found it too hard.

All of this combined resulted in a more toned down difficulty level for S&S. You want your game to sell more, you don't want to cater to the needs of considerably lesser numbers of hardcore gamers after all. I understand all this.

BUT, we are only human and in games with many moving parts, sometimes something can get overpowered and fly under the radar. It's possible that Town Portal just didn't show how much more powerful it is while a party is snowballing a full campaign. Meanwhile maybe it was perfectly fine when balancing it from a single-quest perspective.

Quote:
Maybe like me, the designers are no fans of the concept of randomness to make things difficult. Too much randomness can make more demanding gamers feel not having control and can frustrate quickly. Let's be honest: Would we really enjoy S&S, if we would have characters dying, lose quests or get our asses kicked even if we literally make 0 tactical and strategic mistakes? I think, the answer is no.

I also have to agree to this. I mentioned this in my previous post. I don't want the game to be dictated by pure luck even though the players try their best to win. But I do want the game's mechanics to be in full effect for the duration. Having 1000 Crowns towards the end game made the whole 'what should we buy now?' mini-game obsolete. Having 100+ Souls made the emotional impact of a Hero death, a joke and so on and so forth.

Quote:
You have a lot of control over how hard your game is. Some of this is obvious, most of this comes with experience with the system. Maybe it would have helped if the designers added some of this insight to the section in the rules, which provides guidance on adjusting difficulty?

I'm pretty happy with how the Gremlins answered the request for difficulty adjustment during the KS campaign of Ancient Chronicles. I fully plan to use maximum difficulty immediately. Others would like to play in normal mode. We both should have fun. That's the whole point.
 
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al Cann
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Bowmangr wrote:

This is also true. Good players will find the game very easy. That's why it needs a difficulty system in place, so it can accommodate parties of different skill levels. S&S's normal difficulty seems easy for an experienced dungeon crawler party. Don't get me wrong, this is NOT a problem. The problem is when you don't really have a solid way to make the game harder for those who want such a thing. The new Ancient Chronicles set will provide that. (remember what I said about the designers listening to feedback? That's it. They also changed Town Portal to 'consumable' as far as I know)

I hope you are right about Ancient Chronicles. I got Immortal souls and started playing right around the holidays. Really liked the first couple of chapters and then, rolling in crowns and treasures, I waltzed through the rest of the game with ease. The game is going right to ebay.

Bowmangr wrote:

I may now sound like an elitist a$$hole but please bear with me, that's not really the case.
Their previous game, Galaxy Defenders, was a HARDCORE sci-fi game with difficult missions. I believe some GD fans were expecting the same kind of treatment here, me included.
I was afraid that S&S was going to be watered down because generally (and don't burn me at the stake for this comment) fantasy games are a bit more mainstream than sci-fi and they almost always get dumbed down compared to their sci-fi counterparts to appeal to a not-so-hardcore crowd. This is noticeable for everyone that plays games from both genres.
GD also had some people saying that they found it too hard.

All of this combined resulted in a more toned down difficulty level for S&S. You want your game to sell more, you don't want to cater to the needs of considerably lesser numbers of hardcore gamers after all. I understand all this.

BUT, we are only human and in games with many moving parts, sometimes something can get overpowered and fly under the radar. It's possible that Town Portal just didn't show how much more powerful it is while a party is snowballing a full campaign. Meanwhile maybe it was perfectly fine when balancing it from a single-quest perspective.

Don't be hard on yourself ... you are spot on with your analysis of the fantasy setting vs the Sci-Fi setting.

Bowmangr wrote:

I'm pretty happy with how the Gremlins answered the request for difficulty adjustment during the KS campaign of Ancient Chronicles. I fully plan to use maximum difficulty immediately. Others would like to play in normal mode. We both should have fun. That's the whole point.

S&S has the potential to be the best of the dungeon crawlers, if they toughen it up. Looking forward to seeing if they do!
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Timo R
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Thanks for the good discussion!

Bowmangr wrote:
Callidus wrote:
1. Except early on, the average party isn't limited in gold
This is a bit wrong. Early on is just about the only time during a campaign that the party struggles for money. Mid-game and on, money is in abundance.


Not sure, where we disagree? This is, what I have been saying (or at least meant, if it wasn't clear enough ^^).

Bowmangr wrote:
Callidus wrote:
3. Every consumable used during a quest goes into discard piles and returns to the corresponding deck not before the current quest is completed
This is wrong and is actually the reason that you find Town Portal less of a powerhouse. Emporium items do not have discard piles. They immediately return to the Emporium deck when spent.

That's very odd and clearly explains the difference in opinion. However, I did a sorrow job scanning through all the rules and errata I could find again, an frankly: I did not find the clear ruling you mention. What is defined:
- Emporium is a "deck"
- Decks have a "discard"
- Items (whether treasure, emporium purchase or other) can be discarded due to game effects (e.g. consuming)
- Discard is generally shuffled back into the respective deck at the end of a quest, or if specifically stated (e.g. the enemy deck running out)

I suspect, there is something I am missing, whether a clarification by the designer or some hidden piece of text in the rules. The veterans here (like you) probably know more. Whatever may be the case, managing a discard for the emporium like for all others decks and returning it to the deck only end of quest seems a pretty straight forward solution to me. Whether the amount of copies of a specific item available at the emporium is balanced, is another matter. But at least this way, the game naturally enforces this limit to stay in effect on a per quest basis without having to introduce house rules or even ban the town portal.

Bowmangr wrote:
Note that you can dump all unnecessary loot after using Town Portal to your Stash and then have almost all of your Inventory space essentially doubled. This is huge.
Huge, yes. But not game breaking. Pulling e.g. one of the best weapons from the Act I treasure deck very early in your campaign has a similar or potentially much higher impact on how difficulty develops with campaign progression. But there are not many apparent solutions to that besides sorting all treasure into tiers and unlocking them gradually at fixed points in the campaign. And this removes some of the fun of pulling treasure, because you know about this restraint put in place and that the best you can hope for is a marginal increase in power. For all else, you just have to endure until the campaign progress unlocks it. I do not yet have an opinion here, just pondering the options and potential implications.

Bowmangr wrote:
Callidus wrote:
The only real issue is, that it allows to circumvent story restrictions: Sometimes, the party is not allowed to visit the emporium between quests. Here I can see how the portal removes some of the tension and potentially can make things easier. However, we barely ever saw the need to fully exploit this.
Some missions are balanced around the fact that the players can't visit the Emporium. Now here we have an item that does exactly that. How is that not potentially game-breaking (difficulty-wise)?

Due to the points on difficulty I made later, I just highlighted the fact, that it did not make much difference to our particular experience.

I think, we do not disagree on this one either. If not being able to visit the emporium is a quest difficulty factor they designed in, it should either not be very important to how the quest evolves from a difficulty perspective (just some drama), or the town portal needs to be constrained by a quest specific mechanic ("if the heroes posses the town portal artifact, *insert random story reason why the artifact is malfunctioning*").

Bowmangr wrote:
I'm pretty happy with how the Gremlins answered the request for difficulty adjustment during the KS campaign of Ancient Chronicles. I fully plan to use maximum difficulty immediately. Others would like to play in normal mode. We both should have fun. That's the whole point.

I also backed Ancient Chronicles, but have not been engaged in any related discussion (still quite new to the community and still have to see the campaign finale - this retail release schedule sucks -_-). I am looking forward to a system that improves on the game we have today, however, until that happens, I can accept the fact that we have to be very conscious about what particular things take away the challenge we are looking for.

A final thought: Before we moved on to S&S last year, we totally and utterly exhausted Gloomhaven. And, without really having the intention to enter any discussion on this topic or being stoned to death as a blasphemer: It wasn't really different. Once we had the system sorted out, we broke it. Difficulty +2 for the last 2/3s of the campaign and only a hand full of quests that had real difficulty spikes and derailed our steam truck. We ended up intentionally making sub-optimal choices in party composition and builds in order to keep it interesting. There is a well developed and superior system to tune difficulty, but once you reach the point where people play optimally, there is no increasing difficulty anymore without the risk of frustration due to uncontrollable randomness. With S&S, this might be more extreme - but it is the same issue.

Maybe you are quite right with your assessment, that it must be the fantasy setting and target audience. But in my experience, this only affects the default challenge and not the general issues at the end of the curve.
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Callidus wrote:
Thanks for the good discussion!

Bowmangr wrote:
Callidus wrote:
1. Except early on, the average party isn't limited in gold
This is a bit wrong. Early on is just about the only time during a campaign that the party struggles for money. Mid-game and on, money is in abundance.


Not sure, where we disagree? This is, what I have been saying (or at least meant, if it wasn't clear enough ^^).

ΟΚ, no worries then.

Quote:
Bowmangr wrote:
Callidus wrote:
3. Every consumable used during a quest goes into discard piles and returns to the corresponding deck not before the current quest is completed
This is wrong and is actually the reason that you find Town Portal less of a powerhouse. Emporium items do not have discard piles. They immediately return to the Emporium deck when spent.

That's very odd and clearly explains the difference in opinion. However, I did a sorrow job scanning through all the rules and errata I could find again, an frankly: I did not find the clear ruling you mention. What is defined:
- Emporium is a "deck"
- Decks have a "discard"
- Items (whether treasure, emporium purchase or other) can be discarded due to game effects (e.g. consuming)
- Discard is generally shuffled back into the respective deck at the end of a quest, or if specifically stated (e.g. the enemy deck running out)

I suspect, there is something I am missing, whether a clarification by the designer or some hidden piece of text in the rules. The veterans here (like you) probably know more. Whatever may be the case, managing a discard for the emporium like for all others decks and returning it to the deck only end of quest seems a pretty straight forward solution to me. Whether the amount of copies of a specific item available at the emporium is balanced, is another matter. But at least this way, the game naturally enforces this limit to stay in effect on a per quest basis without having to introduce house rules or even ban the town portal.

It is indeed clarified by the designer. But adding a hard cap to the Emporium items is a possible solution indeed.

Quote:
Bowmangr wrote:
Note that you can dump all unnecessary loot after using Town Portal to your Stash and then have almost all of your Inventory space essentially doubled. This is huge.
Huge, yes. But not game breaking. Pulling e.g. one of the best weapons from the Act I treasure deck very early in your campaign has a similar or potentially much higher impact on how difficulty develops with campaign progression. But there are not many apparent solutions to that besides sorting all treasure into tiers and unlocking them gradually at fixed points in the campaign. And this removes some of the fun of pulling treasure, because you know about this restraint put in place and that the best you can hope for is a marginal increase in power. For all else, you just have to endure until the campaign progress unlocks it. I do not yet have an opinion here, just pondering the options and potential implications.

Pulling an OP weapon early does affect difficulty. This is going to get fixed in the new version with rank prerequisites (and hopefully we may get something like a PDF doing the same for the original game)

Quote:
Bowmangr wrote:
Callidus wrote:
The only real issue is, that it allows to circumvent story restrictions: Sometimes, the party is not allowed to visit the emporium between quests. Here I can see how the portal removes some of the tension and potentially can make things easier. However, we barely ever saw the need to fully exploit this.
Some missions are balanced around the fact that the players can't visit the Emporium. Now here we have an item that does exactly that. How is that not potentially game-breaking (difficulty-wise)?

Due to the points on difficulty I made later, I just highlighted the fact, that it did not make much difference to our particular experience.

I think, we do not disagree on this one either. If not being able to visit the emporium is a quest difficulty factor they designed in, it should either not be very important to how the quest evolves from a difficulty perspective (just some drama), or the town portal needs to be constrained by a quest specific mechanic ("if the heroes posses the town portal artifact, *insert random story reason why the artifact is malfunctioning*").

In general, I agree with most of what you wrote. I just think that Town Portal is broken, not just 'really good'.

Quote:
Bowmangr wrote:
I'm pretty happy with how the Gremlins answered the request for difficulty adjustment during the KS campaign of Ancient Chronicles. I fully plan to use maximum difficulty immediately. Others would like to play in normal mode. We both should have fun. That's the whole point.

I also backed Ancient Chronicles, but have not been engaged in any related discussion (still quite new to the community and still have to see the campaign finale - this retail release schedule sucks -_-). I am looking forward to a system that improves on the game we have today, however, until that happens, I can accept the fact that we have to be very conscious about what particular things take away the challenge we are looking for.

If I had the time, I'd try a +1 enemy power to all enemies approach. This will probably make the game harder but may also provide some really tough situations when the card accidentally makes a great combo with the enemy's abilities. On the other hand, this will provide a reason to spend money later on to buy resurrection scrolls (the single most expensive item in the game, 250 Crowns)

Quote:
A final thought: Before we moved on to S&S last year, we totally and utterly exhausted Gloomhaven. And, without really having the intention to enter any discussion on this topic or being stoned to death as a blasphemer: It wasn't really different. Once we had the system sorted out, we broke it. Difficulty +2 for the last 2/3s of the campaign and only a hand full of quests that had real difficulty spikes and derailed our steam truck. We ended up intentionally making sub-optimal choices in party composition and builds in order to keep it interesting. There is a well developed and superior system to tune difficulty, but once you reach the point where people play optimally, there is no increasing difficulty anymore without the risk of frustration due to uncontrollable randomness. With S&S, this might be more extreme - but it is the same issue.

I've also been playing GH campaign for around 400 days now (around 70 quests and counting). I have to agree that it has the same 'issue'. It's easy once you get the hang of it. We can beat 'Very Hard' now, not with ease but we can beat it.

The main difference in my opinion is that GH is designed with the idea that you'll just get your fun from 'progression'. The game doesn't really care about killing you and even if it does, the rules allow you to just get your XP and loot and continue playing like nothing happened. There is no real penalty for dying.

This is the main difference from S&S. When I play GH, I sit back and enjoy making my combos, I don't really fear that my hero will die because even if he does nothing bad happens in the end beyond having to replay the quest on a later date. The penalty is not that painful. I believe this was a conscious design decision. Especially for a game that includes 95 quests... Just imagine having to play and re-play quests because the game was brutal.... Noone would ever finish it.

S&S is a bit different, it's linear, you can't choose to go play a different quest. A death is painful, you lose resources. All these make me think that it is a challenge. But if the game ends up easy, then the illusion of challenge is dispelled. I don't know if this makes sense.

Quote:
Maybe you are quite right with your assessment, that it must be the fantasy setting and target audience. But in my experience, this only affects the default challenge and not the general issues at the end of the curve.

I enjoyed my 2.5 S&S campaigns very much even though we had our 'too easy' issue in the end. I know the designers are tackling the difficulty issue with Ancient Chronicles and I believe the game will only get better. It is already one of the best if not the best Dungeon Crawlers out there.
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