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Subject: Is this game too hard? rss

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David Griffin
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I've watched some videos on this game, specifically the Rolling Solo game for the prologue. To me, that prologue seemed excruciatingly hard. It seems like it would have been very frustrating to play, though the host was having fun, so not knocking the game.

Yet I see people on these forums saying the game is too easy. I'm finding it hard to balance what I've seen with what I've read.

Additionally, looking at the speed the Player characters can travel, vs. what the monsters can travel, and the apparent lack of distance weapons for the characters (I know there is an archer, but I see comments about him being ineffective, at least at the beginning and that magic characters seem to not have ranged spells either); it doesn't look as though you can kite the monsters to minimize which ones you face first. They're on you too fast and the maps (at least the prologue map) had no long corridors.

Can anyone comment on these things to help me understand what this game is like to play. I play a lot of dungeon crawls but I haven't played this one. Thanks.
 
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Michael Denman
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We've found the difficulty to be average to easy. We had a death or two starting out, but since then we've had nothing but a few close calls. I'm okay with that, but we could easily have weathered more deaths and still succeeded. I am still on my first playthrough but I definitely plan to go through this campaign again and again, trying out different combinations of characters and/or players.

While basic tactics do matter, it seems to me that the game difficulty may be swinging on party composition. We have Ecarus in our group taking on a lot of attacks. If we didn't have him, we'd probably need to have some other character who took on a similar task. Morrigan is dealing out some serious damage at short range, but if she was getting attacked twice as often, she'd probably get a time or two. I also wonder how much the party size matters. Our party is three characters and the third character is Onamor. We try to be cautious with his demon summoning because it bumps up our characters count and creates more spawning. That can be a bit more dangerous at times and at other times, we welcome more enemies to mow through for treasure.

So what's it like to play? I would assume you've played Descent. It's sort of like that, but I like this a bit better. Descent is very precise as to where characters are standing, attack range, and damage radius. S&S dials that back slightly and I really like that. You still care about position and range, but you don't have to look at it in such minute detail. One aspect of S&S that is definitely increased over other games of its ilk, is the enemy AI. That is most definitely something we're calculating into our plans when fighting our way through the dungeon. "Let's hang back and get those cultists to fire arcane bolts at us because if we close in too fast they're going to panic and start summoning demons all over the place." Something like that.

Right now, my biggest gripe with the game is the cash. You start out dirt poor and are excited to buy the simplest items, but it doesn't take long before you are rolling in the cash and can easily buy anything you could possibly want. So taking risks to get more cash in a dungeon... meh. Finding more magic items is interesting, but more cash, not so much. Lest you get the wrong idea, all of this cash isn't making you OP. What's available for purchase is really minor compared to what you can loot. You spend most of your cash maintaining some of your equipment (it's called forging) and buying consumables like potions and scrolls. That's simply not an expensive thing to do.
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The first mission is hard mainly because of players being inexperienced with the game. Also, it's hard because it can. The penalties for dying in the first mission are minute therefore the game doesn't really care if you die a few times.

I do have to add that based on what I've seen and what I've read here, there are certain play groups that find the game's difficulty good enough but almost always aren't groups of experienced dungeon crawler players.

A player with dungeon crawler experience will immediately recognize after a few sessions what works well and will start to gain an advantage over the game's AI. If you multiply this effect over several quests where the party accumulates wealth, items and loot, I believe you can guess where this is headed...

So, to put it in a few words, the game's difficulty is OK for inexperienced dungeon crawler players but easy for experienced gamers. The less you power-play the game, the harder it becomes.

PS.
The new Ancient Chronicles core set that will release in the future will feature an overall harder campaign and some difficulty options so that you can tailor it to your taste. Having said that S&S is a great game and if you want to enjoy it right now you can play Immortal Souls instead just as well. There are some recommendations in this forum to increase the difficulty if need be.
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al Cann
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Trump wrote:
We've found the difficulty to be average to easy. We had a death or two starting out, but since then we've had nothing but a few close calls. I'm okay with that, but we could easily have weathered more deaths and still succeeded. I am still on my first playthrough but I definitely plan to go through this campaign again and again, trying out different combinations of characters and/or players.

While basic tactics do matter, it seems to me that the game difficulty may be swinging on party composition. We have Ecarus in our group taking on a lot of attacks. If we didn't have him, we'd probably need to have some other character who took on a similar task. Morrigan is dealing out some serious damage at short range, but if she was getting attacked twice as often, she'd probably get a time or two. I also wonder how much the party size matters. Our party is three characters and the third character is Onamor. We try to be cautious with his demon summoning because it bumps up our characters count and creates more spawning. That can be a bit more dangerous at times and at other times, we welcome more enemies to mow through for treasure.

So what's it like to play? I would assume you've played Descent. It's sort of like that, but I like this a bit better. Descent is very precise as to where characters are standing, attack range, and damage radius. S&S dials that back slightly and I really like that. You still care about position and range, but you don't have to look at it in such minute detail. One aspect of S&S that is definitely increased over other games of its ilk, is the enemy AI. That is most definitely something we're calculating into our plans when fighting our way through the dungeon. "Let's hang back and get those cultists to fire arcane bolts at us because if we close in too fast they're going to panic and start summoning demons all over the place." Something like that.

Right now, my biggest gripe with the game is the cash. You start out dirt poor and are excited to buy the simplest items, but it doesn't take long before you are rolling in the cash and can easily buy anything you could possibly want. So taking risks to get more cash in a dungeon... meh. Finding more magic items is interesting, but more cash, not so much. Lest you get the wrong idea, all of this cash isn't making you OP. What's available for purchase is really minor compared to what you can loot. You spend most of your cash maintaining some of your equipment (it's called forging) and buying consumables like potions and scrolls. That's simply not an expensive thing to do.


I agree with Michael ... the game, IMHO, is much better than Descent and has a better story. It also can be played solo whereas Descent doesn't work as well solo. My party bathed in treasure and crowns to the extent that I stopped paying attention. I had what I needed and I didn't need anything else.

You could consider late pledging Ancient Chronicles, the next iteration of S&S. The designers have apparently addressed some of the issues that have been brought to their attention, namely ease and treasure/crown excesses, so I suspect things might be better in Ancient Chronicles. One can only hope!
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David Griffin
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Ok, haven't played Descent but I have played the D&D Adventure Board Games, Massive Darkness, Zombicide Black Plague, Myth and a number of others (mostly the ones I can play solo).

I'm hearing that solo with 3 characters (the right characters) I may well find it hard due to experience (or lack thereof), little gear, and little money (and no opportunity to buy anything). But that very quickly I will stabilize and find the monsters easier to deal with.
 
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Timo R
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My only experience with the game is in 5 player mode, so I cannot say how this translates into differently sized parties. Our experience with the game mechanics indicate that with a large party you are less likely to be under time pressure (can get more done in one round), but positioning is critical, as an exposed character can easily be getting focused down by multiple enemies without being able to act for extended periods of time.

We have found the game to be easy during our early first campaign, but this was mainly due to fact of getting some rule nuances wrong. So, my recommendation is: Make sure you have ALL the rules down, otherwise your experience will be different to very different from what the designers intended it to be. We have found, that Sword & Sorcery is the type of game where getting every detail right really matters.

That being said, there are a few things that can alter your experience:

1. Randomness of the treasure deck - Having good equipment, primarily high damage weapons, available early makes the game much more forgiving as you can power through many fights with less than ideal tactics without getting punished too much.

2. Party composition: There are characters and character combinations that are much easier to make work effectively then others. I will not give you examples, as for us this has been one of the most interesting aspects of the game. My only remark: The base game selection is a well considered one and very balanced.

3. Randomness of spawns and dice throws: This usually just increases tension or makes things a bit less dangerous. I'd consider this influence very well designed. Positioning and tactics have much more impact than luck or bad luck.

4. There are some quests where the game can present you with barely surmountable challenge if you react wrongly due to inexperience (Arcane Portal has some nasty enemy interactions that can get out of hand under circumstances, with little options to deal with it if you are not prepared - even with a well equipped and leveled party).

There are lots of complaints about getting showered in souls and gold later on. Generally, this seems to be a snowballing effect. If you already are steamrolling through the game, you amass an excess of resources because you barely die anymore and need less consumables to sustain your party, which makes the game even easier. If you struggle however, this amount of souls and gold influx is required to keep your party in the game! Thus, I'd not consider this a problem as it gives you options, room to make errors, deliberately make sub-optimal choices in party composition and experiment with the game. Being heavily options limited all the time is just not fun - at least for the likes of me.

Another factor than can make the game easy and you often read about is the town portal artifact. However, this can be a non-issue if you keep used emporium consumables in a discard pile that only gets shuffled back after the quest is complete (like with all other decks of cards by default unless specifically ruled otherwise). The designer himself published a different ruling after being asked for clarification on this forum, but I have my suspicion he might regret doing so ;-)

Our verdict after 3 campaigns is: The game is well balanced. There just should be more balanced and fully embedded mechanics to optionally increase difficulty for people that crave the extra challenge / are doing too well on average. The base difficulty seems to be just fine.
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Michael Denman
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Callidus wrote:
Another factor than can make the game easy and you often read about is the town portal artifact. However, this can be a non-issue if you keep used emporium consumables in a discard pile that only gets shuffled back after the quest is complete (like with all other decks of cards by default unless specifically ruled otherwise). The designer himself published a different ruling after being asked for clarification on this forum, but I have my suspicion he might regret doing so ;-)


Agreed. We could see how broken this card was the instant we found it and it became a consumable on the spot.
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Gene Chiu
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carbon_dragon wrote:
I've watched some videos on this game, specifically the Rolling Solo game for the prologue. To me, that prologue seemed excruciatingly hard. It seems like it would have been very frustrating to play, though the host was having fun, so not knocking the game.

Yet I see people on these forums saying the game is too easy. I'm finding it hard to balance what I've seen with what I've read.


I don't find this game very hard. I've played mostly the first half of the first campaign multiple times. Out of a dozen or so games, we only failed twice. Can't say about the later missions. I only played up to mission 4.

Quote:
Additionally, looking at the speed the Player characters can travel, vs. what the monsters can travel, and the apparent lack of distance weapons for the characters (I know there is an archer, but I see comments about him being ineffective, at least at the beginning and that magic characters seem to not have ranged spells either); it doesn't look as though you can kite the monsters to minimize which ones you face first. They're on you too fast and the maps (at least the prologue map) had no long corridors.


The sorceress/enchantress has ranged spells and do have a spell that can one shot most green ranked enemies and some blue. The spell does have a one turn cool down.

The archer or any Dex hero can have access to ranged weapons. The bow that is available at the start is not very good. There is also some other effect that makes it worse. Once he gets a better bow, he's fine.

Movement and positioning is important in this game. Once you understand the game better, you realise how to position yourself to minimise the damage to your party. Some enemies are very effective under certain conditions. You have to try to ensure they don't get into those situations. If you do, you have to know how to get out of them.

Some bad rolls or card draws can cause things to cascade. Every turn, you draw a card that indicates how many enemies activate. Sometimes it is none, sometimes it can be 2 or more. Most of the time, I don't find it to be much of an issue, even in the first quest. There are a few places in the campaign where monsters can pop out in unexpected places. Those situation can be challenging.
 
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David Griffin
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Stuntman wrote:
...
The archer or any Dex hero can have access to ranged weapons. The bow that is available at the start is not very good. There is also some other effect that makes it worse. Once he gets a better bow, he's fine.

Movement and positioning is important in this game. Once you understand the game better, you realise how to position yourself to minimise the damage to your party. Some enemies are very effective under certain conditions. You have to try to ensure they don't get into those situations. If you do, you have to know how to get out of them.

Some bad rolls or card draws can cause things to cascade. Every turn, you draw a card that indicates how many enemies activate. Sometimes it is none, sometimes it can be 2 or more. Most of the time, I don't find it to be much of an issue, even in the first quest. There are a few places in the campaign where monsters can pop out in unexpected places. Those situation can be challenging.


Tried to get one on eBay but the price went too high. So if I do want to pick one up, how important is it to get the highest end kickstarter version (Immortal Hero I understand) vs. the much cheaper Immortal Souls box?
 
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I bought everything retail so I clearly don't believe you need any Kickstarter material at all.
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Tomer Mlynarsky
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As far as difficulty goes, it really depends on party composition.
I think more heroes = harder since monsters activate more.
In addition, the dwarf cleric really has healing powers out the wazoo.

At later missions, conditions are worst than damage and he makes it a piece of cake.

Even without a healer, it's not game breaking and very doable, but it's so much easier with him.

carbon_dragon wrote:

Tried to get one on eBay but the price went too high. So if I do want to pick one up, how important is it to get the highest end kickstarter version (Immortal Hero I understand) vs. the much cheaper Immortal Souls box?

The only KS exclusive was Tristan. A single hero.
I think the Hollywood deck is also KS exclusive, it isn't a big deal.
It might also not be exclusive and released at some point.

Bowmangr wrote:

The first mission is hard mainly because of players being inexperienced with the game.

Disagree. I did the entire campaign already several times and I still say the first mission is the hardest.

This is because
Spoiler (click to reveal)

The night penalty is a -1 hit

The gremlins gain -1 hits from slash and you don't have a lot of options for most characters.

Some basic weapons are already weak like the starting bow.
 
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GrandMasterFox wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:

The first mission is hard mainly because of players being inexperienced with the game.

Disagree. I did the entire campaign already several times and I still say the first mission is the hardest.

This is because
Spoiler (click to reveal)

The night penalty is a -1 hit

The gremlins gain -1 hits from slash and you don't have a lot of options for most characters.

Some basic weapons are already weak like the starting bow.


You must be joking. There are definitely harder missions in the campaign than avoiding a few gremlins for 3 rounds and rushing to get the Day started...
 
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Bowmangr wrote:

You must be joking. There are definitely harder missions in the campaign than avoiding a few gremlins for 3 rounds and rushing to get the Day started...

You're assuming you know how to trigger it.
That won't happen on the first play run.



And if you're talking Immortal Souls?
Then nope. The later missions become easier than that.
 
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In Massive Darkness, in the first game I played, I found it pretty tough, and that was mainly because I didn’t understand how to play and I was just rushing at the monsters in a pretty brainless fashion.

As I started vaguely understanding what the game wanted me to do, I started playing a bit smarter — not opening doors with my last action, not opening doors with non-slippery characters, deciding to NOT fight a monster if it was too powerful, hiding to let him go by and getting him later on, etc.

So armed with that understanding, were I to try the intro scenario now, I’d probably think it was much easier than I thought it was then. I often get people telling me how easy something is, but it’s from a more knowledgeable, experienced perspective, which isn’t necessarily what I’m going to encounter, given that I lack that knowledge.

Ditto with instruction manuals. By the time you really understand the game, the manual might be fine, and you may well forget how annoying it was trying to learn the game from it. But if you tell a new player that is’a fine because it is to you NOW, he may find that it’s actually not so good. Perspective and experience are powerful filters to what you perceive.

I don’t play the same game (usually) 20 times, it’s more like 3 or 4 times and come back to it later. So some games require so much play that I’ll never crack the strategy 3-4 at a time. Sometimes it’s hard to identify those.
 
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GrandMasterFox wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:

You must be joking. There are definitely harder missions in the campaign than avoiding a few gremlins for 3 rounds and rushing to get the Day started...

You're assuming you know how to trigger it.
That won't happen on the first play run.


Which is exactly what I said above and you disagreed. The mission is hard for inexperienced players. I can't see your point here...



Quote:
And if you're talking Immortal Souls?
Then nope. The later missions become easier than that.


Mission four is easier than the first one for inexperienced players? Really? Where you can easily wipe during the first 3 turns or lose because you haven't calculated the remaining turns correctly? I'll have to disagree with this.
 
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carbon_dragon wrote:
Tried to get one on eBay but the price went too high. So if I do want to pick one up, how important is it to get the highest end kickstarter version (Immortal Hero I understand) vs. the much cheaper Immortal Souls box?


My understanding is that the only kickstarter material not available in retail is Tristan. I believe he comes with a spear. I'm buying everything I can through retail channels from my FLGS. Still waiting for 2 more hero packs and Vastaryous' Lair.

I haven't looked into the KS product in detail. You can compare what they include with what is available in retail.
 
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carbon_dragon wrote:
In Massive Darkness, in the first game I played, I found it pretty tough, and that was mainly because I didn’t understand how to play and I was just rushing at the monsters in a pretty brainless fashion.


There is a lot more depth and strategy to this game than Massive Darkness. It's also a lot more narritive driven, so 'figuring it out' will take a lot longer.
I think the difficulty will be fine for you. Most people who say the game is too easy are very experienced/skilled players who likely got through Galaxy Defenders (Gremlins previous game, which was very challenging!)

Me, I prefer the game to be slightly on the easier side. It allows room for error without getting frustraing and I like to play more for the experience than the challenge.
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carbon_dragon wrote:
I've watched some videos on this game, specifically the Rolling Solo game for the prologue. To me, that prologue seemed excruciatingly hard. It seems like it would have been very frustrating to play, though the host was having fun, so not knocking the game.

Yet I see people on these forums saying the game is too easy. I'm finding it hard to balance what I've seen with what I've read.

Additionally, looking at the speed the Player characters can travel, vs. what the monsters can travel, and the apparent lack of distance weapons for the characters (I know there is an archer, but I see comments about him being ineffective, at least at the beginning and that magic characters seem to not have ranged spells either); it doesn't look as though you can kite the monsters to minimize which ones you face first. They're on you too fast and the maps (at least the prologue map) had no long corridors.

Can anyone comment on these things to help me understand what this game is like to play. I play a lot of dungeon crawls but I haven't played this one. Thanks.


I think the difference in difficulty may come down to player count and composition. It's probably going to be a hard game if you try to play 2 DPS. A tank, healer and DPS might find the game much easier. The game compensates for player count to a certain degree, but some fights may be the same for 2 players as it is for 3 players (or 4 and 5).

There's also an introductory mode in the manual that makes leveling easier and reduces the penalty for dying. I played the first quest using those rules (although I forgot to make leveling easier) but haven't used them since. I use a tank and 2 DPS, for what it's worth.

Last, I don't think it's fair to compare Massive Darkness and Sword & Sorcery, at least for the campaign. MD's campaign was added at the last minute and the engine wasn't really built for it. It's a hack n slash game at heart. S&S was built to be a campaign game. If you enjoyed MD's campaign, I have to think you'll love S&S. It's far superior campaign game, in my opinion.
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Oleary393 wrote:
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I think the difference in difficulty may come down to player count and composition. It's probably going to be a hard game if you try to play 2 DPS. A tank, healer and DPS might find the game much easier. The game compensates for player count to a certain degree, but some fights may be the same for 2 players as it is for 3 players (or 4 and 5).

There's also an introductory mode in the manual that makes leveling easier and reduces the penalty for dying. I played the first quest using those rules (although I forgot to make leveling easier) but haven't used them since. I use a tank and 2 DPS, for what it's worth.

Last, I don't think it's fair to compare Massive Darkness and Sword & Sorcery, at least for the campaign. MD's campaign was added at the last minute and the engine wasn't really built for it. It's a hack n slash game at heart. S&S was built to be a campaign game. If you enjoyed MD's campaign, I have to think you'll love S&S. It's far superior campaign game, in my opinion.


Massive darkness has a lot more strategy than it looks like it has on the surface, that was part of what I was saying. But the campaign is very unsatisfactory. I think it's because campaign play is so counter to the very heart of the game. MD is designed to give you the feeling of a campaign all within a single game. You go from weak to a god within the space of a single play. Awfully hard to turn that into a campaign.

I enjoyed the MD campaigns (played all 3) but mostly because I really like the game, not because of the quality of the campaign.
 
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Callidus wrote:

We have found the game to be easy during our early first campaign, but this was mainly due to fact of getting some rule nuances wrong. So, my recommendation is: Make sure you have ALL the rules down, otherwise your experience will be different to very different from what the designers intended it to be.


Considering we are getting ready to start our first campaign (also with 5 players), would you mind sharing which rules you got wrong? I would love to avoid that pitfall. Thank you in advance!
 
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Damianos Theodoropoulos
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Bassplant wrote:

Considering we are getting ready to start our first campaign (also with 5 players), would you mind sharing which rules you got wrong? I would love to avoid that pitfall. Thank you in advance!


There are plenty of thing you might miss. On my first try, i didnt even follow the time phase/hero-enemy phase/event phase flow correctly.

For starters make sure your party is consistent in terms of soul nature. Then make sure each hero has legal abilities (both level and soul nature matter). Since you will be 5 heroes, setup the quest accordingly.

Next it is important to follow the flow correctly and read each card carefully. Both for your heroes and the enemies. There are things that you have to constantly keep in mind , like a reaction from an enemy when he gets damage. What most people forget during quest 1 is the night effect , the occasional effects on the event cards and traps.

Then make sure you get L.O.S and enemy target preferences to trigger enemy AI correctly. And of course the battle flow.

But most important of all dont hesitate to have the rulebook by your side. There are tons of things that you might forget on first play (hindrances, area control and domination etc, body conditions-K.O., resistance)
 
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Timo R
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Bassplant wrote:
Considering we are getting ready to start our first campaign (also with 5 players), would you mind sharing which rules you got wrong? I would love to avoid that pitfall. Thank you in advance!


Obviously, there are many other things that can be missed, but below a list of things we screwed up during our first couple of plays. Hope it helps!

• Enemy AI: If a behavior section applies to a range, e.g. {1, 2}, the enemy will look for preferred victims within that range and go for the preferred victim even if there is another closer target. This is especially important for 5 player games, where it can sometimes become very difficult to distribute incoming damage between characters due to this (tanking needs planning and good tactics).

• Enemy reactions and passive/permanent abilities: The controlling player needs to be very attentive and make sure, all these things are correctly applied when trigger conditions are met (there are ignore attack effects, spawn enemy on death, deal damage back on hit and multiple other nasty things, which are only nasty when correctly applied all the time ^^)

• Permanent game effects from active event cards or specific quest rules can easily be missed some times.

• It is important to establish some methodical routine for every player turn, as there are so many potential coefficients to an attack action from many different sources (buffs/debuffs from conditions or powers, items, enemy cards, permanent game effects like quest rules or events, etc.). For us, it works best if all brains on the table are constantly engaged and help the active player to not screw up. Btw: All these fiddly tokens and markers are there for a reason. Use them ^^

• You can only focus an attack once per turn (unless you have a skill negating that rule), regardless how many actions you have left

• Flying enemies: This permanent ability is easy to miss (represented by a pair of folded wings on the enemy card) and easy to confuse with the airborne status (which is only triggered by specific game effects or AI behavior). You can inflict the K.O. body condition on flying enemies, but they will not suffer the effects, which means K.O. cannot be used to negate their armor or change figure count towards control/domination!

• Magic shields provided by a consumable or one-time-effect do not recharge during time phase.

• You cannot rearrange or trade equipment while engaged

• When you are engaged, your L.O.S is restricted to the area you are in (sometimes counterintuitive, as even a small gremlin figure in front of your character in the same area prevents shooting at the orc in the area behind you, and also prevents shadow tokens in the area in front of you from being revealed)

• When enemies score a kill, they immediately get promoted to champion and draw an additional enemy power
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