So after I'd finally achieved several Initiation-level victories in solo play -- including besting the Howling Nightmare last night while I had the Cemetery, of all things, as my center tile -- some of us decided to give a serious (if suicidal) shot at a 4-player session. The first thing I did was randomly distribute the boards, which led to the following set-up, clockwise from the randomly-determined starting player:
Me, with green's Gods' Favorite
James, with blue's Heavenly Gust
Brad, with yellow's Bottomless Pockets
Daphne, with red's Dance of the Spires (urgh)
Daphne was the only new player, which made her power especially unfortunate, but since we were all expecting to go down in flames anyway it wasn't that big a deal. The tiles were distributed as follows, starting from my right:
Circle of Prayer - Cemetery - Pavilion
Tea House - Herbalist - Sorcerer
Taoist Altar - Night Watch - Buddhas
I gave Daphne the run-down of what everything did, the only way we could win, and the several ways we could -- and probably would -- lose. Fortunately she was going last so she'd see a couple of turns played out. As the most experienced, I acted as unofficial strategy adviser for most of the game, but there were enough contributions from James and Brad to avoid the obnoxious solitaire-by-committee trap.
Amazingly, we did pretty well for most of the game. We had James parked on the Buddhas for a while, shifting the little golden statues back and forth on his corner; Brad and I worked our dice-massaging talents on a few ghosts, and Daphne pitched in where she could, mostly keeping boards from becoming overrun via various village tiles. We contained haunters like pros, never having to flip a tile...
...that is, until things started to unravel late in the game. I think it started when we were forced to move James off the Buddhas, but I knew we were really in trouble when I noticed that none of us had our Yin-Yang. Both Black Widows showed up, neutering Brad and making our lives miserable, but we pressed on and eventually dispatched them; I believe James sacrificed himself to kill one of them at the Sorcerer's, and Daphne brought him back on her turn. She would go down fighting not long after, and while we wouldn't find the opportunity to bring her back until much later, at least her now-possessed board was free of tormentors and wasn't overrun (yet).
What really screwed us, however, was when the Lich (4-yellow tormentor) showed up. We had been really fortunate in either avoiding or outright dispatching tormentors all game, but this guy arrived at the worst possible time; by the time we dealt with him (I believe via Sorcerer), both his red and blue equivalents arrived. Meanwhile, my board had a pair of haunters threatening both the Prayer Circle (which was stuck on blue for most of the game) and the Pavilion.
But we still had a chance. Parked on the Pavilion, James had just picked off the Dark Wraith (3-black advanced Haunter) that was on my board, reclaiming his Yin-Yang, and had yet to use his village assist for the turn. We looked at the top card of the Ghost Deck -- it was Wu Feng. He was coming. Brad, who was up next, was sitting on a couple of red Tao, plus I think a yellow and a green; I had a black in my possession.
We decided that the best course of action was to just go for it. James used the Pavilion to move an advanced one-black haunter from Brad's board (threatening the Taoist Altar) to mine (re-threatening the Pavilion) and pushed me into the center; this put me in a position of overrun, but I had two Qi in reserve. Then he used his Yin-Yang to activate the Tea House, gaining a Qi and a Tao token (green, since a one-green dice-immune ghost was currently parked next to the Cemetery; if nothing else, James could revive Daphne and pick that guy off). More importantly, it forced Wu Feng to arrive early.
In retrospect, I think this was our ultimate undoing, for the incarnation that arrived was the dreaded Death's Army! James's board was full (the red tormentor was moved on to it to keep Daphne's board not overrun, and then on the Curse roll it called up his blue cousin to force a Qi loss in Step 2 anyway) and so was mine, but the space next to the Night Watch, where Brad had just dispatched the 4-yellow two-tao ghost, was vacant. We put him there and formulated our plan.
On his turn, Brad rolled a blank curse -- yes! His Step 3 brought a relatively-harmless ghost on to his board to fill him up, but we were hoping it wouldn't come to that. With the Circle of Prayer stuck on blue and out of reach, Brad instead picked up a black tao with his power and used the Night Watch to push my haunters back. Passing over Daphne's possessed two-ghost board, my turn arrived. I advanced both haunters to their former positions and took my Qi loss, then moved to join Brad in the fight against Wu Feng.
Between us, we had two black Tao. We only had three dice to roll, and needed all of them to hit in order to exorcise the 5-resistance nightmare. Fortunately, I had the blessing of the twelve gods... but would it be enough?
My first roll produced a single black result. It was obviously kept and I picked up the other two dice. Dramatically, one sailed off the table while the second landed showing a white face. I retrieved the third die and it was cast...
...landing on red. CURSES! So close!
Still, we had a good chance of taking him out on Brad's turn. James rolled both of his curses; I can't remember exactly what he rolled, but he somehow survived his Yin phase and was able to at least exorcise the weak green ghost on my board and then revived Daphne for an additional chance in case Brad had an unlucky Tao roll (I don't remember his curse roll there either, but I know we survived it... although he might not have).
Unfortunately, Brad never got a chance to make that unlucky Tao roll, as an unlucky Curse roll took one of his two remaining Qi from him. With one Qi left and his board overrun, Brad fell before his Yang phase began, dooming us to failure. Daphne had no good play to make, as even changing the Prayer Circle to black would become invalidated as soon as my turn advanced my haunters and flipped both it and the Pavilion, and I had no way of defeating the 5-resistance incarnation with my lone black Tao and three dice.
Resigned to our fate, but going down fighting, the evil spirits eventually overwhelmed us.
Man, we weren't even expecting to see Wu Feng, let alone come so close to taking him down, so while we were understandably disappointed we claimed the morale victory. That late string of four-resistance tormentors -- culminating in Death's Army, of all things -- was simply too much for us to overcome; any weaker ghosts leading up to Wu Feng and I think we could have had him. As usual, some less-than-fortunate rolls caused crucial setbacks, but there's much, much less you can do about that in a four-player game. Despite that, I thought we really had a shot at it; calling up Wu Feng a turn early was risky, but I think we had about a 50-50 shot at getting an incarnation we could handle (Uncatchable and Creeping Horror would probably have been equally as bad, while Dark Mistress and Forgotten Ones are always nuisances -- although our Circle being already tuned to blue might have helped against the Mistress). There might have been alternate plays to make, like maybe I should have tried to pick up some extra black Tao at the Herbalist instead of risking the three-black roll, but ultimately I'm fairly certain it wouldn't have made a difference.
My rating for the game is a full point lower for multiplayer than for solo play (6.5 vs 7.5), but I'm still having fun despite the randomness. The game will never be a favorite of mine, but at least now I don't actively hate it like I did a week ago.
KNEEL BEFORE ZOD !!!
100 geek gold and this is all I get? :p
Great report. It's interesting to see some of your opinion changing as you play it. I completely agree, that it is siginificantly easier on solo. Still, enjoy multiplay best, though. Think Death's Army can be one of the more difficult incarnations. After that string of Tormentors, then having him show up, I'd have been gnashing my teeth!
Sounds like you guys did pretty well. Other than the Red power, you had a pretty much ideal village set up. I haven't had a group (low experience) win at higher than initiate level. Even experimenting by myself using all 4 taoists, I've probably only won 25%-30% at nightmare maybe less, whereas solo (1 Taoist) approaches 90%+. Don't think this makes the game broken, but the scalable difficulty makes the game great for different experience and #'s of players. It's just confusing as you intuit that "normal","nightmare", etc. will be necessarily identical difficulty for any number of player.
Think Death's Army can be one of the more difficult incarnations. After that string of Tormentors, then having him show up, I'd have been gnashing my teeth!
It's that freakin' five resistance more than anything else, I think; our green and yellow powers were on the "wrong" sides to deal with that sort of threat (IMO... I'd personally rather have the extra die and Mantra, since the threat of a "no tao" curse makes Bottomless Pockets less reliable) and the Prayer Circle was in an inconvenient location by the time he arrived.
- Last edited Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:08 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:07 pm