Dave Pollard
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Hello all.

I've just started a game of RtL with some friends (I'm the Overlord using the dragon avatar and doing the Ascension plot), and I've been reading many of the threads on this site. Obviously, there's a lot of differing opinions about various aspects of the game, but there seems to be a broad consensus on who's likely to win depending on the length of the game.

Specifically, the Overlord mostly seems to win one of two ways: (1) get an insurmountable lead in points in the early game which usually leads to the heroes conceding, or (2) raze Tamalir with some quick and nasty tactics using a bunch of lieutenants. However, if the game lasts into the Gold Campaign, the Overlord seems almost certain to lose regardless of plot choice or strategy, particularly if it comes down to a final confrontation in the Overlord's fortress. I'm sure there have been exceptions to these generalisations, but that seems to be the common pattern in the threads I read.

If this is the case, I wonder if it's an intentional part of the game design. Both sides need a reasonable chance of winning, but since most of the players are on the heroes' side, the rules should probably favour them a little for maximum enjoyment. (In other words, four people losing and one winning simply isn't as fun the other way around.) One way to do this would be to make the quick and cheap wins go to the Overlord, while making the longer drawn-out games favour the heroes. I must admit, if our game manages to last the distance, I'd almost prefer the heroes to win - more people happier and all that. It must be the D&D DM in me - though I won't be pulling any punches!

So, since this is our first game, I'm not too fussed about actually winning overall, but I'd really like the game to go the distance and be competitive throughout. My players are experienced gamers and have played the original Descent (I haven't - how did I end up being the Overlord anyway?), so it's unlikely I'll trounce them as per (1) above, and I simply won't pursue tactic (2) ... in this first game at least.

So, I guess my question/point (and I do have one) is: if a game makes it to the Gold campaign, as I hope mine does, is there any way for an Overlord to remain competitive, or will his monsters always be nothing but speed-bumps and his/her fortress a cakewalk?

Incidentally, regardless of everything above, I see the biggest issue for our game being a more pragmatic one: will the players last the distance?

Thoughts, comments, opinions, "your Momma" jokes, all appreciated.

Dave


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Tom Servo
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Hi Dave,

I am currently the overlord in our first campaign. We are on the back end of the copper level (just about to get to silver, but not quite there yet).

So far, the overlord has got a pretty strong upper hand on the heroes. I think partly that comes with copper level, and also my heroes have had unreal bad luck on treasure rolls (they never seem to pull a treasure, always potions and cash). I've never reached gold level, but my understanding from people who have is that the heroes pretty much dominate it. I have seem some very interesting mods that improve the gold level monsters to make it more of a challenge, but I don't plan on using those for now.

I, too, am a long time D&D player/DM and it is tough to unmercifully hammer the heroes. Maybe its the DM in me as well, but if we do reach gold level and the heroes assault the overlord's fortress, I hope the heroes win. I hope its a very close battle, as I think it would be anticlimactic if I slaughter the heroes (or they steamroll me). I also think the players would be ending the game on a low note if they lost the battle ("yeah we spent months on this and.... you lose"). I am trying to win by either fulfilling my plot or by getting such a lead in copper that the heroes concede (they *really* hate silver level/sniper enhanced skeletons and crushing block traps nowadays). angry

What you said about design seems like it may very well be true - quick decisive victories for the overlord would be more tolerable to players versus long campaigns that end in failure at the very last. After all, the goal of the game is to have fun and (if the other players decide they don't want to play anymore after a long drawn out loss) then thats no fun for anyone
 
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Jeff Long
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For Gold level to be competitive at all, the Overlord MUST be playing for the kill straight from the get-go. If you refuse to employ "nasty" tactics like lots of lieutenants hanging around Tamalir, you will definitely have no fun at gold, as every dungeon level will simply be a one-player optimization problem for the Heroes. If you're fine with this, then that's okay. But the only way to be truly competitive in the long-term is to bring everything you've got the whole game - FORCE the Heroes to make sacrifices in just barely fending off the fall of Tamalir from your lieutenant swarm. The thing about playing this way is sometimes you will indeed win early (which is kind of the point), and other times you will just do some damage. But if you lay off and don't threaten the early win, you'll just be toast all the time.

That said, if the game DOES go to the Avatar fight, you're dead no matter what. Of the Avatars I've examined in detail, the Great Wyrm is the weakest by far. It is, admittedly, a very unfortunate flaw in the game, but I'm afraid the Great Wyrm's fight will not be 'climactic' in any way. He needs some serious buffs to be at all competitive.
 
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Corbon Loughnan
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The_Immortal wrote:
But the only way to be truly competitive in the long-term is to bring everything you've got the whole game - FORCE the Heroes to make sacrifices in just barely fending off the fall of Tamalir from your lieutenant swarm. The thing about playing this way is sometimes you will indeed win early (which is kind of the point), and other times you will just do some damage. But if you lay off and don't threaten the early win, you'll just be toast all the time.


I absolutely agree with this.

Winning early might not be the true goal, but you have to play like it is to put pressure on the heroes and force them to make sacrifices to stay in the game. If you do not, you will lose. Even if you do, you will probably lose if the heroes can tough it out and keep their morale long enough.

There are three early game possibilities:
- OL Razes Tamalir (everyone feels a bit cheated, but it is the heroes fault for not protecting and at least you can start again)
- Heroes concede due to discouragement when OL racks up big early lead (seems to be quite common due to mentally 'soft' players who do not understand or like a challenge and do not understand the game balance. arrrh I'd except 'first game' hero parties from this comment as they can easily discover how badly they have messed up something and not wish to suffer the heavy penalty of disadvantage for the next 70+ hours...)
- OL concedes early due to discouragement with heroes racking up a big early lead (never happens because OLs, unlike heroes, are too good sports to rob the other 4 players of their triumph...) cool

There are two mid game possibilities, and a late mid game possibility:
- heroes who are a bit mentally tougher and didn't concede earlier when the OL got the jump on them do now, as they finally tire of the beating they have been taking.
- OL crumples under the weight of unkillable heroes and Lts who cannot raze cities even when given dice with 5 surge sides out of 6.
- Late mid game, OL wins through Plot or a sneaky Talamir Raze (often because the heroes took a risk in order to avoid making a sacrifice). In both cases, Heroes deserve it. This is probably the most satisfactory ending where no one feels cheated.

Late game possibilities:
- OL wins through plot/Tamalir Raze, same as late-mid game.
- Heroes kick arse in final battle, so much so that everyone feels let down.
- Final battle is tight (seems very rare) and goes either way.
 
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J B
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One of the agreements that my friends and I make when we play any type of Descent is that everyone goes all out to win...no benevolent Overlords allowed. That way we all enjoy it. We compare good-hearted overlords to game-throwing.

I think when you play that way, the games are a bit closer by the time you hit Gold...heroes are still crazy strong most of the time, but the OL still has a shot.
 
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Sam Lindsay-Levine
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I haven't played Road to Legend, but my experience with the base game is that once the heroes get gold treasures, the rest of the dungeon is usually a comical romp in their favor, so it wouldn't surprise me that the campaign mode follows the same philosophy.

This doesn't bother me in our base games (with me invariably the Overlord) because I view it as their reward for making their way through the nail-biting copper and silver period of the game. It's like what Valve said in their commentaries for the final levels of Half-Life 2, where the player character is similarly overpowered.
 
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Dave Pollard
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Hello again folks.

Mucho thanks for all the great replies, everyone!

We played our second session yesterday, and after two levels of the first dungeon I’m 32-10 up. One of the heroes who I worried might be overpowered – Laurel with her ability to turn all her unused range into damage with a single fatigue point – has turned out to be delightfully kill-able so far. I have renamed her Squishy-Girl.

One of the points some of you make is that I shouldn’t pull any punches in the early game, or it’ll come back to haunt me in the Gold campaign when I’ll get trounced. This would, of course, be no fun for either side. Now, if we ever play a second game and I’m the Overlord again, then certainly all bets will be off, and I will use every sneaky, low-down, no-good, dirty tactic available.

But I think this first game has slightly different priorities for me. I want the game to last the distance, I want it to remain competitive throughout if at all possible, and if it comes down to the final fortress I want the heroes to win (a certainty it seems). My reasons for this are practical: I *really* like Descent, and I think my friends are more likely to play it again if their first complete game is a positive experience in which they get to play out all three segments of the campaign.

However, I accept the point that the game *won’t* remain competitive throughout, and therefore won’t be much fun, unless I am completely ruthless from the start. Well, so far I have been, and I’m maliciously delighted that I’m so far ahead in points already against such experienced Descent players. (I’ll be able to get my Beast silver upgrade after the first dungeon with change to spare). Of course, to prevent the players becoming disheartened I’ve been constantly stressing to them that a large Overlord lead in the beginning isn’t unusual, isn’t insurmountable, and isn’t a sign of bad play on their part, which they have accepted in good spirits.

But despite all this, in this first game (only) I still don’t want to win by sneakily razing Tamalir early on. Therefore, I think my overall plan for “maximum game enjoyment” this time around will be:
* Get as big a point lead as possible in the early game, while constantly stressing to the players that the gap will narrow over time.
* Warn the players about the Tamalir razing strategy (I’ve hinted at it already), make a few threatening moves in that direction during the game, and telegraph the fact (“my lieutenants are awfully close to Tamalir, don’t you think? … no, no, they won’t just be passing through … yes, I know Eliza Farrow looks like a party girl, but I don’t think she simply wants to sample Tamalir’s nightlife”). This should force the players to counter the threat and make sacrifices elsewhere in terms of time, even though I won’t follow through on the strategy (unless they stubbornly ignore it despite all my warnings).
* Share with my players the collective wisdom of these forums to help optimise their play. I’ve already suggested that abandoning a too-hard dungeon in the early game can be prudent, and I’m always trying to get them to think in terms of points. (“Do you really think it’s worth tackling this dungeon level? You’ll get 5-6 points, a few hundred gold and maybe a copper treasure, whereas I could get 15 points in kills alone.”) However, they still feel that fleeing a dungeon is somehow a failure on their part. If I start getting a monstrous lead in points, I might explain to them in detail the principle of ‘blitzing’.

Well, my post is a bit rambling and unfocussed, but I suppose it could be summarised like this: I *will* play aggressively as was suggested, but I will try to mitigate any resulting trounce-age by sharing with the players all the good hero strategy I’ve read on these boards. I’m still not going to raze Tamalir though.

Corbon, thanks for the great summary of possible outcomes. This was exactly what I was hoping to learn. And thanks again to all of you for your great replies. They’ve really helped me a lot.

Dave
 
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Jeff Long
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Of course, it's important to keep your own priorities in mind, so long as you understand the issues involved.

In my opinion, if there were indeed only one thing you could stress to your Heroes, it's the value of examining every dungeon floor from a cost-benefit standpoint. Running away is THE single most powerful tactic the Heroes have in the early game. It completely allows THEM to set the pace of the game, rather than be at the mercy of it. There are numerous constraining resources on the Heroes in this game, but the number of available dungeons is not one of them (the number of dungeons within one move of Tamalir IS sometimes a little constraining though).

Particularly in the early game, the game can go through a series of 'phases' and you want to spend as much time in the phase that benefits yoru side as possible.

Out-the-door Heroes vs. Copper Monsters: Slight advantage Overlord
A-few-copper-treasures Heroes vs. Copper Monsters: Slight Advantage Heroes
One-Extra-Skill Heroes vs. Copper Monsters: Major advantage Heroes
A-few-copper-treasures Heroes vs. Silver Monsters: Major advantage Overlord
One-Extra-Skill Heroes vs. Silver Monsters: Fairly even, maybe slight advantage Overlord depending on Avatar and Monster class
 
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Mike Cooper
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davep123 wrote:
One of the heroes who I worried might be overpowered – Laurel with her ability to turn all her unused range into damage with a single fatigue point – has turned out to be delightfully kill-able so far. I have renamed her Squishy-Girl.

We had Laurel as one of the heroes in our first campaign (which was subsequently abandoned). She wasn't so much a CP leak for the heroes as much as a decorative CP fountain...
 
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Dave Pollard
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Laurel the decorative CP fountain: I like it.

I originally thought she might be overpowered because of the way some skills would interact with her innate ability. Things like 'Lucky' and some of the range boosts could translate into unbelievable damage potential for her. But that'd all happen in the late game; until then she's my squishable, squishily Squishy-Girl.

Our game's at a pivotal juncture. I'm ahead about 60-25 in points, with silver Beasts and all the Farrows in play. The heroes consequently felt they had to spend lots of their gold on the boat and the two-trails-per-turn staff so they could prevent me razing cities. This has meant they haven't upgraded their stats or skills at all (though they have a few bits of nice Copper treasure). I think we're about to have our first lieutenant fight (vs. Alric) and I think I'm going to win. Other than the silver hellhounds and razorwings they'll be up against (mwah-ha-ha), I'll have one point of Event Treachery that I'm thinking of swapping for two Rage cards so I can perform the Rage + Run (double attack + double move) manoeuvre with Alric twice in the fight. They won't know what him 'em.

If it all goes according to plan - and I accept that I may have misjudged the situation through inexperience - then I'll get an even bigger lead in points, I'll buy more Event Treachery and so become even more unbeatable in lieutenant fights, and then ... well ... if my lieutenants are that much better than the party, the clear and obvious strategy is to head straight to Tamalir and begin sieging it, spanking the heroes turn after turn if they attack me and getting more powerful each time, until Tamalir's razed. It's, like, a postive feedback loop, man.

Except, of course, this goes against my previously stated intention of not actually razing Tamalir. However, if this all comes to pass and I *don't* raze Tamalir, the players are certainly smart enough to know that I'm pulling my punches, and that'll lessen the fun. Hmmm - what to do?

Now I know this is all hypothetical, and one shouldn't enumerate one's poultry prior to their liberation from yolk-y confinement, but the whole thing really seems to illustrate what lots of the goodly folk in these forums have already said: the Overlord can only win by dominating the Copper campaign and finishing the game early (by razing Tamalir or through a huge point differential), while the heroes inevitably win if the game lasts the distance.

Since we're about one quarter of one fifth of 10% of not much of our way through our first game so far, we're not going to try to 'rebalance' a game we haven't even come close to mastering with house-rules. I'm also aware that while these forums are for the most part very civil and friendly - the responses to my original post have been wonderful - talk of house rules and balance seems to ruffle feathers. But at the risk of feather ruffle-age, I'd be interested in hearing of any house-rules people may have used to perhaps strengthen the heroes in the Copper campaign and/or strengthen the Overlord in the Gold campaign. Not that I'll be trying them any time soon. And I'm not suggesting that the game is unbalanced in any way. Or needs changing. Though house-rules are fine for those who want to use them, of course. But within reason. And stuff. (ahem)

Good night (can you tell I'm tired?)

Dave

 
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Jim Reed
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Hey Dave, sound like you're enjoying your first RTL game as much as me!
I think I'm completly in your shoes when it comes to the outcome of the game. The group I'm playing with, played the regular Decent twice before we started RTL and I slaughtered them both times. So much that it took a bunch of convincing for one of the players to do RTL. I hear everyones point about not holding back but there are just so many times I could be "really" nasty in the dungeons with my traps and spawns but I hold back. As of now,i'm slighty guessing the games packed up" but i think I'm up around 60xp to 35. The heroes take forever in the dungeons! I go through the deck twice! I got 3 farrows, and the siege engines, with the plot of razing 5? cities. I'm close to razing one with 2 farrows now at another already. I don't think I'll "throw" the game but just want it to stay competitive and let the heroes feel like they have a chance and not concede. The heroes conceding wouldbe far more disapointing for me than me losing.

Kepp us posted have fun!
 
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Jeff Long
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I am in the midst of finalizing what I believe to be a 'minimalist' set of house-rules that, in my opinion, solves most of the problems with RtL.

Of course, by 'minimalist' it doesn't mean I've got one magic fix that takes only one line of text to describe and it solves all problems. But it's about doing as little as I can while still actually addressing the issues. I expect I will post this up in the Variants section before too long.
 
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Chris J Davis
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The_Immortal wrote:
I am in the midst of finalizing what I believe to be a 'minimalist' set of house-rules that, in my opinion, solves most of the problems with RtL.

Of course, by 'minimalist' it doesn't mean I've got one magic fix that takes only one line of text to describe and it solves all problems. But it's about doing as little as I can while still actually addressing the issues. I expect I will post this up in the Variants section before too long.


Look forward to seeing it!
 
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Dave Pollard
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Ah! Bleached Lizard and The Immortal both contributing to my thread. Happy days! I’ve been reading lots and lots of posts (here and at the Fantasy Flight boards) and I find your approaches to dealing with Descent and all its flaws very compelling.

Jeff, I am also working on a set of house rules for the next time I start a campaign, but I have no doubt yours will be better. In fact, most of my rules are just plagiarised from you and Chris anyway.

I’ll start by saying that I love the idea of Descent, but having read a gazillion threads and game reports, it seems to me that it doesn’t live up to its potential with the rules as written. There are clear imbalances in the game, internal and external, because the game wasn’t thoroughly play-tested; and to be fair to Decent’s creators, given the game’s length, how could it have been? It seems unlikely to me that the designers had thought much, or at all, about the possibilities of ‘lieutenant swarms’ or ‘blitzing’; instead they were figured out by clever players after the game was designed, and both became an indispensable nuke in the arm’s race between the Overlord’s and heroes’ strategies.

But I digress. The core concept of Descent is so great, that I think with just a bit of tweaking it could be my favourite boardgame of all time. But to tweak successfully, I need to succinctly identify the problem I want to fix. So, here it is.

If both sides play optimally, the heroes will blitz while the Overlord will try to overrun Tamalir with a lieutenant swarm (probably either via upgrading beasts and event treachery for killer lieutenant fights, or dominating the heroes in the dungeons with Sorcerer King / skeleton sniper nastiness). This creates a torrid, intense, high-risk game in the early stages, and if either side doesn’t know what they’re doing they’ll get trounced by the side that does. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this. My problem is with what comes later.

If the Overlord dominates that initial period, he wins the game by razing Tamalir. If he doesn’t manage to do this, then the entire second half of the game is an increasingly lopsided romp for the heroes, ending in the ludicrously one-sided Overlord’s keep. It doesn’t seem to be an overstatement to say that in most games that last the distance, the entire second half is essentially pointless. For instance, I read a game account in which the Overlord dominated the heroes by over 3-1 in CP throughout the game, but still got absolutely trounced in the final battle. This is a shame since the concept of the Overlord’s Keep is a really good one.

So, in an effort to make the second half of the game relevant (particularly the Overlord’s fortress) here are the house rules I will try to get my fellow players to agree to. Like Jeff, I prefer changes to be minimal and use existing game mechanics where possible. Once again, I must point out that almost all of these are the ideas of people like Bleached Lizard and The Immortal who are far more knowledgeable, experienced and clever than I am.

(A) Overlord threat per turn is 3 in the copper campaign, 4 in the silver, 5 in the gold, and 6 in the Overlord’s fortress. Obviously, this reduces Overlord power in Copper and increases it in Gold, though by itself it’s probably like putting a band aid on the stump of a severed limb. Still, it’s a start. (Chris, I think you came up with something similar that also added extra threat for deeper dungeon levels, but it seemed to me that would just entrench blitzing even more.)

(B) Include Chris’s "razing Tamalir isn’t a win" idea in its entirety (Tamalir upgrades destroyed, heroes can only restock at Tamalir, and the Sloth power card is permanently in play).

(C) Include Chris’s "delayed fatigue recovery" idea, which seems to have little effect at Copper, but stops heroes clearing out dungeons and encounters in a single turn in Gold.

(D) Randomised treachery, where the Overlord has to choose from a number of cards of the appropriate treachery type equal to twice his treachery score (though redrawing the following: cards with a higher value than his score, power cards in lieutenant encounters (obviously), and spawn cards of any monster type that is not one of the Overlord’s most upgraded type(s)). Note that this weakens the Overlord, particularly his lieutenants (making lieutenants swarms less effective), but improves internal balance by enforcing variety in the treachery cards (no more Crushing Blow as a permanent fixture).

(E) Add an avatar upgrade card along the lines of the following: ‘The Tyranny of Fear; Cost: 10xp; All gold creatures gain +1 Fear, while all diamond creatures gain +2 Fear.’ This to me seems to be the most simple and elegant method of ‘surge mitigation’ for the heroes’ Gold equipment.

(F) And finally one of my own (I’ll be interested to hear the resulting acclaim or scorn). When the 600xp milestone is reached, the heroes get one free training at Tamalir, as written (if it hasn’t been razed). However, two more important things happen.
(1) All surviving lieutenants return immediately to the Overlord’s fortress and are considered to be fortifying it for the rest of the game.
(2) The Overlord may immediately spend all his remaining XP on any number of upgrades with no limit, as long as he can afford them (though if any two of his treachery scores have a difference of three or more he can’t upgrade the higher one). This means if he has enough XP, he could upgrade all his monsters to diamond, and/or have more treachery than normally allowed. Finally, the Overlord gets to choose the treachery cards for the deck in his fortress.

Now on the surface of it, this seems pretty extreme. But is it really? If the Overlord has a big lead in points, this could indeed be quite devastating for the heroes in the fortress (say two monster types upgraded to diamond, and a third of the Overlord’s deck made up of chosen treachery cards). But that’s as it should be if the Overlord has dominated the whole campaign!

However, if the heroes have been playing well (blitzing in the early stages and have held onto Tamalir) the scores will probably be fairly close, meaning the Overlord has 300-400xp. Maxing treachery is normally 135, maxing creature upgrades is normally 195, and there is easily 150xp worth of avatar, plot and lieutenant upgrades, too; clearly, in a close game the Overlord won’t have much to spend at this point anyway. What it means is that in the regular game the Overlord doesn’t have to waste the upgrade part of his turn spending XP on avatar upgrades when he’d rather save the XP for, say, more treachery. Of course, he still needs to leave himself enough to buy the avatar upgrades at the end.

(7) Finally, in the final showdown with the Overlord, the heroes are automatically restored to full health before the fight, and then the fight is treated like a lieutenant fight in that the avatar has a hand of treachery (which he can choose, not randomised) and he may spend two threat for one extra movement or attack dice (though his threat is reset to zero at the start of the fight).

Oh, and some other little things: Rapid Fire limited to one extra attack, Nanok removed, Taunt gets ‘exhausted’, large creatures treat water like pits (i.e. they can mostly ignore it), siege rolls are graduated (i.e. first week requires a blank, next week a surge, then a power, then a power or blank, then a power or surge, and finally an automatic raze), common sense soaring, recosting the lone troll and golem cards to 2, etc.

Phew! Now Descent will finally be perfect (haha).

Dave
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Chris J Davis
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Wow - I feel like a celebrity!

Glad you like the house rules. I'm hoping one day to make a nice PDF of them all and upload it here to BGG. I'm a bit busy working on re-jigging Android at the moment though, but once that's done maybe I can get back to RtL.

One thing I would say that you should try to remember regarding what you said above though: keep in mind that with the delayed fatigue recovery rules, it is a LOT harder for the heroes to "blitz" dungeons. This isn't really a valid strategy any more (which, IMO, makes it feel much more like a "real" dungeon crawl rather than some fantasy-themed commando mission). This is why I have the "+1 threat per dungeon level" rule in place. Of course, the heroes still *can* flee the dungeon after killing the leader of the first level, but then the heroes will rapidly run out of dungeons to explore.

But give it a go however you feel is best. The balance of this game is far from being on a knife-edge, so there's quite a lot of leeway when it comes to how you'd like the game to play.

Have fun! meeple

Chris.
 
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Jeff Long
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Yeah I know, geez. Are the paparazzi coming next?

In regards your suggestions Dave, I'll make only two quick comments for now: the idea of allowing the Overlord to spend as much as he likes before the Final Battle addresses a deficiency that does indeed need to be addressed. It is a little problematic what you should do in the case of the Ascension plot, but you could house-rule that too of course. Allowing all monster classes to go to Diamond sounds big, but I'm not convinced it's all that significant, since the return-on-investment isn't necessarily very good. Keep in mind the only point in getting CT in the Keep is to buff your Avatar's HP, and you only get 2 HP per conquest. IF, for example, you could buy Toughened 6 times (which of course you can't but anyway), you would get 90 extra HP - I don't think upgrading a monster class is going to give you an increase of 45 conquest in the dungeon. So it helps a little, but I think you're better off buying every single Avatar buff upgrade first before you consider an expensive monster upgrade.

Secondly, as to Treachery in the Avatar fights...while the Avatars are indeed very weak, I think that might be a little extreme. As people have already found in Lieutenant fights, it can definitely happen that you come up with a very unsatisfying "insta-win" combo with the right treachery cards. The spawn cards are particularly problematic, as in, if you don't allow spawning in the Avatar fight, then Red treachery is worthless, but if you do, well, spawns are by far the most powerful and cost-effective cards in the game, and it really seems like the Avatar battle was supposed to be "Avatar alone vs. the world." I think my opinion on this suggestion is that it's way too big a can of worms to ever be able to deal with.
 
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Dave Pollard
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Hello again.

Yes, I suppose my previous post was a little … sycophantic. I was tired when I wrote it. And other excuses.

To fix the Ascension plot issue with the final unlimited Overlord spend, you’d just change the condition for it (and the return of the lieutenants) to ‘when the heroes are about to enter the Overlord’s keep’.

One of the goals of the final unlimited spend is to remove the one-upgrade-per-turn time pressure on the Overlord, so that he no longer runs the risk of missing out on the avatar upgrades through lack of time rather than xp. This will help ensure the avatar is as powerful as the Overlord can afford, and frees him up to concentrate on other upgrades during the main game.

I understand that the Overlord’s Keep is nothing more than a way for the avatar to increase his HPs for the final showdown, and that apart from a few Power Cards, the CPs should come from hero deaths. You’re absolutely right when you say the most efficient way to do this would not be through a third monster upgrade to diamond – or even a second, depending on the Keep. So, I agree that the removal of the “one diamond monster category only” limit is not that significant – but it sounds cool and ties in with the no-limit spend theme, so I’m inclined to keep it in.

Clearly, the first priority for the big spend would be, as you say, all the avatar upgrades. After that, a second diamond monster upgrade *might* be worth it, but you’d probably be better off buying yourself as much vicious self-selected treachery as you can afford for your deck. This should hopefully lead to many hero deaths and consequently to a big increase in HPs for the avatar.

So, the avatar should hopefully be strengthened in several ways:
(1) He should have all the avatar upgrades, bought during his ‘big spend’.
(2) He should have a large hp boost from all the hero deaths caused by: (i) his treachery-laden deck of cards in the Keep; (ii) the six threat per turn he’s getting in the Keep (instead of four); and (iii) the fortifying effects of his lieutenants.
(3) As a diamond monster, he should have +2 Fear from the new ‘Tyranny of Fear’ avatar upgrade card.
(4) He can benefit from the encounter rule: spend two threat to move an extra square or add/upgrade a dice (while earning six threat per turn)

My idea about the avatar having treachery in the last fight was an afterthought and, on reflection, a pretty bad one. Having the entire campaign end through the avatar’s use of Dance of the Monkey God or some other ‘gotcha’-type nastiness is not fun for anyone. Instead, the final showdown should ideally be a lengthy slug-fest. So, in short, I agree with you: no treachery in the final showdown. (I considered perhaps allowing only Power cards or cards with a value of 1 or something similar, but then it all becomes too murky and arbitrary).

So, the big question is: will all this be enough to make the avatar deadly if the Overlord has dominated the campaign, and at least a challenge otherwise? If not, the avatar upgrade cards probably need to be pumped up, but I'll do a playthrough before I worry about that.

Assuming you aren’t Descent-ed out, further thoughts, comments and suggestions will be gratefully received.

Dave

 
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Chris J Davis
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Two comments/suggestions/thoughts/musings/whatevers...

1) An idea I was going to implement in my next campaign was to eliminate the campaign auto-end at 600 CTs entirely. Instead, once the campaign reaches 600 CTs it enters "diamond level", which has no end to it. All the same things that apply to the other campaign levels apply to diamond level - i.e, the OL can upgrade as many of his monster categories to diamond as he likes, he earns an extra +1 threat per dungeon level, the heroes can upgrade all their power dice to gold, etc.

The heroes can enter the OL's keep at *any* time (even during copper campaign level). There is no auto-move to the keep at 600 CTs. The OL is still restricted to one upgrade per week, but in this way the "cutoff point" is more organic. Also, whichever LTs are at the keep when the heroes enter will fortify the keep.

Using this method is almost the same as the rules you suggest, but gives a more organic, realistic feel to commencing the final battle, rather than just "oh we're at 600 CTs, quick let's run"!

You might want to introduce an alternate win condition for the OL though, to keep the heroes on their toes. For example, if all cities are razed or if the CT count hits 800, then the OL automatically wins.

2) I've also thought about using treachery during the final battle, but the method I came up with was to have a list of treachery cards for each avatar that he is allowed to choose from when the final battle starts. The means that not only can you keep the avaialble cards balanced but you can also make the feel of each avatar more thematic (e.g, the Sorcerer King only has the "Spell of..." cards, the Demon Prince only has the "Sin" cards, etc).

You could even make them avatar upgrades. For example:

10 - Unholy Treachery
Sorcerer King Only

When the final battle begins, you may spend treachery to form a hand of cards from the following list:

Skeleton Horde
Sorcerer Circle
Lone Golem
Spell of Frost
Spell of Thunder
Spell of Fire
Etc, etc...
 
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Dave Pollard
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Good morning/afternoon/evening (depending on location),

Letting the heroes enter the Keep at any time is an interesting idea. However, I personally prefer big epic games that go the distance. A way to incorporate both ideas would be to house-rule that all the Keep’s monsters are automatically diamond level, thus deterring all but end-game heroes. This has the added benefit of making the Keep more of a difficult and protracted scenario for the heroes, and freeing up more of the Overlord’s XP for treachery in his last ‘big spend’. This should hopefully translate into a lot more HPs for the avatar in the final showdown.

It also occurred to me that under the normal rules, the Overlord would be able to choose his treachery cards for the Keep anyway, so in this respect the only advantage he’d have over heroes in the normal game would be the removal of the maximum treachery scores. Hopefully having automatic diamond monsters in the Keep would mean he could really spam treachery with his final big spend.

I like the idea of doing away with the heroes’ automatic teleport to the Keep at 600CT, but wouldn’t a Diamond campaign level just give the heroes a chance to get even more powerful at the expense of the Overlord by effectively extending the Gold campaign when they’re at their strongest anyway? It seems to me that it would just be a chance for them to maximise every trait dice, get every skill they can, and kit out with the best Gold treasures possible.

How about this instead. Once 600CT is reached, we reach the Harbinger campaign level (or some other fantasy-themed nonsense name). Nothing changes except an extra +1 threat to the Overlord per turn and he may now have 5 Power cards in play (and if we’re not using the house rule above that the heroes can always enter the Keep, then now they can, though they have to travel there to do it). After this point, if the CT total ever reaches 650, the Overlord wins. This forces the heroes to move to the Keep in a reasonable space of time, but there should be little risk of them breaking the 650 limit unless they try to clear out another dungeon.

This could generate another interesting twist with the lieutenants by giving them and the heroes one last chance to fight each other. As the 600CT limit grows near, the Overlord’s lieutenants will need to make sure they start heading back to the Keep (possibly encountering the heroes along the way) to ensure they are fortifying it for the end game. We could house-rule that they must be on the Keep to fortify it, not adjacent, and when the heroes land on the Keep they have one last chance to take out each lieutenant before entering. This could result in three possibilities:
(1) Either side flees, in which case not much happens (though the Overlord may have picked up some CP if any heroes were killed). In fact, the lieutenants may immediately flee if they realise they’re outclassed to ensure they can at least fortify the Keep, so the heroes would have to kill them very quickly to prevent this (which should be much harder with the delayed fatigue recovery rules).
(2) The lieutenant tries his/her luck, but is killed, and therefore won’t be fortifying the Keep.
(3) A Total Party Kill for the heroes, which sends them back to Tamalir as usual with the Overlord gaining more CP and the 650 limit drawing ever closer.

Anyway, I think this improves on the ‘whoops – we’re there!’ aspect of the 600CP limit being reached without giving the heroes much leeway to improve their characters by accumulating any more power or equipment. Let me know if there’s something I’ve overlooked that makes this unworkable.

So, in summary:
(1) Heroes can enter the Keep at any time, but all monsters there are automatically diamond level
(2) At 600CP, the Harbinger campaign begins. At 650CP, Overlord wins.
(3) Prior to entering the Keep, the heroes have one last chance to kill any lieutenants present to prevent them fortifying.
(4) Following the final lieutenant fights (if any) the Overlord gets to do his big spend.

Oh, and incidentally, I’m inclined to make the razing of all the cities a win condition for the Overlord at any time since he can no longer win just by razing Tamalir.

As for treachery cards in the final battle, I think it’s a wonderful idea, but not one I’d feel qualified to attempt. All my other ideas for the Keep will ultimately only translate into more HPs for the Overlord, whereas affecting the showdown directly is more precarious and would probably require actual play-testing (which I can’t be bothered to do). However, if you curmudgeonly old-timers can come up with some great treachery cards for the final showdown, I’d be delighted to use them.

Over and out (for now).

Dave
 
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Ger Lam
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i like the added Threat generation through the levels, i also like the "no automatic campaign end"/shop-all-you-want at the end thing.

In regards to the final battle:
Treachery doesn't seem so grand, for various reasons already outlined...

2 options that we are currently weighing is:

1 -
add "custom"(a dragon in plate mail?)-fit shop/bronze/silver items to the overlord(for varying XP costs...buyable earliest in the phase when those treasures became obsolete, choosen from those left in the deck.
armor or shields just add to the armor value/are used as normal...weapons use the overlords dice(not their own), but allow him to do stuff with surges, "other" type equipment also used normally.

2 -
add some more "generic" overlord upgrades.
Something along the lines of:

5 CP Fearsome ...if you do not have a fear rating yet, it is 5
5 CP Hardened ...if you do not have ironskin yet, it is added.
5 CP Armored ...add +2 to your armor rating
5 CP Regeneration ... you have regeneration 10.
5 CP Frightening Power ... your attacks gain "Stun"
10 CP Draining ... your attacks reduce a hero you hit to 0 fatigue.
10 CP Lightning Speed ...after your regular action, automatically place a guard order.


Heck, what i'd REALLY like to see is a ruleset that makes ALL overlord upgrades more expensive, but you get to spend all of your XP on monster upgrades/treachery/overland stuff, and ALL those XP again on Overlord upgrades/keep upgrades(10 CP=>+1 Floor...10 CP=> +1 Power Card in play....10 CP=>...+1 Threat/Turn(maybe even effective globally, one purchasable per campaign level)). So tallying up all of those overlord XP, then double them into two pools, one of which is spend on (more costly) normal upgrades, the other pool being spend on (more costly) overlords upgrades and keep upgrades
that would be nice...but i doubt i have enough experience to make that balanced if anyone of the vets feels up to the task? giving Overlords more options to improve the final battle and at the same time FORCING them to partly prepare for that...whats not to like?
 
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Chris J Davis
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davep123 wrote:
I like the idea of doing away with the heroes’ automatic teleport to the Keep at 600CT, but wouldn’t a Diamond campaign level just give the heroes a chance to get even more powerful at the expense of the Overlord by effectively extending the Gold campaign when they’re at their strongest anyway? It seems to me that it would just be a chance for them to maximise every trait dice, get every skill they can, and kit out with the best Gold treasures possible.


This is why I suggested that you have an alternate win condition of razing all cities and/or reaching X CTs. You could also say that any CTs the OL hasn't spent when the heroes enter the keep are added to the avatar's wounds when the final battle occurs (though I'm not sure how balanced that would be).

I was also thinking of having threat income during the keep automatically be that of diamond level (instead of automatically having diamond monsters, as threat income isn't something that the OL chooses to upgrade, whereas monsters are), which should be enough to ensure that if the heroes dare try to face the OL at copper level they'll be facing a diamond level avatar with a million wounds (remember, the avatar is *always* diamond level, as stated on the avatar card).

I did actually once create those avatar upgrades for treachery in the final battle, but it got lost in the old FFG message boards. Hopefully I saved it to some kind of file at home - I'll check next time I have an opportunity.
 
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Dave Pollard
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Aloha,

Ger, I think your ideas are really good, but creating lots of new avatar equipment and upgrade cards could require a fair amount of play-testing to get right. I feel like I can play around with the Overlord’s Keep generally, because it’s just about bonus HPs for the avatar, but I think making significant changes to the final showdown could easily swing it too far, and I’d rather things erred in favour of the heroes than the Overlord. (Ignore my earlier ill-conceived nonsense about a normal hand of treachery for the Overlord – what was I thinking?)

Chris, you’re right that the avatar himself should be enough to deter copper-level heroes from attempting the Overlord’s Keep. But having the Keep full of diamond monsters should also deter late-silver heroes, and it would also make the whole Overlord’s Keep scenario much more of a challenge (though, once again, it is worth pointing out that this simply translates into more HP for the avatar). It also frees up more of the Overlord’s XP to be spent on avatar upgrades and treachery, as he probably won’t spend any more on monster upgrades as the 600CP mark approaches since the monsters will all be diamond in the fortress anyway.

Oh, another idea that just occurred to me: what about giving the Overlord a free guard, aim or dodge command each turn in addition to his normal battle/advance/run? Just a thought.

I’d be dead keen to see your cards for treachery in the final fight if you can dig them up. Did you play-test any of them?

Ciao!

Dave
 
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Chris J Davis
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Hi Dave,

Here are my initial notes on which cards would be included in the treachery lists for each avatar. Note that these were only my preliminary notes based on which cards would fit thematically, not those which would be balanced (for example, Dance of the Monkey God would never be allowed). Also, this is before ToI was released, so any cards from that expansion are not covered.

Cost – 20
Ultimate Treachery
Beastman Lord Only
When the Avatar appears, you may construct a hand of cards from the following Overlord and treachery cards by spending your treachery (as with lieutenant encounters):

Kobold Horde
Lone Assassin
Drinkers of Blood
Elite Beastman War Party
Aim
Dodge
Guiding Force
All-Concealing Shadows
Drugged Darts
Scything Blades

Cost – 20
Ultimate Treachery
The Titan Only
When the Avatar appears, you may construct a hand of cards from the following Overlord and treachery cards by spending your treachery (as with lieutenant encounters):

Doom!
Lone Troll
Lone Ogre
Aim
Dodge
Critical Strike
Dark Power
Crushing Blow
Rolling Stone
Dance of the Monkey God

Cost – 20
Ultimate Treachery
Spider Queen Only
When the Avatar appears, you may construct a hand of cards from the following Overlord and treachery cards by spending your treachery (as with lieutenant encounters):

Lone Naga
Bane Spider Nest
Death on the Wing
Aim
Dodge
Spell of Binding
Danger
Poison Spikes
Scything Blades
Crushing Block

Cost – 20
Ultimate Treachery
Great Wyrm Only
When the Avatar appears, you may construct a hand of cards from the following Overlord and treachery cards by spending your treachery (as with lieutenant encounters):

Dark Armour
Death on the Wing
Lone Manticore
Aim
Dodge
Dark Power
All-Concealing Shadows
Enraged

Cost – 20
Ultimate Treachery
Demon Prince Only
When the Avatar appears, you may construct a hand of cards from the following Overlord and treachery cards by spending your treachery (as with lieutenant encounters):

Legions of the Dead
Dogs of War
Dark Brothers
Aim
Dodge
Pride
Dark Power
Weakness
Envy
Poltergeist
Gluttony
Dark Charm

Cost – 20
Ultimate Treachery
Sorcerer King Only
When the Avatar appears, you may construct a hand of cards from the following Overlord and treachery cards by spending your treachery (as with lieutenant encounters):

Legions of the Dead
Dark Masters
Lone Golem
Aim
Dodge
Spell of Frost
Spell of Burning
Spell of Binding
Dance of the Monkey God
Animate Weapons
Dark Charm
 
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Dave Pollard
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Hi Chris,

Sorry about the late reply - I've only just read your message.

Those lists are a great foundation for using treachery in the final showdown though, as you say, they'd probably need to be considered individually for game-breaking-ness. (Goodbye, Dance of the Monkey God.) I'm always instinctively drawn towards changes that are simply described, such as:

"The Overlord can build a hand of treachery, but only from cards that cost 1 point each, or from non-treachery cards from the Overlord deck (which cost half a point each)."

Of course, this, too, would require considering every card individually to make sure none of them would break the final fight.

Another house-rule I'm considering that could bring back 'immediacy' to the game is:

"Once the Silver Campaign has been reached, if either the Overlord's or heroes' CP total is ever twice that of the other side's, they automatically win."

This might be a little harsh under the normal rules when the Overlord has a big early advantage, but with all your other house rules limiting the Overlord it should be easily possible for the heroes to remain within that range with good play. It might also add a "if we can just hang on" feel to the game for the heroes in anticipation of their late-game advantage. Just a thought.

Ciao!

Dave
 
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