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Subject: Never Attack a Goblin! rss

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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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DungeonQuest is a deliciously difficult game to play. Most of your trips into DragonFire Castle will result in your untimely demise before nightfall. You'll have many choices to make if you hope to gain treasure and emerge alive, but this article focuses on only one of them: Monsters, and what to do when you encounter them.

Each of the five adversaries included in the Monster Deck has its own peculiarities. Understanding these, and picking the best course of action for each monster you encounter, can be the difference between life and death for your adventurer.

You must select one of three courses of action when you enter a room with a monster: Attack, Wait and See, or Escape. Attack and Wait and See are functionally equivalent - you'll remain in the new room after dealing with the monster, assuming you survive the encounter. But Attack is a far better choice against some monsters, while Wait and See is better against others.

Escape is different, in that you can't select it if you entered the room via a Secret Door or through a Portcullis, and if you succeed in escaping you'll have to return to the previous room from which you entered. Depending on your situation, that may be more important than your expected loss when deciding whether Escape is your best bet. Whether that's the case or not, the info below will let you compare Escape to the other two options.

The abilities of each monster encountered is determined by drawing one of the 15 cards from the Monster Deck:



(image by Friendly Bombs)

I've taken the data from these cards, and broken it down for each monster to help you see the best case, worst case and average for each of your possible responses. The possible results are as follows::

Escape: you can only get this result only if your selected action was Escape. As noted earlier, in this case you must return to the room from which you entered the room with the monster. In some cases, an Escape result stands alone, in others it follows a Slash (see below).

Flee: you can get this result only if your selected action was Attack or Wait and See. When this happens, you get to remain in the room, and take no damage.

Combat: with this result, the monster will fight your adventurer to the death. Each Combat includes the number of life points (LPs) that the monster has. This is the number of hits you'll need to kill it. The larger the LP number, the more dangerous the monster.

Slash: with this result the monster gets an initial swipe at you before anything else happens. The weakest Slash attack is a 6-sided die roll minus 4, which works out to 0.5 hits on average. The strongest is an unmodified 12-sided die, which could be as much as 12 hits, and averages 6.5! After the Slash is resolved, the encounter will conclude with either a Combat or an Escape.

Now let's examine and compare the results for each of the monsters in turn.


Goblin

Attack:
73% Flee
27% Combat (1 to 4 LPs, avg 2.5)

Wait and See:
73% Flee
27% Combat (1 to 2 LPs, avg 1.5)

Escape:
40% Escape
47% Slash (1 to 2 hits, avg 1.1) / Combat (1 to 2 LPs, avg 1.3)
13% Combat (always 1 LP)

Analysis: Goblins are weak creatures, and relative easy to deal with. That does not mean you should take unnecessary risks when facing them. As the article title indicates, you should never Attack a Goblin. Wait and See is as good or better for every card in the deck.


Orc

Attack:
40% Flee
60% Combat (2 to 5 LPs, avg 3.3)

Wait and See:
27% Flee
73% Combat (1 to 6 LPs, avg 3.1)

Escape:
27% Escape
13% Slash (0 to 6 hits, avg 2.1) / Escape
53% Slash (0 to 6 hits, avg 1.6) / Combat (2 to 5 LPs, avg 3.5)
07% Combat (3 LPs)

Analysis: Orcs are a bit more dangerous than Goblins, and react differently. Attack is a better choice than Wait and See against an Orc, because it is more likely to flee. If it fights, its strength will differ little on average, and the worst case LP for Attack is one less.


Mountain Troll

Attack:
20% Flee
80% Combat (1 to 4 LPs, avg 2.2)

Wait and See:
53% Flee
47% Combat (2 to 5 LPs, avg 3.4)

Escape:
87% Escape
13% Slash (0 to 12 hits, avg 4.8) / Combat (3 to 4 LPs, avg 3.5)

Analysis: The Mountain Troll is large and slow, so your odds of a successful Escape are excellent. But if you try to Escape and fail, it can get very ugly! If you don't want risk an Escape attempt, Wait and See is probably a better choice than Attack. If the Troll fights, he'll be a bit tougher, but the chances of him fleeing are substantially better and may make that risk worthwhile.


Death Warrior

Attack:
13% Flee
87% Combat (2 to 5 LPs, avg 3.8)

Wait and See:
07% Flee
93% Combat (2 to 5 LPs, avg 3.6)

Escape:
40% Escape
27% Slash (0 to 3 hits, avg 1.0) / Escape
33% Slash (0 to 4 hits, avg 2.1) / Combat (2 to 4 LPs, avg 3.2)

Analysis: The Death Warrior is a formidable opponent, and one from which an attempt to Escape might be the most prudent choice. If you must hold your ground, Attack. That doubles your chance of getting a flee result, with almost no change in LP average should you have to fight.


Champion of Chaos

Attack:
13% Flee
87% Combat (2 to 7 LPs, avg 4.5)

Wait and See:
07% Flee
93% Combat (3 to 8 LPs, avg 4.8)

Escape:
20% Escape
73% Slash (0 to 6 hits, avg 2.0) / Combat (2 to 8 LPs, avg 5.4)
07% Combat (5 LPs)

Analysis: If you face the Champion of Chaos, you have a serious problem. Unlike the Death Warrior, Escape doesn't look much better than standing your ground - your chance of getting away doesn't improve a great deal, and it's highly probably that you'll take more damage otherwise. If you choose not to Escape, Attack is the least painful choice. A flee result is twice as likely as it would be with Wait and See, and if you face a Champion he will be less formidable, both in the worst case scenario and on average.


Summary
So there you have it. Escape should get extra consideration against Mountain Trolls and Death Warriors. If Escape isn't your choice, Attack against Orcs, Death Warriors or Champions of Chaos, but Wait and See is superior when you face a Goblin, and probably also against a Mountain Troll.

Learn these lessons well, and perhaps you'll escape alive from your next foray into DragonFire castle.
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Scott Everts
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Wow, great job compiling all that data!
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David desJardins
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Sphere wrote:
The Death Warrior is a formidable opponent, and one from which an attempt to Escape might be the most prudent choice. If you must hold your ground, Attack. That doubles your chance of getting a flee result, with almost no change in LP average should you have to fight.


The difference in LPs doesn't seem so small to me. 87% of 3.8 is only slightly less than 93% of 3.6, that's one way to look at it.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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ScottE wrote:
Wow, great job compiling all that data!


The funny part is that I had to compile it twice.

After I'd gathered the data from my 18 cards, I looked through the images and found the one in the article above. My first thought was "too bad, that poor guy is missing 3 cards". My second thought was "oh, crap".

There are actually a lot of duplicate cards in DungeonQuest, by design. But I noticed that all the cards in the image were unique. After matching up 15 of my cards to the 15 in the image, I found that, sure enough, the three extras I had were the only duplicates in that deck.

So if I had three extras in that deck, I must have extras in other decks as well - the cards had been printed in sheets. Time to do some research. Luckily somebody had uploaded images of all the un-separated card sheets here, a very handy reference which would allow me to go through and match my cards to a complete set.

Murphy's Law seldom fails, though, and the Monster Deck cards are the only type which was printed backside up on those sheets. I had three cards that I suspected were wrong, and those were the only three I could not see in the card sheet images. That left me with the task of matching all my other cards from all the other decks to the images to deduce what was left over.

I did figure it out, though. It turns out I've owned and played the game for 20+ years without ever realizing that I had an extra copy of every card on this sheet:



Taking out the 3 dupes in the Monster Deck resulted in fairly minor changes to the data when I recalculated it for this article. No conclusions were altered as a result.

It is interesting to think about how the game my family has played over the years was different than intended, though. We had one big benefit: we weren't trapped at dead ends as often as we should have been, because our Search Deck had 3 extra Secret Doors. Most of the other duplicates weren't so helpful:

Corpse Deck: 2 Scorpions and 1 Potion
Crypt Deck: 2 Traps, 1 Empty
Door Deck: 3 Door Jammed Shut
Search Deck: 3 Secret Door
Trap Deck: 2 Poisonous Gas, 1 Trapdoor


The fact that the Corpse, Crypt and Search decks all have treasure cards, and we had none in our group of duplicates, seems to me to be sufficient to neutralize the advantage we got from the extra Secret Doors. We'll play with the correct decks in future, but I'm not throwing out the family record book for scores we attained over the years.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Sphere wrote:
The Death Warrior is a formidable opponent, and one from which an attempt to Escape might be the most prudent choice. If you must hold your ground, Attack. That doubles your chance of getting a flee result, with almost no change in LP average should you have to fight.


The difference in LPs doesn't seem so small to me. 87% of 3.8 is only slightly less than 93% of 3.6, that's one way to look at it.


(I have to be nuts to argue numbers with a mathematician, but why not.)

My point was that the difference in average LPs is small compared to the difference in flee results; you have twice the chance of avoiding any combat at all if you Attack.

After taking another look at it, there really isn't that much difference. If you do all 15 Attacks, you'll end up facing 49 LPs worth of Death Warriors all told. If you do all 15 Wait and Sees, you'll end up facing 50 LPs.

One other recommendation in the article that I'm not entirely comfortable with is Escape from the Mountain Troll. Yes, the odds of getting away are really good. But if you get the 'Slash D12 / Combat 3 LP' result, you could well end up dead. I'm not sure whether I made that sufficiently clear in the article.

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Mark W
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Ack, I went into this thread expecting an amusing anecdote about a goblin that seriously whooped your ass, but then I see this. surprise I find this kind of analysis antithetical to the spirit of the game. If it works for you that's cool, but personally I enjoy feeling out the monsters' behavior, even if my guesses aren't always optimal.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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NeonPeon wrote:
Ack, I went into this thread expecting an amusing anecdote about a goblin that seriously whooped your ass, but then I see this. surprise



Perhaps you failed to notice that I put it in the Strategy folder?


NeonPeon wrote:
I find this kind of analysis antithetical to the spirit of the game. If it works for you that's cool, but personally I enjoy feeling out the monsters' behavior, even if my guesses aren't always optimal.



I understand that - I personally avoid strategy articles until I've thoroughly absorbed a game on my own.

I was inspired to write this article by a comment in a session report by a guy who said he'd learned to "always attack" monsters. My experience told me it wasn't as simple as that, so I crunched the numbers last evening - for the very first time.

Knowing that many people are interested by that sort of thing, it seemed worthwhile to write it up. I figured that by putting it in the Strategy section, people like yourself who like to avoid spoilers would steer clear.
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Rob Olsson
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Thanks for the tips!

I guess I should have said that the lesson I learned in one play of the game was to always attack, but now I know better.

The numbers (life points) for the foe seem to average in favor of an attacking player. It is a neat game and I look forward to playing it again.
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John W
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Sphere wrote:
ScottE wrote:
Wow, great job compiling all that data!


The funny part is that I had to compile it twice.

After I'd gathered the data from my 18 cards,
This has to be the most wonderfully anal-retentive post I've ever read on BGG. thumbsup

It starts with a deliciously-detailed OP about probability in a beer-and-pretzels game, then goes on to relate the minute details and investigation about tracking down a card disparity.

Only on BGG, baby. cool

Actually, in the back of my mind for over 15 years I've been expecting someone to bust out a number-crunch for the creatures in DQ.
Great work, Sphere!
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reapersaurus wrote:
This has to be the most wonderfully anal-retentive post I've ever read on BGG. thumbsup


Ouch! You sure know how to inflict a compliment, Reaper. I hope I never earn an insult from you.
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Patrik Eden
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Sphere wrote:
The Death Warrior is a formidable opponent, and one from which an attempt to Escape might be the most prudent choice. If you must hold your ground, Attack. That doubles your chance of getting a flee result, with almost no change in LP average should you have to fight.


The difference in LPs doesn't seem so small to me. 87% of 3.8 is only slightly less than 93% of 3.6, that's one way to look at it.


The bit of strategic choices that exist in this game often comes in this form. You have two options with roughly the same average result, but greater variance in one. If you are in a strong position, it is best to go for low variance, to keep control over your losses. If you are in a bad one, you need a bit of luck and should go for high variance.

Attacking the Death Warrior is the high variance choice. The monster will more likely flee, but be stronger if it doesn't. The advice to Attack presumes that you are in a bad position - and that is almost always a valid assumption!

Thank you sphere for this thread! You put numbers to my general feeling.
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Martin Rundkvist
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I've run the same kind of numbers for the Swedish original version from 1985.

-----

In Drakborgen, the Swedish original version of Dungeonquest, combat with wandering monsters is randomised with the aid of the 15-card monster deck. When you encounter a monster, you decide whether to attack, wait or flee, and then you draw a card to see what the monster does. The strength of a monster is determined entirely by its hit points, that is, in Drakborgen every blow from a monster does the same amount of damage but certain monsters are more likely to fight and some survive for longer once combat starts. And a given monster will often have different numbers of hit points depending on what you choose to do.

After over 20 years of intermittently playing the game I've finally run the numbers and checked how the five monster types will typically behave.

If you feel up to fighting, then it is best to attack orcs and skeletons (they will have less hit points and be more likely to flee on average). With trolls and goblins, on the other hand, you had better wait to see what they do.

Assuming that you act upon this knowledge, here's the ranking list of how many hit points each monster type will have on average (with the monster's flight counting as 0 hit points).

1. Pair of orcs: 3.9
2. Skeleton: 3.3
3. Single orc: 2.0
4. Troll: 1.6
5. Goblin: 0.4

If you're not quite in shape to fight, it's good to know your chances of avoiding combat if you choose to flee. They are as follows.

1. Troll. 87% no fight.
2. Goblin and skeleton. 40% no fight.
3. Single orc. 27% no fight.
4. Pair of orcs. 20% no fight, and they are extremely mean if your flight attempt fails.
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Ben Kyo
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While I wasn't too interested in 'spoiling' the monster odds I'm so glad I skimmed the thread and found that I too had duplicate cards! I always thought that searches were too good and doors too hard and now I know why - 3 extra secret doors and 3 extra jammed doors really skews the odds!

Thanks for that.
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