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Subject: Third game session report using heroes-in-battle variant rss

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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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This is the variant we thought up after our second game:

Quote:
For heroes we had this idea: heroes can intervene on any initiative order they want. They can intervene after all the cards have been drawn but before they are used.

Melee: power to damage. Draw as many cards as equals your melee skill. Choose one and use it to activate your hero. (so if it's damage, deal damage; rout, do a rout; orb, activate your special or one of your rewards).

Agility: power to reinforce. Let a number of units up to or equal your ranged score redraw. Similar to "re-rolls" in WotR. Each unit can only re-draw once.

Wisdom: power to rally. Draw a number of cards up to your wisdom score. Rally a number of units equal to the number of orbs drawn. Take those units and stand them back up.

Attacking heroes have to declare their actions before defending heroes. This includes the chance for attacking, then defending, heroes to declare duels before the battle starts.

Heroes can now also be activated to move into an area, but once in an activated area it requires "two steps" to leave. This means that if they are activated to fight in Spring, they will only be able to move one space in summer (unless you're Ronan or Red Scorpion). They will still be able to train or (most likely) heal. You can move through an activated area no problem (just like units).

One final thing we've been throwing around is the "risk" of combat. The thought was for every card drawn during "intervention" they take damage based on the triangle area of the card (or routs). So if you're fighting and draw three cards, you'll take damage based on the triangle area even though you're looking at the circle area. The only "problem" with this is if you're an agility person re-drawing for a triangle unit. In that case you want to do well... but not too well. But if you're out helping the masses (cannon fodder, basically) I guess you're gonna have to risk taking some damage.


We also thought, right before the game started, that every training point gave the potential for a "re-draw" to make our good heroes even more awesome. I don't address this below, but it turned out well. Someone even used it to go from no damage to three by activating an item, so they were very glad to have it.

I used the variant, and it was pretty awesome. One person was very non-confrontational. She tried using the ability for heroes to move with activations by moving Red Scorpion out to help attack, but realized the activation requires two to move out of (so she ended up 2 spaces away from the start anyways, opting not to use her ability). In the end she would complete 4 quests (should have been 6ish but we had a rules error). She used the heroes in combat three times, once to no effect but hurting herself, and twice against neutrals, but one was killed before intervention was needed and the other was won over with diplomacy. She expanded slowly into her open area, and would have been in the position to gain two more rune tokens before the end (possibly three if I hadn't made my last minute gamble).

I had the "trifecta" of heroes, and as elves starting with two cities near me (with a total of 5 influence between them), I built that "dream team" in the first turn. Sir Valadir to start, Mordrog and Mad Carthos shortly after through gaining support (the city card) and a hero bid. Modrog would move into a place in the Summer Hero phase and kill a guy with his ability, then Mad Carthos would move in after with one unit and "deal a damage before the start of a battle" and kill the second. It was a cheap but efficient way to win a place early. This raised cries of "OP" but even though I won it didn't really give me a huge advantage over anybody else (and was in fact very close in the end). This was a "really good" team and I basically kept those two back with my armies. Sir Valadir ended up winning two rewards and "circling around" the Mountain Ranges that protected my small but valuable corner. We ruled a hero already in a place could join an army that moves in so I also used Mordrog once to rush a place I was about to attack and kill a guy before the army arrived, which was pretty epic.

Let me step aside and discuss an issue that came up
There was some concern about deciding when heroes are with an army and when they're not, but this was easily solved. A place gets activated and everybody moves in. The attack at this time has to say if any hero already in the activated space is joining up with the army, and any hero that moves in with the activation has to join the army. The defender then says how many of his heroes are joining. After this the battle starts, and only heroes in the battle can declare duels, starting with the attacker first. If an army is destroyed the heroes die unless there are no enemy units remaining. This is important before Mordrog would have died, but he intervened with melee to take the last remaining good unit out. I didn't claim the land but my hero "fought his way out of that mess". We ruled you could not activate an area and only move heroes in, killing them if they did clear the area out (which I thought was dumb, especially because of Mad Carthos, but I get the reasoning, since the units can't damage the heroes, although it's not no risk since the heroes die if they don't kill all the units). If the army is forced to retreat the heroes just retreat with them (the heroes becoming routed in the process).
Back to the detached narrative

By this time I had 4 Runes due to buying them from influence bids, and I was pressed from two passes (by the skeletons in the south, but luckily she was focusing more on quests) and humans in the north. I had a powerful army in the mountain pass south, but up north it was vulnerable, so I built a fortress and put my fighting duo up there. I attacked while he strategized, so I used an attack to attack his fortress (he had used a card to prevent me from attacking his city like I wanted). I lost but my heroes helped do grievous damage and I had a card to rally four men after they retreated back into my stronghold. I had also activated Sir Valadir into the battle who had been "behind enemy lines). Next turn I strat-moved extra men into the fort and he attacked with overwhelming numbers.

He moved his hero in because he had an item that dealt three damage. Attacker got to declare duels first so I said Mad Carthos was going in for the kill. I dealt my damage, but on the first round we both drew a special and "1 damage" was worse than Silhouette's three-damage item. I then chose sir Valadir and killed her, but she did 3 damage. He had one, but this meant there was no way I was going to use him to "intervene" in the battle (which is why the risk of taking damage when you help is so important). He did win a shard from her, though, so I couldn't risk it. He beat me and I was driven out, and next turn took over another area that had a shared, but I built a fortress to protect my last place. I had one out of land areas with shards, and three in my home. I used my first action to buy the "King of the Heroes" title to get another shard out of home area, then came the last turn. I was going to use a 2 order (and go first, since I had the most influence) to take back that last place with all my dudes plus my hero. We got an all-reinforcement card in spring, which meant if I lost the battle it was between the other two players to see who could pick me apart the quickest.

This is where the variant really shined through. They threw every hero they had at Sir Valadir and Mordrog and skeleton-lady ended up killing them both after the humans failed. I ended up getting very lucky on that last battle anyways, but it would have been a sure thing if my heroes had been involved. It forced hero interaction, duels to the death, and it was very intense.

All in all I used all three abilities about even. I did agility twice to great effect (elf archers went from nothing to a special and 1 damage, which killed a horse dude; four swordsmen went from 1 damage to 2 damage, a special, and a rout). Wisdom only went once, but if I had managed to get more than one orb on four cards, I would have stood up enough guys right before the battle was over to conquer a fortress (the turn before he conquered mine... though I think this ability may be too powerful, who knows?). The strength ability was also used about 4 times (Mordrog and Sir Valadir), which caused an extra rout one time, and an extra damage all the other times. They all took a damage each time they did it, and once somebody took 2, and another time somebody was routed due to their intervention (I think when Mordrog used his wisdom to force re-draws). The penalties were definitely worth the rewards.

In all it was pretty epic, and everyone agreed even my power-combo wasn't over-powered. We had a huge epic duel-fest in the end which was incredible (and could have been game changing if my luck wasn't legendary), and everyone used their heroes in a bunch of different ways. Nobody found a way to really abuse the ability to move heroes with activations, though God help us skeleton-player tried and did to some effect (maybe netting like one extra space in total), but it also made the heroes feel so much more involved in their world, while still allowing them to go on quests if their controller wanted. In fact I almost completed a quest by "fighting" into a place in spring, and then having my hero present there during the summer month without having to leave the army, but that was a failed battle.

So the only issues that came up were:

a. is the wisdom ability under or overpowered? Should it be changed?
b. can heroes move in and fight on their own? We're leaning to "no", but to a unit-starved elf that can be kind of important.
c. what happens to a hero when his army loses? We said a hero will always retreat with his men, becoming routed. If there are no men left, the hero is killed if there are any standing enemy units. If there are no enemy units, or only routed units, the hero "slinks away" and stays in the hex un-routed and goes back to being a lonely hero hiding out in the wilderness. Simple rule easily implemented (I have no army; are the standing units? Yes: I'm dead. No: I'm fine). Also rarely encountered (generally towards the beginning, where it happened once and then almost again).

In general, though, the game went incredibly smoothly, there was less rule confusion over the variants which weren't written down than on some of the cards!, and it absolutely made the game more interesting. It really seems like the heroes were designed for this, and it definitely takes the game from something "really good" for me to "what I have been looking for."
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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One additional item: rewards!

You can only use weapons and armor during a battle (no standing up four units with a card in mid-battle). Some of these can still be deadly on a turn you're going to battle (ex. have the hero move in during the summer hero phase, then when you play mobilize, right before you attack that place, play the "make four units rout" item, then mobilize into there and have the hero meet up with the army... but except for the hero meeting up with the army you could do this without my variant), but it will prevent unfair supercombos from popping up.

Weapons and armor can only be activated, however, by using melee intervention.

Armor that doesn't need to be activated can be used any time the hero takes damage? This is one that hasn't come up and hasn't been fully discussed. Some armor, like cancel two hits, really takes away from the risk of the attack, but maybe that's not OP compared to some of the weapons that can deal up to three damage (making a hero in some cases as good as a sexagonal unit, maybe better!). I mean rewards can yield you 1/6th of a victory! I guess taking away the risk from intervening is fine compared to that. These rewards are supposed to be just that! Besides if you're using your guys for combat, they generally won't be going after rewards (I know I only completed one mission, and would have completed non except one started right next to me).

edit: also, routed heroes can't fight in battles, duh, nor move.

We were stuck, though, on whether they could stand up during the hero phase (and that's it, no healing, training, questing, moving, just stand up). This would mean if you do an early fight in Spring and lose, your hero could stand up in summer to participate in another battle.
 
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Judd Jensen
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I really like the sound of this intervention variant as the heroes have an important role in the base game, but tend to spend far too much standing around watching armies battle it out in the space they are standing in.

Thanks for the idea,

Judd
 
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Chris Kessel
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The Melee one seems kind of lame compared to the other two. Use 1 card, where agility and wisdom get to potentially use every card. Was there a reason behind this?

The risk implementation risk bothers me a bit. If you've got a guy trained to 6 in the stat then the odds are much higher you'll kill him than a wimpy stat guy. That seems counter-intuitive. Maybe something that's independent of the cards drawn, like just a straight "After combat draw 3 cards and the hero takes any triangle damage (ignore all non-damage symbols)".
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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ckessel wrote:
The Melee one seems kind of lame compared to the other two. Use 1 card, where agility and wisdom get to potentially use every card. Was there a reason behind this?


The melee starts off being the worst, definitely, but it is important to remember that battles also start off small. Being able to deal one damage, instantly (and pretty much guranteed due to the high odds of drawing a damage or orb with circle units and only 2-3 cards), in the first round of combat let me conquer an area with just Mordrog and an archer unit. However, as battles get bigger melee heroes get less of an advantage unless they have the rewards to back it up. At that point being able to deal two or three damage (almost guranteed) can be incredibly powerful.

I have considered the idea of letting melee warriors draw until they get the card they want (or run out) and then choose between them. That would lessen the risk, but it also seems less necessary,

The problems are twofold: getting an orb with circle is easy for a 2 melee character pretty much as for a 3 melee character. The return on 4-5 is just almost non-existant. In fact even the agility guys have a pretty big decrease in rewards, since how often do you have 5 units all draw poorly that you want to redraw for all of them? Nonce in the three games I've seen, and in fact I've only every had 5 of the same type of unit once. And again, if it's a triangle unit how successful do you want them to be on the redraw, since any damage they deal also become damage you deal?

So yes, the risk system has its flaws, but it's definitely necessary. I also like the idea of tying risk into how much you are going to intervene, and if you can intervene more that just means there's more chances of getting hurt.

The second problem is the melee guy can, at most, deal 4 damage (with the right rewards, 3 more likely, 2 in most cases). A mage guy rallying a sexagon unit, or an agility test redrawing for a sexagon unit, can deal significantly more. However, those last two rely on a sexagon unit being there and alive. The leaders are dependent on the strength of their men. The melee heroes are more dependent on their own strength.

The final thought, and this is not set in stone yet, is to modify hero combat to fit more into the Runebound model where you fight based off your stats. This is TBD, though, and we will be testing it out next game. Going in the order on the card (Melee, Agility, Wisdom), melee has the advantage in battle so having a weaker combat ability wouldn't hurt that much.

I'd also say from my game I was more than happy to have the two melee guys for their extra abilities if nothing else, and I felt no disadvantage with them (especially since I was using them to boost the poor numbers of my small elf armies). In fact I'd say, without calling them OP, that they were the factor that tipped the game for me in retrospect (that and a goof by my opponent on turn 1 that delayed his drive towards me by 2 seasons).
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Warbringer25 wrote:
I really like the sound of this intervention variant as the heroes have an important role in the base game, but tend to spend far too much standing around watching armies battle it out in the space they are standing in.

Thanks for the idea,

Judd


We're playtesting twice more on Saturday and then we're writing down all the rules formally. If you'd like a copy before then I think I could work on one by tomorrow night so you could give them the official go. We have gone through pretty much every component so far looking for OP combos, killer rewards, rule-bending combos, and we're not finding too many contradictions with the written rules.
 
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Judd Jensen
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Sweet. Given the length of the game, I probably won't get a chance to play again until next weekend. That said, I would love to give the hero rules a go in that game, so please send me a copy or post the full rules in the files section when you get a chance.

I also like the idea of combining these hero rules with some new uses for the Dragon Runes (as mentioned in another post on variants). These sort of little details are missing from the base game, but I think they add a lot of entertainment and strategy to the game.

Judd
 
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Scott Lewis
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One major thing missing from Runewars that was in Battlemist is the spells - in Battlemist, not only were you collecting Stars, but you used them to cast spells during the game, and the more Stars you had, the more powerful spells (or quantity) you could cast.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Warbringer25 wrote:
I also like the idea of combining these hero rules with some new uses for the Dragon Runes (as mentioned in another post on variants). These sort of little details are missing from the base game, but I think they add a lot of entertainment and strategy to the game.


I agree with this and the spells. I also like the "special abilities" the heroes have in the other alternative listed, but I am not really a fan of deterministic results (like flipping a fortress or providing +2 food in a spot). I think the heroes shouldn't lord over the board like tyrants detached from the happenings, lending a hand in from high once a turn, but should really be "in the mix of things" and be able to lead a charge or rally fleeing troops. However, giving people specific attributes (even the deterministic ones) has some appeal, but I'm afraid I might end up making heroes too powerful (something I'm really trying to avoid; in my game there was no "major" advantage to using heroes for combat over just questing, but there was definitely some, however we did a rule wrong for questing so it was actually weaker than it should have been).

One game I've definitely thought back to when thinking about this is Heroes of Might and Magic. There was a game where heroes were really a "face" to your army, and if there was some way to make magic and heroes interact that might be an interesting model to think to (specifically "learning spells" through training then being able to employ them with an army). Of course there would have to be other advantages, because then heroes become powerhouses.

Of course we could simply take my ideas above and work them into spells, but I am trying to keep this as simple as possible, even though I readily admit I intend to "change the core of the game" because as it stands the core is mediocre, but the flow is so smooth and the game so fun that all it needs is a little "character"!

Quote:
One major thing missing from Runewars that was in Battlemist is the spells - in Battlemist, not only were you collecting Stars, but you used them to cast spells during the game, and the more Stars you had, the more powerful spells (or quantity) you could cast.


Also I bet this will definitely be in the expansion then if it was in the original, assuming we get an expansion...
 
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Chris Kessel
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Quote:
I also like the "special abilities" the heroes have in the other alternative listed, but I am not really a fan of deterministic results (like flipping a fortress or providing +2 food in a spot).


Heh, I'm the exact opposite. I'm not a fan of random results. One of the reasons I liked the hero abilities in that other thread was it was something, finally, that wouldn't be yet another freaking random element in this game.

I've even been toying with ways to try and make quest locations and rewards a bit less random. I don't like that player A ends up with his quest one hex away and gets a shard vs. B traversing the board and getting crap. In a game as long as Runewars, feeling like you're getting screwed by randomness ruins the fun.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Playtested a second game using the hero rules last night. Melee units were changed:
Heroes may intervene at the end of any stage using their melee skill. They draw a number of cards equal to their melee level but they switch the results of the triangle and circle area (so they hit on triangles, get hit on circles). However formulating this we had messed up our deck distribution chart, so that was in general a bad decision (circle has less hits and flags, and orbs do nothing to heroes) but it wasn't really all that unbalanced (and nobody fought with a damaged hero because we still thought the distribution was the same, so the "threat" was there even if it wasn't). It resulted (at its worst) with 2 hits and a flag, pretty severe for the first round but a lot times it wasn't used (because there's a lot of incentive to hold your hero off to redraw for a bigger unit anyways).

The thought process, though, led two places. One was to revert to the original idea (draw a bunch, pick one) but the hero can activate using the rectangle area of the card. This is too confusing/unnecessary and I think the best choice is draw circle cards and use all of them. Getting multiple orbs doesn't really matter (you can only activate a unit with an orb once), and with the fewer hits/routs on circle it makes it less damaging in general. This way there is a reason to use higher level melee heroes and it can really pay off, but you are taking away the "guarantee" provided by a redraw or wisdom intervention towards the end. This presents I think a nice balance.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Well two more games down and we pretty much have heroes in a "sweet spot." One player used them almost exclusively to quest, another to hunt and quest, and I was playing humans and hid in my mountain fortress (four spaces with a 7 strength fortress planted at both entrances) with a hero on each spot. I never had more than 4 food and I was mostly ignored (messed with, but not attacked), and on turn 5 I ventured out a little and took one spot, then teleported into somebody's home. They took it back, and another player took my lower fortress yet choose not to follow up into my home realm because a card was played that forced me to move a rune out of my home and he took that (he would have had a chance to win if he cost me one and gained one, but he didn't want to risk it hoping I would mess up). However, I had one chance to take a spot and using heroes I scouted out two spaces near me and concluded the third had the Rune I was looking for. I took it, although one of her heroes was a 5 melee and did 5 damage in one round! Deadly (he had an ice axe), but not enough to stop me. And in fact a 5 strength ice-axe was far less deadly than her getting a Shard of Whatever would have been (I would have gone from winning to third, and she third to first).

And that's what justifies these rules. It makes the Ice Axe in many ways as deadly as a shard, it makes you cry for joy when a hero wins a duel even if the enemy had nothing, and most of all it makes it difficult to use heroes. There's no easy formula, no "which one do I go for or should I just train or should I try to ambush somebody"? The decision matrix is branched a million different ways. You have to decide if you can "risk" them on quests or if you should save them up for a big battle. Bogran giving me redraws with my knights got me 2 strategy cards, one of which would have saved the game for me if I had been attacked in my home realm (summon lightning). Using him to mug, however, might have taken away that ice ax (which may have cost me the game if she had drawn a little luckier with her mage). Saving heroes allowed me to scout that last turn and turn a chance of victory into a sure thing, but might I have been better trying for at least one quest and maybe getting a shard, ending it before that last turn? She might have won if she had kept one more hero back home who instead died in a duel. The losses really hit home with heroes because you grow to rely on them for so much (even for sitting in a mountain fortress turning a 4 unit army into something that could potentially deal a crapload of damage). They aren't disposable.

Anyways, I'm going to create a new post and try to write these rules up all official.

Also, fun fact, we taught the game to somebody completely new this weekend and they had more problems with the order cards than they did with the hero rules, which don't require a single decision to be made except at the moment an activation order is placed. The hero rules in fact took almost no explanation, and we forgot to mention they were house-rules until halfway through the game, and he didn't notice. That was awesome.
 
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