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Subject: A first full game - vs. The Sorcerer rss

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roboros
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A game of Catacombs consists of a group of four heroes attempting to defeating the minions of one of four possible Catacomb Lords (here the Sorcerer) across 8 encounters. These start with a 'level 0 room' and get progressively more challenging as follows:

0 -> 1 -> merchant -> 1 -> 1 -> healer -> 2 -> Lord

Some hero abilities (like the Elf's arrows) refresh after each encounter while others (Barbarian Rage, Wizard spells) must be managed for the duration of the entire game. I've already shared my opinion of the game in a review post (summary - I like it!) so I have kept this to an account of the session with some additional rules explanations so things can make sense to those who haven't played before (presumably, most of you). So let's enter the dungeon!

*****

Encounter 1 was in the Bholeth Cemetary and saw the heroes quickly dispatch the Skeleton Warriors and Zombies. These non-ranged minions are a nice 'first contact' for new players as they provide little surprise in terms of mechanics. The board places the obstacles near to the heroes and leaves the monsters in the open. For fun I played up the zombie theme by having the second zombie attack the barbarian after the first had struck and gone into a 'feeding frenzy' zombie (this 'ability' renders the zombie inactive in the next Overseer turn as it tries to eat the hero it attacked!). But the mindless brutes were wiped out in the second hero turn.

The next encounter was in a place known only as 'Phoitar' where the board looked creepily like light shining through human skin. The obstacles are symmetrical on this board offering the same coverage to both sides. The heroes met Orcs and a Ghoul; the first 2-health point monsters of the game. When such a monster takes a first hit you simply flip the monster disc over after a hit to indicate this. The Ghoul also got to stun the recklessly charging Barbarian which allowed the Orcs to surround and pound him (5 damage!) prompting the Wizard to burn his Teleport Hero spell (and lecture the Barbarian on tactical party combat). After this lesson, the monsters were dispatched readily enough.

The third room is a merchant where you can turn coins collected from killing creatues into magical items. Six of the nine item cards in the game are revealed and the heroes purchased the Wizard's familiar (allows for remote spell-casting), the Barbarian's helmet (extra rage attack), and the Thief's poisoned dagger.

Encounter 4 at the Stoneloth Crossroads featured Skeleton Archers and Trolls. This board is the reverse side of the last and depicts broken chunks of flagstone peeping up from the dirt like some long-forgotten castle courtyard. Here too is another simple mechanic implementation for the Troll's regeneration which is to simply flip the monster disc back to full health if the Troll is alive at the start of the Overseer turn. Alas for the Overseer, the party manages to double-hit the Trolls (the poisoned dagger does 2 damage on the first hit of each encounter) and mops up the skeleton crew after the brutes are gone.

Room number 5 takes us to the lava-etched Colonnade of Chaos to battle a Crypt Spider, a Fire Demon, and two wandering monsters. Each Catacomb Lord is associated with one monster that appears when a wandering monster is called for. Fortunately for the heroes the Sorcerer only musters the relatively weak Skeleton Warriors to the battle. But the big baddies here take combat up another notch as the demon can hurl two fireballs in place of a melee attack and the spider has 2 ranged stun attacks after a melee. Very nasty business! The party unloads their ranged attacks to deal with the spider then closes in to melee with the demon (immune to most missiles) taking enough damage in the process that they are relieved when the next room brings them to the Healer.

The Healer is where all your money is spent to heal wounds and resurrect dead companions. It costs a lot for each point of health but it seems balanced enough to give the heroes some breathing room but not comfort heading into the penultimate battle.

Encounter 7 was in Vaiel's Manse, the reverse of the board from room 1 that now provided all the cover to the monsters and none for the heroes. Up front were Centaurs with a melee and missile attack that punished the heroes' cautious advance. Behind them were Minotaurs who's ability was to strike back immediately after a melee hit, even a killing blow. And lurking at the rear was a Giant Scorpion whose 2-point melee attack proved fatal to the Thief. The 3 surviving heroes prevailed, but at a great cost and limped into the final room to face the Sorcerer and his minions.

The Sorceror set up is on the same board again the previous encounter, now with Fire Demons, Giant Scorpions, and a Cerberus hound (cue the ominous music). The heroes were able to contain the demon's fireballs by using the Wizard's Shield spell and heavily damaged the non-demons with ranged before the Barbarian raged into the midst to deal the killing blows. It seemed like the heres could pull off a victory until probabilities (likely manipulated by the evil Sorcerer himself!) treated them most cruelly. For although the Sorcerer seems weak (only 4 health) he wears a Cloak of Deception that protects him from being hit. After 10 contacts the heroes had only inflicted 2 actual points of damage while the Elf had been slain after entering melee. Not only is he a difficult adversary to wound, but the Sorcerer's Dark Mesmerism melee attack stuns its victims and soon the Barabarian, dazed by the Sorcerer's spells and unable to defend himself, was slain. The Wizard, depleted of spells and unable to execute successful hit and run attacks soon fell under the attack of the mighty Catacomb Lord. Chalk up a victory for EVIL (in less than an hour)!

*****

As a footnote to actual play, there is a lot of 'piece management' that goes on in the game. Between the flipping of monsters, pieces bumping other pieces, and pieces needing to be placed back on the board after sailing off, you may want to appoint an impartial referee for the game. While we managed to resolve any such issues without argument, if you have particularly competitive players a referee could rule quickly and keep the game from stopping to debate such things.

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Mike Bourgeois
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Victoria
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We're looking forward to giving this a try. I hope it continues to be a lot of fun.
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Bill Paradise
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Sounds exciting. I can't wait to play. Thanks for the great session report.
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Daniel Danzer
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theMage wrote:
As a footnote to actual play, there is a lot of 'piece management' that goes on in the game. ... you may want to appoint an impartial referee for the game. While we managed to resolve any such issues without argument, if you have particularly competitive players a referee could rule quickly and keep the game from stopping to debate such things.

The rules state clearly, that the "Overseer" player is all three: conductor of the game, competitor and referee. But I guess, this game is just nothing for "rules lawyers" ...
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