I love this game, but one thing really bugs me. It was a little bit true even before picking up Something Wicked, and now with the addition of Brother Marcus, the Burning Censer, and the Scroll of Knowledge, it's become crazy (IMO).
In my experience over 80% of all wins are scored by (or largely thanks to) a character who is using either Cunning or Spirit as their Fight dice pool.
The downsides of using this strategy:
- It's moderately expensive to initiate (except for Brother Marcus).
- It takes time to set up (again except for Brother Marcus).
- Brother Marcus is ridiculously bad at picking up Investigation from the board, and thus has his own cost and setup-time issues.
Break-even factors about this:
- You can't use Weapons to help you in a fight, nor Aggressive Combat. However, there seem to be about as many items which boost your Cunning and Spirit as there are Weapons available.
The advantages it gets you:
- Your one high skill does double duty, both as a necessary or useful out-of-combat skill, and as a combat stat. So any gains you make in that stat are twice as useful.
- They can be trained in town, which Combat cannot. Thus it is much easier to raise them.
- They protect you from about half of the "you must use X skill" minions and encounters. There are no "you must use Combat" encounters.
- You can benefit from Burning Censer or Scroll of Knowledge. This is huge.
- You have a stat you can neglect (Combat). Characters who do not choose this path have to at least risk something if they leave one of their off stats really low; there's no risk to ignoring Combat if you don't need it.
- You can search for one of the Lair cards which lets you gain additional Fight dice based on a roll of your primary skill value. AFAIK there is no such Lair which calls for Combat skill.
- Weapons are generally priced higher than the items which grant equivalent bonuses to the other stats. Compare the Pistol (takes up inventory space, costs 5) with the Oath of Devotion (takes up your "Oath slot" which is negligible at present, costs 2); this trend seems to hold true in general, if not so clearly as this.
How is this considered balanced? It really bothers me, and I'm rather surprised that there isn't an existing thread about this - I expected to find a consensus house-rule solution or, possibly, even an erratum to that effect.
So, given the feelings I'm expressing here, obviously I want to change it. I'm considering two possible approaches:
1) In general, all effects which currently read "gain X Fight dice" become "gain X Combat dice" instead. This includes Town elder abilities, Gunpower kegs and black powder bombs, and so forth, with the exception that the Magistrate and the Reverend have their special abilities amended to grant +1 Combat vs all targets, and +1 Combat and Cunning (for the Magistrate) or Spirit (for the Reverend) versus their preferred foes only.
2) If you are granted the ability to use another skill in place of Combat, this applies only during the Heroes' turns. During the Mystery Phase, you only use a non-Combat skill in a fight when instructed to do so.
Either one would make it a much riskier strategy. Neither would be overkill (IMO). I haven't gone through the catalogue of sources of bonuses to verify the integrity of the former approach, though my anecdotal best guess is that relatively few Showdowns have hinged on the use of such things - they seem to generally be the cherry on top which has turned a barely winnable Showdown into a cakewalk. My primary concern about the
latter version is that it doesn't impact the actual Showdown, which of course is where the game is won or lost. Obviously it will have an influence over things by seeing to it that heroes using this approach are less dominant during the rest of the game, and therefore have fewer advantages when heading into the Showdown proper, but it may not feel that way to the other players at the table when Brother "Spirit-of-nine-with-a-burning-censer" Marcus still tears the villain to shreds.
The lesser tweak of houseruling that the Censer and Scroll do not, contrary to their card text, permit them to be used when the skill in question is doing duty in combat, is IMO best kept as a backup for if one of the two above proves to be good for the game, but a little insufficient. They're not the problem, they just aggravated one that was already present.
Although you're welcome to voice your agreement or disagreement with my premise (that these strategies are enough stronger as to effectively shrink the game's decision space too much), please don't reply merely to do so. Ditto with your experiences in play. If you post to this thread, please at least include an opinion on the viability, appropriateness, or relative fun factor of the two house-rules I've listed above. Thanks in advance for helping me keep the thread focused by respecting this request.
A couple of test runs with the first variant above (all "gain Fight dice" become +Combat instead)...
1) Solo two-hero, Scarlet Shadow and Playwright versus the Necromancer. Playwright went Cunning, and lost a few opportunities to gain bonuses, but the presence of a teammate who could benefit from them meant that they weren't really wasted. A solid win for the good guys.
2) Solo lone hero, Vampiress versus Bog Thing, Vampiress going Cunning - a no-brainer in this case, since she didn't even need Tools of Science until quite late in the game, having a not-awful Combat and the villain's only minion being a Cunning fight anyway. (I realized after the game that Scroll of Knowledge has keyword Holy. That's okay, the results would have been much the same with a different usually-wealthy hero, say Cooke.) I got a little ... not exactly overconfident, but overconservative, dragging things out and spending a ridiculous amount on Lair cards to try and get one which overlapped with one of the two On The Hunt elders, rather than just going for it alone.
In this case, the lack of a teammate to pass bonuses off to meant that she lost out on quite a lot (four bonus dice from Lair card, +5 from a reluctant hero Magistrate, and +1 from Lord Hanbrook) which she normally would have had. This turned a narrow win into a narrow loss, by losing me a Showdown with the Villain all but dead after the first round. [I actually ended up choosing my Combat 3, plus those bonuses, over my Cunning 8, without them, even with Scroll of Knowledge. On average it's a hair better.]
So what does that tell me? Well, it tells me that (a) the tweak has an effect which operates in the direction I want, which is always nice to confirm; that (b) the tweak isn't horribly strong, given the second-game loss and the fact that the two characters, Combat-with-all-our-bonus-dice and Cunning-only, in the first game were basically comparably powerful at the end. It does have some infelicities in Lone Hero play, but lots of strategies are somewhat affected in Lone Hero or in solo in general, so I'm not overly bothered by it.
Thus far, I'm liking option number one. It passed a couple playtests with essentially flying colours. I'll try it out in a non-Solo game at some point soon, and see how I like it then.
- Last edited Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:07 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:06 pm
Does your religion have lightsabers? Nope? Didn't think so.
"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals." Agent K. Oh my what he would think of people had he known about what the internet would become.....
I have never really thought of this as a problem. I usually end up using it on my character so maybe thats why....
What exactly are you trying to do? Make it so that you HAVE to use combat die? Or just trying to balance it so that characters who use cunning/spirit don't get extremely overpowered?
Yes, I have to admit that you are right with this - it isn't the first thought that comes into your mind after the victorious game... But it is the solid fact, indeed - about 70% of our victorious plays was through use of spirit and/or cunning oriented showdown with the Burning Censer and/or the Scroll of Knowledge.
I don't like either the former or the latter variant you are proposing (because of it just means that another 'rule' has to be monitored through the whole game).
I think I will make a shortcut here - the quick & dirty one:
I'll remove both the Burning Censer and the Scroll of Knowledge from the game.
This way, the classic combat would be still better suited to some characters (weapons ARE easier to obtain afterall) & if anyone else than brother Marcus will venture through this 'strategy', it will cost him more investigation and/or searching (at least the way it was used to be before the Something Wicked).
Also, there are only ONE Tools of Science and Runic Amulet - and both of them are quite expensive, luckily.
- Last edited Mon Nov 29, 2010 12:22 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Nov 29, 2010 12:19 am
This thread got me thinking, as I never thought that using cunning or spirit was an issue before. I don't get the chance to play this game as much as I like but I have yet to play a game where the heroes OWNED the monster (the last game I played I won but got KO'd and it was all I could do to just barely win). I understand what you're saying and I don't think you're wrong about the possibility of having overpowered characters, but could it not be balanced out by limiting the maximum stats you can have? One game I played, there were two of us trying to max out our spirit and I think we only got up to like +6 and +7 spirit totally. I play that if there are no more bonus markers for that stat then you can no longer upgrade them. Plus if you were playing with more heroes and everyone wanted to try and upgrade... wouldn't that limit everyone from becoming so overpowered?
Never found it an issue, and i play regularly AToE.
I think changes like this are more of a knee jerk reaction to a game play element that some one does not like.
The reason I see all of the characters having a way to build combat dice is so all characters are viable. TO limit one charater over another wil start to create a power shift.
Right now all characters are balanced by the time the showdown occurs either by initial stat distribution or by additional equipment.