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Descent: The Road to Legend» Forums » Variants

Subject: Avoiding the Downward Spiral rss

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Michael Powell
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Proposed Change:

A conquest token gained by the heroes gives each hero AND the Overlord one experience point.

A conquest token gained by the Overlord does not grant the Overlord any experience.

If the Overlord ever gains 400 conquest tokens, the game ends with Overlord victory.

Silver phase is entered at 100 hero conquest. Gold phase is entered at 200 hero conquest. The final conflict is at 300 hero conquest.

Reasoning:

I've played through 3 or 4 games now, with entirely different groups of players, different heroes and different overlords, and all of them have ended the same: By late copper or early silver phase, the heroes are feeling horribly outmatched, the Overlord is marching on Tamalir, and there's nothing they can really do to stop him.

I'm told the balance shifts back toward the heroes later in the game, but that doesn't help if the heroes can never survive that long. Most players also have limited patience for repeatedly retrying a game which takes a minimum of 20 hours to reach the same frustrating conclusion.

I didn't want to attempt a severe re-balancing of the whole game. That level of change, for a game this long, would require significantly more play testing to get right than I could ever convince my friends to engage in. So, I looked for a simple change that would prevent the Overlord's advantage from spiraling out of control.

The obvious solution was to make sure that, no matter what happens, the Overlord and the heroes have the same amount of experience to work with. One of them will never be able to pull ahead of the other. However, this had the potential problem of removing the disincentive to die, the urgency to keep moving or the Overlord will win. So, I figured we'd need to still keep track of the Overlord's conquest total, but remove all it's secondary effects. Instead, having the Overlord reach a certain threshold just results in instant victory.

Of course, I also had to adjust the thresholds entering Silver and Gold phases of the game.

So, the game is no longer an arms race, trying to increase power faster than the other side. Now, for both sides, it's more about spending your points as efficiently as possible to reach the best possible build by the end, with the secondary game of the heroes trying to die as little as possible in the process (and spend as little times as possible), in order to prevent an outright Overlord Conquest victory.
 
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Q !

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You didn't mention whether you have the Sea of Blood expansion, but that one has its own "solution" to what you're describing;

If the overlord's total conquest tokens is at least 25 more than the heroes' tokens; then each hero's conquest value goes down by 1 (to either a minimum of 0 or 1--I don't have the rulebook in front of me). On the flip side, if the heroes are leading the overlord by at least 25 tokens, then their individual conquest values go UP by one.

Not sure if that would solve your problem (I've yet to actually USE either of these expansions); but it's probably worth a try.
 
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Patrick G.
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Can I ask why you are having such a problem with balance? I am not acting like i know it all(we have only managed to do one campaign so far... starting a new one saturday(did RtL and now starting SoB) and I was just curious if we got lucky or what...
 
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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If you employ the "blitzing" strategy, it's very difficult to fail. If not, then the OL can get pretty far ahead. The thing to keep in mind is that early in the game the *heroes* are the ones in control of how much CT the Overlord gains. It's completely up to the heroes to put themselves in danger and die. When you enter a dungeon, size it up. If you feel you can A) gain more CTs than the OL and B) gain some treasures + coins, then complete that level. If not, flee and move on to a different dungeon.

-shnar
 
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David Aubert
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Reading this variant would make the overlord caring and trying to protect the heroes so he can get more XP.

Whatever the Overlord do, he will end with 150/180 XP (depending of turn number and if he still get XP at start of turn) : A little short to buy upgrades.
Of course treachery and monster upgrade are now useless so there is less to spend.

I think like Shnar : SoB has many flaw, but the '25XP' rule is simple and elegant.

Also tell the hero they don't have to do the whole dungeon when exploring. It can help a lot.
 
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Brad DeRan
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shnar wrote:
If you employ the "blitzing" strategy, it's very difficult to fail. If not, then the OL can get pretty far ahead. The thing to keep in mind is that early in the game the *heroes* are the ones in control of how much CT the Overlord gains. It's completely up to the heroes to put themselves in danger and die. When you enter a dungeon, size it up. If you feel you can A) gain more CTs than the OL and B) gain some treasures + coins, then complete that level. If not, flee and move on to a different dungeon.

-shnar


See i still have problems with blitzing, mainly because if the OL's keep is far away from Tamalir than every city near him is in grave danger if you keep blitzing. You are also limiting your options as to what skills you can get, also not a very good idea.
 
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David Aubert
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Ackbar117 wrote:
shnar wrote:
If you employ the "blitzing" strategy, it's very difficult to fail. If not, then the OL can get pretty far ahead. The thing to keep in mind is that early in the game the *heroes* are the ones in control of how much CT the Overlord gains. It's completely up to the heroes to put themselves in danger and die. When you enter a dungeon, size it up. If you feel you can A) gain more CTs than the OL and B) gain some treasures + coins, then complete that level. If not, flee and move on to a different dungeon.

-shnar


See i still have problems with blitzing, mainly because if the OL's keep is far away from Tamalir than every city near him is in grave danger if you keep blitzing. You are also limiting your options as to what skills you can get, also not a very good idea.


If your hero want to win without losing any city, I understand why they fall behind ...

It's not a movie. Sometimes (especially early in the game), Evil can have some victory.

Giving the overlord 25+Xp in one dungeon to prevent a city to razed (and give the overlord 1XP per turn) is not what I call a cunning strategy.

In addition to this, when you buy the item allowing to move 2 trails per week, ANY city can be reached very fast,
 
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Joe Barrett
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My group is a few (4?) weeks into our second RtL campaign. The first ended in an OL rout of the players, at something like 100 conquest to 20. The second is close at 16 to 16 at about the same week count. The difference is largely trying to implement the Blitz strategy.

It does seem that the players can be crushed by bad luck or a rules error much more easily than the OL. We’ve had three outdoor encounters, all three were ambushes, the first ended with the “guard” being mugged as the other three “heros” failed to wake up in a streak of amazingly bad rolls. Rules error: we had not realized the heros could punch each other for a red die of damage.

In our first dungeon the OL bought upgrade black/silver/gold dice by spending 2 threat per upgrade to kill at least one of the heros, preventing a clean exit from the first level. Rules error: OL can spend 2 threat for a move or die upgrade in encounters not dungeons.

The most recent encounter was Hunting Spider (opens with a web on each hero) in the Stormy Stream (3 range penalty). This one combined bad luck (one hero remained webbed for approx 8 turns) with a rules error. The OL read the encounter card as adding three range to all non-melee attacks which lead to our caster being eaten after his guard attacks failed to reach adjacent targets (which we assumed needed 4 range). This encounter was only ended after the hero’s unloaded feats and power potions to reach and kill the soaring baddies.

I suspect we’ve made some errors in favor of the players, though the result of such errors seem likely to be a monster dieing one turn faster which rarely actually affects the conquest score. The imbalance of effect of mistakes/luck has been magnified by having the our most experienced player as OL; the one who tends to spell out the rules, causing grey areas to favor the OL until a player carefully reads the relevant sections.

At this point, I feel the best approach is to use the “divine favor” rule from sea of blood, give the heros some extra latitude in starting heros, and most importantly, have the heros really learn the rules.

I’m not sure what “extra latitude” should really mean, for our second campaign, we dealt 3 hero cards to each player and allowed one player to pick from those cards discarded by the other three players. This avoided what looked to be a poor group setup. The initial hero stats seem to be most important early in the game when a newish group is most likely to blunder and get devastated.
 
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Retired Hurt

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Notice that going a little bit below in CPs (say, getting 75 CPs out of the first 200) isn't catastrophic ; it akready allows you to get some good improvements. So, blitzing should be restricted to a few dungeons ; having to go to faraway places because everything near has been explored could be disastrous.

More than learning to blitz, one should learn when to blitz, running out with the hares and hunting level bosses with the hounds.
One should blitz when and ONLY when going back to Tamalir seems a good idea.(for example, you intend to go to Greyhaven next) or when you are unable to get the boss.



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Dominic InyokaMadoda
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I'm probably just about to embark on the campaign side of things so I have to ask, what is the 'Blitz' strategy?
Thanks!
 
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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The Art Of The Blitz details how to do it, and in Copper, it is *vital* that the Heroes blitz. Once they do, they pretty much stay on top of the game. And it's really only in early copper as Merrimac pointed out. In that early of the game, the heroes have crappy weapons/armor/skills. Later on, they've upgraded, got better Copper weapons, etc. and it become a nice, normal fight again.

This game is very unforgiving to the heroes, especially early on. Blitzing is the only way to start in Copper.

-shnar

P.S. I should add, I haven't found that many problems in SoB and our campaign (160 CT total right now) is really fun, and all our players love it and want to continue.
 
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Dominic InyokaMadoda
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Thanks Shnar, I'll have a good read of that before embarking on campaign play!
 
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Brad DeRan
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ok granted i have only played one game but we never blitzed in any dungeon really, and early on we had a 27 CP lead(which we lost getting the rumor that decreases the cost of items, totally worth it though). Maybe my group just got lucky in the dungeon levels to begin with and items in the first dungeon(5 in the first 3 levels, including shadowblade and Staff of the Grave). We still(at 441 CP) have gone down to the third level every single time and in some cases i think the added coin you get can be worth it as long as you don't get completely killed.
 
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Oh definitely, the draw of the dungeon is very important. We started a SoB campaign two sessions ago, and the first dungeon we hit, the first two levels the heroes did very good at (I think the score was 12 to 1). Then the last dungeon, after 4 turns, they finally fled and the score was 22 to 12. They should have fled right away but tried and I killed every single one of the in one turn, then they tried again, rinse repeat.

So, blitzing isn't necessarily "required", it's very situational. But the heroes have to understand that A) it's okay to flee a dungeon, B) sometimes they *should* flee a dungeon and C) the deeper they go down a dungeon the riskier it is.

-shnar
 
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Brad DeRan
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it is definitely riskier but the rewards can be worth it sometimes especially if you are planning on moving to a town next and need the extra cash to get a nice skill like Leadership or Born to the Bow
 
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Retired Hurt

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Blitzing is a matter of opportunity.

I was a priori against it, that got as 1st level of the campaign the regenerating Ice Wyrm with two very accessible glyphs and two very accessible chests. Guess what ?
 
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Joe Barrett
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I've been contemplating a house rule that might help out a bit in avoiding an unlucky series of treasure draws early in the campaign which seems the most vulnerable time.

Allow the players to "stack" the treasure deck as follows. Players divide the copper deck into two, even (or within one card) piles placing cards as they prefer in each pile. The OL then shuffles each deck and then creates a single deck by alternately taking one card (face down at all times) of the top of each deck. Until the copper treasure deck is exhausted, whenever a treasure card is needed, take the top card from the deck. Do not shuffle the deck and do not replace cards that have been used until the deck has been exhausted.

I am assuming the players would choose to make one "good" half-deck and one "bad" half-deck which when combined would assure the players of getting a decent treasure every other draw. This greatly reduce the chance of an early run of really bad or really good luck, without affecting average balance (I believe).
 
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Michael Powell
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Sorry for not responding here for a while. I thought BGG would e-mail me when people replied to my thread. Apparently it doesn't do that.

So we're now a few weeks into a campaign using this variant, and so well it's going reasonably well. As the Overlord, I have a lead on conquest, but not an overwhelming one (I believe about 45-35), and the heroes are pretty well kitted out.

However, we haven't quite hit the really nasty point yet. As soon as we get out of this dungeon, I'll be able to upgrade a monster category. That's the point when things have usually gotten ugly, in my past games. So that will be the real test.

Qslick wrote:
If the overlord's total conquest tokens is at least 25 more than the heroes' tokens; then each hero's conquest value goes down by 1 (to either a minimum of 0 or 1--I don't have the rulebook in front of me). On the flip side, if the heroes are leading the overlord by at least 25 tokens, then their individual conquest values go UP by one.

Not sure if that would solve your problem (I've yet to actually USE either of these expansions); but it's probably worth a try.


I don't have Sea of Blood, so I hadn't seen that rule. That IS interesting. If this doesn't play out well, we'll need to give it a try.

Hankroyd wrote:
Reading this variant would make the overlord caring and trying to protect the heroes so he can get more XP.


Sure, if he wants the heroes to ALSO get more XP. Coddling them does no good, really, because while that will help the Overlord advance faster, it does nothing to help him get a lead on the heroes. They both advance in pace.

Also, remember that the Overlord conquest still matters, because if he hits 400 conquest, he wins outright. You can't reasonably hit 400 until fairly late in the game, but it's certainly possible, and it makes it worth playing the conquest game. Though this is mostly there to make sure that the players don't decide to do a lot of crazy suicide runs.

Hankroyd wrote:
Whatever the Overlord do, he will end with 150/180 XP (depending of turn number and if he still get XP at start of turn) : A little short to buy upgrades.
Of course treachery and monster upgrade are now useless so there is less to spend.


I think you're misunderstanding something. The campaign level advances every 100 hero conquest, and the game goes to the final conflict at 300 hero conquest. Every point of hero conquest equates to one experience point for each hero, and one experience point for the Overlord. So, by the time you reach the final battle, the Overlord will have at least 300 experience.

And yes, treachery and monster upgrades DO still matter. As I mentioned above, coddling the heroes gains the Overlord nothing, except making sure they can't possibly win by conquest alone.

As a side note, I've considered using more fluid Overlord victory conditions. Like, if you've reached silver level, and the Overlord has at least 50% more conquest than the heroes, than the Overlord wins. This makes it a more immediate and ever-present threat. The numbers could be shuffled a bit. It just needs to be a big enough difference that, were you still playing the normal game, it would indicate that the Overlord is vastly overwhelming the players and they've effectively already lost.

Hankroyd wrote:
Also tell the hero they don't have to do the whole dungeon when exploring. It can help a lot.


This in response to a lot of people: Before the very first game of Road to Legend I played, and every subsequent game, I printed out a player strategy guide that somebody else had composed and gave it to them. This strategy guide specifically covered considering your potential gains and losses when entering a dungeon level, and considering when it's better to run away. Every party of players I've run with has been well aware that it's sometimes better to just cut and run, or to try and grab the treasure and run.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. First of all, assessing how hard a dungeon will be when you first look at it is extremely difficult. There are too many unknowns. The cards the Overlord will pull, the luck of the die rolls, or the enemy's cunning strategy that doesn't occur to you until you find yourself in the middle of it.

If you decide to enter the dungeon not realizing how hard it's going to be, or decide to just run for the gold, then you may not be ABLE to escape effectively. The only time the heroes can reliably get out unharmed is on the first turn, when they're all already on the initial glyph. Once they've properly entered the dungeon, all bets are off, and a good Overlord can do a lot to delay and kill off heroes that are already trying to run away.

shnar wrote:
If you employ the "blitzing" strategy, it's very difficult to fail. If not, then the OL can get pretty far ahead. The thing to keep in mind is that early in the game the *heroes* are the ones in control of how much CT the Overlord gains. It's completely up to the heroes to put themselves in danger and die. When you enter a dungeon, size it up. If you feel you can A) gain more CTs than the OL and B) gain some treasures + coins, then complete that level. If not, flee and move on to a different dungeon.


Hmm. Hadn't read about the Blitz strategy before. It's been a couple years since I was really keeping up in the forums. After the last set of frustrating, abortive, failed games, I lost interest in RtL for a while, until this variant occurred to me. A quick scan of the forums didn't reveal any other variants with attempted to address this, without rebuilding half the game, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Looking at it now. I'll forward this strategy onto the heroes. It's a bit late to employ it in our current game, but if we want to do another one (maybe using the SoB re-balancing rule instead) it might make a big difference.
 
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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herufeanor wrote:
Sorry for not responding here for a while. I thought BGG would e-mail me when people replied to my thread. Apparently it doesn't do that.


Yeah, not sure why, but it does at least keep a collection of all the "subscribed" items in the upper left corner. So it's almost as easy as an email (just come to BGG and look at your subscribed items).

-shnar
 
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