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Subject: Does it get hard for the heroes after ACT II? rss

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Steve G.
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So, I'm considering posting a review of Descent 2e that draws a fairly negative unfavorable conclusion critical assessement of the basic game based on how poorly the game scales to four heroes (which ought be the assumed default scale, since you can always play with more heroes than players, but not vice versa).

I see that most people with four-hero-party experiences seem to feel the same way. Once the party works out the magic of the octo-attack, the notion that this game is about fantastic battles becomes a farce. There's little hope for any open group in the game coming out of the alpha strike with anything left to marshal. That happened in Descent 1e to some extent, but spawn cards acted as a convenient form of flack, granting the OL a way to bleed actions out of the players. The reinforcement rules of 2e just don't cut it.

However, I only run the basic game with my group. My question to you guys running campaigns is: does Act II actually tilt the scales back to the OL, or are the PC's so augmented by then that it's simply too little too late?

(edited first paragraph for clarity)
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Basic only? Basic *blows* and I'll never play another Basic game again (except as the starting point of a campaign). You haven't tried Advanced or Expert yet? Why don't you play one game of Expert. Would take what, 2 hours, and would answer your question.

-shnar
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Christopher Scatliff
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I love reading posts that claim that the game is heavily tilted towards the heroes. Because that goes completely against my own experience, which leads me to believe that the game actually is very well balanced already.
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David Stahler Jr.
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Smoo wrote:
I love reading posts that claim that the game is heavily tilted towards the heroes. Because that goes completely against my own experience, which leads me to believe that the game actually is very well balanced already.


That's what I was thinking. It seems most of the complaints I've heard is that the Overlord is TOO powerful, particularly in the second half.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Smoo wrote:
I love reading posts that claim that the game is heavily tilted towards the heroes. Because that goes completely against my own experience, which leads me to believe that the game actually is very well balanced already.

Ours too. In the campaign we played, we're at the Interlude and the only quest the Heroes have won was the Intro quest. All other 3 they lost. Resoundly.

-shnar
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Maybe he only plays the first encounter? It seems like a lot of the quests are tilted toward the heroes on encounter 1 and the OL on encounter 2...
 
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Aaron Morgan
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Smoo wrote:
I love reading posts that claim that the game is heavily tilted towards the heroes. Because that goes completely against my own experience, which leads me to believe that the game actually is very well balanced already.


I love reading posts that say someone is going to review a game that he's only played using a portion of the rules, then claim part of it is broken. Bonus points when that post asks other players to do the research to support his thesis.
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Christopher Scatliff
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shnar wrote:
Smoo wrote:
I love reading posts that claim that the game is heavily tilted towards the heroes. Because that goes completely against my own experience, which leads me to believe that the game actually is very well balanced already.

Ours too. In the campaign we played, we're at the Interlude and the only quest the Heroes have won was the Intro quest. All other 3 they lost. Resoundly.

-shnar

My experience exactly. So far we've chalked it up to the fact that the overlord (me) is an experienced player and the heroes are new to the game. Looking forward to swapping roles to see if anything changes.
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Steve G.
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Smoo wrote:
I love reading posts that claim that the game is heavily tilted towards the heroes. Because that goes completely against my own experience, which leads me to believe that the game actually is very well balanced already.

This is flawed logic, and we can place the blame for it squarely on the shoulders of a long-dead man named Plato. Positive opinions and negative opinions don't cancel each out as if they were factors in an algebraic equation.

Wheelockian wrote:

That's what I was thinking. It seems most of the complaints I've heard is that the Overlord is TOO powerful, particularly in the second half.


shnar wrote:
Ours too. In the campaign we played, we're at the Interlude and the only quest the Heroes have won was the Intro quest. All other 3 they lost. Resoundly.

-shnar

Smoo wrote:
My experience exactly. So far we've chalked it up to the fact that the overlord (me) is an experienced player and the heroes are new to the game. Looking forward to swapping roles to see if anything changes.

Please believe me when I say I didn't spend over $100 on a game with the express intent of being dissatisfied. Hence, I would love to be wrong in my assessment, so let's get into details.

My questions to anyone suggesting the game is too heavily tilted in the OL's would be:
1) Are you guys playing with four heroes?
2) Are your players opening with the octo-attack?

The inexperienced hero moves and attacks. The strong play is usually to fatigue-move and double-attack (perhaps tapping a heroic feat if it helps to clear). Once an area is clear, the option to move/rest becomes available. It makes a drastic and noticeable difference. The utlization of an octo-attack can make all the difference between heroes getting bottlenecked by the first group they encounter or brushing them aside with their alpha strike. That first round before the OL gets to have a turn is pretty critical.
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Steve G.
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EitherOrlok wrote:
[q="Smoo"]I love reading posts that say someone is going to review a game that he's only played using a portion of the rules, then claim part of it is broken. Bonus points when that post asks other players to do the research to support his thesis.

I love reading snarky posts, so I guess we're even.

I will certainly make it clear in any review what the context of my experiences are. Expect disclaimers, warnings, caveats, what have you. I feel safe in saying there are more players like myself who are chiefly interested in the basic game.

 
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Christopher Scatliff
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steveg700 wrote:
I think I pretty handily stated my case. So my questions to you would be:
1) Are you guys playing with four heroes?
2) Are your players opening with the octo-attack?

I've played with 2, 3 and 4 heroes. The experience is the same across the board.

For your second question, I'm going to have to guess at what you mean by "octo-attack". My guess is that your heroes are all fatigue-moving into the closest group so that they can attack 8 times. If they do so then I love it because they're not concentrating on their goal while I am.
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Steve G.
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Smoo wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
I think I pretty handily stated my case. So my questions to you would be:
1) Are you guys playing with four heroes?
2) Are your players opening with the octo-attack?

I've played with 2, 3 and 4 heroes. The experience is the same across the board.

For your second question, I'm going to have to guess at what you mean by "octo-attack". My guess is that your heroes are all fatigue-moving into the closest group so that they can attack 8 times. If they do so then I love it because they're not concentrating on their goal while I am.

Interesting. Adding a hero to the party ramps up their effectiveness in numerous ways. OTOH, the OL's net gain is usually just adding one monster to an open group.

Here's my take.

It's pretty safe to say that in the first round of any quest, there are monsters that the group has to bypass. Removing them from their path and eliminating your ability to use them to attack on the OL's turn is relevant to their goal. Heroes can ignore them once a hole is punched, but at some point, the game actually involves fighting something. So, there's another question to be answered: putting aside victory conditions, how important for the combat in the game to be satisfying?

My expectations from Descent is that this would be a game of fantastic tactical battles, not a game of throwing monsters out as speedbumps that delay them so some other monsters in another room can shilly-shally about completing some objective involving flipping tokens and carrying them off the board, hopefully before the heroes show up and rip them to shreads. As the OL, I don't find the combat satisfying, even some quests are slanted in my favor by their victory conditions.

So, those claiming the game is balanced on the back of their achieving some esoteric victory condition are certainly entitled their sentiments, but personally I want to throw out some monsters and expect that they'll survive long enough that there's a sense of pushback. After all, most monster abilities are purely offensive. It's a shame that often the relevant values are often reduced to hit points and defense dice.
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Steve G.
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shnar wrote:
Basic only? Basic *blows* and I'll never play another Basic game again (except as the starting point of a campaign). You haven't tried Advanced or Expert yet? Why don't you play one game of Expert. Would take what, 2 hours, and would answer your question.

-shnar

I expect I will, if my players will consent. Why else would I ask? It really isn't what I bought the game for though, because there are six people in my gaming group and Descent is just an alternative for when someone doesn't make it. There's not much interest in bookeeping. And that two hours--which is actually fairly precious to my gaming group--would only leave me with a first impression, really. The way I see it, it doesn't hurt to ask others what their experiences are. Doesn't hurt me, anyway.

The thing is, the response I'm getting in this thread contrast with responses in various others. Although all points are considered, I am most curious to hear from someone who's got experienced alpha-striking players (who will clean the clocks of Act I monsters) getting better performance from Act II critters against heroes with experience and items under their belt. Does the game feed easy quests to the heroes, then turn up the heat in a big way.
 
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steveg700 wrote:


However, I only run the basic game with my group.



maybe you'll have to play the full game before posting a review ?
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Steve G.
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Belsamoreth wrote:
steveg700 wrote:


However, I only run the basic game with my group.



maybe you'll have to play the full game before posting a review ?

If this were some kind of professional review, there's a reasonable expectation of exhaustiveness. But as a casual review, written in someone's free time, I think it's perfectly acceptable to evaluate a game on the basis of how the reviewer enjoys playing the game. I think evaluating the basic game on its own merits would be useful to many. The important catch there is that the reviewer should be up-front and clear about the context of his experiences.
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Rob "Bodhi" Wolff
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steveg700 wrote:

So, those claiming the game is balanced on the back of their achieving some esoteric victory condition are certainly entitled their sentiments, but personally I want to throw out some monsters and expect that they'll survive long enough that there's a sense of pushback.


The monsters are not balanced to the heroes. Of course the heroes are more powerful than the monsters! 4 Heroes are able to push through an entire dungeon's worth of monsters, so they *need* to be stronger in order to balance out. The monsters are not designed to hold their own. They're designed to wolfpack the heroes and get a few licks in, while you go on to obtain those "esoteric victory conditions".

And as for that comment -- that *is* the point of the game, right? To win? To achieve the goal? This means those victory conditions aren't "esoteric" -- they are all-important!

I think your statements show us the real dissatisfaction that you might be having with the game -- it isn't a balanced, 2-sided miniatures skirmish battle. So long as it doesn't feel that way to you, I doubt you'll be satisfied with the gameplay.

And, as it is designed, it *can't* feel that way, since the individual monster stats are indeed scaled to work with smaller parties, with larger parties using more monsters to compensate for lower stats. This leads to the wolfpack tactics and the cannon-fodder time-buying tactis in larger-party games, and I think that this style of play is what is bothering you.

But that is rather like saying that you don't like a worker-placement game because it doesn't feel like a push-your-luck game. It isn't designed to give the playstyle you're looking for, and therefore you can't judge it based on it not satisfying that urge.

For balanced miniatures skirmish games, you'll have to look into something designed that way.

This is a dungeon-bust adventure game, and it seems to work exceedingly well at doing that job.
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Steve G.
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BodhiWolff wrote:
steveg700 wrote:

So, those claiming the game is balanced on the back of their achieving some esoteric victory condition are certainly entitled their sentiments, but personally I want to throw out some monsters and expect that they'll survive long enough that there's a sense of pushback.


The monsters are not balanced to the heroes. Of course the heroes are more powerful than the monsters! 4 Heroes are able to push through an entire dungeon's worth of monsters, so they *need* to be stronger in order to balance out. The monsters are not designed to hold their own. They're designed to wolfpack the heroes and get a few licks in, while you go on to obtain those "esoteric victory conditions".

All good and well, BodhiWolff, but I'm not talking about balancing a monster to a hero on a one-to-one ratio. I'm talking about there being some kind of give-and-take in the combat. Okay, the monsters get killed, but in the process the party gets challenged, scuffed up a bit at least. If you look at most monsters, you'll see some pretty nifty offensive abilities. If monsters are so fragile that heroes can routinely sweep them aside before they can raise a claw, what's the point of these abilities?

Quote:
And as for that comment -- that *is* the point of the game, right? To win? To achieve the goal? This means those victory conditions aren't "esoteric" -- they are all-important!

For me, the point is to have fun battles. Winning by exploiting hinky victory conditions is not satisfying.
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steveg700 wrote:
For me, the point is to have fun battles. Winning by exploiting hinky victory conditions is not satisfying.

The game was not designed to be strictly about fun battles. It was designed to be about victory conditions. Whether you allow "hinky exploiting" of them is up to you, but none of my groups have had to resort to shenanigans to complete them.

So you want to write a negative review of a game because it's not the game you want to play. Okay, I'm off to the Caylus forums now. The lack of laser sharks in that game is unacceptable to me.
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steveg700 wrote:
shnar wrote:
Basic only? Basic *blows* and I'll never play another Basic game again (except as the starting point of a campaign). You haven't tried Advanced or Expert yet? Why don't you play one game of Expert. Would take what, 2 hours, and would answer your question.

-shnar

I expect I will, if my players will consent. It really isn't what I bought the game for though, because there are six people in my gaming group and Descent is just alternative for when someone doesn't make it. There's not much interest in bookeeping. And that two hours--which is actually fairly precious to my gaming group--would only leave me with a first impression, really. The way I see it, it doesn't hurt to ask others what their experiences are. Doesn't hurt me, anyway.

The thing is, the response I'm getting in this thread contrast with responses in various others. Although all points are considered, I am most curious to hear from someone who's got experienced alpha-striking players (who will clean the clocks of Act I monsters) getting better performance from Act II critters against heroes with experience and items under their belt. Does the game feed easy quests to the heroes, then turn up the heat in a big way.


There's no "bookkeeping" in the Advanced and Expert versions of "Epic Play". It is the same as a normal game session, with some experience and items distributed to the Overlord and Players. This is to replicate playing in a later stage of a "campaign". In Expert Epic Play mode, you also get to use the act II monster cards. Check out the full explanation on page 19 of the manual.
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Smoo wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
For me, the point is to have fun battles. Winning by exploiting hinky victory conditions is not satisfying.

The game was not designed to be strictly about fun battles. It was designed to be about victory conditions. Whether you allow "hinky exploiting" of them is up to you, but none of my groups have had to resort to shenanigans to complete them.

So you want to write a negative review of a game because it's not the game you want to play. Okay, I'm off to the Caylus forums now. The lack of laser sharks in that game is unacceptable to me.

Where your straw-man falls apart is that Descent's attraction is that it is a game of heroes having fun battles with monsters. And FFG markets the game based on that expectation. My perspective that the combat should be satisfying is hardly some outre, fringe, irrational expectation.
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steveg700 wrote:
Where your straw-man falls apart is that Descent's attraction is that it is a game of heroes having fun battles with monsters. And FFG markets the game based on that expectation. My perspective that the combat should be satisfying is hardly some outre, fringe, irrational expectation.

If my argument is a straw man then it's only because you're not explaining your position well. I'm trying to address your points. You seem to be shifting the goalposts (to continue our tour through logical fallacies).
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Smoo wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
Where your straw-man falls apart is that Descent's attraction is that it is a game of heroes having fun battles with monsters. And FFG markets the game based on that expectation. My perspective that the combat should be satisfying is hardly some outre, fringe, irrational expectation.

If my argument is a straw man then it's only because you're not explaining your position well. I'm trying to address your points. You seem to be shifting the goalposts (to continue our tour through logical fallacies).

From where I sit, nothing in my position has shifted. My goal was (and remains to be) to have someone relate their post-Act II experiences. That goal has been all-but-discarded. Clearly, I should not have mentioned my desire to review the game. My goal was not for someone to explain to me the basis on which I many legitimately enjoy the second edition of a game which I've enjoyed for a decade. Since I can foresee this thread degenerating into a series of bandwagon harangues directed toward someone having a negative opinion of the game, I figure that providing some elaboration upon points to which others responded would at least encourage civility.

If your position is that second edition has shifted from being a game about battles between powerful heroes and deadly monsters to a game where battles are ancillary at best, then you will not ameliorate my disappointment.

One thing i take consolation from is that it would not take radical steps to improve upon the combat. For example, ore robust reinforcement rules, more OL cards that focus on keeping monsters alive rather than mounting a futile offense (Dodge, anyone?), and quests that don't have the OL plopping a monster group into easy range of an alpha-strike would all help enormously. Any forthcoming review will make such recommendations.
 
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steveg700 wrote:
If your position is that second edition has shifted from being a game about battles between powerful heroes and deadly monsters to a game where battles are ancillary at best, then you will not ameliorate my disappointment.

I'm not trying to ameliorate your disappointment.
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Smoo wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
If your position is that second edition has shifted from being a game about battles between powerful heroes and deadly monsters to a game where battles are ancillary at best, then you will not ameliorate my disappointment.

I'm not trying to ameliorate your disappointment.

No, I suppose it isn't. You simply know better and wish that to be communicated. That's normal. Everyone feels they know better. Everyone's the hero of their own story.

What I take can some consolation from is that improving upon the combat would not actually involve radical changes. Indeed, it wouldn't involve any changes to the rules, or issuing errata for existing characters, classes, or monsters. Mostly it would be alterations to the design of future content. For example, more robust reinforcement rules, more OL cards that focus on surviving the heroes' turn (Dodge, anyone?), and quests that don't have the OL plopping his forces into easy range of a fatigue-fueled alpha-strike would all help enormously. Any forthcoming review will make such recommendations.
 
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steveg700 wrote:
Since I can foresee this thread degenerating into a series of bandwagon harangues directed toward someone having a negative opinion of the game, I figure that providing some elaboration upon points to which others responded would at least encourage civility.


Negative opinions are fine. I don't think anyone here would object to a review where you say "I don't like these parts of Descent 2e..."

The problem is that you came here having not played the whole game, asking us to confirm that your feelings about it are justified. Then, when users say "No, that's not been my experience" your fallback stance is an edge-case ("octo-attack") and complaining that 2e isn't the same as 1e and FFG didn't make the game the way you want to play it.

EDIT: Holy, shit, how many times are you going to go back and edit your posts?




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