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Subject: Quick impressions rss

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Scott Yost
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I haven't seen much meat posted about this game. I wanted to post some things after playing it in case people are on the fence.

The theme is deeper - although the base game did have a supernatural theme, it felt low magic - the attackers were primarily winning via numbers and siege equipment, not via dark magic. (although there was dark magic!) In the expansion, the theme is more supernatural - vampires attack, bats chase away defenders, and magical mists allow the attackers to move faster

The scoring is substantially simpler – the invader needs to win by turn 8. No side actions to gain VPs, no ways for the defender to spend VPs, and you absolutely know at any given time whether you have won or lost. Good change.

There are no 3-4 player options anymore. It’s 2 players only.


The instructions are a bit of a step back from the Valley Games edition – you’d really like to have a nice full defender cheat sheet like the base game, but instead it’s a multiple pages inside the rulebook. The back page, which would have been a great place for a player aid, is filled up with ads for other games. There are some ambiguities in the rules. The rulebook is not comprehensive, so you might still need to keep the base game rulebook around - for example, if you care about the firing arcs or the precise dispatch rules. I've seen some places where the setup instructions directly contradict other pages of the instructions. It's not terrible by any means, but it is a step back if you're used to the Valley Games books. It's a game that cries out for a nice laminated player aid, where the base game didn't quite need it.

Substantially stronger invader actions
- You get 14 units per turn and you don't have to use any of them to activate your abilities
- You have an entirely separate resource you use to spend on your powers. (mana)
- Your units are stronger – vampires (red) make phantoms (white) stronger, and three additional phantoms can stack up on a wall where there aren’t empty spaces
- You can get six more strength on the wall – because vampires gives +1 to up to three phantoms, and because 3 phantoms can fly at a wall, you can have 6 more strength on a wall just with units than you could in the base game. I’ve seen attacker strengths of 18 at a wall before. An attacker who has the time to stack up a wall can easily get far more strength than the defender
- It’s generally easier to kill defender units
- The hospital is only one unit (a suggested house rule from the first game)
- The strigoi lair converts marksmen to phantoms – compare to the archery trainer which let goblins kill marksmen
- Panic cards can degrade soldiers into marksmen and can kill marksmen outright
- The ballista converts a unit instead of killing it, making it even easier to feel good about firing onto an occupied wall (even though you will lose a cube, you’ll gain the cube you kill)
- There’s one more turn in the game. It was generally considered that the attacker should be winning on turn 7 in the base game – you now get until turn 8. Considering that siege weapons have only 5 misses in the deck, that’s a turn where all your siege weapons are very likely to become accurate.
- Bigger dispatch for the same price – dispatch has been upgraded to 3 hourglasses for 6, or five hourglasses for 8.

Weaker defender options
- It’s generally harder to kill invader units – there’s no marksmen’s glare to focus fire, no poles to kill offense on the wall, no red or white cauldrons,
- Harder to kill offense on the field – marksmen can now only kill skeletons (green)
- many powerful defense options now only repel attackers, leaving them alive to attack again on the next round
- In general, it feels like the defender is substantially more constrained on hourglasses. Attacker is not spending time trying to get bonus VP objectives or trying to spend hourglasses on accurate shot, etc.)


In general, I find it substantially balanced towards the attacker. I tried playing with just units, casting no spells, and I found that the defender was under quite a lot of pressure even without the attacker never spending any spells. (I guess that might teach me that each spell use should be compared against the opportunity cost of the hourglasses for the defender) In the base game, I found that it was substantially harder for the attacker. It felt like you had a quite limited time to attack, and unless you coordinated your attack well, you might find your attacks blunted and find yourself with insufficient strength to make the breach in time. In comparison, in Undead it really does feel like endless hordes are assaulting the walls and they’ll eventually get through. It’s possible, again, that I’m not yet very good at the game and that’s why I find it so hard for the defender.



Overall I do really like the expansion – I think it’s easier to teach, way more playable, and overall feels like a more coherent experience. I don't have any games in my collection that give the same experience as stronghold, and Undead makes the experience even better.
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Paul Sinkovits
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I very much agree with your assessment. I have only had a chance to play once, but it was AWESOME. It was extremely close all the way up to turn 8, which the Defender barely squeezed out a victory. I can't wait to play again!

It was also my first impression that the Invaders units were stronger compared to the base game, but the Defender's Priests are quite good too.



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Pete L.
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Paul210 wrote:
It was extremely close all the way up to turn 8, which the Defender barely squeezed out a victory.


Glad to hear that you pulled off a Defender victory. I completely agree with this reviewer's assessment of the noticeable lack of units of time to perform actions. I've played the base game many times, but only with the expansion once and was frankly, shocked by the hourglass constraints I felt as the Defender versus the original game. I was doing fairly well as the Defender going into Turn 7, but even then I saw the masses set to hit almost all the wall sections and knew it was just a matter of time, no pun intended. I had brought in all the priests early on, initially just to help offset the panic levels, but later to bolster various wall sections. It still wasn't enough and afterwards in review with my opponent it seems hard to conceive how a careful and methodical Invader can't ultimately overwhelm the Defender in the late game.

One major difference from the base game is that in the expansion, a number of options are available to the Defender to repel your opponents units versus eliminating them outright. Sure, a carefully timed repel action can save your wall, but this is (by definition) only temporary. Repelled units simply join whatever force is already at the Ramparts set to hit your walls the next turn.

I'm keen to give this another go and see if can pull off a Defender victory, but I'm somewhat skeptical. We'll see.
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Scott Yost
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Yeah, I completely agree. I think my strategy might be bad though - I eventually get trapped into a pattern of using four hourglasses a turn to repel vampires, and eventually you end up with 2-3 vampires on multiple wall sections and you're dead. The attacker can easily squeeze you down to 5 hourglasses a turn so you can't really afford to keep up that strategy.
I think I might need to focus more on eliminating vampires, and more on overwhelming force at the walls. Maybe more stakes and more tower crossbows. That's the idea I've been kicking around. But I think leaning on the priests to repel vampires might be a trap that kills you. Or at least, you have to pair it with a trap or consecrated ground so you can actually eliminate the vampires.

I think you could easily bring back the two-space hospital and still see the defender losing - honestly it's hard to spare the two hourglasses just to move your guys back up to the wall even if you could save them at the hospital. We could also try giving the defender 3 hourglasses a turn.

To be honest, I still think this would be easier to balance than the base game - there are a lot of levers we can pull to play with the balance still.
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Paul Sinkovits
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In our game I did not premptively play my stakes, but delibrately held onto them and played them at the last possible second to do the most damage and pull myself out of a pinch. Also, I made sure to turn a vampire into a phantom every turn. On average, the Invader is only able to deploy 3 Vampires a turn. This helped me manage them a little better.

I also focused most of my training on turning marksmen into soldiers. Knowing that they could be easily turned into vampires by the spectral ballistas, that seemed very dangerous.

Eventually, the Invader was turning phantoms on the wall back into vampires using his spell. That did become a real unavoidable problem, but it was just barely too late in our game.

Strangly, I never built a tower crossbow and only had one cannon all game.

 
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Scott Yost
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Wait, only veterans can be turned into vampires by the ballista. Your marksmen will just turn into phantoms, and he'd have to Nominate them to get them upgraded.

Degrading vampires is another good idea, it's possible I haven't been using that enough.
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Paul Sinkovits
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Paul210 wrote:

I also focused most of my training on turning marksmen into soldiers. Knowing that they veterans could be easily turned into vampires by the spectral ballistas, seemed very dangerous.


Fixed that for you. I guess I have to define my pro-nouns.
 
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Paul Sinkovits
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Yostage wrote:
Wait, only veterans can be turned into vampires by the ballista. Your marksmen will just turn into phantoms, and he'd have to Nominate them to get them upgraded.

Degrading vampires is another good idea, it's possible I haven't been using that enough.


As a Defender you should be training like mad, I only meant that you should not train all the way up to veterans, as they can be turned to vampires, not that marksman are susceptible to being turned into vampires.

Marksman are fine early game, but later on you'll need more muscle at the walls.
 
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