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Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)» Forums » Variants

Subject: Individual Scenario Fixes rss

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Jeff Long
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I have found that many of the scenarios in Descent 2 do not live up to what they could be. Sometimes this is due to raw balance, sometimes this is due to potentially interesting ideas that the designers clearly didn't QUITE finish thinking through, and sometimes it's due to silly little rules omissions that seem like they SHOULD be there but aren't.

For our next campaign, I will be using the following changes. Note that:

a) I have not yet played every map. So there could be more quests that need fixing than what I list here.
b) I won't be re-describing the scenario here, only posting my changes. Also, beware of spoilers.

--------------------------------------------------------------

The Cardinal's Plight
------------
Encounter 2

Koth is immune to Immobilize.

Comment: Realistically, I think if the Overlord doesn't have enough zombies to kill Koth before the heroes get the door open, then the heroes have effectively already won. Letting the Master Zombie continually respawn and immobilize Koth, while obviously "optimal", is a time-wasting exercise in futility. So let's just disallow it.


The Masquerade Ball
-------------
Encounter 1

On this map, the monsters were lightly armed with concealed weapons. All monsters (but not Lts.) inflict 1 less damage (to a minimum of 1) with all attacks (edited for clarity).

All figures on this map gain the attack ability:
Surge: Steal a Noble carried by your target (if adjacent).
The Overlord DOES reinforce - 1 figure per turn, in any space at least 3 away from any Noble/Encounter token (even ones carried by
Heroes).

The Hero chance of victory is linearly proportional to the number of nobles saved. Use a d4 or whatever. We're smart enough to generate a uniform distribution from 1 to 4 here.

Comment: When I first read this map, it was looking interesting...until I got to the end and saw that "oh...the Overlord doesn't reinforce...and the only way to get nobles back is to kill the figure holding them...so isn't this really about both sides trying to kill each other, just like...every other map?" I thought we could do better. This is my attempt.

Also, could ANYONE like the weirdness where the heroes don't care in the least whether they rescue one or zero nobles (for parties of 4 heroes anyway)?



The Shadow Vault
-------------
Once opened the first time, the 'stuck' door may be opened (or closed) by any figure.

When Heroes die on this map, they respawn on the Exit Tile (place their Hero marker there).

The Shadow Vault is exploding! Of course it is, the Heroes took the crazy shadow relic out of it and didn't properly measure the sand in the phony bag they left in its place. At the end of each Overlord turn, there is a 50-50 chance the tile closest to the original Vault (starting with the Vault itself of course) explodes, killing all figures on it. Tiles 30, 29, the Entrance and all 'stubs' do not explode on their own but explode (and are removed) when they are disconnected from the rest of the map.
Once the River's Edge has exploded OR the Heroes lose possession of the Casket, there is a tidal wave and the chance of a tile being removed each turn is 100%. Tile 22 and the Exit are safe and do not explode at all.
Once the Entrance has exploded, the Overlord may use the Exit as his reinforce zone.

If the Shadow Rune is on an exploded tile, place it on the nearest map space to the tile that just exploded. If multiple are available, the Overlord picks which one.

Comment: This is my most ambitious change, but I believe it is sorely necessary. The map as written isn't *completely* broken, but it does fall far short of its potential. As written, the Overlord's only real way to win is to force a big fight which results in a TPK, and then have Zachareth slowly lounge his way off the map while the rest of the monsters hold the heroes in a boring and frustrating death-cycle of getting up and dying again every turn. With this change, the heroes start with "possession of the ball" and can try to bust through, but if they fail, they get to swap roles, getting teleported to the Exit and now play defense as the Overlord tries to bust through them - a true back-and-forth exchange. The exploding tiles are to put time pressure on whichever side is further back and prevent ridiculous detente (my heroes correctly noted that had they simply returned to the original Shadow Vault tile and stayed there, I could not have touched them and the map would have been stuck in an infinite loop with both sides refusing to move).


The Dawnblade
-------------
Encounter 1

The light *really* moves at the VERY start of the OL's turn (to avoid Dark Charm silliness).


Gryvorn Unleashed (Finale 1)
-------------
Encounter 1

Any monster may pick up a Ritual Token for an action.
Any monster may take a token from an adjacent monster for an action.
1 Open Group (any features) starts in the Torture Chamber.
Belthir and Alric are NOT replaced by monsters if not present.


Encounter 2

Heroes heal to full health at start.
Overlord reshuffles his deck and draws up to his normal start, plus 1 card for each Hero KO from Part 1.
Gryvorn is immune to Immobilize and Stun.

Comments: You'd really think FFG could've drawn on more experience from RtL here. Not healing for the second half is just silly; it leads to ridiculous gameyness about the Overlords desperately wanting to just maim the heroes in the first half, and the heroes trying to time the end of the encounter so they can spend a bunch of turns healing up to full. The lieutenants also aren't terribly hot, and I could easily imagine I might *prefer* replacing one of them with a group of speedy goblins, which seems silly. Much better to make the "default" version of the map slightly harder and then actually reward the heroes for having eliminated the lieutenants in previous quests.



The Man Who Would Be King (Finale 2)
-------------------
Encounter 1

The first door (closest to Splig) begins open.
Belthir and Alric are NOT replaced by monsters if not present.
Place Goblins on the Stairs along with Splig.

Encounter 2

Heroes heal to full health at start.
Overlord reshuffles his deck and draws up to his normal start, plus 1 card for each Hero KO from Part 1.
Each hero can be revived exactly once during this encounter.
Overlord gets 2 'revive' tokens - each one allows Merick or Eliza to 'stand up' once (as though they were a hero).
The Iron Crown grants +1 Will to all heroes while held by any hero.

Comments: The first encounter, as written, is obviously a joke. Let's open the doors and give the fatty a little goblin screen at least. Other than that, many of the same considerations from Gryvorn Unleashed apply. Since hero death is final here, our group *really* didn't like how punishing it was to have a Dark Charm succeed on the first round and take one hero out right off the bat. By giving both sides a few revives and thus drawing things out a little more, there should be a little more opportunity for coin-flips to even out between both sides. Also remember, if you are playing this quest at all, the Heroes have won AT MOST ONE quest in Act 2 - therefore, AT MOST ONE lieutenant will not be present. Eliza and Merick are already far more important simply by virtue of being in the second half, no need to trivialize the other two even more by replacing them with useful monsters if they are otherwise out of action.

Edit 1: Minor modifications based on feedback and experience.
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Darren Nakamura
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The_Immortal wrote:
The Masquerade Ball
-------------
Encounter 1

On this map, the monsters were lightly armed with concealed weapons. All monsters (but not Lts.) receive -1 damage with all attacks.

All figures on this map gain the attack ability:
Surge: Steal a Noble carried by your target (if adjacent).
The Overlord DOES reinforce - 1 figure per turn, in any space at least 3 away from any Noble/Encounter token (even ones carried by
Heroes).

The Hero chance of victory is linearly proportional to the number of nobles saved. Use a d4 or whatever. We're smart enough to generate a uniform distribution from 1 to 4 here.

Comment: When I first read this map, it was looking interesting...until I got to the end and saw that "oh...the Overlord doesn't reinforce...and the only way to get nobles back is to kill the figure holding them...so isn't this really about both sides trying to kill each other, just like...every other map?" I thought we could do better. This is my attempt.

Also, could ANYONE like the weirdness where the heroes don't care in the least whether they rescue one or zero nobles (for parties of 4 heroes anyway)?


I think a lot of the design decisions that you're "fixing" here are intentional. For one, I don't think that the heroes walked into the building lightly armed with concealed weapons. The flavor text even mentions one of the NPCs asking the party, "You're not going dressed like THAT, are you?" implying that they are attending the ball in full gear.

As far as the die roll at the end goes, it is heavily weighted in favor of the heroes, and I think that's by design because of how impossibly difficult Encounter 2 is if the Overlord wins Encounter 1. My group recently played this one, and after I won Encounter 1 on a lucky die roll (they rolled four shields after having rescued only two partygoers), I was able to take the second encounter while giving them coaching on what they would have to do, and holding back in not playing any Tripwires or Dashes, and not using the strongest monsters I had available. If I had gone all out, it would have been a complete impossibility.

All that said, I do agree that this quest is funky, and perhaps requires some sort of fixing. I've been meaning to post a strategy article on it for awhile, but I've come to the decision that there's literally no reason for the heroes to unmask guests at all, with the "kill everybody and any remaining guests are considered saved" clause. All unmasking does is cost the heroes an action, and has a 50% chance of giving the overlord a bonus action. The Overlord doesn't have any alternate victory conditions, so he must unmask guests. Might as well make him spend the actions so the heroes can spend theirs killing the monsters instead.
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Chris J Davis
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Good stuff! I will use your changes to the finale once we reach it.

Can you also provide me with the link to your Overlord card changes? I can't seem to find the thread any more.
 
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Jeff Long
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bleached_lizard wrote:
Good stuff! I will use your changes to the finale once we reach it.

Can you also provide me with the link to your Overlord card changes? I can't seem to find the thread any more.


If you do, I'm sure it goes without saying that I'd be very interested in your experiences. While I'm fairly positive these suggestions are "a step in the right direction," everything's a work in progress of course.

Yeah, I put the other thread in 'Strategy' rather than 'Variants' which was probably a mistake. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/855704/on-the-failure-of...
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Jeff Long
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Dexter345 wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:
The Masquerade Ball
-------------
Encounter 1

On this map, the monsters were lightly armed with concealed weapons. All monsters (but not Lts.) receive -1 damage with all attacks.

All figures on this map gain the attack ability:
Surge: Steal a Noble carried by your target (if adjacent).
The Overlord DOES reinforce - 1 figure per turn, in any space at least 3 away from any Noble/Encounter token (even ones carried by
Heroes).

The Hero chance of victory is linearly proportional to the number of nobles saved. Use a d4 or whatever. We're smart enough to generate a uniform distribution from 1 to 4 here.

Comment: When I first read this map, it was looking interesting...until I got to the end and saw that "oh...the Overlord doesn't reinforce...and the only way to get nobles back is to kill the figure holding them...so isn't this really about both sides trying to kill each other, just like...every other map?" I thought we could do better. This is my attempt.

Also, could ANYONE like the weirdness where the heroes don't care in the least whether they rescue one or zero nobles (for parties of 4 heroes anyway)?


I think a lot of the design decisions that you're "fixing" here are intentional. For one, I don't think that the heroes walked into the building lightly armed with concealed weapons. The flavor text even mentions one of the NPCs asking the party, "You're not going dressed like THAT, are you?" implying that they are attending the ball in full gear.


I take your point, although I think you didn't quite read carefully enough - I state that only the MONSTERS get the -1 damage (after all, THEY evidently DID sneak in). This is to compensate for giving the OL reinforcements, and to make the map into less of a brawl where the OL just tries to score a TPK as usual.

Quote:

As far as the die roll at the end goes, it is heavily weighted in favor of the heroes, and I think that's by design because of how impossibly difficult Encounter 2 is if the Overlord wins Encounter 1. My group recently played this one, and after I won Encounter 1 on a lucky die roll (they rolled four shields after having rescued only two partygoers), I was able to take the second encounter while giving them coaching on what they would have to do, and holding back in not playing any Tripwires or Dashes, and not using the strongest monsters I had available. If I had gone all out, it would have been a complete impossibility.


I have to say that I strongly disagree on the impossibility of Encounter 2. Eliza starts within a reasonable distance for a Turn 1 strike by the heroes. True, killing her on turn 1 might be a tall order, but if the heroes have any stun capacity at all, her escape becomes very dicey indeed. If I recall, the time we played that map, the heroes were able to attack her on turn 1 with the Necromancer's re-animate, of all things, which is not exactly the fastest piece on the board. Any map where your king starts the game in check is NOT impossible by any means in my books.

That said, should the victory die roll be 'flat' or biased towards the heroes? Fair question - but the thing I can't see ANY argument for is the (current) property where the heroes are ambivalent towards saving 0 or 1 guest (they only win on a blank either way). Since I was aiming for simplicity wherever possible, it seemed to me that a flat distribution was 'good enough' and by far the most intuitive to explain (i.e. the guy you want is one of the four guests, could be any one of them, your job is to save him).

Quote:

All that said, I do agree that this quest is funky, and perhaps requires some sort of fixing. I've been meaning to post a strategy article on it for awhile, but I've come to the decision that there's literally no reason for the heroes to unmask guests at all, with the "kill everybody and any remaining guests are considered saved" clause. All unmasking does is cost the heroes an action, and has a 50% chance of giving the overlord a bonus action. The Overlord doesn't have any alternate victory conditions, so he must unmask guests. Might as well make him spend the actions so the heroes can spend theirs killing the monsters instead.


The time we played it, the heroes actually made a mistake by not unmasking. That was because I had already revealed all 4 Flesh Moulders myself, so they knew the last 2 tokens were actually guests. They didn't want to waste the actions, but turns out it's much simpler for a goblin to grab a token on a ground than to kill a hero. Of course, there's CERTAINLY no reason for the heroes to ever escort a guest off the map, and even the case I describe is fairly specific and unlikely to re-occur (ESPECIALLY since, as written, the heroes don't care about the 4th guest!).
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Darren Nakamura
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The_Immortal wrote:
I take your point, although I think you didn't quite read carefully enough - I state that only the MONSTERS get the -1 damage (after all, THEY evidently DID sneak in). This is to compensate for giving the OL reinforcements, and to make the map into less of a brawl where the OL just tries to score a TPK as usual.


Sorry, the confusion was in that you worded as the monsters "receive" -1 damage, which I took to mean that the heroes were dealing -1 damage.

As far as getting a turn 1 attack on Eliza in Encounter 2, I don't see how they could have done it. It took most of what they had to get past the spiders and open the door, and once they did, I had a bunch of Barghests jump in the way immediately.
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Jeff Long
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Dexter345 wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:
I take your point, although I think you didn't quite read carefully enough - I state that only the MONSTERS get the -1 damage (after all, THEY evidently DID sneak in). This is to compensate for giving the OL reinforcements, and to make the map into less of a brawl where the OL just tries to score a TPK as usual.


Sorry, the confusion was in that you worded as the monsters "receive" -1 damage, which I took to mean that the heroes were dealing -1 damage.

As far as getting a turn 1 attack on Eliza in Encounter 2, I don't see how they could have done it. It took most of what they had to get past the spiders and open the door, and once they did, I had a bunch of Barghests jump in the way immediately.


Are we looking at the same map? I count only 5 spaces in between the closest space of the heroes' start position and Eliza. That is incredibly, incredibly close. Even if every single space in between the heroes and Eliza was filled with monsters (which of course is far from the case), attacking her on turn 1 would still be VERY doable: 5 actions to kill 5 monsters and 1 to open the door, leaving 2 actions to spare. That's with no blast and no other form of multi-attack.

As it is, with Barghests as the monster group in Eliza's room, only 3 attacks are required to clear a path to Eliza (assuming all monsters die in one blow), and 1 action to open the door (which requires a check, but should be 72% reliable - surely the group has either 4 Fist OR 4 Eyeball on someone).

Oh, I should state that of course I'm assuming 4-heroes. I suspect that just like in Descent-1, FFG failed big time to balance for different hero numbers, in spite of their best efforts. This map seems to be good evidence of that - I certainly agree that a mere 2 heroes would have a very difficult time putting fire on Eliza on Turn 1. But with 4 Heroes, it's very, very easy.
 
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Just asking: would you consider as possible that the blame about those quests could also be placed on the way heroes and OL played them?
Would there be factors (luck, skill interaction, etc.) that could lead to the conclusion that "fixes" are not that necessary.
Reading the OP, it gives me the impression that the only source of problems should be FFG's mediocre design...
 
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Jeff Long
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Robin wrote:
Just asking: would you consider as possible that the blame about those quests could also be placed on the way heroes and OL played them?
Would there be factors (luck, skill interaction, etc.) that could lead to the conclusion that "fixes" are not that necessary.
Reading the OP, it gives me the impression that the only source of problems should be FFG's mediocre design...


Robin,
Please note that I am not in any way claiming that all the quests I propose modifying are completely broken. I believe my opening sentence states quite clearly that there is a smattering of things I am trying to address, some of which are certainly not "essential."

My goal is simply to create a more strategically interesting game when played at a high level by players who make few mistakes (I will openly admit that I am perhaps somewhat callous towards the experiences of gamers who play at a low level, and I apologize for that. "Fixing" things that are "on average" a problem but only for low-level players is a worthy enough goal, but exceptionally difficult in my opinion).

Many aspects of the design of Descent-2 are undeniably mediocre. One glance at the deck of Overlord upgrade cards is proof of this to an experienced player. The thing is that the core of the game is (or at least was, coming from Descent-1) so deeply fascinating, that many of us can't help ourselves from tinkering and trying to improve it in areas in which FFG was obviously sloppy.
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Darren Nakamura
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The_Immortal wrote:
Dexter345 wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:
I take your point, although I think you didn't quite read carefully enough - I state that only the MONSTERS get the -1 damage (after all, THEY evidently DID sneak in). This is to compensate for giving the OL reinforcements, and to make the map into less of a brawl where the OL just tries to score a TPK as usual.


Sorry, the confusion was in that you worded as the monsters "receive" -1 damage, which I took to mean that the heroes were dealing -1 damage.

As far as getting a turn 1 attack on Eliza in Encounter 2, I don't see how they could have done it. It took most of what they had to get past the spiders and open the door, and once they did, I had a bunch of Barghests jump in the way immediately.


Are we looking at the same map? I count only 5 spaces in between the closest space of the heroes' start position and Eliza. That is incredibly, incredibly close. Even if every single space in between the heroes and Eliza was filled with monsters (which of course is far from the case), attacking her on turn 1 would still be VERY doable: 5 actions to kill 5 monsters and 1 to open the door, leaving 2 actions to spare. That's with no blast and no other form of multi-attack.

As it is, with Barghests as the monster group in Eliza's room, only 3 attacks are required to clear a path to Eliza (assuming all monsters die in one blow), and 1 action to open the door (which requires a check, but should be 72% reliable - surely the group has either 4 Fist OR 4 Eyeball on someone).

Oh, I should state that of course I'm assuming 4-heroes. I suspect that just like in Descent-1, FFG failed big time to balance for different hero numbers, in spite of their best efforts. This map seems to be good evidence of that - I certainly agree that a mere 2 heroes would have a very difficult time putting fire on Eliza on Turn 1. But with 4 Heroes, it's very, very easy.


Well, I count six spaces actually. [EDIT: I see how you're counting, and yes, the nearest hero must only move five spaces to be within melee range of Eliza] But then there's the wall of Cave Spiders (Heroes must defeat at least two) and then the wall of Barghests that show up once the door is opened (Heroes must defeat at least one). And then there's Web Trap, which was in my hand at the beginning of the encounter because I held onto it from the first one. Also, two Tripwires. Also, dice.

When we played it, it took one hero's entire turn to kill the master cave spider. Then another hero's entire turn to kill the second spider in the way. Then the third hero fatigue-moved up to the door, smashed it open, and the barghests showed up. The fourth character couldn't even kill a barghest.

Is my group always making the optimum decisions? No, I don't think so. But the fact that they couldn't get a first turn attack on Eliza even without me playing any OL cards to stop them was pretty rough.
 
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Nice work Jeff, I wish we'd used these changes before playing our first campaign.
 
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Robin REEVE
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The_Immortal wrote:
Many aspects of the design of Descent-2 are undeniably mediocre. One glance at the deck of Overlord upgrade cards is proof of this to an experienced player.
Your opinion, not mine.
I am an experienced boardgamer, btw (pas thirty years of boardgaming behind me).
I am not experienced in RPG nor in Descent 1st ed., however.
But I cannot take seriously an opinion when it is stamped as "undeniable" - which is an absolute, nearly mathematical truth's way of expressing thing.
You think/believe/feel that D2e's design is mediocre.
Many others would "deny" your statement - so your opinion is deniable by other, rational and experienced players.

My opinion, for the moment, is that there are quite a number of factors which make definitive statements about balance or design quality a very difficult (if not impossible) enterprise.
If all the criticisms went in the same direction, based on diverse and intense playing sessions, I believe that some global conclusions could be elaborated.
But the place of luck, the validity of hero combos, the variety of levels of experience of players (and an "experienced player" can miss some obvious factors, because he imports in the game his experience of other systems, which skew his judgement), etc. can only lead to relative judgements.

That said, it is possible (and even probable) that some quests are more difficult and that the OL/Heroes balance is not 50-50.
But, for the present time, I don't believe in absolutes at that level.

As already expressed elsewhere, it would be nice to have a game results online database, as exists for Advanced Squad Leader scenarios.
It could give a relative view of the balance of each quest - say, if you have 50+ different records of a given quest, you have a better image than what a local group can say about it.

I am eager to see what the non-US, non-English speaking players will express, when they will have access to the translated versions of the game. Gaming styles can be very different in other cultures, and lead to interesting feedbacks.
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The_Immortal wrote:

The Cardinal's Plight
------------
Encounter 2

Koth is immune to Immobilize.

Comment: Realistically, I think if the Overlord doesn't have enough zombies to kill Koth before the heroes get the door open, then the heroes have effectively already won. Letting the Master Zombie continually respawn and immobilize Koth, while obviously "optimal", is a time-wasting exercise in futility. So let's just disallow it.


This looked like an interesting thread, but I stopped reading right here. In the comments, you're more or less admitting that you're making an assumption that you don't have data for. ("Realistically, you think...") Then, you change a rule to solve a problem that doesn't exist - respawning and freezing Koth. If the OL is continually immobilizing Koth, the heroes can't stop him, but the OL can't win - the problem isn't that Koth can be immobilized. The problem is that he's a time-wasting jerk, and you should stop playing with him.

Based on a weak assumption (and one which seems facially not true) you're shifting around the balance of the scenario to solve a social problem which doesn't actually impact gameplay. I think you really need to reconsider this, and any other pieces of scenario advice that follow a similar pattern.
 
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Jeff Long
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Robin wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:
Many aspects of the design of Descent-2 are undeniably mediocre. One glance at the deck of Overlord upgrade cards is proof of this to an experienced player.
Your opinion, not mine.
I am an experienced boardgamer, btw (pas thirty years of boardgaming behind me).
I am not experienced in RPG nor in Descent 1st ed., however.
But I cannot take seriously an opinion when it is stamped as "undeniable" - which is an absolute, nearly mathematical truth's way of expressing thing.
You think/believe/feel that D2e's design is mediocre.
Many others would "deny" your statement - so your opinion is deniable by other, rational and experienced players.

Robin,
I apologize if I have offended you with overly strong language. This was not my intent, and the example I used was not in fact the best in terms of clarity and objectivity. However, my original point still stands under your own stricter definitions. A game can (and in the case of Descent 2 and many others, does) contain "undeniable" flaws, which I think can be split up under the following sub-headings.

1) Contradictory Rules. This is the strongest and most blatant type of flaw - when the rules themselves form a classic, logical contradiction (P and not-P). Because contradictions are by definition nonsense, the game is unplayable so long as the contradiction remains unresolved. If I'm recalling correctly, Descent 1 had at least one such contradiction in its rules (concerning large monsters interacting with terrain, I think) at one point.

2) Ambiguous Rules When the rules are insufficiently clear to distinguish between multiple possible interpretations. Descent 2 (and Descent 1 of course) has plenty of these - see the thread on spending fatigue for movement (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/873437/fatigue-moving-ca...) for but one example. There are many others.

3) Unnecessary Rules (by Occam's Razor) This is perhaps slightly more debatable than the two points above, but in my books, is an objective design flaw. If a game contains a rule that could be removed without affecting the game's optimal strategies, then that rule is flawed (either the rule SHOULD just be removed, or it should be changed so as to not be irrelevant). In Descent 2, an example of this (according to me, at least) is the Overlord upgrade system, which enforces a "pyramid system" concerning which cards the Overlord is allowed to buy. If the high-cost, "top of the pyramid" card is in fact less desirable than other, cheaper cards, then the pyramid scheme is a design flaw by this metric, because it prohibits actions that no rational player would take anyway. Of course, rigorously proving the existence of this class of flaw is often computationally intractable, since it pre-supposes the game's optimal strategy, but in principle it is well-defined and objective.

The whole point of all of the above is that Descent 2 can and does contain objective design flaws (what I previously called "aspects of mediocre design") - certainly numerous "class 2" flaws at the very least, and in my opinion some pretty blatant "class 3" flaws as well. Now, a corollary that I would propose (although you are free to believe it or not) is that any game with a significant number of these objective flaws probably didn't get *quite* the amount of polish and testing in other elements of its design that perhaps it should have.

As I've said from the very beginning, not all of the variants I propose here are addressing hard, "objective" flaws (though some of them are). But the existence of such flaws gives me high confidence that the game has other flaws and wrinkles which can potentially be improved upon with a reasonable probability of success.

Quote:

That said, it is possible (and even probable) that some quests are more difficult and that the OL/Heroes balance is not 50-50.
But, for the present time, I don't believe in absolutes at that level.


You are absolutely correct, and to a large degree, correcting for what I (and I believe Mr. Chris Davis as well if I'm recalling his writings correctly) call 'external balance' was not my goal in this case. I agree it is premature to talk about external balance. I was more interested in this effort with finding aspects of the game where I thought I could re-construct the "idea" that the designers were going for, but that fell a little short from a point of view of strategic interest, in addition to closing any "objective" flaws that I came across.

Quote:

As already expressed elsewhere, it would be nice to have a game results online database, as exists for Advanced Squad Leader scenarios.
It could give a relative view of the balance of each quest - say, if you have 50+ different records of a given quest, you have a better image than what a local group can say about it.


For myself, I would be highly skeptical of the value of such a data-base. Because of the nature of the game in question, I think any such play records would be dominated by first-time play experience. It would be very difficult to extract any information about what goes on at a high level of play. That sort of data would of course be very valuable, for example, to the company that IS largely concerned with first-time player experiences in order to draw in customers and sell more games. But as I stated earlier, I am callous and unfeeling and therefore have different goals at the moment.
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The_Immortal wrote:


The Man Who Would Be King (Finale 2)
-------------------
Encounter 1

The doors begin open.
Belthir and Alric are NOT replaced by monsters if not present.
Place Goblins on the Stairs along with Splig.

Encounter 2

Heroes heal to full health at start.
Overlord reshuffles his deck and draws up to his normal start, plus 1 card for each Hero KO from Part 1.
Each hero can be revived exactly once during this encounter.
Overlord gets 2 'revive' tokens - each one allows Merick or Eliza to 'stand up' once (as though they were a hero).
The Iron Crown grants +1 Will to all heroes while held by any hero.

Comments: The first encounter, as written, is obviously a joke. Let's open the doors and give the fatty a little goblin screen at least. Other than that, many of the same considerations from Gryvorn Unleashed apply. Since hero death is final here, our group *really* didn't like how punishing it was to have a Dark Charm succeed on the first round and take one hero out right off the bat. By giving both sides a few revives and thus drawing things out a little more, there should be a little more opportunity for coin-flips to even out between both sides. Also remember, if you are playing this quest at all, the Heroes have won AT MOST ONE quest in Act 2 - therefore, AT MOST ONE lieutenant will not be present. Eliza and Merick are already far more important simply by virtue of being in the second half, no need to trivialize the other two even more by replacing them with useful monsters if they are otherwise out of action.




By the way, I'm curious - why only allow Merric and Eliza to stand up? Seeing as the hero objective is to kill Zachareth, surely they should be pumping all of their firepower into him?

Hopefully you'll see this message and reply before we play tomorrow!
 
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The_Immortal wrote:

The Man Who Would Be King (Finale 2)
-------------------
Encounter 1

The doors begin open.
Belthir and Alric are NOT replaced by monsters if not present.
Place Goblins on the Stairs along with Splig.

Encounter 2

Heroes heal to full health at start.
Overlord reshuffles his deck and draws up to his normal start, plus 1 card for each Hero KO from Part 1.
Each hero can be revived exactly once during this encounter.
Overlord gets 2 'revive' tokens - each one allows Merick or Eliza to 'stand up' once (as though they were a hero).
The Iron Crown grants +1 Will to all heroes while held by any hero.

Comments: The first encounter, as written, is obviously a joke. Let's open the doors and give the fatty a little goblin screen at least. Other than that, many of the same considerations from Gryvorn Unleashed apply. Since hero death is final here, our group *really* didn't like how punishing it was to have a Dark Charm succeed on the first round and take one hero out right off the bat. By giving both sides a few revives and thus drawing things out a little more, there should be a little more opportunity for coin-flips to even out between both sides. Also remember, if you are playing this quest at all, the Heroes have won AT MOST ONE quest in Act 2 - therefore, AT MOST ONE lieutenant will not be present. Eliza and Merick are already far more important simply by virtue of being in the second half, no need to trivialize the other two even more by replacing them with useful monsters if they are otherwise out of action.




Finished our campaign today with most of the above changes implemented. Here's the feedback:

Starting with all the doors open in Encounter 1 is way too much of a swing in the other direction. Half way through we realised it was ridiculous and decided to undo some of Splig's movement to correct for the fact that he would have used extra actions to open some of the doors. Just starting with the first door open is enough. Splig managed to win due to a lucky Dash being drawn on the deciding round (he was down to about 3 health, so the heroes would have won if I hadn't drawn that).

Making the heroes miss their first turn with a whole squad of goblins right in front of them is also too much; I was able to kill two of the heroes on the first turn.

The rule allowing Eliza to stand up is a bit pointless if it is intended that she rolls two red dice just like a hero, as she can be taken down again in one hit. The heroes can stand each other up, saving actions. Monsters can't stand each other up, so spending her whole turn to stand up did nothing except have the heroes waste one attack.

I didn't manage to kill a single hero in Encounter 2, so not sure if allowing them to respawn at all is really necessary. Merric was not present, so not sure how much of a difference that made, but he's quite wimpy so I'm sure not much. If the heroes are allowed to respawn, then Zachareth should definitely be allowed to re-spawn once as well (probably to full health, seeing as his single respawn is meant to equate to four hero respawns... or maybe one respawn rolling 2 red dice per hero... and probably only taking one action as well, or something).
 
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Kelly Overholser
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amoshias wrote:
The_Immortal wrote:

The Cardinal's Plight
------------
Encounter 2

Koth is immune to Immobilize.

Comment: Realistically, I think if the Overlord doesn't have enough zombies to kill Koth before the heroes get the door open, then the heroes have effectively already won. Letting the Master Zombie continually respawn and immobilize Koth, while obviously "optimal", is a time-wasting exercise in futility. So let's just disallow it.


This looked like an interesting thread, but I stopped reading right here. In the comments, you're more or less admitting that you're making an assumption that you don't have data for. ("Realistically, you think...") Then, you change a rule to solve a problem that doesn't exist - respawning and freezing Koth. If the OL is continually immobilizing Koth, the heroes can't stop him, but the OL can't win - the problem isn't that Koth can be immobilized. The problem is that he's a time-wasting jerk, and you should stop playing with him.

Based on a weak assumption (and one which seems facially not true) you're shifting around the balance of the scenario to solve a social problem which doesn't actually impact gameplay. I think you really need to reconsider this, and any other pieces of scenario advice that follow a similar pattern.


Actually, yes, the problem exists. Player motives and taking suboptimal decisions in the name of "fun" is good and all, but the game should be balanced around the assumption that every player is going to do everything possible (within the rules of the game, of course) in order to win. Being able to immobilize Koth, while cheesy, is a valid tactic and there should be something in the rules to prevent it. (Admittedly, immobilize is a stupidly-powerful condition anyway, and should probably be nerfed on its own; such a nerf may be enough to fix the encounter without any other changes necessary.)

In this encounter specifically, a single master zombie can average somewhere around 3.5 damage/round, with the Cardinal blocking an average of 2.3 and healing an average of 2.16, which means he's not healing much more than he's taking damage - this assumes no misses by the master (which isn't unlikely, if the Overlord is using Dark Fortune to reroll all misses). Keep in mind that the overlord, so long as he keeps the cardinal immobilized, will always be able to spawn a master zombie, immobilize the cardinal, and attack the cardinal, every round. The heroes do have a small number of counters available, but there's no guarantee they'll have one. The healing is small enough, however, that the overlord may be able to draw into attack cards (Frenzy, Dark Might, Critical Blow, and if he has it, Blood Rage) and out-damage the healing available; or he may just get lucky and have the dice roll in his favor. Either way, it's a very unsatisfactory end for the heroes if they save the cardinal only to watch him die from constant, unstoppable zombie attacks.
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Also, my own tweaks to Masquerade Ball (first encounter):

After placing the guests, the Overlord may look at the tokens, but may not change their location. At any time during his turn, he may reveal a red token and replace it with a Flesh Moulder figure.

All other aspects of the encounter are unchanged. The idea is that the overlord should know which of the guests are his own cultists, and should be able to order them to reveal themselves, instead of needing to have his other minions check what they are. This may mean the optimal strategy is to reveal all of them on the first turn however, so perhaps the heroes need a bit easier time unmasking the guests (say, it doesn't take an action, but an unmasked flesh moulder still gets a surprise attack).
 
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Jeff Long
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Hi Chris,
Interesting to hear of your experiences! I apologize I didn't see your post here in time to comment prior to your game.

I've managed to play that particular Final Quest twice now - once with the original rules, and once with the rules as I've posted them here.

For the first encounter, I'll agree that maybe all the doors being open is a little much. That said, when we played the quest with my modified rules, the Heroes DID still win, albeit by the skin of their teeth, so it's definitely not impossible. I don't know about the goblin squad - it sounds to me like your heroes just got very unlikely. By my calculation, a full volley from the goblins only does 8.166 damage to a hero with Grey-Grey defence, which only kills the very weakest of heroes (who are presumably not the ones in the front). My inclination is to leave them in.

For the second encounter, in fact in BOTH my plays, the OL won fairly handily. The '1 revive' rule is intended to protect against swingy luck where an early successful dark charm takes a key hero out of the picture on the first round or two. If they're steam-rolling things or getting steam-rolled themselves, I agree it's unlikely to make a big difference.

I'll agree, letting Eliza stand up isn't a huge deal (although note my wording - each TOKEN allows a Lt. to stand up once, so if Eliza gets knocked out twice, she can stand up twice, not just once). Possibly it should only cost her one action as you suggest. I'm against reviving Zachareth for the moment, as in my experience, the map has thus far been a slaughter in the OL's favour.

I think you may be underestimating the value of Lord Merrick's presence. I found him exceedingly useful - his attack has good range and just having another figure to run around and close/open doors and run interference was exceedingly useful. Eliza's "stun and move a hero" ability is very useful, so she's less available to do those other things.

I must say, the single change I liked the most was the Crown granting the +1 Will to everyone! That made it actually seem like a very worthwhile reward for winning Encounter 1.
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Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) » Forums » Variants
Re: Individual Scenario Fixes
Sethala wrote:
Also, my own tweaks to Masquerade Ball (first encounter):

After placing the guests, the Overlord may look at the tokens, but may not change their location. At any time during his turn, he may reveal a red token and replace it with a Flesh Moulder figure.

All other aspects of the encounter are unchanged. The idea is that the overlord should know which of the guests are his own cultists, and should be able to order them to reveal themselves, instead of needing to have his other minions check what they are. This may mean the optimal strategy is to reveal all of them on the first turn however, so perhaps the heroes need a bit easier time unmasking the guests (say, it doesn't take an action, but an unmasked flesh moulder still gets a surprise attack).


This doesn't seem like a balance tweak but more of a thematic tweak which, in turn, completely unbalances the scenario. The OL already has an easy time of it on this map - no need to make it *even* easier for him.

Making it then easier for the heroes to unmask the guests as well would kinda render the whole scenario completely pointless.
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