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

Subject: Hardcore / Ironman mode for campaign rss

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This is a very rough idea and I just thought of it. I tried to find a "hardcore" or "ironman" variant for the campaign, where heroes stay dead, but I didn't find anything. Here is a rough take on the concept.

Ironman / Hardcore Mode for Descent 2nd Ed. (version 0.02)

Rules:
Heroes are never "knocked out," they are killed.
Heroes may not stand up, they may only be revived.
They have a number of lives equal to their highest attribute (might, awareness, knowledge, willpower). When they run out of lives they are killed permanently.
When they are knocked out, a monster may attempt to permanently kill the hero. This attempt is a "full round" action, meaning it is the only action the monster may perform this turn (short of OL cards, like dash or frenzy). To succeed in killing the hero, the hero "defends" itself with an attribute test. The highest attribute for the character is used for the test. A success means the hero remains alive, a failure means the hero is killed.
When permanently killed, the player may choose another hero at the end of the quest to come back for the next quest. If all 8 heroes are defeated in the course of the campaign, the Overlord wins. The "new" hero will start with the correct amount of XP for that point in the campaign. When a hero is killed, a hero token is placed on the board and the items may be looted from that square.

Before Campaign:
Heroes start with gold equal to (# of heroes X 50) and are randomly dealt 1/2 the Act 1 shop item deck and may purchase any items from that pile. The remaining items go back in the deck and the leftover gold is retained for later purchases.

Other Changes:
-All heroes' max HP is 4 higher than normal.
-The overlord uses monster stats for a group of heroes 1 less than current (e.g. 3 heroes means monster groups for 2). This allows for 5 heroes to play with an overlord setup using the 4 hero group stats.
-The overlord draws cards based off of a party with 1 fewer hero.
-Search tokens are always placed for 4 heroes.

I was thinking about requiring the OL to retain all cards in his deck (meaning the OL deck always increases).

Keep in mind I am trying to keep as much of the core rules as possible while not necessarily trying to retain balance... "Hardcore" modes in RPGs where you don't come back when killed are always challenging. That is what I am aiming for here. The main goal is to create a more dangerous situation for the heroes, but still allow them to have a shot at obtaining victory over the OL.

I haven't tested it at all (because I just thought of it), but I would like any feedback/suggestions/tweaks. Thank you

EDIT1: Heroes are never "knocked out," they are killed. Heroes may not stand up, they may only be revived. They have a number of lives equal to their highest attribute (might, awareness, knowledge, willpower). When they run out of lives they are killed permanently.
EDIT2:When they are knocked out, a monster may attempt to permanently kill the hero. This attempt is a "full round" action, meaning it is the only action the monster may perform this turn (short of OL cards, like dash or frenzy). To succeed in killing the hero, the hero "defends" itself with an attribute test. The highest attribute for the character is used for the test. A success means the hero remains alive, a failure means the hero is killed.
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Jonathan Neufeld
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I would be interested to see how this turns out when play tested. I think you have some great idea's here, especially that of having 5 hero's with 4 player amount of monster's, that would be fun. I do think that this is tipped quite heavily in favor of the hero's, but it needs to be that way to a certain degree... it's more a matter of how much.

It would be interesting to see how the OL would change their strategy in light of death being final. I would probably go all out trying to kill the hero's in every encounter one, and then just focus on the quest for encounter 2. Seperating the hero's would also be extremely costly as if for example an ettin tossed a hero away from the group only to be devoured by a group of waiting zombies... insert evil laugh here... devil

I also like the idea of player's being able to come back as a different hero, and corpse's being looted for their equipment (normal card trading rules would apply I'm assuming). You could add a weight demension to the looting, for example somebody caring multiple armor items moves 1 slower per heavy armor item, or something of the sorts.

Keep us posted!
 
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Chris J Davis
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golbeeze wrote:
This is a very rough idea and I just thought of it. I tried to find a "hardcore" or "ironman" variant for the campaign, where heroes stay dead, but I didn't find anything. Here is a rough take on the concept.

Ironman / Hardcore Mode for Descent 2nd Ed. (version 0.01)

Rules:
Heroes are never "knocked out," they are killed. They may choose another hero at the end of the quest to come back for the next quest. If all 8 heroes are defeated in the course of the campaign, the Overlord wins. The "new" hero will start with the correct amount of XP for that point in the campaign. When a hero is killed, a hero token is placed on the board and the items may be looted from that square.

Before Campaign:
Heroes start with gold equal to (# of heroes X 50) and are randomly dealt 1/2 the Act 1 shop item deck and may purchase any items from that pile. The remaining items go back in the deck and the leftover gold is retained for later purchases.

Other Changes:
-All heroes' max HP is 4 higher than normal.
-The overlord uses monster stats for a group of heroes 1 less than current (e.g. 3 heroes means monster groups for 2). This allows for 5 heroes to play with an overlord setup using the 4 hero group stats.
-The overlord draws cards based off of a party with 1 fewer hero.
-Search tokens are always placed for 4 heroes.

I was thinking about requiring the OL to retain all cards in his deck (meaning the OL deck always increases).

Keep in mind I am trying to keep as much of the core rules as possible while not necessarily trying to retain balance... "Hardcore" modes in RPGs where you don't come back when killed are always challenging. That is what I am aiming for here. The main goal is to create a more dangerous situation for the heroes, but still allow them to have a shot at obtaining victory over the OL.

I haven't tested it at all (because I just thought of it), but I would like any feedback/suggestions/tweaks. Thank you


Any variant that limits heroes to only one death each, and limits the pool of heroes to those included in the base game, will be impossible for the heroes to win. The campaign will be over by around the third quest.
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jonny18 wrote:
I do think that this is tipped quite heavily in favor of the hero's, but it needs to be that way to a certain degree... it's more a matter of how much.

It would be interesting to see how the OL would change their strategy in light of death being final. I would probably go all out trying to kill the hero's in every encounter one, and then just focus on the quest for encounter 2. Seperating the hero's would also be extremely costly as if for example an ettin tossed a hero away from the group only to be devoured by a group of waiting zombies... insert evil laugh here... devil


I think it is heavily in favor of the OL, except for the intro quest. What I fear from the general setup is the fact that the OL would do just that - focus on killing the players. I'm not sure there is a way to keep the OL on his objective when death is on the table for the players. However, if the OL does focus on killing to the extent that the players have an easier time with their objective, it may work out. Testing is definitely required here.

Allowing a single resurrection per hero per quest (not encounter) is an idea. Tweaking OL reinforcements somehow may balance it a bit, too. I just don't want to mess with the rules that heavily.


EDIT: I was thinking after the interlude, an Act 2 shopping event would probably be appropriate. It would be similar to what I proposed before the campaign. After the interlude, you have access to the act 1 shop and 1/2 the act 2 shop, dealt randomly. In addition, the interlude would give a bonus 25 gold per player for defeat and 50 gold per player for victory. Or something along those lines...
 
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Definitely will keep my eyes on this thread, this sound interesting but I agree with what has been said, killing off the heroes will be an overarching goal for the OL, one that will supersede the quest objectives, perhaps even rendering them useless.

But here are some more possible workarounds to this:

1. Standups are no longer allowed, but revives are. If all heroes are knocked out, then naturally the game ends for them.

2. Each hero has a number of "lives", say 3-5.

3. When a hero is knocked out, they can only respawn at the quest's entrance or starting area.

4. When a hero is knocked out, they may heal as normal, but now there max hp goes down by 1. This continues to happen until they are reduced to 0.

The way I see it, your tweaks definitely favor the heroes - all search tokens in play, more hp, less OL cards and monsters - so it might be balanced after all. But the issues comes down to individual scenarios - there are some that are clearly in favor of the OL. So those encounters will be the roughest if death is permanent.
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Stephen Williams
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demonhanz wrote:

[b]1. Standups are no longer allowed, but revives are. If all heroes are knocked out, then naturally the game ends for them.


I like this addition. Gives healing magic more of a chance to, you know, heal people.

I'm intrigued by the general idea of this variant. In addition to liking the idea of "Ironman" mode, this also seems like a great way to play 6 players when you have one too many people. I'm not saying I'd use it all the time, but it sounds like a neat variant to have sitting around, as an option.

Having access to the Conversion Kit to increase the pool of available heroes should help to prevent concerns about the game ending on the third quest, although it might actually be too many heroes for a reasonable OL to kill off.
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demonhanz wrote:
Definitely will keep my eyes on this thread, this sound interesting but I agree with what has been said, killing off the heroes will be an overarching goal for the OL, one that will supersede the quest objectives, perhaps even rendering them useless.

But here are some more possible workarounds to this:

1. Standups are no longer allowed, but revives are. If all heroes are knocked out, then naturally the game ends for them.

2. Each hero has a number of "lives", say 3-5.

3. When a hero is knocked out, they can only respawn at the quest's entrance or starting area.

4. When a hero is knocked out, they may heal as normal, but now there max hp goes down by 1. This continues to happen until they are reduced to 0.

The way I see it, your tweaks definitely favor the heroes - all search tokens in play, more hp, less OL cards and monsters - so it might be balanced after all. But the issues comes down to individual scenarios - there are some that are clearly in favor of the OL. So those encounters will be the roughest if death is permanent.


I like 1. I think 2 is a good idea, the # of lives just needs to be worked out; or, just go with point 4. I think instead of giving additional HP to all heroes, having their max HP decrease over time until they die is interesting. I don't think 3 is too good though, because that can actually end up isolating a hero by the OL's spawning point in some cases.

I'll contemplate this a little and edit the original thread.

Stewi wrote:
demonhanz wrote:

[b]1. Standups are no longer allowed, but revives are. If all heroes are knocked out, then naturally the game ends for them.


I like this addition. Gives healing magic more of a chance to, you know, heal people.

I'm intrigued by the general idea of this variant. In addition to liking the idea of "Ironman" mode, this also seems like a great way to play 6 players when you have one too many people. I'm not saying I'd use it all the time, but it sounds like a neat variant to have sitting around, as an option.

Having access to the Conversion Kit to increase the pool of available heroes should help to prevent concerns about the game ending on the third quest, although it might actually be too many heroes for a reasonable OL to kill off.


Best case scenario, the OL isn't trying to kill off all the heroes. He can still win the campaign as normal.

I think the hardest thing for the heroes would end up not being the individual scenarios' difficulty, but the OL's choice of open groups. Instead of selecting what monsters could complete the objective best, it would be which monster can kill the fastest.
 
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Jonathan Neufeld
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Perhaps a variant like this is best kept to individual quest's only as opposed to a whole campaign. That way there is a different option for the OL to work with if things are not going his way, but it still forces the OL to pay attention to the quest.

Also, I don't like the idea of lives because it stray's from the whole point of this variation to make it 'hardcore', although I don't mind the idea of using 'magic' to revive a fallen hero. Maybe create a rule that after a hero is knocked out if he is not revived within 2 turns or if a master monster 'devour's' him (cost's an action) then he is dead. The healer than has an opportunity to revive the fellow hero, while still giving a chance to the OL to kill the hero's. I would also restrict the reviving to the healer only unless another hero has a healing potion...?

To expand devour a little more... if 2 or more zombies for example are adjacent to the hero and remain there for the completion of 1 round the hero is devoured, otherwise a master monster can do it as an action (if they are big enough 2x2 or 2x3 monster's). This could be expanded to include select monster's that would devour thematically speaking....
 
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I like the idea of "devouring" the hero as an action. Perhaps as a "full round" action a monster can attempt to kill a knocked out hero, but the hero gets an attribute test? That seems reasonable. The test could be against whichever stat is best for that hero. Then the lives can be negated because it will be much harder to actually kill a hero.

I still like the no "standing up" action and only revivals.
 
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Jonathan Neufeld
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golbeeze wrote:
The test could be against whichever stat is best for that hero.


I like the idea of integrating an attribute test. I would rather it be a roll for strength to keep with the theme. For example a knocked out dwarf warrior will be able to fend off the hoards better than a priestess, or cowardly thief. The other attributes in the game don't seem to be the type to keep from being eaten.
 
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That is true, but I think the amount of times the heroes will be knocked out is already great. Therefore, giving the heroes the greatest chance of survival is best. Also, I think the hero players would rather have their hero get a chance at living instead of a might 1 or 2 character almost certainly dying right away.
 
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golbeeze wrote:
I like the idea of "devouring" the hero as an action. Perhaps as a "full round" action a monster can attempt to kill a knocked out hero, but the hero gets an attribute test? That seems reasonable. The test could be against whichever stat is best for that hero. Then the lives can be negated because it will be much harder to actually kill a hero.

I still like the no "standing up" action and only revivals.


Its probably the simplest way to go about this, and with the amount of rules already in effect, i think simple is the way to go. You don't want to overcomplicate things with extra rolls and additional things to keep track of.
 
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demonhanz wrote:

Its probably the simplest way to go about this, and with the amount of rules already in effect, i think simple is the way to go. You don't want to overcomplicate things with extra rolls and additional things to keep track of.


I agree completely. I would like to test it as is now. I feel like there is enough altered already to give the players and OL a chance to get a feel for the danger. I'm still on the fence about raising the heroes' HP though. When I get around to testing I may try it without altering them at all.
 
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Dustin Whitmire
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I applaud you. It's great that you are conceiving of more ways to get your money's worth out of the game. I think you have some good ideas to work with, but I bet you will be surprised by what play testing reveals. I think you'll have to go back to the workshed several times.

I never played the 1st Ed, but the 2nd Ed clearly focuses on completing objectives that, directly at least, have nothing to do with killing the heroes (other than the finale). The whole design seems to shy away from opponent elimation (even punishing it in a sense, because it distracts you from what ultimately wins a quest) and instead emphasizes movement and spatial tactics. So you will be fundamentally changing an aspect that very well may have been unconsidered when the designers constructed the layout of individual quests, and how they anticipated/tested for the game experience to playout. I wonder what difficulties you may encounter.

I anticipate that you will have to use some kind of mechanism that serves as a disincentive to the OL, so that he doesn't completely ignore normal quest objectives. After all, what you are wanting to experience is the same game as before, but with the possibility of real elimination.

Good Luck.

Edit: spelling
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Jonathan Neufeld
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golbeeze wrote:
I agree completely. I would like to test it as is now. I feel like there is enough altered already to give the players and OL a chance to get a feel for the danger. I'm still on the fence about raising the heroes' HP though. When I get around to testing I may try it without altering them at all.


Keep us posted, and what set of rules you used.
 
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Stephen Williams
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golbeeze wrote:

When they are knocked out, a monster may attempt to permanently kill the hero. This attempt is a "full round" action, meaning it is the only action the monster may perform this turn (short of OL cards, like dash or frenzy). To succeed in killing the hero, the hero "defends" itself with an attribute test. The highest attribute for the character is used for the test. A success means the hero remains alive, a failure means the hero is killed.


I like this idea, in general. I'm curious, though, are there any limitations on range here? Since this is sort of like an attack, I'm assuming the monster must at least have Line of Sight to the KO'd hero to attempt it.

I would be inclined to say that the monster must be adjacent, just to limit the number of attempts that can be made per OL turn. If any ranged attacker in LoS can try to kill the hero, that could add up to a lot of tries after one monster drops the hero. If the only thing that saves him is a single attribute test, that can quickly turn into a guaranteed kill.

On the other hand, limiting the attempt to adjacent spaces means that ranged monsters can basically never try for this "coup de grace" attack, unless they happen to be adjacent already. Puts a lot of tactical emphasis on melee monsters.

Perhaps, have the "coup de grace" only cost one action (which does count as the monster's attack for the turn, naturally), but require the monster to be in the hero's space to do it. Not even melee monsters could have been in the hero's space before he dropped, which means any monster attempting this action is basically forced to use his other action to move (barring OL cards, as you say.)

In this way, both melee and ranged monsters can attempt the action (if they're close enough), and the requirement to have the monster standing on top of the hero should limit the monsters that can try it on a single hero per turn (hopefully) to a reasonable number.
 
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Michael Mitchell
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I think Descent would have been better served with the dungeon lord agonizing between damaging/killing heroes and fulfilling the quest; while heroes agonizing about trying to fulfill the quest versus staying alive.

It's those types of decisions which make a game fun. (There are obviously a whole lot of other things too!)

At the moment the game is a time race - which is not all bad, but it could be better!
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Triu Greykith
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Some quests are more race-like than others, but there are always choices to be made. As a hero should I spend my 2 actions to directly pursue the quest goal, search for items (gold) for future benefit, perform a special action that will benefit the party, or attack a foe to allow the rest of the party better choices? If you ignore monsters completely, it's the overlord's job to make you regret that choice with their actions.

In a simple dungeon crawl it's move, kill, loot, repeat. The choices are left, right, forward, or back. In more elaborate games, the complexity can mean longer play times and/or more bookkeeping than action. I think D2E does a pretty good job of balancing choices & a reasonable play time.

The question of player death is to me a purely thematic choice. Do the characters survive to the end because the focus is on them and their development (Lord of the Rings), or are they just disposable pawns in the narrative (Game of Thrones). I enjoy both kinds of stories, and games, but my preference (at least today) is for the former.
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I strong strongly agree with you Michael! That is why I only play Vassal and haven't bought the game yet.

In an aim for simplicity I would propose the following addendum:

1. The "Stand Up" action is removed from the game.

2. "Knocked Down" heroes may instead elect to "Respawn" at the maps entrance. This is a full action they must take during their turn. Furthermore, the "Respawn" action is only allowed if not in the LOS of an enemy. Allied heroes may block this LOS to allow the downed hero to "Repawn". This could be thought of thematically as the injured hero retreating back to camp to grab a potion/bandages/etc as soon as the opportunity arises.

3. If all heroes are simultaneously knocked down and are unable to respawn due to enemy LOS, they lose.


Must likely, this will result in some threat of being "wiped" but mostly just more pressure to play as if your heroes life is worth something. As heroes are never eliminated this shouldn't throw the balance off too much. Maybe it just might feel a little more ... hardcore...

Thoughts?

Also, for balance, I really like the idea of the OPs proposed rule:
"The overlord uses monster stats for a group of heroes 1 less than current (e.g. 3 heroes means monster groups for 2). This allows for 5 heroes to play with an overlord setup using the 4 hero group stats."

This is great in that it also expands the game to 5 players!

I'd want to try it without that rule a bit first to test if it is needed.
 
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Rafal Areinu
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Quote:
"Knocked Down" heroes may instead elect to "Respawn" at the maps entrance. This is a full action they must take during their turn. Furthermore, the "Respawn" action is only allowed if not in the LOS of an enemy. Allied heroes may block this LOS to allow the downed hero to "Repawn".


This is pretty terrible idea, seeing how monsters usually respawn at the entrance. And look at interlude 1, where entrance isn't even where heroes start...

Anyway, as long as heroes killed anything OL will always be able to respawn monster at the entrance - thus effectively blocking heroes from respawning. Leaving just simple goblin on entrance tile makes players unable to respawn.

"But then heroes can just come and kill the goblin, then block the LOS"

That won't work, because in most quests heroes will be going away from entrance tile. That means they would have to travel for 2+ turns to be able to get the goblin(and during each turn OL gets more monsters spawned there). They would have then spend few turns on killing all the monsters at the entrance, then try to get back to where they were(again for few turns).

Essentially in all quests where OL gets reinforcement on the entrance tile the heroes wouldn't be able to respawn as soon as they leave the first room(as the cost of going back to clean entrance would be just too high). That's... most of the quests. Useless rule, you can just as well write "all hero KOs are death, and are final".

Even in quests where one could respawn it wouldn't work that well - there would be one of 2 problems:
1) the heroes aim is actually to run away to entrance tile
2) the hero respawns successfully but is 2-3 turns away from rest of party, so he won't come back before encounter ends.

You can fix it by changing the rule to something like "The hero can respawn only on tiles that any hero entered during encounter, outside of monster LOS". That _might_ work, and in some scenarios might be better for heroes than current stand up rules...

Also we're talking about harcore/ironman mode for campaign and only talking about hero death. Why are you being such hypocrites?

The OL can respawn all monsters as soon as he wants. That's so silly. Monsters should have real death too. It just can't be that we kill master shadow dragon and one of heroes sacrifices himself to defeat him and OL just respawns him. If we're playing ironman then once master monster is killed it cannot be ever respawned. Maybe for balance purposes we could let him get minion out instead.

Also lieutenants probably should get taste of campaign wide death. You lost Lady Eliza in 1st encounter of Masquerade ball? Too bad, seems like you lose 2nd encounter, because Eliza is dead!

And I'm being serious. If we want ironman more we want it for all the players participating. The OL isn't GM - he is also a player. I feel it would be too boring to play OL compared to heroes if they don't both get ironmanish. Also it might be best way to keep the balance between OL and heroes.
 
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Just as an update after many plays.

I went with these following House Rules:

1a) Hero Tokens Represent Lives, when a hero is knocked-down they replace their mini with the token. When the Stand-Up or are Revived the OL takes that token. After 3 deaths there is no token to place and the Hero is Fatally injured and cannot play for the rest of the QUEST. If all the heroes are Fatally injured the OL wins and the campaign continues.

1b) Lieutenants can not re-spawn within an QUEST, they are defeated but may return in a later Quest. However, they can always retreat off the map from an Entrance or Exit. This strategy would be essential in Mascarade Ball, for example.

2) LOS is Corner to Target-Center, cannot touch any wall-corners. Thus, cannot fire between two diagonally blocked squares.

3) Cannot move diagonally between two blocked squares. However, the OL learned to exploit this so we are thinking about changing. Perhaps to +1MP cost to move between diagonal squares or dropping it entirely.

4a) OL only needs 1 pre-req of each class (i.e. 1 lvl 1 to get a lvl 2 warlord, then that lvl 2 warlord permits the lvl 3)

4b) OL XP is never Set. The OL may rebuild the 15 card OL deck with all earned XP before each quest. (Easy way to create increased strategic decisions for the OL!)

Good stuff.



 
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