My gaming group got Forgotten Souls last Wednesday. We tried it at our game night because we only had 3 people there, and then I found some time to try it out solo.
Wednesday night, we kept it simple and took 3 heroes and classes from the basic set - Leoric as Runemaster, Syndarel as Knight, and Avric as Disciple. By the time we read the rules and got started, we had about two hours to play, and that was enough for us to get eight rooms in - when we got to the lava tomb we called it a night.
We definitely made a few mistakes - Spot is a little tricky to figure out, the monsters often act in ways that don't really make sense. (When the card calls to Spot, the monster is looking for line of sight - so where an overlord might move a monster from, let's say, six spaces out to four, in this they will just stand still.) We rolled dice when a card gave us the choice of two or more heroes - later I found out the heroes just choose, which makes things even easier.
Just like standard Descent, the 3-player variant was pretty easy. The monsters were never particularly tough, and the doom/fate counters are far enough apart that even though we drew the "add 1 doom" peril card twice, we were never in danger. The fact that Act 2 started so late - the last possible card - meant that we might have gotten screwed by having mostly act 1 equipment going into the final adventure had we gone on, but as it was, no real challenges.
Yesterday I had some free time and decided to run it solo. I played 4-player, and to make things a bit tougher I decided to chose random characters, and focus on classes I hadn't played yet. I wound up with Ulma Grimstone as a Prophet, Lyssa as a Runemaster (the mage classes are a bit more fiddly and I wanted something that wasn't going to slow me down), Tatiana as a Stalker, and Orkell the Swift as a Skirmisher.
It was interesting - with the exception of Orkell and maybe Tatiana, these are not characters that I would have chosen to play with. Ulma actually did a really good job - she's got some synergy with Forgotten Souls, as I was able to use her abilities to search up stamina potions (there are a lot of card effects that suck away stamina) and flip over potions to advance the loot track. I managed to set up a Big Turn where she was able to use her heroic feat to get back a potion on every character. I wouldn't necessarily play her in a normal campaign, but she worked better than I expected. Lyssa's 5 movement and 5 stamina were really strong here, because you have to move fast and again, lots of stamina-stealing. In one case her heroic feat saved me - I opened a door with her onto the Long Sewer (or whatever) where Flesh Moulders immediately activate. They would have killed her, but the first one luckily missed and I was able to use her feat to move out of LOS. Still, I would never use her by choice.
Game one was really easy, up until the Lava Tomb. At that point my entire group started missing - including a turn where all six attacks I made missed, followed by Lyssa missing her next four attacks (on top of the two she had just missed.) I just wasn't able to recover. With 4 players, Doom and Fate start out so close that getting two heroes knocked down was enough to kill me. Strangely, the order of rooms in this game was almost precisely the same as in my Wednesday night game.
Game Two was a breeze, except for the moment with Lyssa that I mentioned before, where her heroic feat saved her. I moved fast, barely drew any peril cards (I think I only ended the turn with no encounter up two or three times) and won every encounter except for the Shiny Corridor, which I ignored and spent the turn resting. The finale was so easy that I kept reading it to make sure I wasn't missing something. Tharn loses his first turn, and by the time he got a chance to move he was Stunned, Weakened, Burning, Poisoned, and Diseased. (I'm serious. It was ridiculous.) Oh, and once he moved, the Stalker Ambushed him to do his last hit point. I even rolled maximum zombies (4) on the first turn - no monster in the room even got a chance to attack me.
Orkell was definitely the MVP. When I first read Skirmisher it looked ridiculous, and guess what, it is. I ignored every skill except his two 3-point skills, combined them, and with the Obsidian Greataxe equipped he was often killing 3 or more enemies a turn. On the last encounter in particular, with an assist from the prophet's Victory Foretold, he took out 3 Barghests (only 1 already wounded) and two Zombies, including a master of both types, in one turn.
I found that with three players, we were constantly worried about peril and fate/doom; with four players - and a little more experience - they weren't really an issue. I understood better how to milk each encounter for every turn I could. I even paused for two turns in the Room of Souls with the Cauldron to milk the loot track and rest up - I almost screwed myself that way but it worked out.
Ulma as a prophet has a great moment - trying to get through the Kennels with the card that reduces all stats to a 3. I wasn't able to use Tatiana's 5 Awareness to get through, but Ulma had the Prophet ability Battle Vision, which brought her Awareness up to the max of 3, and combining that with the Sage's Tome - a prophet starting item which subtracts one from the roll, rather than adding to the stat, was able to move in without waking up the Master Barghest.
I have to admit, I enjoyed both the co-op play and solo play more than I expected. When there were three of us, we pretty much agreed to all be independent - absolutely minimal coordination - so that we wouldn't spend too much time on analysis. As a result things went quickly and were fun. Solo, it was like a puzzle, with the ability to try out some new classes. Last night, I tried it out with my 5-year-old son, and we got through a room or two together. (Although I did have to restrain myself when he decided to choose the Reflecting Shield over the Bearded Axe for his Knight. Seriously, who does that?)
Deadly Kennel - As an aside, I'm really not sure why there are some mission-critical rules on the setup guide and some on the card. It seems clear that others were just as confused by this room as we were. The hero that opens the door - according to the setup guide - takes one step into the room. That removes a lot of the confusion about "If there are no heroes on the Deadly Kennel." Splitting a critical rule up across two different sources - that's the attention to good design I've come to expect from FFG :-)
So the question - If you one-shot a dog, does it count as waking up?
Fog-Filled Passage - if you do an attack which hits and potentially kills multiple zombies, do you resolve the attack one zombie at a time - thus reducing the shield bonus of the remaining zombies - or do you count their bonus at the same time dice are rolled?
Advancing to Act II - In my case, I advanced to Act II using Orkell to Carve a Path to the farmer. I also killed enough monsters on my way to trigger the loot track. Since is says you advance the act when the key is next to the peasant, I decided that the two things happened at the same time - so I chose which order they happened in, advanced, and then chose my loot card from the Act II deck. Can anyone think of a better way to deal with this situation?
Game Balance - Does anyone know if this set assumes for balance sake that you're only using the heroes and classes from the base game? In particular I found Skirmisher even more OP than I thought he would be, because of the way each room set up.
Things we noticed about some rooms that others might find useful
Deadly Kennel - As I said before, the hero who opens the door takes one step in. After that, your job is to search the token before either waking up or killing two dogs. IE, you have to sneak past the master.
Tunnel's End - We assumed that doing the test on the Tunnel's End opened the door. It doesn't - it just clears the encounter. You still need an action to open the door as normal.
Room of Souls - The Cauldron is killable in one turn if you are next to it - spend a stamina to generate a move point to pick it up, move twice, then spend 2 stamina and 2 health to destroy it.
Throne of the Fallen - seriously, if you're geared up with act 2 items, I have no clue how Tharn is supposed to survive or be an actual threat. Also... god, I am long-winded.