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Thoughts about balance in descent


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#1 renediffie

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 09:35 AM

Hello guys

 

Its not long ago i bought Descent. After playing one and a half campaign it seems to me like the heroes have a very hard time beating the overlord. It should be noted that we have only played with 2 heroes and with no expansions. Its obvious to me that the overlord is heavily favored. My question is if the game is balanced better if we simply play the campaign with more heroes. It seems to me like many of the heroes abilities gets stronger the more heroes are in the game. 

 

I also already ordered the Labyrinth expansion. Does this expansion change the games balance for better or worse?

 

I really love my new game. I just wish we could have a playthrough where we had closer games. 



#2 LukeZZ

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 06:26 PM

In my experience the game is balanced for exactly 4 heroes.

If you have 2 players using Heroes, let each of them use 2 Heroes.

If you have 3 players using Heroes, let one of them use 2 Heroes.



#3 Robin

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 12:26 AM

The question of balance comes on and on, here and on the BGG forums.

However, the opinions are often very contrasted.

There is no "obvious" unbalance in favour of the OL: some OL consider "obvious" that the heroes are overpowered too.

The 2 heroes combination is the most difficult to play : you lack some classes (without a healer, it really can be tough) and actions (2 per hero).

 

There are many factors that can explain a given outcome of a quest or a campaign.

All I can say is that the game is not lopsided in favour of the OL or the heroes in the absolute.

 

Here are some factors which do have their weight :

- Hero team combination

- OL's choice of monsters

- Some quests do favour one side more than the other

- Players playing wrong (e.g. making monsters attack twice ; considering that stun negates all actions during a turn ; ...)

- Different gaming competences (some people are better players than others)

- Players not focused upon objectives and losing their time uselessly killing all monsters

- Luck


Edited by Robin, 15 August 2013 - 12:43 AM.

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#4 Robin

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 12:33 AM

Its obvious to me that the overlord is heavily favored. 

Please read the following thread, where the OP states the exact contrary : http://community.fan...lord-heroes-op/

 

The discussions aferwards are very enlightening about the subtleties of the game.


An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
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#5 AltWren

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 01:43 AM

I have a lot of trouble as the Overload, actually.  I tried to run Death on a Wing tonight.  The heroes won the first mission, because Spiders can't really stop an 8 movement double blasting Quellen, so their party started within range of Belthir for the second half.  I tried to set up to contain them with the elementals, but Steelhorns was having none of that and immediately cleared a path for the rest of the group.  Belthir had taken 14 damage and was stunned before I even got a turn.  Then, due to stun, he could only use one move action and the party quickly caught up to him and finished him.  I did manage to take down two of them on my turn, but a single action from Avric has the whole party back on their feet.

 

I really dislike how ineffective defeating a hero is in the game.  Wow, you get another card, such as a tripwire, and worst case scenario, the heroes lose one action whilst they pick their guy up.  At least make them miss a turn or something.



#6 JorduSpeaks

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 02:05 AM

Frankly, there really is no balance in Descent, at all.  I still enjoy it as an experience, but I've long since given up looking at it as balanced.

 

Depending upon the hero combinations, player experience, quest goals, etc., it's very common to have situations where the overlord always wins or never wins.  From just my experience, I'd say that the Shadow Rune campaign is easier for the heroes than the Labyrinth of Ruin campaign, and that the Basic II deck is stronger than Basic I.  It's hard to say for sure, though.  I'd also say that the Overlord jumps in power with the conversion kit and each new expansion, since the Overlord gains more options during a campaign, while the heroes merely get different options.

 

So far, I've played 22 quests.  By my reckoning, the Overlord has won roughly 7.  Most of the time, the outcome is not even close.


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#7 Bayushiseni

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:19 AM

This is a copy of my reply to the thread "Poor Overlord (Heroes OP)":

 

This is a strange argument since there are (in a little research I've done) 50/50 arguments about what is unballanced in Descent 2nd Edition. 50% say that the OL is overpowered and 50% say that the Heroes are overpowered. In my experience it all depends of choice and the exploitation of the opponent's mistakes.

 

I play as OL and Hero and my victories and losses aren't due to lack of ballance. There are scenarios that are more forgiving to heroes and other to the OL but in general I find these scenarios as a part and not the whole. Homeostatis. The ballance created by the continuous small lack of ballances... (I don't know if this means anything in English - not my primary language).

 

To conclude - in an open game like Descent there will always be lack of ballance somehow. When a focal point (the heroes, the monsters, the cards, the scenarios) are made with so many traits, it's almost impossible to measure the mathematical ballance of it. So the ballance must be found in the whole and not in the parts. And I find it a very ballanced game.

 

And as we know, there is no ballance in real human conflicts. There is luck, creativity, brilliance, mistakes, correct commitment and sacrifice. The main difference here in the table top is that there is also fun. Unlike the real world.

 


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#8 Robin

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:24 AM

See an ineteresting poll (with all the limits of what it indicates, of course) on BGG about balance within different configurations : http://www.boardgame...ives-of-descent


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An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
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#9 renediffie

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:26 AM

In my experience the game is balanced for exactly 4 heroes.

If you have 2 players using Heroes, let each of them use 2 Heroes.

If you have 3 players using Heroes, let one of them use 2 Heroes.

 

 

Interresting. We where talking about the nr of players and assumed that a 3 player game would be the game the players have the bigger chance since the overlord only gain stronger monsters and not more monster in most cases.



#10 renediffie

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:29 AM

I think most people forget my actual question :) I didnt ask wether or not Descent is unbalanced since im clearly convinced that it is in a 2 player game. Im asking how the different factors influence that.



#11 rugal

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 03:40 AM

I'm not sure the game is balanced for 4 heroes, I think more 3.

 

with 4 heroes, there's too much monsters, and some encounters cannot be win by heroes due to the number of monsters

As 2 heroes, there's not enough hero actions and the heroes cannot win due to the lack of actions.

And since the missions of the game doesn't change by the numbers of heroes ...

 

As 3 heroes, the overlord can uses all red monsters, and heroes have just enough actions to play.

 

Just like Mansion of madness i think



#12 Bayushiseni

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 05:20 AM

Let's go down to simple maths:

 

Let's say that 2 heroes as a ballance value of one and that all the heroes are ballanced with each other.

Three heroes will have a ballance of 1,5 and four heroes will have a ballance of 2.

 

So the number of monsters for 2,3 and 4 heroes should have a value of 1, 1,5 and 2 (this is not completely accurate because there are other variables, but we can start with this:

 

Let's compare two types of monsters - small and numerous and large and few:

 

Goblin Archer:

2 heroes - 2/1

3 heroes - 3/1

4 heroes - 4/1

Let's say that 1 master monster is worth 2 minions.

 

So to value 1 (two heroes) we have 0,25 for minions and 0,5 to master monster.

That means that to 1,5 points of power (3 heroes) we just added 0,25 points of power to the minions

To 2 points of power (4 heroes) we just added 0,5 points of power to the minions, rounding up to 1,5 (less 25%).

 

Elementals:

2 heroes - 1 minion

3 heroes - 1 master monster

4 heroes - 1 minion + 1 master monster

Let's say that 1 master monster is worth 2 minions.

 

So to value 1 power points (two heroes) we have 1 power for minions and 2 for the master monster.

That means that to 1,5 points of power (3 heroes) we have 2 points of power to the minions (more 25%)

To 2 points of power (4 heroes) we just added 1 point of power to the minions, rounding up to 3 points (more 33%).

 

It would be slightly different if we used the 3 heroes as the base comparison. But it is a base ground to work my hypothesis out:

What I mean is: in some scenarios the Goblin Archers (even underpowered) will do the trick, while in that same scenario using a larger (less numerous) monster will be the downfall of the OL. In other scenarios this will work exactly the other way around.


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#13 rugal

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 06:41 AM

You're taking the monster's factor only, and it's not enough

 

many encounters have others rules to follow, like running through time, doing some actions before the overlord, etc...

 

And all theses objectives have the same trouble : it does not changes regarding the number of players.

Killing one monster before it leaves for exemple. As 2 heroes, you have 4 actions per turn to do it; As 3 heroes, you have 6 actions, and as 4 heroes, you have 8 actions. Statisticaly, it's obvious that having more actions is better than less, since the more you have, the more you can miss, and having some monster at the start will not change anything, because here the other problem is the reinforcement. Once the starting monsters have been slain, the reinforcement will be joke.

 

I hope I explain myself good enough, english is not my native language.


Edited by rugal, 12 August 2013 - 06:42 AM.


#14 Bayushiseni

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 06:54 AM

Disclamer: For the sake of accuracy, I really don't know how the team that created the mechanics of the game has measured the Minion/Master ballance. I just checked the differences from masters and minions and roughly decided that one master monster is equivalent to a minion. So this not a verifiable rule.

 

I've been for years a RPG gamemaster and player. I GM'ed and still do several systems: True20, Call of Cthulhu, D20 Future, D&D 1st, Advanced D&D, 3rd, D6 System, Vampire, L5R, Bushido, etc.

There are systems that dwell in the ballanced encounters (like D&D) and others that give just a rough outline of how you should do it. In Call of Cthulhu the players are always on the losing side of ballance.

But in my experience it all boils out to "how you deal with things and dice rolling". I have almost (with all the differences) the same feeling with Descent 2nd Edition. A good thing in my oppinion. 


Tactics? Check! Strategy? Check! Dice roll? #$%&!!

 


#15 Bayushiseni

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 07:06 AM

Changes in 2, 3 and 4 heroes games concerning the OL:

 

One OL card per hero. The ballance is maintained;

Reinforcements are the same no matter how many heroes. Lack of ballance? (A case study);

Lieutenants become stronger. Ballance maintained (?);

Search tokens are as many as heroes;

Each hero receives 1 xp point. The OL can receive more in some scenarios.

 

Is it the reiforcement that is "broken"? I think not. It's the actions the OL takes and how he manages his resources that gives him leverage. And the OL must be careful using them. The player usig the OL that plays with me is a master tactitian and we loose a lot with him.


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#16 louisloua

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 09:22 PM

I only played a couple of games, but all with 3 players total (so 2 heroes and a Overlord). I was on the heroes side. So far, we played the intro scenario and the fat goblin (not sure of the name, but the one with the 4 hostages). The OL made a mistake by overpowering his troops in both scenarios by reading the 3 players setup, but we still managed to win both, altough by a edge.

 

FFG create great games, i own AGOT the boardgame and war of the rings 1rst ed and Warrior knights and my friend own Descent. But they have a reputation for having problem with game balances (budget cut in playtesting ?), so i was not sure about balance in this game, but i think Descent balance is good enough.

 

What helped my cause :

 

1- a bit of luck. In the fat goblin scenario, the OL was moving the 3rd hostage when we won. So if by any luck he would have found the hostage on his first two tries, obviously, he would have won. My friend who play the OL rerun this scenario a second time with another group and he told me he won easily, but the first hostage he moved was the good one. So there is a luck factor that can give a edge to either the heroes or the OL.

 

2 - I have a really big experience as a RPG master and player. So i know a few things on min/max. In RPG (like the d20 system), some classes are more powerful, but the role play aspect create the balance. But in a competitive board game with no role play, where you cant "perform" or "bluff" your way out of a situation, min/maxing powers combination and party combination is very important. In d&d, the cleric is one of the powerful classes who can fight, cast and heal and Descent is no exception, so i convinced my heroe partner, a experienced board gamer but who never played any tabletop rpg, to play the cleric and i think i was right from what i saw. And i knew beside him, a "blaster" (a mage) would be a must. Altough i changed after for the ranger for flavour, but i had a easier time with the mage to be honest. So i am one of those that think that a bad heroe combination can give a edge to the OL. A thief/ranger combination in a 2 player game is hard to play. So in that sense, giving 4 heroes to two players give more chance to have a good combination, i have to agree with you. At two players, you have to choose very wisely your combination.

 

3 - As in all games with cards effect that you draw on a random basis, the balance is always hard to evaluate. Except for games like Dominion where everybody take their cards on the same source, games with effects cards make games really unpredictable. there will always be this one or two killer unbalanced card in a deck and a lucky OL will draw them. But thats my opinion on game with cards.

 

4- i switched one scenario with my friend to do the OL and borrowed the game to run it with my rpg group and i won all of my 3 games, but by a edge everytime. I must admit, i found it a little easier to be the OL, but not much. I had very good hands of cards everytime.  

 

 

Overall, i think its not perfect, luck and cards can change a game, but i find it pretty much balanced. Everytime, the winner had it by a edge. I agree that with 2 heroes, the choice of characters is very important and that some combination give better chances. So experienced rpg in min/max will understand how to get the best out of this. But i am still pretty impressed with balance on this game, something that FFG usually have problems with in other board games.


Edited by louisloua, 12 August 2013 - 09:23 PM.


#17 willmanx

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 11:16 PM

Mind the talent gap between players when thinking about balance in games based on opposition. Maybe the game seems unfair on your side simply because you're not focusing enough, playing lightly : descent 2nd édition is not a dungeon crawler, it's a tactical about movement and combining skills.

And, sorry to suggest that, maybe you aren't the smartest of the game.

Stay humble while talking about balance.

Good gaming
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#18 AltWren

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 11:34 PM

And, sorry to suggest that, maybe you aren't the smartest of the game.
 

 

And maybe your players just aren't good enough to find and take advantage of the unbalancing options available to them.

 

In honesty and seriousness though, I think that the varied experience players report has to do with party composition.  Not even taking into account class choices, there are over 10 million combinations of player parties available.  I highly doubt anyone has playtested them all, and expecting that imbalance cannot exist anywhere in those possibilities is naive.

 

If you wish to present some alternative ways of dealing with the situations we've faced that might have been more effective, that would be more helpful than just suggesting we lack any talent at the game.  You might find it difficult though, as in my case the encounter was lost before the OL could have a turn and party abilities negated monster placement options.



#19 Bayushiseni

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:08 AM

And, sorry to suggest that, maybe you aren't the smartest of the game.

 

 

I really don't think that bullying is a good approach to this discussion. If you can't understand the problems of others, or you can't teach, counsel, or point directions to another human being, then don't, but there is no need to tell others that they're not smart, just because you can't perceive, understand or feel empathy with their problems.


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#20 Robin

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 01:13 AM

I don't think that wilmanx was bullying.

Being able to take into account the fact that one's gaming capacities are a factor in the evaluation of the "balance" of a game is rather a healthy way to integrate all possibilities in an analysis.

Especially when one is stating that, in a constant, global way, a game is lopsided in favour of one side.

 

I tend to be very suspicious when people "blame the system" without expressing any doubt about their own competence.


Edited by Robin, 14 August 2013 - 01:13 AM.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
G. K. Chesterton




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