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Sea of Blood -impossible to play... possible to fix?


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#1 inle_badger

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 12:30 AM

 There've been a lot of, sometimes heated, discussions of this recently to various separate threads. I wanted to discuss a couple of points, specifically what house rules might make this expansion worth investing time and money in ... without opening the whole can of worms again and thought the homebrew section would be a good home for this.

As I understand it:

SoB has a lot going for it but is ultimately broken against any Overlord who seriously tries to win.

It could be playable against an overlord who plays Lieutenant more like a GM "for fun" rather than in the competitive way which marks Descent as such a good game for Overlords in the genre.

Lieutenants are almost unbeatable except in very contrived circumstances, and are practically unkillable. The fact that they do not have to return to their starting location makes forcing a Lieutenant to flee a mostly fruitless victory.

Some people find that SoB's sea encounters and island levels in general to be impossible but this is more contentious. Others find only a couple of extreme examples to be terrible (but no more so than shades in Box Canyon, say), but are generally fine, if not easier than a Dungeon level.

Other factors (Home port, a better structured map, Divine favour, Amended final battle, Treasure maps instead of Legendary Locations) in general seem like they would make for an improved campaign from RtL... if only it were winnable.

Does this sound about right?

I'm really hoping that FFG is devoting some serious testing into how to make this game playable... but in the meantime, does it seem as though this would be a good game if only the Lieutenants were houseruled into being beatable? Current suggestions seem to run along the lines of forcing Lts back to their starting location and counting the Revenge exiting the far side of the map as a hero victory. The Immortal mentioned that he had some ideas... care to share them?

 

The main discussions, although there have been legion... seem to me to be those below:

Long argument on whether there is anything good in SoB at all. Lots of opinions.

Corbon concedes after several attempts that the campaign is unwinnable against an Overlord who seriously and aggressively pursues victory through Lieutenants:

A current discussion on BGG.



#2 Mcmanus

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 01:27 AM

I've came with 2 options, didnt test em though yet, but I'll soon:

-What about if every time they flee they must keep 1 week hiding and licking their wounds(the Lt isnt in the game for a week cant move/attack or be attacked), if the Lt. was on siege, it retreats to an adjacent spot(heroes choose) and loose every siege token in that city.

-And every time the Ltn Flee, the heores party decides where the Ltn moves to an adjacent spot or to the starting spawn spot.

In both cases the heroes earn 100 gold , 2 conquest  and a 4 Power Dice roll worth in treasure(like a chest).

What do you say?



#3 Mcmanus

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 04:38 AM

Sorry to replay, I didnt meant, but cant find the edit =S.

In both cases the heroes earn 100 gold , 2 conquest and a 4 Power Dice roll worth in treasure(like a chest).

I mean like the Encounter Loot Roll, not a Chest.

 



#4 ElricOfMelnibone

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 12:38 PM

Not really sure about it, because I couldn't test SoB yet, but I believe that having the Lts returning to the starting point every time they flee should be a bad nuisance for the Overlord (and somehow impede him from besieging towns without problems)...as for other ideas, as soon as I read the manual better or test this expansion, I'll post them.

PS-There are things I like of SoB...I play final battle and Divine Favor as in SoB even when playing RtL campaigns (but Shadow Clones get extra HP as in RtL, otherwise the Beastmen Lord would be unbeatable).



#5 Mcmanus

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 07:53 PM

You ll tell me if your OL get the Siren;) once you test SoB ,or when they have more than 1 Lt, even the flee can be used to move more...like move where the heroes are,flee,the heroes try to stop em so they move to the spot the Lt flee,  etc...

Its really an issue in SoB, but you ll see ^^



#6 Corbon

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 05:16 PM

inle_badger said:

As I understand it:

SoB has a lot going for it but is ultimately broken against any Overlord who seriously tries to win.

Maybe. Probably. Almost certainly. I still don't think people have tried enough different things to be sure. I think people are still mostly crying foul before they have explored options and possibilities. But that doesn't make them automatically wrong, just right without proper data backup.

inle_badger said:

Lieutenants are almost unbeatable except in very contrived circumstances, and are practically unkillable. The fact that they do not have to return to their starting location makes forcing a Lieutenant to flee a mostly fruitless victory.

I don't think Lts are unbeatable at all. Without exploding skeletons and some luck, my Siren would have been beaten quite easily. It took the exploding skeletons upgrade to let me actually put some hurt on the heroes - without that I would have struggled to threaten them and eventually would have had to flee.
But Lts don't seem to actually be killable unless they choose to stand, or the heroes have the silver web weapon (cue crushing blow target in dungeons).

Unlike RtL, it is much harder for the heroes to actually get at the Lt.
Yes, pretty much contrived circumstances to kill Lts, I agree.

inle_badger said:

Some people find that SoB's sea encounters and island levels in general to be impossible but this is more contentious. Others find only a couple of extreme examples to be terrible (but no more so than shades in Box Canyon, say), but are generally fine, if not easier than a Dungeon level.

Indeed. There may be a level or two that require some minor modifications (much like some RtL levels did), but Islands are not a problem.
Encounters (again with the exception of a couple of fixes needed) are more of a disappointment issue than a balance problem. Nasically they are only interesting or fun if the heroes back their chances. There is often a major difference in capabilities, which makes the encounters un-fun.

inle_badger said:

Other factors (Home port, a better structured map, Divine favour, Amended final battle, Treasure maps instead of Legendary Locations) in general seem like they would make for an improved campaign from RtL... if only it were winnable.

Actually, I think some of these could change as well.
The Home Port thing is good. However I don't find the Port mixes very good in general. The city strengths and weakness tend to be too bland, or too extreme, and don't usually balance each other out well.
Divine Favour is IMO a disaster (given the campaign balance) because it greatly reduces the 'tipping point' of choice about when to stay or when to flee. If teh heroes are ahead they basically don't care about CT too much anymore and are more interested in cash, treasure and XP for their next upgrades (and they are probably outpowering the OL anyway). If the OL s ahead the heroes don't lose much by just blasting forward regardless of losses and making sure they get the maximum CT, cash and treasures for their next upgrade. Basically, either way the 'choices' are less important, and it becomes a grind-through for one or both sides, which isn't fun - the tension is gone.
The amended final battle looks better (haven't got that far - has anyone?) but is pretty much irrelevant for Captain Bones.
The treasure maps are a nice idea, but what hero party truly has the time? They tend to be in very inconvenient locations timewise. We wouldn't have collected a single one yet in three campaigns even if they were in convenient locations (despite having all the map pieces most of the time) because there is simply too much map pressure (even if that map pressure is not yet apparent in the campaign).
I also think that some of the dungeon levels need looking at. The lack of a forward glyph can make for interesting play (sort of, mostly it just means a more painful grind forward and a higher cost in CT to the OL), but needs to be balanced out for the 'lost' CT opportunity somehow. Similarly the lack of a chest might be interesting, unless you are already being crippled with a lack of treasures! I like that they tried to mix up the formula, but the results were bad when combined with the campaign pressure and other capabilities (like the double price weapons, no alchemists upgrade).

inle_badger said:

I'm really hoping that FFG is devoting some serious testing into how to make this game playable... but in the meantime, does it seem as though this would be a good game if only the Lieutenants were houseruled into being beatable? Current suggestions seem to run along the lines of forcing Lts back to their starting location and counting the Revenge exiting the far side of the map as a hero victory. The Immortal mentioned that he had some ideas... care to share them?

At the moment, my best idea is to simply remove the 5cities win condition entirely. And make the Siren (with immunity to Web) the only Lt able to carry plot tokens or seige (unravel) bindings (she is the only Lt with hands, arguably, and available to all OLs).
This means that the OL can still siege lots of cities, increase his CT/week, and eliminate certain skills etc. The pressure is on the heroes as training capabilties and special abilities disappear, but they can't lose the game directly because of it. Having only one Lt capable of carrying the plot items or unravel bindings means that the heroes can make a reasonable effort to block plot victories. Yes, it means the OL is screwed if he loses the SIren, but if he does that he has made a choice and a mistake.

inle_badger said:

Corbon concedes after several attempts that the campaign is unwinnable against an Overlord who seriously and aggressively pursues victory through Lieutenants:

I didn't say that, though I am getting closer to that state.
That particular campaign is 'unwinnable' because a) I screwed up the strategy, basing it entirely on using Dallak as the base until mid-late silver, but the OL has a plot card to destroy (close) Dallak at the start of silver which will deny me any real market (note that both of the other cities on the mainland have markets that could only be described as 'abominably bad') and b) the treasure luck in this campaign has been truly abominable - ridiculously few treasures in chests and appalling market draws (eg 1 good weapon in 25 market draws over 5 weeks) to such an extent that 3 (of 4) heroes have just 1 copper weapon between them as the campaign enters its final copper dungeon level!

I would like to try a more aggressive hero strategy - basically throw away the option to flee 99% of the time and ignore OL CT in order to focus in maximising hero resources and minimising campaign time.
There are two problems though.
a) that is generally 'bad' play, and certainly not fun, to just 'grind' through dungeons regardless of costs etc - the 'choices' and 'balance tipping points' are removed, so what's the point?
b) the last two campaigns were so un-fun that we will probably take a AC break for a while.



#7 Ryric

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 07:28 AM

Your idea about the Siren made me wonder how SoB would play if the overlord could only have 1 LT out at a time?  That would definitely prevent the late game situation where LTs are all over the map and the heroes can't possibly keep up with driving them away from the cities.  This would certainly make it tougher to win by razing.  Maybe allow the OL to "kill" a LT on the board to buy a new one if they wish, although that decision would probably lack utility.  There would still be an advantage for heroes to kill the LT because it would basically "force" the OL to buy the next one to even have an overowrld presence,



#8 Jonny WS

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 07:11 AM

I believe people have been really turned off of the SoB campaign from hear-say and reading peoples responses to the campaign and how hard/broken it is.   Which, is a major problem.  With people not willing to play it, no one is trying to find some good strategies in order for the heroes to win.   And, when I say win, I mean win against an Overlord who is trying to win as well.   Using house rules also seems silly if we are trying to find a proper way to play the game as everybody (including me) doesn't like house rules.   But, as Corbon stated that some of the SoB levels are unbalanced with only having the start glyph.  I would be willing to make those level's leaders have double the CT prize, maybe even triple it, just to restore some balance...but that might throw everything off. 

I know myself, that after 1 and half campaigns using SoB, my play group was not interested anymore in playing with it, and have since gone back to RtL. 

Until someone sits down and tries many variations on strategy for the heroes in SoB to win, people will continue to complain about it. 



#9 The_Immortal

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 10:35 AM

 My apologies, hadn't checked this forum for a while and didn't realize there was a request for comments from me.

There's kind of two 'directions' I've been considering to fix the Lieutenant situation in SoB.  The first is to take a minimalist approach and change as little as possible, while the second would require more changes, but makes for a better game (at least in my opinion).

 

There are some commonalities for both directions: in either case, the structure of the 'deep water' lieutenant fights NECESSITATES that the Heroes win on clock time-out, NOT the Overlord as is otherwise always the case in Descent.  This is because it is basically impossible barring a few extremely specialized skills and characters for the Heroes to 'take the initiative' and engage the lieutenant.  Since the OL is the only one with the power to engage, he must also have the incentive to do so.

So I think the basic solutions already proposed might make for the simplest fix: there is some clock for the LT fights which results in an automatic flee for the lieutenant (sailing off the far edge of the map seems to work ok), and the lieutenants are sent back to their starting location when they flee.  I would probably also raise the number of razed cities needed for an insta-win (to 7 maybe?) - Corbon suggests eliminating them entirely, which I'm not sure I like, but it might be okay.

However, this approach does, in my experience, lead to a situation which I've found to be not very much fun at all.  Namely, every few turns, the heroes need to race back to the nearest city to play a long a drawn-out fight which just involves them sitting there and dodging for 10 turns while the ship slowly chugs from one end of the map to the other.  I'm pretty sure that the last game I had the patience to try, I played out exactly such a scenario maybe 8 or 9 times during the Copper game state alone!!! 

So my alternative solution is to try and re-invent the "flow" of the game such that the Lieutenants are more like one-time "mini-bosses" than a rinse-repeat fight experience.  Doing this requires the following basic ingredients:

1) Lieutenants may NOT flee in battles with the party - if they lose, they are DEAD forever.

2) There is a clock on the battles as before, and the Heroes win on time-out - meaning the Lieutenant is DEAD.

3) Most lieutenants need to be significantly more powerful in a straight-up fight than they are now to compensate for the fact that they MUST engage the party or die trying (right now the Siren IS powerful, but only because deep water is so daunting for the heroes and she can keep her distance).

4) The lieutenants cannot attack the heroes on the map; they just go around sieging cities and stuff.  It is up to the heroes to decide when they are ready to try and take the lieutenant out of commission.

These changes are actually pretty easy, with the huge exception of Point 3 - how to make the lieutenants appropriately powerful.  This would very likely involve changing information printed on the lieutenant's card, which most people (quite reasonably) probably don't want to have to deal with.

 

Anyway, that's kind of where my ideas are at.  Also, for the record, I *HATE* Divine Favour and refuse to play with it.  I don't know about you, but *I* sure don't want to spend 4 hours playing a dungeon to try and eke out 1 point for each hero kill.  This game takes long enough as it is!



#10 Corbon

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 09:25 PM

The_Immortal said:

 

Anyway, that's kind of where my ideas are at.  Also, for the record, I *HATE* Divine Favour and refuse to play with it.  I don't know about you, but *I* sure don't want to spend 4 hours playing a dungeon to try and eke out 1 point for each hero kill.  This game takes long enough as it is!

+15 bazillion

It may or may not be good for game balance, but this might be the worst game killer rule in any game I ever played.
Totally kills any tension or interest in a dungeon.



#11 Corbon

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 09:36 PM

The_Immortal said:

There are some commonalities for both directions: in either case, the structure of the 'deep water' lieutenant fights NECESSITATES that the Heroes win on clock time-out, NOT the Overlord as is otherwise always the case in Descent.  This is because it is basically impossible barring a few extremely specialized skills and characters for the Heroes to 'take the initiative' and engage the lieutenant.  Since the OL is the only one with the power to engage, he must also have the incentive to do so.

I thought about this, but decided that if the battle result became non-critical (not unimportant, but not a direct influence on game-win) then it didn't matter who had to force the issue.

if there is no raze-win condition, then the heroes still want to prevent city razes as much as possible (and the OL to complete them), but the situation is now about resource management (training capabilities, building and city special options, OL weekly CT bonus), rather than win-loss management. So choices become more viable and the heroes are not forced to chase down Lts (though they may still want to to some extent).

 

I think major changes to Lts are beyond the scope of fan-mods, because they have miniscule chances of finding either general or FFG acceptance. SO it has to be a simple fix.

I don't like the time-out win option, as that just encourages someone to turtle.
Change the result of a hero flee is a possible option - that worked well in some cases in RtL, but we need some careful assessment in SoB with Lts starting in various places and some OL keeps being unsuitable.

At the moment, the no-raze win change looks simple and workable, and has the bonus of creating hard (read 'interesting' decisions for the heroes. So that is why it is my current favourite, though if something better came up I could change my mind happily.



#12 Ryric

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 07:58 AM

Corbon said:

The_Immortal said:

 

 

Anyway, that's kind of where my ideas are at.  Also, for the record, I *HATE* Divine Favour and refuse to play with it.  I don't know about you, but *I* sure don't want to spend 4 hours playing a dungeon to try and eke out 1 point for each hero kill.  This game takes long enough as it is!

 

 

+15 bazillion

It may or may not be good for game balance, but this might be the worst game killer rule in any game I ever played.
Totally kills any tension or interest in a dungeon.

In the one SoB camapign I've played, my hero players blame Divine Favor for the OL win.  I was ahead about 65 or so in Gold level, and playing somewhat suboptimally (mostly trying to "explore" the new campaign), so I was doing the Leviathan plot and razing tokens and cities in about equal proportions.  The problem with divine favor is that it slows down the campaign - really, it is to the heroes' advantage to race toward the end ASAP, since that is when they can win.  Between 3 LTs sieging everything and running away, and Divine favor, CT accumulation slowed to a crawl at gold level.  Honestly, in the advanced campaigns, gold has always been a limiting factor on the heroes more than xp; we usually finish RtL with about 400-200 in favor of the OL, 200 xp is plenty to make heroes hitting for 30+ on every attack with gold equips. 

Back to the main topic, I really hope there is a fix for SoB coming at some point.  I really like the flavor of the nautical campaign, but right now none of my friends will play it because they don't think the heroes can win.  I'm inclined to agree, as we had a very strong hero party (Tahlia, Okaluk, Tobin, Kel) vs. a mostly goofing around overlord and the players felt powerless to stop me late game.



#13 Antistone

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 08:56 AM

Ryric said:

The problem with divine favor is that it slows down the campaign - really, it is to the heroes' advantage to race toward the end ASAP, since that is when they can win. 

That was the same problem that the "ejection" rule was designed to fix, right?  Heroes deliberately staying in a dungeon to give the overlord conquest and force the campaign stage to advance?

It sounds to me like there's some fundamental incentive problems in the basic game structure if the game keeps breaking in different ways due to the fact that something that is supposed to be an overlord reward actually benefits the heroes.  Maybe campaign level and the timing of the final battle should be based purely on hero conquest (with lower thresholds to compensate) instead of combined conquest?  Is it ever in the overlord's favor to force the heroes to gain conquest to advance the campaign?

Of course, I say this without having played any advanced campaign.



#14 Corbon

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 05:45 PM

Antistone said:

Ryric said:

 

The problem with divine favor is that it slows down the campaign - really, it is to the heroes' advantage to race toward the end ASAP, since that is when they can win. 

 

That was the same problem that the "ejection" rule was designed to fix, right?  Heroes deliberately staying in a dungeon to give the overlord conquest and force the campaign stage to advance?

It sounds to me like there's some fundamental incentive problems in the basic game structure if the game keeps breaking in different ways due to the fact that something that is supposed to be an overlord reward actually benefits the heroes.  Maybe campaign level and the timing of the final battle should be based purely on hero conquest (with lower thresholds to compensate) instead of combined conquest?  Is it ever in the overlord's favor to force the heroes to gain conquest to advance the campaign?

Of course, I say this without having played any advanced campaign.

I think the Divine favour issue is slightly different. The issue Ryric really has there is the fact that the heroes are on an inevitable countdown to loss due to the inadequacy on the Lt rules, hence they need to speed up the game to beat the countdown. Divine Favour only actually operates at all if one side accumulates a significant edge in the CT score - and then it works both ways. If the heroes are aheaad in CT it will speed up the game as they are worth more when they die!

So I think this is a misattribution, though understandable. The Divine Favour rule is direct cause of the slowing down, but it is really just a symptom of the problem, not the underlying fault.

The underlying fault in Divine Favour is that it seems to remove the careful balancing act required by the heroes as they adventure through the dungeons - the risk/reward choices. When Divine favour is operating, either the heroes can afford more risk (because they are ahead) or they can afford more risk (because they are rewarding the OL less) - either way it seems to tip the decision point far enough that the heroes basically just stop bothering to consider risk/reward at all, turning the dungeons into dull mechanical affairs.

There are definitely  occasions when the OL wants to force the heroes to advance the campaign - towards the end of each campaign level the power balance is most in the heroes favour, and right at the beginning of a campaign level the balance is slightly with the OL.

The combined CT campaign structure isn't perfect, but I do think it works reasonably well, and certainly better than tying it to one side alones score. Most issues with the combined score actually come from deliberate attempts to break the mechanic, rather than regular in game 'accidental' issues.



#15 Antistone

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 07:23 PM

Corbon said:

Most issues with the combined score actually come from deliberate attempts to break the mechanic, rather than regular in game 'accidental' issues.

You say that like it's a good thing.  "Accidental" issues tend to arise rarely and at random, and thus don't usually matter to the overall gameplay; issues that arise as a direct result of one side attempting to achieve the game's stated goal tend to arise systematically and consistently, because someone has an incentive to seek them out, making their effects much more pernicious.

The fact that issues arise "from deliberate attempts to break the mechanic" is precisely the reason that I suspect the mechanic ought to be changed.



#16 Corbon

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 08:33 PM

Antistone said:

Corbon said:

 

Most issues with the combined score actually come from deliberate attempts to break the mechanic, rather than regular in game 'accidental' issues.

 

 

You say that like it's a good thing.  "Accidental" issues tend to arise rarely and at random, and thus don't usually matter to the overall gameplay; issues that arise as a direct result of one side attempting to achieve the game's stated goal tend to arise systematically and consistently, because someone has an incentive to seek them out, making their effects much more pernicious.

The fact that issues arise "from deliberate attempts to break the mechanic" is precisely the reason that I suspect the mechanic ought to be changed.

Like I said, it isn't perfect. But it is a lot better than 'use just the heroes' score' proposal for example. Perhaps my point was badly articulated (even to myself) - most issues with the combined score come from massive, obvious, attempts to totally devastate the entire game structure. Yes, it isn't good that these are possible, but they are generally fairly extreme and clear.
Just using one side's score have a number of subtler and therefore more problematic and more abuse-able issues IMO.



#17 Grumpy7

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 06:59 PM

Hi guys first time here, any way just bought SOB yesterday havent played and am depressed already after reading all this.  But tweaking is what I do after years of running DnD games, I was thinking what would happen if you eliminate seige tokens from a town if  the LT left for any reason I.E. heros ran it off or what ever seems to me this would increase the dificulty to destroy the towns thus making the 5 town victory harder



#18 phelanward

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 11:15 PM

 This is already how it is.



#19 Grumpy7

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 03:47 AM

yup my mistake , it was alot of new info for me to compile since this is my first expansion.  That being said my mind was dwelling on this last as I was trying to sleep, I came to a few different ideas.  I though if you increase the dificulty of destroying the city such as rolling 2 blanks on 2 pwr die, limiting the amount of Lts that can siege at one time.  Also I like the idea of liminting the cities to the heros so I thought maybe the heros would be rquired to remove the seige tokens to enter the cities such as two per turn or something



#20 phelanward

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 05:24 AM

 Rolling 2 blanks on 2 power dice is nigh impossible, but you're correct that, currently, sieging is too easy. Even rolling 1 blank on 1, though, I think would be much too great a shift of values; the Overlord would lose hard. Improving city defence values would help a little, though. Something like this might be fun 

 At the beginning of the campaign, the heroes get 5 tokens. At the beginning of each game week, they may place one unused token onto any city. Any city with such a token gets +1 to its defence rating for each token it has.

   This would allow the heroes to slightly improve their chances, and adjust it strategically to the location of the Avatar. They can add a little more protection for desirable training locations, and abandon lost causes.

 

-pw






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