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Thoughts about reinforcements and reintroducing "Threat"


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#1 Ogdred

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 09:37 AM

I posted this over at BGG, but I figured I should put it here too for FFG to see.

 

I've been playing as Overlord for a family campaign and there's one issue that's been bugging me about reinforcements. I thought I'd post my idea here, see what everyone thinks, and maybe it'll get enough traction for someone to work up a variant (or even end up in a future expansion).

Quick background on me: I play to have fun and to help others have fun. As the Overlord I ideally want to the heroes to win the campaign by the skin of their teeth. I've been trying to keep each quest tight, and we're at about a 50/50 split on wins right now. I also want to keep things interesting and throw new enemies at them as often as possible. This is what led me to post this…

The reinforcement rules as is are very streamlined. "X monsters from X monster groups, respecting group limits". Unfortunately I feel that that streamlining has severely limited the initial choices of monsters at the quests beginning. As OL I could have one dragon come back every turn…. or one kobold. Even as a fairly non-competitive OL, my selection is very limited if I want to avoid it being a total blow out. Yes there are quests with no reinforcements, and I have gotten to use my kobolds (Which, incidentally, was hilarious. My father charged into the room, killing a few, but totally ignoring the "swarm" ability. They took him from full health to dead in response and necessitated a scrambling change of tactics for all). I just wish that using weaker, swarming style creatures was more viable.

So here's my suggestion. Can we reintroduce a VERY simple threat system with regards to reinforcements? Each monster would have a threat value and each quest would give a set amount of threat per turn. You can split it up whichever way you want, but you can't "bank" it and use in on a future turn. That way, with 5 threat worth of reinforcements, I can choose to spend it all on a 5 threat dragon, all on 5 - 1 threat kobolds, or maybe a 3 point barghest and 2 - 1 point skeletons.

I really feel that this would greatly expand the OL's experience. Instead of "pick the strongest creature" for the monster groups, you can tailor it to your needs. If you want to try to drown them in a sea of cannon fodder you would be able to. If you still wanted to just use the heavy hitters that would be possible too.

In addition to just making the base game more varied, I think that there's a huge potential for using threat in expansions. Here are just a few basic ideas:
New OL class (Beastmaster? Monster Lord?) where the cards give bonus threat: +threat this turn, +threat per heart of damage done/taken, +threat per fatigue spent by heroes, spend threat to heal creatures, sacrifice creatures to get their threat value, etc…

Quests/Campaigns with varying threat: OL gets 1 threat on turn 1, 2 on turn 2, etc… heroes have to complete objective without all being knocked down at once. Maybe winning a quest gives XP and a permanent threat bonus for the rest of the campaign. Quests where pulling levers increases or decreases threat.

My personal favorite idea: Monster upgrades. You could do things like add a new ability to a monster class (Give Skeletons Stun, Poison, etc..) and simply increase its threat cost. Want to give your kobolds Reach? Up the threat cost by 1. Want to have flaming skeletons? Threat cost goes up!

Even without these ideas though, I really feel like something needs to be in place to help make every monster a viable choice. Maybe a threat/points system? Maybe someone else has a better idea? I just thought I'd throw it out there and see what happens.

Think of the kobolds, all alone, unused. Do it for them!



#2 Dam

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:24 AM

Have you used Kobolds? We've lost all three Act 1 quests, interlude and the first Act 2 with 4 heroes and mostly it's been the Kobolds that have been our downfall. With 4-heroes, OL gets 6+3 of them with the 3 masters then splitting into 2 minions (so in effect 15 monsters to kill). Castle Daerion E2, Militiamen formed a line in front of the heroes, with all 9 Kobolds packed next to them. Since the heroes go first, but can't move past the Kobolds, only the Thief could do something on the first turn, even with Fire Flask he wasn't able to clear a path. They might not be all that great when you have to reinforce them, but you get a ton of mileage out of them before you have to reinforce, not to mention being able to draw 9 cards for Unholy Ritual.


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#3 Steve-O

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:29 AM

I think it's an interestingidea for a  variant house rule, but you would definitely need to do some extensive play-testing with all monster types in order to make sure you assign them the right threat value.

As Dam mentions it's not always as simple as giving the little guys a low threat value and the big ones a higher threat value.



#4 Ogdred

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:49 PM

**Cross posted from BGG**

 

I did some quick looking at monster cards and stuff and here are my thoughts:


First of all, I really don't want to change anything about the game or reinforcements. As it stands, the game is (supposedly) balanced, so I think we can add Threat without making any major alterations. Random threat via dice in a quest would be cool, but the existing quests are balanced for a set amount of reinforcements.

Before I go farther, I want to lay out the assumptions I made when looking at this idea:

1) I assume the quests are balanced for the reinforcements they currently allow. In other words, if a quest lets 1 monster per turn, it can handle the biggest, strongest monster available without breaking. This may not be true for every quest but then that's a failure of that specific quest, not the system as a whole.

2) I assume monster groups are balanced versus each other. If I can choose 2 Ettin, 3 Bane Spiders, 4 Razorwing, or 5 Goblin Archers for a quest, then I assume they are all about equal and have the same "value". Unholy ritual will be more useful with the Archers, but Rise Again is more useful with the Ettins. I'm trusting that FFG took all that into account when balancing.

3) This is a pretty big assumption and I don't expect everyone will agree, but hear me out. I'm assuming no difference in value between a master monster and a regular one. Yes, the cards say differently, however the game mechanics don't necessarily. As it stands there's no distinction between reinforcing a regular monster and reinforcing a master monster. If the heroes kill a the master Ettin, he comes back next turn as a master, if they kill the regular instead then a regular comes back. Other than kobolds, it looks like there is never more than one master in the group anyway, so ignoring any differences and relying on group limits helps keep the math fairly streamlined.

*) Side note, I don't have Lair of the Wyrm, so I couldn't include those monsters into the calculations.

Now for the math:
I based everything off of the group limits for 4 heroes because I figured that number probably gets the most use. (1 player playing 4, 2 playing 2 each, or 4 playing 1 each). When you break the monsters down by group limit there are only 4 different limits (excluding kobolds). Those limits are 2, 3, 4, and 5 monsters. If you make the 2 monster group equal 10 total threat, then you come out with the following values:
For 2 monster limit - 5 Threat per monster
For 3 monster limit - 3 Threat per monster (actually 3.33, but I rounded down. Hopefully not unbalancing)
For 4 monster limit - 2.5 Threat per monster
For 5 monster limit - 2 Threat per monster
Kobolds - 1 Threat per monster. This is a bit subjective. Kobolds have 6 regular and 3 masters per group limit, but the masters split into 2 regulars effectively making them worth 3 kobolds (Kill the master, then kill the 2 regulars) A logical group will ignore the masters and focus on regulars first though, and I wanted to minimize fractions, so I went with 1 threat each, again regardless of regular vs. master

For quests I count "1 monster per 1 open group" as 5 threat. If the quest specifies the exact reinforcements ("1 zombie/flesh moulder/etc..") than no changes are made. There are a few quest that say "1 monster from each group", in which case I think it should be 5 threat per group with no distinctions. If 3 open groups, than 15 threat to be spent on all of them, respecting group limits. The one possible imbalance I can see here is that it would allow you to bring back both dragons (for example) but then again, that means one or both of the other groups will be lacking, so it may not be that unbalanced.

As a quick example, with 5 threat for a quest you could reinforce:
1 Ettin
1 Bane Spider and 1 Goblin Archer
2 Razorwings
2 Goblin archers (with 1 kobold, or the extra 1 threat disappears)
5 Kobolds

It's not a particularly huge change when you look at it that way. For a large majority of monster types, you would only get at most 1 additional model out on the board. Kobolds are (for now, as far as I know) the only exception to that, and their value is the one that would require the most tweaking.

As a final reference, here are the monsters grouped by 4 hero monster limit:

2 Monster Limit, 5 Threat per model:
Ettin, Elemental, Merriod, Shadow Dragon, Crypt Dragon, Golem, Ogre, Giant, Manticore, Demon Lord, Deep Elf, Troll, Ice Wyrm

3 Monster Limit, 3 Threat per model:
Bane Spider, Naga, Blood Ape, Chaos Beast, Medusa, Wendigo

4 Monster Limit, 2.5 Threat per model:
Razorwing, Ferrox, Barghest, Flesh Moulder, Beastman, Sorcerer, Hellhound, Dark Priest, Lava Beetle

5 Monster Limit, 2 Threat per model:
Goblin Archer, Cave Spider, Zombie, Skeleton Archer, Shade

9 Monster Limit, 1 Threat per model:
Kobolds


For any rebuttals or responses please remember one thing. I assumed FFG balanced the groups! If XXXX Monster is way overpowered I didn't know or care, I just tried to quantify whatever "value" system FFG used when determining that 5 Cave Spiders were equal to 2 Shadow Dragons.



#5 Ogdred

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 05:19 PM

Dam said:

Have you used Kobolds? We've lost all three Act 1 quests, interlude and the first Act 2 with 4 heroes and mostly it's been the Kobolds that have been our downfall. With 4-heroes, OL gets 6+3 of them with the 3 masters then splitting into 2 minions (so in effect 15 monsters to kill). Castle Daerion E2, Militiamen formed a line in front of the heroes, with all 9 Kobolds packed next to them. Since the heroes go first, but can't move past the Kobolds, only the Thief could do something on the first turn, even with Fire Flask he wasn't able to clear a path. They might not be all that great when you have to reinforce them, but you get a ton of mileage out of them before you have to reinforce, not to mention being able to draw 9 cards for Unholy Ritual.

 

I did use Kobolds once with great effect, but they really are the "glass cannon" of the game. Super easy to kill, very unreliable in combat. They have to be surrounding AND roll a surge to really do any damage. That said, they're great for clogging hallways (unless someone has Blast) and when they do hit hard, they hit HARD. Looking closely at the Castle Daerion Part 2 quest, it actually looks more like an imbalance in the quest than kobolds being particularly overpowered. If 4 heroes win part one with 2 militia men,  then a smart Overlord can set up in such a way that only one hero can attack. Master kobolds can split, but both master Skeletons and Master Sorcerers have Undying, replacing them with a minion version of themselves (thus requiring both the first and second attack to kill the monster outright. Should one fail the heroes can do nothing). Oddly enough, if the heroes do even better in the first part of the quest and rescue 3 militia, then they can literally be completely trapped in the entrance, unable (without special abilities) to reach any monster.






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