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wizdro

Looking for that "Sweet Spot"

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Most of my games have been very close, but it heavily depends on the gaming group I play against.

 

The tricky part about Descent is that your party has to be capable in every category: Damage, Movement, Conditions; if the heroes don't get this, you are bound to come across a few quests that seem imbalanced, because the hero party either excells in the category that is the most important in the quest or totally lacks in this category. The result is a game that seems unwinnable for the OL or the heroes.

 

Your example is typical for that: The heroes needed to stop Skarn, but appearantly hadn't invested in stun or immobilize. Like your list shows, nearly every mage has access to these conditions (the Conjurer has a skill to stun, which is not on your list). Spending XP on these skills or getting weapons that inflict conditions has to be a priority, or else the heroes will be destroyed in quests where they have to stop someone.

 

My worst expiriences with this game was against a gaming group that only maximized damage, because it thought everything else is just weak. They lost every game and trashed the game hard on every occasion ("I can't believe this sh*t game is from FFG") even when I told them why they lose, they didn't believe me and said something like "ok so if we immobilize him the game would have lasted maybe one more turn, but that wouldn't make a difference." It seems like this undervaluation of everything that isn't boosting damage is quite common. If the hero-party thinks that this is the only fun way to play dungeon crawlers, I would recommend Imperial Assault that has a much more one-dimensional approach to it, has more emphasis on combat and is much less puzzly.

 

I like your reply. It opens up more discussion.

 

To clarify, in my example that I describe, I believe a hero did have the ability to apply a condition but Skarn was only open to a single attack, and it wasn't from that hero. After Skarn's turn noone could reach him much less suppress him.

 

Damage, movement and conditions as you have pointed out are all important factors. Movement is easily hindered with warm bodies, altering the movement problem to a damage one. Conditions largely rely on doing a single point in damage, which partially makes the condition issue a damage one. This trifecta is heavily weighted to damage, so much so that most players recognize damage trivializes most encounters. Were there more of a "puzzle" element, as you describe, this trivialization wouldn't occur quite so frequently, or even at all.

 

Many here have mentioned alternating turns as a source of balance but I'm not actually convinced that is the issue. I see the problem more stemming from the fact that monsters and heroes take two actions on their turns, possibly even three. This makes for really swingy "activations" that cannot be countered by the opposing side. It would be like if, during a game of chess, each player was able to move a single piece two or sometimes three moves on their turn instead of one. Throw in a rule that if you manage to check the opponent and you still have a turn, that is checkmate.

 

One solution might be reducing all turns to one action, but that slows the game down and increases the power of extra-turn effects. Another rule might simply be treating Descent more like D&D or other RPG's and requiring one action always be a Move action, but this hurts the players more than the Overlord. Quite frankly, I'm not certain there is a good way to solve this with such small maps and uncreative win-conditions.

 

I would strictly advise against introducing alternating turns for balance reasons. I understand it for gameplay reasons, but the balance will be affected quite heavily.

 

It's not true that you need damage to move through monsters or apply conditions in every case. There are quite a few skills/heroic feats that let you move around/through monsters, move monsters and so on as well as skills where you don't need to attack to apply a condition.

 

 

I read through your example and looked at the quest and came to the conclusion that it was a mix of extreme luck by the OL and very suboptimal play by the heroes.

First of all the OL only collected 4 of 10 tokens, needs a blue one to win and there are 4 red  3 blue 2 green and 1 white or smth the like, which means there are 7 out of 10 tokens that are "useless". Since the OL can't look at the tokens he collected, collecting only 4 tokens is extremely risky. Then the OL even uses shatter where he randomly has to discard one of his tokens. The fact that the OL even got 1 blue token out of the 4 he collected is quite lucky, the decision to not collect anymore is quite risky and using shatter in this circumstance is pure gamble. Imo it would've been much more likely that you have no blue token when exiting the map if you play that way and in this case the OL would just have flat out lost the quest.

So wow this must have been one exciting finish when revealing the tokens, but quite a stupid gamble.

Most games aren't winnable against extreme luck.

 

What the heroes seemingly did suboptimal is the fact that Skarn has to move off the map through the entrance (where the heroes enter the map and which he cannot do if 2 heroes are blocking the two spaces at the "end" of the tile), and it's the final mission, so looting/searching is most of the time a wasted action. I see no reason to fight in the largest rooms of the map where Skarn can manouver the best around the hero party. Why didn't they block a smaller room?  Also I think they didn't think about Skarn being able to shatter, or else they would have positioned themselves somewhere else.

Also I think if they heroes brought more movement/conditions to the table they would have easily downed Skarn one time which could have been enough for you to lose the game.

Edited by DAMaz

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I would strictly advise against introducing alternating turns for balance reasons. I understand it for gameplay reasons, but the balance will be affected quite heavily.

 

It's not true that you need damage to move through monsters or apply conditions in every case. There are quite a few skills/heroic feats that let you move around/through monsters, move monsters and so on as well as skills where you don't need to attack to apply a condition.

 

I read through your example and looked at the quest and came to the conclusion that it was a mix of extreme luck by the OL and very suboptimal play by the heroes.

First of all the OL only collected 4 of 10 tokens, needs a blue one to win and there are 4 red  3 blue 2 green and 1 white or smth the like, which means there are 7 out of 10 tokens that are "useless". Since the OL can't look at the tokens he collected, collecting only 4 tokens is extremely risky. Then the OL even uses shatter where he randomly has to discard one of his tokens. The fact that the OL even got 1 blue token out of the 4 he collected is quite lucky, the decision to not collect anymore is quite risky and using shatter in this circumstance is pure gamble. Imo it would've been much more likely that you have no blue token when exiting the map if you play that way and in this case the OL would just have flat out lost the quest.

So wow this must have been one exciting finish when revealing the tokens, but quite a stupid gamble.

Most games aren't winnable against extreme luck.

 

What the heroes seemingly did suboptimal is the fact that Skarn has to move off the map through the entrance (where the heroes enter the map and which he cannot do if 2 heroes are blocking the two spaces at the "end" of the tile), and it's the final mission, so looting/searching is most of the time a wasted action. I see no reason to fight in the largest rooms of the map where Skarn can manouver the best around the hero party. Why didn't they block a smaller room?  Also I think they didn't think about Skarn being able to shatter, or else they would have positioned themselves somewhere else.

Also I think if they heroes brought more movement/conditions to the table they would have easily downed Skarn one time which could have been enough for you to lose the game.

 

I don't plan on using alternating turns. As I stated, I don't think it addresses the real issue anyway: multiple actions.

 

I acknowledge that damage isn't always needed for mobility, but the exceptions are very few and generally not ideal for the players. I get a great deal of pleasure when a "mobile" hero goes off on his own. I can't be only OL who uses that opportunity to lay the hurt on the overzealous. Fact is, sticking together and taking out obstacles as a team is always safer. Furthermore, skills that apply conditions without doing damage are less common than general condition application, so this isn't really a core strategy. Unless you are implying a very small set of features actually balance and make up the core of the game. That in turn would make a vast majority of the options obsolete and would be a poor basis for balance. But you are free to make that assertion.

 

Allow me to clarify. I just looked at the quest again "Beneath the Manor" and can describe events in better detail than my earlier description, which was entirely off of the top of my head.

 

Skarn apparently had 6 tokens (rooms 7b, 26b, 18b, 73b, 21b and one from 71b) and while I could have picked up the one closest to the exit (74b) I didn't want to give the heroes time to get in line of sight and attack desperately from range. The risk was too great for the OL. There are 3 blue "OL win" tokens out of 10, which makes this less of a "stupid gamble" and more in the realm of "quite reasonable gamble."

 

You also aren't giving the heroes credit for their strategy. They were in fact attempting to trap Skarn in 71b and 27b and there appeared to be nowhere for him to end a move. As OL it became clear to me after we all read the quest that two strategies present themselves. Either the players wait at the entrance/exit and block Skarn from leaving or they move in and attempt to stop him before he collects crystal fragments. As OL, my counter to option 1 is herd up my creatures and slam them hard with 2 monster groups simultaneously then slip past while they are knocked out. My counter for option 2 was more or less identical but force the showdown in 71b/27b. Only one hero had a clean shot at Skarn because I effectively flooded 27b and the cliff-edge of 4b, blocking off movement. I noticed the opportunity when I pulled Dash, 'shattered' and moved into 70b (basement) and blocked movement in 4b with all my remaining creatures.

 

In retrospect I believe we were playing with the incorrect understanding that Skarn could 'shatter' out of the exit and while that seems to be the intuitive interpretation the exact wording of the 'shatter' action seems to contradict that. As such, option 1 (body-block the exit) seems like the only viable option for the heroes.

 

I want to mention this is only one example of the ~35ish quests we've completed. Out of those, only about two or three felt "fair" and "balanced" from beginning to end, with most falling into either "too easy for the heroes" or "impossible short of a miracle." Some quests begin by appearing balanced but victory is snatched in a single turn with no ability to counterplay. That last circumstance was the entire center of discussion for this thread.

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I would strictly advise against introducing alternating turns for balance reasons. I understand it for gameplay reasons, but the balance will be affected quite heavily.

 

It's not true that you need damage to move through monsters or apply conditions in every case. There are quite a few skills/heroic feats that let you move around/through monsters, move monsters and so on as well as skills where you don't need to attack to apply a condition.

 

I read through your example and looked at the quest and came to the conclusion that it was a mix of extreme luck by the OL and very suboptimal play by the heroes.

First of all the OL only collected 4 of 10 tokens, needs a blue one to win and there are 4 red  3 blue 2 green and 1 white or smth the like, which means there are 7 out of 10 tokens that are "useless". Since the OL can't look at the tokens he collected, collecting only 4 tokens is extremely risky. Then the OL even uses shatter where he randomly has to discard one of his tokens. The fact that the OL even got 1 blue token out of the 4 he collected is quite lucky, the decision to not collect anymore is quite risky and using shatter in this circumstance is pure gamble. Imo it would've been much more likely that you have no blue token when exiting the map if you play that way and in this case the OL would just have flat out lost the quest.

So wow this must have been one exciting finish when revealing the tokens, but quite a stupid gamble.

Most games aren't winnable against extreme luck.

 

What the heroes seemingly did suboptimal is the fact that Skarn has to move off the map through the entrance (where the heroes enter the map and which he cannot do if 2 heroes are blocking the two spaces at the "end" of the tile), and it's the final mission, so looting/searching is most of the time a wasted action. I see no reason to fight in the largest rooms of the map where Skarn can manouver the best around the hero party. Why didn't they block a smaller room?  Also I think they didn't think about Skarn being able to shatter, or else they would have positioned themselves somewhere else.

Also I think if they heroes brought more movement/conditions to the table they would have easily downed Skarn one time which could have been enough for you to lose the game.

 

I don't plan on using alternating turns. As I stated, I don't think it addresses the real issue anyway: multiple actions.

 

I acknowledge that damage isn't always needed for mobility, but the exceptions are very few and generally not ideal for the players. I get a great deal of pleasure when a "mobile" hero goes off on his own. I can't be only OL who uses that opportunity to lay the hurt on the overzealous. Fact is, sticking together and taking out obstacles as a team is always safer. Furthermore, skills that apply conditions without doing damage are less common than general condition application, so this isn't really a core strategy. Unless you are implying a very small set of features actually balance and make up the core of the game. That in turn would make a vast majority of the options obsolete and would be a poor basis for balance. But you are free to make that assertion.

 

Allow me to clarify. I just looked at the quest again "Beneath the Manor" and can describe events in better detail than my earlier description, which was entirely off of the top of my head.

 

Skarn apparently had 6 tokens (rooms 7b, 26b, 18b, 73b, 21b and one from 71b) and while I could have picked up the one closest to the exit (74b) I didn't want to give the heroes time to get in line of sight and attack desperately from range. The risk was too great for the OL. There are 3 blue "OL win" tokens out of 10, which makes this less of a "stupid gamble" and more in the realm of "quite reasonable gamble."

 

You also aren't giving the heroes credit for their strategy. They were in fact attempting to trap Skarn in 71b and 27b and there appeared to be nowhere for him to end a move. As OL it became clear to me after we all read the quest that two strategies present themselves. Either the players wait at the entrance/exit and block Skarn from leaving or they move in and attempt to stop him before he collects crystal fragments. As OL, my counter to option 1 is herd up my creatures and slam them hard with 2 monster groups simultaneously then slip past while they are knocked out. My counter for option 2 was more or less identical but force the showdown in 71b/27b. Only one hero had a clean shot at Skarn because I effectively flooded 27b and the cliff-edge of 4b, blocking off movement. I noticed the opportunity when I pulled Dash, 'shattered' and moved into 70b (basement) and blocked movement in 4b with all my remaining creatures.

 

In retrospect I believe we were playing with the incorrect understanding that Skarn could 'shatter' out of the exit and while that seems to be the intuitive interpretation the exact wording of the 'shatter' action seems to contradict that. As such, option 1 (body-block the exit) seems like the only viable option for the heroes.

 

I want to mention this is only one example of the ~35ish quests we've completed. Out of those, only about two or three felt "fair" and "balanced" from beginning to end, with most falling into either "too easy for the heroes" or "impossible short of a miracle." Some quests begin by appearing balanced but victory is snatched in a single turn with no ability to counterplay. That last circumstance was the entire center of discussion for this thread.

 

 

While it is true that it's always risky to have one mobile hero seperate from the group, I won quite a few quests this way and ideally the heroes may have a strategy to make their mobile hero somehow more durable. Also the OL can't both use his monsters to block a choking point well and to go after the mobile hero and try to knock him down. At least monsters that are good at chasing heroes most of the time aren't quite good at blocking chocke-points and vice-versa.

More often than not the OL brings himself in a disadvantagous position when chasing the mobile hero or at least the heroes can provoke these situations and then the hero party can take adavantage of the situation.

In short the possibility to jump over monster-blockages is one of the great psychological weapons the heroes have, because the possibility alone should affect the OL's monster choices and ingame choices.

 

Also there are quite a few ways to aquire skills that more or less reliably apply conditions. I don't say you totally should get these skills right away, but that's not how Descent works anyway. I think when picking heroclasses you should pick at least one that has a skill that somehow applies conditions in a quite reliable fashion, which basically is any mage class minus the necromancer, so yes I totally think you should bring some kind of mage to your party, imo that's not quite a harsh limitation on party variety. If you manage to aquire weapons throughout the campaign which can stun or immobilize you maybe don't need to level that skill, but you can if you fail to get these weapons.

 

 

The more you describe this session the less I understand what actually happened. I think you said that it took you 7 turns to reach the exit with Skarn, yet you got 6 tokens in the first half of the map and somehow traversed the other half of the map within 1 turn? That seems highly unlikely to me. Getting 6 tokens takes at least 7 turns on it's own (At the start of each activation of Skarn you can pick up 1 token adjacent to Skarn - there is no other way to pick them up -  and Skarn doesn't start adjacent to a token). This means the heroes had 6 turns before they even met Skarn, didn't manage to kill any monsters? (you said you were able to swarm them) and where just standing there waiting, grabbing loot in between doing nothing? In these 6 turns the heroes could have quite easily killed all the monsters you aren't able to reinforce, kill most of the zombies, who will take forever catching up to them by moving only 3 spaces per turn.

Also appearently the heroes did not close any of the doors to make it more difficult for you to get to the entrance? Like I said, to me it seems the heroes were playing quite suboptimal and weren't particularly reacting to what the OL did, which is the single most important and imo most fun part about the game.

Also how many blue tokens did you own at when leaving the map? I still think shattering was quite risky and that you were quite lucky with the tokens.

 

Also it's totally clear that you can't shatter out of the map and I don't understand how you can argue otherwise given how "moving off the map" and "shatter" is worded. Okay, maybe you weren't getting it then, but that's hardly a fault of the game or scenario. I know that Descent seems to have a ton of small rules. The easiest way to play by the rules is to not only establish what every special rule means (discussing it with all the other players) , but also look up these tiny rules that will be important fo thris quest before starting the quest (like the "move off the map" rule).

 

I don't know how your 35 other quests played out, but if the heroes do not embrace the versatility of the hero party, which is the strength of the heroes, I can see how your games seem one-sided.

Edited by DAMaz

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Though I have to admit, a dwarf-party sounds funny.... with a bit of roleplaying added it would be a pretty cool gameing session :P

 

My friends though about this and they used last game:

Corbin - Knight

Ulma - Discipline

Raythen - Wildlander

Grsiban - Benserker (I think there's not a Dwarf mage)

 

Then, they realized they could play a more themathically party (I want to see if someone recognize it)

Griban - Benserker

Tomble - Thief

Elder Mok - Prophet 

Lindel - Wildlander

 

 

I tried the first group in a solo play co-op of Forgotten Souls with

 

Corbin - Knight

Augur Grisom - Prophet

Raythen - Thief

Krutzbeck - Berserker

 

Not the best party combo, but it was very fun! gave it a Hobbit vibe, "were going into the Dragon's lair to take back our treasure boys!"

 

As far as the 2nd group, I thought you were going for Gimli, Legolas & Frodo but Elder Mok threw me off... I'm curious as to the answer

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I've really enjoyed this discussion, lots of talk about balance and strategies.

 

Conditions should not be overlooked. Anyone that says Immobilize just makes the game last 1 extra turn and nothing changes as stated above should say that to the Shadow Dragons trying to escape the map on the 1st of 2 Finale Quest options of LotW Mini Campaign.

 

As my Leoric-Runemaster bravely sniped them right near the entrance with the Immobilize Skill that gave me enough time to kill them both...buwahahahahah!!!

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Though I have to admit, a dwarf-party sounds funny.... with a bit of roleplaying added it would be a pretty cool gameing session :P

 

My friends though about this and they used last game:

Corbin - Knight

Ulma - Discipline

Raythen - Wildlander

Grsiban - Benserker (I think there's not a Dwarf mage)

 

Then, they realized they could play a more themathically party (I want to see if someone recognize it)

Griban - Benserker

Tomble - Thief

Elder Mok - Prophet 

Lindel - Wildlander

 

 

I tried the first group in a solo play co-op of Forgotten Souls with

 

Corbin - Knight

Augur Grisom - Prophet

Raythen - Thief

Krutzbeck - Berserker

 

Not the best party combo, but it was very fun! gave it a Hobbit vibe, "were going into the Dragon's lair to take back our treasure boys!"

 

As far as the 2nd group, I thought you were going for Gimli, Legolas & Frodo but Elder Mok threw me off... I'm curious as to the answer

 

Yeah, he suppossed to be Gandalf but there isn't a healer that looks like him, and we didn't want to take no healer beacuse we were playing Forgotten Souls and due to the lack of health potions and no healing, well, it is risky. I said Brother Gherinn could be, but they said no, then someone said Augur Grisom, but he's a Dwarf too. Anyhow hahaha we did felt we were scaping the Balrog (Shadow Dragon).

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I've really enjoyed this discussion, lots of talk about balance and strategies.

 

Conditions should not be overlooked. Anyone that says Immobilize just makes the game last 1 extra turn and nothing changes as stated above should say that to the Shadow Dragons trying to escape the map on the 1st of 2 Finale Quest options of LotW Mini Campaign.

 

As my Leoric-Runemaster bravely sniped them right near the entrance with the Immobilize Skill that gave me enough time to kill them both...buwahahahahah!!!

 

I agree.  Immobilize and Stun are my favorite conditions as an OL.

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About conditions against monsters,

Inflicting Terrify on a monster is surely a way to shut down its damage. Sure, a Deep Elf would still Pierce 4 you, but the vast majority of monsters get added damage, AoE effects and conditions on surge. Shutting that down on a map where you can't easily get to cover to get rid of it can be a big deal. Cursed is also nasty against monsters, so you can shut down these Pincer Attacks, Death Omens, Howls, Heal AND Overpowers along with all the nasty stuff from the lieutenants. Stun is also a top-tier condition. Any gear or hero ability triggering reliably some of these conditions will matter a great deal in a campaign.

 

As the overlord in our group, I never consider buying Dark Remedy to counteract these.

 

About balance in general,

If one side plays well and the other one keeps pulling out suboptimal plays one after the other, then no conclusion can realistically be made about quest balance. The difference in playing skills is too great and will overshadow the fine tuning of the asymmetry between the two sides that FFG are trying to make in this game. You can say however that your playgroup is not balanced. Throw that statement to your group and see how they react, lol.

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About conditions against monsters,

Inflicting Terrify on a monster is surely a way to shut down its damage.

 

Well, it totally depends on the monster. A Shadow Dragon, sure you want to terrify him. But an Elemental, this you want to Curse him.

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Got to say, the usual snowball Descent arguments are running through, if not directly popping up, in this to me.

Conditions are a very conditional (aha!) part of the game but undeniably powerful. The overlord has reliable access to them via open groups (which can let you virtually guarantee that you can get one that you want) or overlord class cards, but heroes can arguably benefit from them more because pinning that must kill monster (quest related lieutenant or something that must not do something this turn) is a game winner, while immobilizing 1 hero dosent stop the other 3.

Overlord cards are obviously game winners but they are random, im sure every overlord here has had at least one game crying out for a frenzy or dash to be here, in my hand, right !"£$ing now, and a few classes or characters can hard counter them through ability or feat (dangers sense and elder Mok say hi off the top of my head).

Quest are swingy by nature in this game, the hero/class/monster/item combinations, while not infinite, might as well be for practical purposes. A while back my group played back to back shadow rune campaigns and the interlude was like 2 different quests - first time around heroes cake walked it against an experienced overlord, 2nd time around got curb stomped by the relatively new OL player.

Obviously group plans tend to solidify over time, and players usually become accustomed to a style of play or role, you said you rotated out with another overlord player but what would happen if a third player took up OL duties?

Do they make vastly different choices for open groups? Do they ALWAYS pick web trap (I never leave my evil lair without it, even if the heroes are well attributed to pass it). Do they look at the last campaign and build a strategy that might have been good in the last setting but is now not useful against the current hero group?

What happens when the regular healer player is asked to play a scout? Do they look to play the same or do they try and adapt to a new role, and if so does the **** impact their decisions in regards not only to play but skill purchase and equipment picks? (does the last campaign  of being web trapped every.single.encounter, drive them to counter immobilize when i am no longer actively using it?)

And al of this before any player skill is brought into question. (inaccurate rules implementation that costs quests aside, that could have an epic stanza for itself)

The game can snowball immensity, i think everyone on these boards has seen it - but wishing that the quests where 'balanced' is a pipe dream, the variables are simply to many to extrapolate before it get lost in tedium. 

For the most part my games have had balanced games and wildly swingy quests. And even then the group loves it al the same. Acceptance that some quests are likely to be un-winnable only makes that unexpected success all the sweeter. 

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To the original poster, I have found that half of the quests my group has played have been reasonably close. I define reasonably close as the losing side was within 3 turns of victory. The quests that weren't close were usually due to a snowball or a quest which is not well balanced played at the wrong time (think masquerade ball played as first quest after first blood). That said I think the win rate is pretty close to 50/50.

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