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Dang dirty Mutants! (First Cataclysm game)

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So as per usual, it's time for another topic about my roommate's and I's experience with a new expansion! This time we decided to finally give The Cataclysm a shot, as we're still leery of The Harbinger. 

I chose to play as The Dervish, only because I didn't want to play the Swashbuckler again. Roommate A picked the Mutant, and Roommate B chose the Barbarian. We also decided to do an Alternate Ending and chose A Hero Rises, focusing on gaining Fate. Needless to say, this ended very, very badly for all but one of us.

To start, I like the idea of the Remnant cards. I think they add a good possibility to the early-game of getting at least something of a boost. In practice, they didn't seem to influence all that much. A couple were good, but we didn't really find ourselves able to make use of many of them. We did get a decent shuffle on the Adventure deck so that we weren't overloaded with the new cards, but they still made their presence known. And we really like the new Terrain cards, definitely a lot better than the ones that came with The Firelands. I also personally like the new Talisman cards, even though we only actually got to see the one from the Remnant deck. I think we're all a bit iffy on the Denizens; the randomness is interesting, but I kind of like the reliability of the corner spaces being good places to aim for when something specific needs to happen. And we still haven't found a need to visit the Warlock's Cave for any reason whatsoever. 

So the actual game went okay. No one died, which is an accomplishment considering how long the Mutant kept herself at two health. However, I'm going to come out and say that as much fun as I thought the Dervish would be...he really, really sucks in practice. Getting a second weapon is really hard if you don't get good draws from the Adventure deck. Nor does he work well when a majority of the creatures faced have Strength or Craft of 5 at minimum (I really need to do a reshuffle of the Adventure deck I think), and my roommates keep rolling 5 or 6 for the monster's attack. Yeah, I got blasted hard on a repeated basis. I did get one streak of four creatures with the Dervish's ability, but that was very late in the game and I wasn't able to capitalize on it much. The Barbarian didn't fare much better, repeatedly losing against monsters for much the same reason as me, and getting kind of shafted on items. 

And then we have the Mutant. We have vowed that if someone plays as the Mutant, this particular ending doesn't get used. Why? Because the odds of Mutate giving the Mutant Fate are pretty darn good all things considered, and it's not terribly hard to heal up health. I also wound up drawing a card that managed to fully heal the Mutant, so she got to Mutate several rounds all over again. She got some really good rolls getting to the Inner Region, got through the Crypt with no issues, got through the Lich by having several Followers eat it, and only emerged triumphant over the other Mutant because unlike the Werewolf, it rerolls its Strength after every combat. So yeah, Mutant won and it wasn't even a contest.

I'm really looking forward to getting The Highland this week, because I'm really having a hard time with the early-game at this point. It's too easy to draw a ton of high-powered monsters, or get beaten down bad because the dice rolls just aren't in your favor. The Adventure deck is a smattering of semi-useful to completely useless items, and getting Gold is just a bit too rare for my taste at this point. I know The Highland might make it a bit too easy, and unfortunately I know that Highland+Dungeon likely means there's no reason to spend any time on the main board at all outside of going to the Inner Region, but I'm ready for the early-game slog to not be a thing.

Still, Cataclysm is pretty solid overall, and I think we'll bounce between Cataclysm and the main board fairly often. My roommates are a bit wary of tossing in corner expansions with the Cataclysm board, while I'm 50/50 on it. I think if we played Cataclysm more it wouldn't be as bad to add in the corner expansions, but if it comes out a bit more rarely then it might be a good idea to play them separately. I also need to decide what expansions to pursue after I get The Highland; I have half of the small-box and halve of the big-box expansions now, and still need to get

  • The Frostmarch
  • The Sacred Pool
  • The Blood Moon
  • The Dragon
  • The City
  • The Woodland

Of those, the only ones I really know I want are The City and The Dragon (I know it's not popular, but I like fiddly mechanics), and The City is probably my next target. After that it's a bit shaky, as I know I'd be the only one to really enjoy The Dragon, and reviews of The Woodland are a bit sketchy. But I also know I already have what are considered the best small-box expansions, and I don't see anything other than maybe The Sacred Pool adding anything substantial. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Edited by Servillo

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After trying Cataclysm, I can't imagine playing with the original main board again simply because the middle region is far superior in cataclysm. There are other advantages to the new board, and zero disadvantages.

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Finally got my copy of The Highland in. I'm not sure how I feel about the characters, and the board seems a little bland compared to the dungeon, but I think it'll get a lot better once I get my hands on The City. I can definitely see how the Alchemist is really, really **** powerful, and I'm at least amused by the Valkyrie and Sprite as characters, even if I think the Sprite is going to get slaughtered in most games she's in.

Now the real issue will be finding a table in the house big enough that's comfortable for gaming at.

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Thanks for the report. :)

(Warning: Lots of text incoming.)

Yes, that does sound like you need to take a good reshuffle with the adventure deck.
Pretty mean draws there.

On the "reliable" corner spaces:

Well, from my point of view and with everything my group has access to,
it is kind of easy to land on one of these spaces multiple times
and while I also tend to enjoy that fact, there are times
when I think it is a bit too exploitable.

We have played so many games with them, gotten very used to them always being there,
that not having them around gives the game a new pace for us.

Wow. That sounds like your Mutant was the luckiest player in the world.

Easy access to fate? - Let's check the math.

6-7: Replenish 1 fate.

8: Gain 2 fate.

That's 3 out of 11 possible outcomes to gain fate.
Doesn't seem like good odds to me. (Plus, you still have to pay 1 life each time.)

Hell, I still remember my first game with the Mutant.
I got so unlucky with the mutation rolls, I almost killed myself within 3 turns.
Which also left me unable to use that ability for most of the game.

On the Dervish:
That's pretty much the same with every character that uses a certain type
of cards but can't seem to get any of them.

A popular example around here is playing the Gladiator without getting any followers.
It stinks, yes, but randomness tends to do that sometimes.

On the Barbarian:
We still have not seen him in action, but he's already on my radar, as I view him as possibly too good.
How was his ability to maybe negate life loss from lost psychic combats?

Did it come into play a lot?

On the Ending:
As long as the Barbarian can manage to land on the crags,
this ending seems to not be too bad for him either.

I have yet to play with the ending myself, but unless you get multiple enemies over multiple
turns, I would say that this ending makes for a longer game than usual.

Well, you said that the Mutant got lucky there on the road, too.
It happens. (I know, I'm repeating myself, again. XD)

Edit: Wait, I just reread the board space.

The Mutant's Den does not say to reroll every turn.

"Roll three dice for the Mutant's Strength, then fight it in battle.
If you lose, lose one life and fight the Mutant again on your next turn."

It says to fight again, it doesn't say you have to determine its Strength
every turn, so you played that wrong, I believe.

It doesn't say "same creature", but I'd be inclined to say that does not matter.
Guess we'd have to hope to get a statement from yours truly to confirm that,
if he is still around from time to time.

I shall try.


"Useless" objects:

On the "old" board, you can always get rid of them via the Alchemist in the city.
On the "new" one, you obviously have to get lucky enough for him to show up first.

Talking about Gold, I can't talk about random chances on adventure cards (there are too many),
but you could actually (while there are a lot of other cards as well) at least better your chances
of drawing bags of Gold.

There are 5 Bags of 1G and 2 Bags of 2G in the Frostmarch Expansion.

Later small box expansions usually only gave random card chances of getting more gold,
because people did not like drawing too many bags of gold with just the basic cards
and the Reaper Expansion.

Corner Boards:

We played a lot of game with Highlands and Dungeon as the only corner regions
until the other two came along.

Yes, some players tend to rush into the Highlands because you can absolutely do that
at the start of the game even, but that does not mean you have to.

In fact, I'm one of the players who always enjoys seeing others rush there fast.
Why? - Gives me more space to move on / control the main board and also better chances of drawing
stuff I might need/want.


"No reason to stay on the main board" is a bit harsh. Eventually, they have to return there
to go for the crown anyway.

While there is a "chill" space on the Highlands Board, many things you can definitely
get on a space on the main board are only available there via drawing adventure cards.
So you to get lucky to draw everything you need as well.

Otherwise, it's usually common to see people finish "a round" of the Highlands and return to
the Main Board to collect some spoils.


Expansion contents:

Depends on what you view as essential and/or substantial.
People tend to like different kind of mechanics, card types etc.

:Small Boxes:

Blood Moon is very controversial usually, because of them Time Card, that
changes between Night and Day (whenever events are drawn) which many seem to find too fiddly.
I think you just have to get used to stuff like that.
(There are a number of Adventure Cards that play around with this mechanic, too.)

If you don't like it, that's not because it's too fiddly,
but because you don't enjoy the mechanic.

Then there's the "Halloween connection", where some say
the cards are too Halloween themed so they don't fit the general
fantasy setting at all.

Again, point of view. I think they just expand the general setting.

(Though maybe I am biased because Halloween is not a big thing
where I come from and also I'm not a big fan of these things
in general.)

Blood Moon also has the Werewolf NPC, who can turn you into one as well.
Though arguably, being one in the "raw" version has way more benefits
than it should have, as there are not many cards that are dangerous
for a character turned Werewolf (oversight in my opinion).

He's also more generous than the Reaper, though he doesn't have
as good of a 6 roll as him and he can kill people as well,
they just have to roll worse (concerning his results).

Frostmarch gives you more Warlock Quest Cards, though
without Sacred Pool's Rewards, they might not come
into play that much if you are already having trouble
using them in general.

(Though there is an Alt. Ending in here that forces
you to use them.)

Other than that, this expansion is mostly more of the same,
although there some pretty cool adventure cards in this pile.

(For example the Basilisk who rolls two dice for its attack roll and uses the highest result.
If it rolls doubles, you are killed.

Then there's the Arcane Archive which is a place where you can sell Spells you don't want
or can't use or there is for example Ragnarok, the good old board clear that removes most cards
from the board.)

Sacred Pool. [Warning, I'm biased because this expansion has Neutral Alignment Cards
(not sure why they were not included earlier) and the character I love the most:
( My wonderful / ) the Cleric.]

As previously mentioned, this has Quest Rewards, so you finally have a reason
to go on a Warlock Quest other than getting a Talisman.

It also includes the Stables Deck, which only comes into play via Adventure Cards /
character abilities, but gives you a higher chances of getting the horse
you always wanted (more mules, Warhorse (buff in combat) and more - as long as you can pay for it.).

One of the Alt. Endings also features the Quest Rewards and as such, makes you
go for Warlock Quests.
[Makes for a different game, but we always enjoyed it.]

Other than that, I already mentioned the Neutral Alignment Cards.
The other "unusual" thing, many Adventure Cards in this expansion
care about your Alignment and some have more consequences
for Neutral Characters for the first time as well.

:Big Boxes:

The Dragon, another very controversial one.

If you are not playing with the main mechanic of this expansion,
which alters the game a lot and also makes it more deadlier,
all it gives you is this:

- one Alt. Ending with a "Boss" to defeat on the crown
- 6 new characters

If you are using it, you can also deploy an overlay for the middle region,
which is double-sided for more variance.

You will also encounter three different Dragons Decks,
one contains lots of Strength Enemies, the second one lots of Craft Enemies
and the last one is divided almost evenly, so you don't know what you'll get.

Of course, there are also the other usual cards in there, like events,
places, objects and stuff.

Back to the new "Main" mechanic.
You will be drawing special tokens/markers, which, for the most part,
will enable and/or force you to encounter dragon cards.

More and more the longer the game goes on.
But there are also tokens/markers in there that can harm you.

The City:

There is something you desire?
You have gold, you don't know what to buy for it though?

You've found your haven of shopping.

Whatever is it you're after, the City will most likely
have it available, as long as you pay good money for it.

Potions, Pets, Weapons, Armor, Horses, Spells, Magical Artifacts,
you name it.

Just be careful you don't get yourself in trouble with the Law
and get thrown in jail.
(Depending on your money and dice rolls, you can actually die in there.)

There are even some possibilities to gain gold here,
although some are a gamble and some might cost you time (turns).

While there are some Enemies in the City Deck, it is not a good
place to fight for trophies.

However, there are quite a lot of cards in the deck that can
influence cards and characters all over the board.

The Woodland:

People have been talking about the double-sided Fate markers for years,
now they are finally put to use.

The golden side is treated like you already now,
but the black side can now only be used to force
another character to reroll a die.

Whenever you gain fate, you have to decide if it's a light or dark
fate you desire.

Mainly in the Woodland Deck, a lot of cards care for whichever
kind of fate you have more of and react differently depending
on what that is.


At the end of the Woodland, there is no "set" boss to defeat.
As you enter, you draw a path card that modifies your journey for as long
as you don't leave the Woodland.

Each path has a condition you have to fulfill in order to get a reward.

If you manage to get to the end of the region and fulfill that condition,
(which can be a fight you have to win there, but doesn't have to be)
you get a Destiny Card most of the time.

These are very powerful rewards that you can not lose, even if your character dies.
In fact, there are almost no tricks in the game to make you lose them
and you can have as many as you like.

Another thing to note:

The five characters in this expansion all have their own set of tokens
concerning one or more abilities they possess.

I guess you'd call this expansion "advanced", because it has a lot of stuff
that changes the game a lot, so you really have to get used to it.


@ Last post:

Don't let the 1 Strength of the Sprite fool you,
always having two Spells is nothing to laugh at,
also, notice she starts with 5 Craft.

Then there's her evasion ability.
Got a number of players (while playing the Sprite)
already thinking they could jump me not looking
at the space I was on.

"Wait - you can evade on that space? - Crap, I just wasted
my whole turn..."

The Valkyrie may be better than you think at first glance.

Her first ability basically says she has 4 Strength / 4 Craft
from the start (in battle / psychic combat)
and while the Follower resurrection does not play much part
in every game, being able to use the Graveyard as though
she were evil (seeing as she's a good character) with 3 fate
makes her a tough fighter.

The Rogue has decent stats and 4 fate.
She's good at monopolizing gold, better against multiple enemies
than most characters, but where she really shines, that is her last ability.

Having two dice at the Mystic or Enchantress on the Base Game board
and a bit of luck can easily give you an early edge.

Not much to say about that Alchemist, yes, he is that powerful.

The Highlander isn't bad, but ability-wise the weakest of the bunch
by a large shot.


From personal experience, it can be quite hard to get everything on one table,
so if you have two of the same height, using them together might be a faster solution.

Took me a long time to find a good table to comfortably put everything on
and still the corners don't exactly match the size, but almost is enough for me.

Edited by Lorinor

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Alright, so a few things in response.

The 3/11 chance for the Mutant gaining Fate isn't the right odds. The probability of the sum of two dice being 6 is 13.89%, 7 is 16.67%, and 8 is 13.89%. That's a 44.45% chance to gain Fate; I'd say those are pretty **** good odds. Now yes, she got screwed on a few rolls, but for the most part they were in her favor. Now the odds are slightly worse when looking at its inability to gain Fate past its Fate value on a 6-7 normally, but that didn't matter with this ending. I can still see the Mutant being very luck based, but the odds are slightly in its favor with the dice rolls.

The Barbarian didn't see much psychic combat, so I can't really say how useful its anti-magic ability is. A tremendous chunk of our monsters were strength-based, and neither of the other players had the ability to use psychic combat. I can see him being a bit more potent in a game with more players, just because the odds of at least one Craft-based character being used go up, but if they never encounter each other, and the Barbarian doesn't see many Craft monsters, then there's not much use for that ability. I can definitely see the inability to be affected by Spells being **** useful though, so that does seem rather powerful. As for playing the ending, the Barbarian's player would have found constantly hopping into the Crags rather dull, so wouldn't have done it to gain Fate even if we had realized it was an option. Plus, I recall one of the main knocks against the Dread Knight as a character was its need to constantly circle the Graveyard if it ever lost its Warhorse; I'd think the same thing would apply here, it's more of a detriment to have to stick to one area of the board.

As for the Mutant space in the Inner Region, I believe I looked it up in the manual, because I wanted to make sure it wasn't like the Werewolf in the original board. I actually checked both rulebooks to make sure, and the original rules for the Werewolf specifically state that the player fights the same Werewolf until it is defeated, while the Mutant actually changes its roll every time. I don't really know why it doesn't say that on the space other than there wasn't enough room, but it's in the rulebook so...all the more reason to keep that around.

I hadn't had a chance until yesterday to really look at The Highland deck and yeah, I can see that most of the items and trinkets in there are nice for a small boost, but they're not going to be the more powerful cards you might be able to find in the regular Adventure deck. Then again, I feel a lot of the Dungeon cards are pretty potent anyway, so when faced with being able to explore The Highland followed by The Dungeon, I'd rather do that over trying to filter through a very dilute Adventure Deck. We've kept The Reaper cards in for the time being because they add to the overall diversity of the deck, but I'm beginning to wonder if we need to change up how we play with them. I certainly need to figure out how to properly shuffle them, because it's very hard to get a good shuffle with the cards being so small. This becomes even more important when I want to play with The Firelands, because those absolutely have to be shuffled well enough to keep things evenly spaced.

I think my main issue is my small group just doesn't see good enough rewards from the main board. With such a wide range of creature strengths, we can get some really crap draws that cost us a lot of life, and slow the game way down because we can't beat anything. And more times than not we wind up getting beat not because the monster itself is strong, but the monster just rolls really well. I can't count the number of times I've been beaten by something I'm just barely stronger than in base stats because the monster got a five or six on their attack roll. This again gets very obvious when the early-game takes so long to get through, while the mid-late game goes by in a flash. We also just never seem to want to go to the Middle Region. Without the ability to buy a Mule (either lack of gold or lack of a Market), a Water Bottle takes up a very valuable item slot, which makes the Desert dangerous. The Temple is great, with good odds of going well, but it's not enough of a draw on its own. And the Runes spaces, Cursed Glade, Chasm, Black Knight, all of those make the few rewards in the middle region seem rather paltry in comparison, especially when we can draw from the exact same Adventure deck much more safely in the Outer Region. The most the Middle has is Warlock Quests, and the only reason I was at all interested in those in the last game is because Cataclysm added those really shiny and interesting Talismans. But when there are plenty of other ways to get a Talisman by just adventuring, relying on a Warlock Quest that will lock you out of the Portal if it's a really sucky one doesn't seem worth it. Incidentally, that's a big thing I like about Cataclysm as well, adding a paltry two for the Portal of Power if you have an unfinished Quest, so that's a good argument for Cataclysm right there.

I'm looking at your reviews of each expansion, and I'll admit that the corner ones seem to be the only ones with a really big draw to them. Maybe Sacred Pool just for the added bonus for finishing a WQ, but Frostmarch and Blood Moon don't feel like they'd add anything substantial. What I will likely buy them for is the characters, as those are probably my favorite part of any new expansion. Extra mechanics and a new board are definitely a plus, but I love the new characters and trying to figure out where they sit in usefulness. I was really sad when I didn't get any of the new Cataclysm characters in our last draw. I also personally would likely love the fiddly mechanics of The Dragon, but I know it would just bore my roommates to tears. I'd likely be okay with the Blood Moon's fiddly stuff as well, but again, that's just me. Your description of The Woodland makes me want it more, though I know that's waiting until after I get The City; I was initially considering only getting The Woodland for completion in having that last corner, and I'm glad to know it introduces some really interesting things to the game. I've actually half considered introducing the Light/Dark Fate mechanic just as a general rule even without The Woodland, as it fascinated me when I first saw it.

Mostly I just wish I had gotten more into Talisman before everything went out of print. Dang things are getting expensive.

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