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The Overlord's fun-factor

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(This is a crosspost from the BGG forum: javascript:void(0);/*1346144216176*/ I thought it might get FFG's attention if I repost it here.)

Warning: Wall of text incoming. I've provided one-line-summaries in between and a conclusion an the end for you TL;DR-folks out there.

 

 

 

 

 

Preamble

First off, let me emphasize that this post not about game balance issues. By "game balance" I mean anything directly related to winning or losing encounters. What I am going to talk about is "meta balance", i.e. how balanced things are outside of the actual encounters: overall fun, replayability, customizability, difficulty and other things of that nature. A game can be perfectly balanced in the traditional sense and still be horribly tilted in other ways.

Also, let me briefly summarize where I come from so you put things into perspective. I've never played 1E, and I've only played a couple of skirmishes and one campaign up to (but not including) the finale, all of which as the overlord. So my record of 2E games isn't particularly impressive: I've not yet seen all heroes, or quests or items in play (let alone the endless possible combinations thereof). That's the main reason why I don't want to comment on games balance issues. That being said, I don't think the points I am about to make suffer too much from my lack of experience with Descent 2E.

 


Observation

As we moved through the campaign, the hero players were having more and more fun with each quest while my enjoyment remained fairly constant.

This is not to say that I didn't have fun, because I did. The point is that over the duration of the campaign the players were enjoying the game more than I was (in relative terms). Having let several days pass to let the experience sink in, I think I've identified three main reasons why that is.

 

 

Lack of Progression

After every quest, the heroes get XP, gold and the opportunity to buy new equipment. With the option to sell old stuff and the chance to draw the treasure chest when doing a search, it feels like the heroes get noticably stronger in each encounter. And most if not all of their new stuff can be used each and every round.

The Overlord, on the other hand, gets one new card, if that. And even then, as powerful as that card may potentially be, I may not even get to see it, or a hero simply passes the required attribute test, or the situation that allows the card to be triggered may never occur, or the surge required by that card may get cancelled by a hero. For all of these reasons, getting a new Overlord card generally feels very underwhelming in comparison.

Yes, occasionally I may get lucky and win a relic. Except that, if I remember the rules correctly, I can only use it when a lieutenant is in play and he may only equip one at a time. It's a nice bonus, but nothing I would get excited about. Besides, these things are not gonna change the next time I play and have no variety and element of randomness like the shop item cards do.

Again, this isn't about balance, I am not saying I want more cards or anything along those lines. It's about having fun and getting new toys. Ignoring the peculiarities of each quest, one plays very much like the other in terms of what the overlord can do.
Why can't I react to how the heroes are being played by my friends? Disregarding balance issues for the sake of the argument, why can't I equip one monster with a huge shield to block ranged attacks if I am having trouble dealing with several ranged heroes? Or why can't I spend two search tokens the heroes didn't pick up on a new spell for my Flesh Moulders that allows them to open doors from three spaces away via some sort of telekinesis?
I guess what I am really missing is the option to customize my monsters, even if just very slightly. As it stands, I have no way of reacting to what the players are developing their characters to. Which brings me to my next point.

TL;DR: I want more toys and customizability. Why do heroes get all the fun?

 

 

Loss of Options

During the first couple of quests, chosing monsters for the open group(s) was really fun. Too many melee heroes? Let's go ranged! Primarily casters and guys with range? Let's get hard-hitting melee monsters plus something that can immobilize! That was very cool.

Later, though, that changed dramatically. Eventually, every hero had at least one melee and one ranged weapon which they could equip as needed. Admittedly, it generally wasn't a good idea for the tank to unequip his shield for a bow, but even having the option gave the heroes a huge boost in strategies while at the same time severly crippling mine. Oh, you are gonna use those Elementals and Merriods? Good thing our healer can dispell immobilize without even using up an action. And then the heroes get equipment that allows them to move, stun and immobilize my monsters and there is nothing I can do about it. This is a complete one-eighty from when the campaign started.

TL;DR: As time goes by, more strategies should become available to both parties. The opposite is the case for the OL.

 

 

One Mind vs. Four

Being the evil overlord tickles my pickle. I find it very challenging and much less forgiving if you're not paying close attention. Forgetting to move a creature or not reinforcing when you could have can instantly lose you the game. That was at times extremely frustrating, but at least I knew when and how I screwed up and can only blame myself for it.

As for the heroes, they have a much easier job in that regard. There's up to four minds working together on the same problem. Each of them paying attention not to miss anything important. When someone comes up with a plan, everyone chips in with their ideas and stupid suggestions are immediately vetoed.

When I'm about to make a decision, there's noone to double-check what I'm doing. I've to go through various ideas, pay attention to what cards I have in my hand, what cards are still in my deck, what abilities and feats the heroes have (and which of those are exhausted or unavailable due to a lack of fatigue), in which order I should activate my monsters, that certain cards need to be played before an attack roll while others may be played after and so on and so forth.

And all of that is okay I guess because it adds to the challenge. I'm not exceedingly happy about it, but I'm fairly confident that things will become easier the more I play the game. The point is: as the campaign progresses and each hero gains more skills and abilities, the difficulty of keeping track of everything important is amplified by the number of players, while it is the exact opposite for the heroes.

TL;DR: For the Overlord, the overall complexity increases much more steeply with the duration of the campaign and the number of players than it does for the heroes.

 

 

Conclusion

I enjoy being the evil overlord. I enjoy playing against three or four opponents at the same time. To me, that is fun. What I don't think is fun is seeing how the heroes get reward after reward - some of it hard earned, some of it through sheer luck - while I sit there and can only choose between the same ten-or-so lackluster cards as last week.
The heroes can adapt their strategy to my cards much more easily and efficiently than I can react to theirs. Playing the same handful of cards over and over and over again gets boring very quickly, even if the encounter itself is very exciting. I want more toys!


How do you fellow Overlords cope with this? Or do you not mind at all?

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Nice, I was gonna do the same post here, cheers! As I replied in that thread over there, I completely agree.

There's so much synergy to be planned and had between 4 heroes that multiplies their individual progression while the OL more or less crawls forward with his forced tech-tree with upgrades that might not show in the next encounter. I also feel pretty limited in monster choice, f.ex. with army of undead and radiant light, with the LOS rules making it almost impossible to be out of LOS anywhere, and the current reinforcement rule of one model per round, no matter the size, any small low-hp monster is pretty much off the table. This means you're kinda limited to a couple of monsters (unless you have the conversion kit it seems, which I don't) which further takes away the variation from the OL.

I still enjoy the game and see it as a challenge, but heroes have the better experience here for sure (balance aside). Even though I feel steamrolled every quest, it has been close. But it doesn't feel close in a fun way.

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So glad to see this post on here - I was beginning to think myself and a few of my buddies were the only ones that felt this way…  I've mentioned this briefly in another post somewhere that adding ONE card to your deck is frankly, dull.

When compared to Road to Legend, which admittedly is a few expansions down the line, there was a TON of options for upgrades (for both parties in fact).  Buying lieutenants is gone.  Buying upgrade cards are gone. No more 'plot' cards.  No raising monster levels.  Playing as the overlord in the Advanced Campaign you had no END of choices - this was great, choice is good.  I really hope some of this finds its way back in.

And to be honest, I like a little bit more customisation return for the heroes too.  The class decks are excellent, for sure (though I am slightly worried that every power would be bought by campaign end - not having finished a campaign yet though I'm unsure), but that is pretty mush it, especially once you have a decent weapon.  I doubt we'll ever see the return of the black dice (which personally, I do slightly mourn, as this differentiated a caster with a warrior - now, generally, they are both as good as the other), but perhaps we'll see a generic deck of abilities that are purchasable by all, os SOME other way to customise your character…

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I've got the Conversion Kit, so I found that playing the OL was fun.  While the heroes shopped, I got to choose open groups, and I enjoyed trying out different monster sets.  I particularly enjoyed using the Crypt Dragon during the Masquerade Ball.  I liked the idea of the evil overlord teleporting a dragon into the middle of the party!  Sure, it seemed a little absurd…but also:  EVIL!

While it's true that there are more things for the heroes to be doing in between quests, I didn't find that the OL role was any less fun than the hero role.  Just different.  It's an asymmetrical system, I don't look for things to be exactly the same.  And while the Shadow Rune doesn't contain other things for the OL to buy with his Xps, that isn't to say that future campaigns won't have such things. The system seems expansive enough to me that it's entirely possible for a campaign line to include minion and lieutenant upgrades in addition to more OL cards.

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I just got the game and have played through four encounters.  I tend to agree.  It can be demoralizing to be the Overlord.  You watch as your precious monsters get murdered easily by one knight, then if you do one wound to a hero, they go digging through the rulebook to see how you cheated.  Anyway, I can definitely improve my strategies and hope to become a more successful overlord with time.

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nice post,

 

I have always played as OL 1st and 2nd edition.

We are about to finish our first campaign - 2 heroes - and things are well balanced.

From my 1ed. exp. time of heroes turn is an issue when playing a 4 hero game, will think of a time limit for 2ed.

As for the fun factor it's fun when Zachareth throws ( dominion ) a full health berserker dwarf with brute ( 18 hit points ) into lava and knocks him out.

 

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 I've not had many problems challenging my group, but I do think that only one reinforcement per round is too few. I miss spawn cards from 1e. I would like to see, maybe, like a summoner class for the OL cards that specializes in augmenting the reinforcement rules or gives some other effect to the monsters already in play, like promoting a normal monster to a minion or allowing the summoning of a monster outside of what's been chosen for the open groups (like a special monsters with the stats on the card). It could be difficult to balance, sure, but I'd like to see something like that.

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Overlord999 said:

As for the fun factor it's fun when Zachareth throws ( dominion ) a full health berserker dwarf with brute ( 18 hit points ) into lava and knocks him out.

 

This brings up a question I have been wondering about. The rules for Lava state:

"A figure entering a space containing lava immediately suffers one damage. Any figure that ends its turn in a lava space is immediately defeated."

So if the OL, on his turn, uses Dark Charm, an Ettin's Throw or whatever to force a hero to move into a Lava space, would the hero be defeated at the end of the OL's turn? The rules state this only happens at the end of the figures turn. As silly as it sounds, it seems like the only way a hero can be defeated by the OL moving them into Lava would be if the hero chooses not to move on his next turn.

Any opinions?

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Butaman551 said:

 

Overlord999 said:

 

As for the fun factor it's fun when Zachareth throws ( dominion ) a full health berserker dwarf with brute ( 18 hit points ) into lava and knocks him out.

 

 

 

This brings up a question I have been wondering about. The rules for Lava state:

"A figure entering a space containing lava immediately suffers one damage. Any figure that ends its turn in a lava space is immediately defeated."

So if the OL, on his turn, uses Dark Charm, an Ettin's Throw or whatever to force a hero to move into a Lava space, would the hero be defeated at the end of the OL's turn? The rules state this only happens at the end of the figures turn. As silly as it sounds, it seems like the only way a hero can be defeated by the OL moving them into Lava would be if the hero chooses not to move on his next turn.

Any opinions?

 

 

 

If he was somehow immobilized, i believe that allows no movement, then you discard it at the end of your turn. So an ettin throws him, then an elemental uses earth to immobilize him. I haven't played a map with lava yet so just thinking out loud really.  

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Butaman551 said:

So if the OL, on his turn, uses Dark Charm, an Ettin's Throw or whatever to force a hero to move into a Lava space, would the hero be defeated at the end of the OL's turn?

 

The way I read it, the hero would take 1 damage for "entering a space containing lava", but would not be defeated until the end of the hero's turn. Although turns are taken serially for playability, a round represents simultaneous events by multiple actors. The hero gets a chance to move clear of danger before succumbing.

[i'm assuming that a lava space does not represent a deep pool of lava, otherwise the figure would be defeated in short order. More likely it represents something like fissured ground with lava below the surface -- extremely hot with occasional eruptions of scalding gases, choking fumes, and spatters of molten rock.]

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I think with the conversion kit and all the choice of monsters I'm entertained but more importantly the fact I control multiple figures vs. there one keeps me pretty entertained. It would be nice if there was more powers for sure but I never have fun as a good guy.

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I have also been peeved by the lack of things to do as an OL. Sometimes, I wish there was more of an insentive for the players not to die. As it stands on this edition, death is but a small inconvenience to the players, even when playing with only 2 heroes.

Thats why I created a Descent 2ed variant that me and my wife are playing with now. It adds a lot more spice on the game and makes death (for both OL and players) NOT so attactive and something to be avoided.

www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/81688/descent-2nd-edition-variant

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Robin said:

Joeyman said:

then if you do one wound to a hero, they go digging through the rulebook to see how you cheated. 

Your opponents are d!cks.

 

 

That is bang on the money!  I have a couple of games at the start where you work out the game mechanics where there is no real competition (replay the first quest) then after that no rule books during play I find the game fluidity is more important than winning imo (I would rather lose an interesting game(although playing with out and out cheaters is less fun (please see comment above!)))

 

One thing FFG need to 'get' is that most buyers of their games in my experience are Overlords so if it isn't fun for them they wont buy the add on packs if this needs to be fun for anyone then it's them!

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Lilikin said:

One thing FFG need to 'get' is that most buyers of their games in my experience are Overlords so if it isn't fun for them they wont buy the add on packs if this needs to be fun for anyone then it's them!

Very good point!

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uppTagg said:

 

Lilikin said:

One thing FFG need to 'get' is that most buyers of their games in my experience are Overlords so if it isn't fun for them they wont buy the add on packs if this needs to be fun for anyone then it's them!

 

Very good point!

 

 

Maybe FFG overreacted to OL complaints (from or about) in 1E and over-streamlined.  The OL has some choice of monsters (open groups), multiple figures to activate (hero players normally have only one), a customizable deck (through purchase and pruning for a quest), all monsters "level up" for Act II, and you have a chance at some Relics. 

Those who feel that the OL is OP could house rule that certain monsters have to be "unlocked" for open groups by spending XP (especially with the expansion kit).  Those who feel heroes are OP late in Act I could allow the OL to buy upgraded monsters prior to Act II.  If you think Act II shifts the power balance too much at the start, make the OL purchase all his Act II upgrades.  To compensate, you could let the OL buy (1XP = 100 gold?) unused Act I shop items during Act II to equip his monsters to make them tougher. 

With some extra bookkeeping, all of these can be done out of the box.  The OL would probably need an XP bonus to adjust for the restrictions and extra purchasing options.

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i think there is a problem with small monster too, if you can choose big monsters you should almost always pick these, maybe a little more reinforcement for the 5 monsters groups?

It is not my main concern, one of the skill of waylander will really ruin the fun for the overlord, his chance of winning too but believe me it is not the my main concern the skill is Danger Sense.

DJ01-class-51.png

I think the deck management is a little less interesting in 2nd ed vs 1st (jsut one card, no threat, you will almost always play the card you are drowing the only discussion is when etc.). But it is ok. If you play with this card it ruins all strategy for cards. If you have 4 heroes it cost them only 1 of their 8 actions, the 2 fatigue cost is nothing if you have a healer, and even if you don't it os really not a big deal. Yes it is boring for this player and he may not do it every turn but 1 every 2 turns but the problm is there.

With this card:

You draw 4 cards, 1st turn of player : you loose one at random. 3 cards left.

Your turn you draw one, let's say you play one of these; 3 card left

Héroes turn you loose one card 2 cards left ….

You have a choice, if you play your cards you will soon have one or none in hand. At this time it you draw a trap it is a dead card because at the beginning of their turn you will loose it. And if you draw a good car you will have to play it this turn or loose it the next one. And this skill is only 1 xp it can be bought just after prologue.

Ok you may draw one card if you drop a character but with very few cards it will become very difficult.

As i said earlier, the problem is not really the balance issue, it remove almost one half of the game for the Overlord.

 

Did you play with this skill?

 

PS : sorry for my language this is not my first tongue

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You make a good point Endevor.  To my knowledge, there are no Overlord tricks that make hero abilities bought with XP utterly redundant, whereas the heroes can do just that for the Overlord.

Of course, I don't need any convincing that the overlord needs some love in a future expansion.  As I said previously, I think BOTH sides need more options, but the OL has been made SO dull progression-wise (and stating that monsters rank up 10 or so hours into the game is hardly a good thing) we're gonna struggle to find someone that actually WANTS to play the OL in our games.

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Totally agree about Danger Sense. It needs to be limited to once an encounter or the fatigue bumped up to 4 or 5 so that if they want to try and burn OL cards at least they can't do anything else.

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I agree that playing the Overlord is not as fun as playing the Heroes, but I can only imagine with later expansions that we will get more options to liven up the OL a bit.  I usually only play with one other person so we run two campaigns at once, one where we are the heroes and one where we are the OL.  We do 2 quests then switch (not including the intro).  It makes things a little more fun since we both get to experience both sides in equal measure, takes a long time, but I feel it's worth it! 

 

If you have a wildlander hero against you, then I think it is very wise to pick up 2 copies of Unholy Ritual.  You may lose many actions with a group of monsters, but the added cards in your hand are essential!

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Philodept said:

If you have a wildlander hero against you, then I think it is very wise to pick up 2 copies of Unholy Ritual.  You may lose many actions with a group of monsters, but the added cards in your hand are essential!

That's what I was thinking. That card is really quite useful.

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 I can definitely relate to most these points. I've played the entire campaign as the OL with my partner who was playing 3 heroes. 

The "one mind vs. four" claim is therefore not something I can complain about, but I can definitely see how this makes things harder. The OL won 2 out of 3 of the Act I quests, plus the Interlude, and the heroes won 2 out of 3 of the Act II quests, plus the Finale. The change in who was winning was very abrupt. As the OL, it was always quite hard, but I could still see I had the upper hand, and then after the first quest of Act II, the heroes multiplied their power in such a way that everything was substantially too easy for them, while before it was very very hard. There was really nothing I could do, and that was just against one mind. 

I was extremely frustrated, that I managed to get 2 relics, but hardly ever use any of them. Maybe it was a bad choice of quests, but only the Interlude and the Finale were a time I could wield the relic. In the other Act II quests, there were no lieutenants, and/or it said they could not wield a relic (the wyrm turns). Finally in the Finale, the only place where I have the Shadow Rune and Baron Zacareth together - and I needed to sacrifice it to get an extra turn for the dragon. So, I had new toys, and never got a chance to use them. while the heroes can use them every turn.

On the other side, my partner was frustrated too. He felt the quests were very hard for him during Act I, even though he was not making so many mistakes (I was soft at some points and even let him change his mind although it was "too late"). but then when he became immediately stronger, everything was so easy for him, he didn't really enjoy the victory either. 

During the Finale setup, we noticed that it didn't really matter I won prior games, I had my lieutenants kicked out of Encounter I, because the rules relating to them were actually considering the only 2 quests that he won. This was mostly frustrating cause I didn't get to play lieutenants much, and was itching to see what they feel like. To be honest, I'm not sure it made such a big difference in the end, cause my open groups increased the number of opponents on board (even if weaker opponents), and enabled the usage of my OL "Warlord 3 - Reinforcement" card - which actually won me the one single objective token I got in this encounter. 

Anyway, I'm digressing. The technique that the heroes used to make the last three quests extremely easy for them, to which I had no answer as the OL, is a combined technique of a few store items and some class abilities that did the following: Generate a surge for the attack, use it to immobilize. Then, another hero had the ability to attack and push the target to an adjacent square (so he was out of reach if he was an only melee-monster). The third hero could also attack, and inflict a poison or disease condition, which all monsters automatically fail, so that's 1-2 more damage per round, without doing anything. This resulted in crippling the OL in all situations where he had to get stuff out of the dungeon, but it also completely crippled Gryvorn, the dragon in the Finale, who could just stand there with his mighty 32 hitpoints and do nothing! Just as a bonus, if the immobilizing hero failed, there was another hero who could try that if a monster got too close to him (caltrops - where the roll is an attribute test, no defense from the monster possible). 

I therefore think that some store items (some of which appeared in Act I, but it took my partner a while to notice he had them), are extremely powerful, and the fact they can be used every round to immobilize / generate surge / etc, is extremely strong. As OL, my ability to have that same effect on the heroes is limited and depends on a card that I need to discard. I will most probably not get a similar card very soon, while the heroes "get it" every turn. 

Maybe one thing that can improve the OL chances against something like this, is an ability to remove one condition from a monster. It could be in another deck, or some more cards the the current deck. I'm not sure how this should work in order to keep things balanced. It would also be nice to have some toys that upgrade the monsters (like shop items), that the OL can win somehow. Maybe through keeping all search items and money stored in the search tokens the heroes didn't pick up? (although from my experience, they almost picked up everything). 

So, these are just my thoughts on the matter. Maybe they go more towards balancing issues, but I think that it also relates to the Loss of options claim you made. There were definitely less and less strategies to use with each leveling up. Furthermore, the effect of terrain on the game is quite disappointing. As some people mentioned, there's LOS to practically everywhere on the map. The blocked squares do very little. The type of the terrain in many of the quests hardly affects any strategy. The graphics is nice of course, but I would want it to mean more in the frame of the game, after all, it's not an RPG, it's hack-n-slash..

 

 

 

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I think many points made here are valid. The OL needs more fun progression and the worst player abuses like "Danger sense" every round and blast imobilize should be nerfed. The players appears to need a bit of a boost in the early quests though when having only starter equipment.

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I regard the 2 hero game as fairly balanced. But the progression is just horrible. If you add an additional player with his whole turn, an array of skills, habilities and items, the Overlord Get one or 2 more monsters on the table and one starting card. At the end of the "First Blood" introduction, the overlord get to choose one card to join a stack of cards that is not even that powefull and might appear once during the next quest, while the heroes gain powerfull habilities each and habilitie that can basicaly be used every turn, not to mention the equipment bought.

While the OL get only that. One card.

Monsters don´t get more powerfull, they don´t spawn more frequently, you don´t get more cards, you don´t get any hability…

I´ve been steamrolled on every encounter after the First Blood as an OL. With 2 heroes, it seems to work though. But put 4 heroes and the overlord got only the Firstblood quest to win. The rest is History.

 

Hope some other errata appear soon. I´m getting a little tired of getting pawned to the ground on every encounter…

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