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renediffie

Thoughts about balance in descent

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Hello guys

 

Its not long ago i bought Descent. After playing one and a half campaign it seems to me like the heroes have a very hard time beating the overlord. It should be noted that we have only played with 2 heroes and with no expansions. Its obvious to me that the overlord is heavily favored. My question is if the game is balanced better if we simply play the campaign with more heroes. It seems to me like many of the heroes abilities gets stronger the more heroes are in the game. 

 

I also already ordered the Labyrinth expansion. Does this expansion change the games balance for better or worse?

 

I really love my new game. I just wish we could have a playthrough where we had closer games. 

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In my experience the game is balanced for exactly 4 heroes.

If you have 2 players using Heroes, let each of them use 2 Heroes.

If you have 3 players using Heroes, let one of them use 2 Heroes.

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The question of balance comes on and on, here and on the BGG forums.

However, the opinions are often very contrasted.

There is no "obvious" unbalance in favour of the OL: some OL consider "obvious" that the heroes are overpowered too.

The 2 heroes combination is the most difficult to play : you lack some classes (without a healer, it really can be tough) and actions (2 per hero).

 

There are many factors that can explain a given outcome of a quest or a campaign.

All I can say is that the game is not lopsided in favour of the OL or the heroes in the absolute.

 

Here are some factors which do have their weight :

- Hero team combination

- OL's choice of monsters

- Some quests do favour one side more than the other

- Players playing wrong (e.g. making monsters attack twice ; considering that stun negates all actions during a turn ; ...)

- Different gaming competences (some people are better players than others)

- Players not focused upon objectives and losing their time uselessly killing all monsters

- Luck

Edited by Robin
deniscabrol likes this

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I have a lot of trouble as the Overload, actually.  I tried to run Death on a Wing tonight.  The heroes won the first mission, because Spiders can't really stop an 8 movement double blasting Quellen, so their party started within range of Belthir for the second half.  I tried to set up to contain them with the elementals, but Steelhorns was having none of that and immediately cleared a path for the rest of the group.  Belthir had taken 14 damage and was stunned before I even got a turn.  Then, due to stun, he could only use one move action and the party quickly caught up to him and finished him.  I did manage to take down two of them on my turn, but a single action from Avric has the whole party back on their feet.

 

I really dislike how ineffective defeating a hero is in the game.  Wow, you get another card, such as a tripwire, and worst case scenario, the heroes lose one action whilst they pick their guy up.  At least make them miss a turn or something.

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Frankly, there really is no balance in Descent, at all.  I still enjoy it as an experience, but I've long since given up looking at it as balanced.

 

Depending upon the hero combinations, player experience, quest goals, etc., it's very common to have situations where the overlord always wins or never wins.  From just my experience, I'd say that the Shadow Rune campaign is easier for the heroes than the Labyrinth of Ruin campaign, and that the Basic II deck is stronger than Basic I.  It's hard to say for sure, though.  I'd also say that the Overlord jumps in power with the conversion kit and each new expansion, since the Overlord gains more options during a campaign, while the heroes merely get different options.

 

So far, I've played 22 quests.  By my reckoning, the Overlord has won roughly 7.  Most of the time, the outcome is not even close.

AltWren likes this

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This is a copy of my reply to the thread "Poor Overlord (Heroes OP)":

 

This is a strange argument since there are (in a little research I've done) 50/50 arguments about what is unballanced in Descent 2nd Edition. 50% say that the OL is overpowered and 50% say that the Heroes are overpowered. In my experience it all depends of choice and the exploitation of the opponent's mistakes.

 

I play as OL and Hero and my victories and losses aren't due to lack of ballance. There are scenarios that are more forgiving to heroes and other to the OL but in general I find these scenarios as a part and not the whole. Homeostatis. The ballance created by the continuous small lack of ballances... (I don't know if this means anything in English - not my primary language).

 

To conclude - in an open game like Descent there will always be lack of ballance somehow. When a focal point (the heroes, the monsters, the cards, the scenarios) are made with so many traits, it's almost impossible to measure the mathematical ballance of it. So the ballance must be found in the whole and not in the parts. And I find it a very ballanced game.

 

And as we know, there is no ballance in real human conflicts. There is luck, creativity, brilliance, mistakes, correct commitment and sacrifice. The main difference here in the table top is that there is also fun. Unlike the real world.

 

Kunzite likes this

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In my experience the game is balanced for exactly 4 heroes.

If you have 2 players using Heroes, let each of them use 2 Heroes.

If you have 3 players using Heroes, let one of them use 2 Heroes.

 

 

Interresting. We where talking about the nr of players and assumed that a 3 player game would be the game the players have the bigger chance since the overlord only gain stronger monsters and not more monster in most cases.

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I think most people forget my actual question :) I didnt ask wether or not Descent is unbalanced since im clearly convinced that it is in a 2 player game. Im asking how the different factors influence that.

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I'm not sure the game is balanced for 4 heroes, I think more 3.

 

with 4 heroes, there's too much monsters, and some encounters cannot be win by heroes due to the number of monsters

As 2 heroes, there's not enough hero actions and the heroes cannot win due to the lack of actions.

And since the missions of the game doesn't change by the numbers of heroes ...

 

As 3 heroes, the overlord can uses all red monsters, and heroes have just enough actions to play.

 

Just like Mansion of madness i think

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Let's go down to simple maths:

 

Let's say that 2 heroes as a ballance value of one and that all the heroes are ballanced with each other.

Three heroes will have a ballance of 1,5 and four heroes will have a ballance of 2.

 

So the number of monsters for 2,3 and 4 heroes should have a value of 1, 1,5 and 2 (this is not completely accurate because there are other variables, but we can start with this:

 

Let's compare two types of monsters - small and numerous and large and few:

 

Goblin Archer:

2 heroes - 2/1

3 heroes - 3/1

4 heroes - 4/1

Let's say that 1 master monster is worth 2 minions.

 

So to value 1 (two heroes) we have 0,25 for minions and 0,5 to master monster.

That means that to 1,5 points of power (3 heroes) we just added 0,25 points of power to the minions

To 2 points of power (4 heroes) we just added 0,5 points of power to the minions, rounding up to 1,5 (less 25%).

 

Elementals:

2 heroes - 1 minion

3 heroes - 1 master monster

4 heroes - 1 minion + 1 master monster

Let's say that 1 master monster is worth 2 minions.

 

So to value 1 power points (two heroes) we have 1 power for minions and 2 for the master monster.

That means that to 1,5 points of power (3 heroes) we have 2 points of power to the minions (more 25%)

To 2 points of power (4 heroes) we just added 1 point of power to the minions, rounding up to 3 points (more 33%).

 

It would be slightly different if we used the 3 heroes as the base comparison. But it is a base ground to work my hypothesis out:

What I mean is: in some scenarios the Goblin Archers (even underpowered) will do the trick, while in that same scenario using a larger (less numerous) monster will be the downfall of the OL. In other scenarios this will work exactly the other way around.

Robin13 likes this

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You're taking the monster's factor only, and it's not enough

 

many encounters have others rules to follow, like running through time, doing some actions before the overlord, etc...

 

And all theses objectives have the same trouble : it does not changes regarding the number of players.

Killing one monster before it leaves for exemple. As 2 heroes, you have 4 actions per turn to do it; As 3 heroes, you have 6 actions, and as 4 heroes, you have 8 actions. Statisticaly, it's obvious that having more actions is better than less, since the more you have, the more you can miss, and having some monster at the start will not change anything, because here the other problem is the reinforcement. Once the starting monsters have been slain, the reinforcement will be joke.

 

I hope I explain myself good enough, english is not my native language.

Edited by rugal

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Disclamer: For the sake of accuracy, I really don't know how the team that created the mechanics of the game has measured the Minion/Master ballance. I just checked the differences from masters and minions and roughly decided that one master monster is equivalent to a minion. So this not a verifiable rule.

 

I've been for years a RPG gamemaster and player. I GM'ed and still do several systems: True20, Call of Cthulhu, D20 Future, D&D 1st, Advanced D&D, 3rd, D6 System, Vampire, L5R, Bushido, etc.

There are systems that dwell in the ballanced encounters (like D&D) and others that give just a rough outline of how you should do it. In Call of Cthulhu the players are always on the losing side of ballance.

But in my experience it all boils out to "how you deal with things and dice rolling". I have almost (with all the differences) the same feeling with Descent 2nd Edition. A good thing in my oppinion. 

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Changes in 2, 3 and 4 heroes games concerning the OL:

 

One OL card per hero. The ballance is maintained;

Reinforcements are the same no matter how many heroes. Lack of ballance? (A case study);

Lieutenants become stronger. Ballance maintained (?);

Search tokens are as many as heroes;

Each hero receives 1 xp point. The OL can receive more in some scenarios.

 

Is it the reiforcement that is "broken"? I think not. It's the actions the OL takes and how he manages his resources that gives him leverage. And the OL must be careful using them. The player usig the OL that plays with me is a master tactitian and we loose a lot with him.

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I only played a couple of games, but all with 3 players total (so 2 heroes and a Overlord). I was on the heroes side. So far, we played the intro scenario and the fat goblin (not sure of the name, but the one with the 4 hostages). The OL made a mistake by overpowering his troops in both scenarios by reading the 3 players setup, but we still managed to win both, altough by a edge.

 

FFG create great games, i own AGOT the boardgame and war of the rings 1rst ed and Warrior knights and my friend own Descent. But they have a reputation for having problem with game balances (budget cut in playtesting ?), so i was not sure about balance in this game, but i think Descent balance is good enough.

 

What helped my cause :

 

1- a bit of luck. In the fat goblin scenario, the OL was moving the 3rd hostage when we won. So if by any luck he would have found the hostage on his first two tries, obviously, he would have won. My friend who play the OL rerun this scenario a second time with another group and he told me he won easily, but the first hostage he moved was the good one. So there is a luck factor that can give a edge to either the heroes or the OL.

 

2 - I have a really big experience as a RPG master and player. So i know a few things on min/max. In RPG (like the d20 system), some classes are more powerful, but the role play aspect create the balance. But in a competitive board game with no role play, where you cant "perform" or "bluff" your way out of a situation, min/maxing powers combination and party combination is very important. In d&d, the cleric is one of the powerful classes who can fight, cast and heal and Descent is no exception, so i convinced my heroe partner, a experienced board gamer but who never played any tabletop rpg, to play the cleric and i think i was right from what i saw. And i knew beside him, a "blaster" (a mage) would be a must. Altough i changed after for the ranger for flavour, but i had a easier time with the mage to be honest. So i am one of those that think that a bad heroe combination can give a edge to the OL. A thief/ranger combination in a 2 player game is hard to play. So in that sense, giving 4 heroes to two players give more chance to have a good combination, i have to agree with you. At two players, you have to choose very wisely your combination.

 

3 - As in all games with cards effect that you draw on a random basis, the balance is always hard to evaluate. Except for games like Dominion where everybody take their cards on the same source, games with effects cards make games really unpredictable. there will always be this one or two killer unbalanced card in a deck and a lucky OL will draw them. But thats my opinion on game with cards.

 

4- i switched one scenario with my friend to do the OL and borrowed the game to run it with my rpg group and i won all of my 3 games, but by a edge everytime. I must admit, i found it a little easier to be the OL, but not much. I had very good hands of cards everytime.  

 

 

Overall, i think its not perfect, luck and cards can change a game, but i find it pretty much balanced. Everytime, the winner had it by a edge. I agree that with 2 heroes, the choice of characters is very important and that some combination give better chances. So experienced rpg in min/max will understand how to get the best out of this. But i am still pretty impressed with balance on this game, something that FFG usually have problems with in other board games.

Edited by louisloua

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Mind the talent gap between players when thinking about balance in games based on opposition. Maybe the game seems unfair on your side simply because you're not focusing enough, playing lightly : descent 2nd édition is not a dungeon crawler, it's a tactical about movement and combining skills.

And, sorry to suggest that, maybe you aren't the smartest of the game.

Stay humble while talking about balance.

Good gaming

Robin13 likes this

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And, sorry to suggest that, maybe you aren't the smartest of the game.

 

 

And maybe your players just aren't good enough to find and take advantage of the unbalancing options available to them.

 

In honesty and seriousness though, I think that the varied experience players report has to do with party composition.  Not even taking into account class choices, there are over 10 million combinations of player parties available.  I highly doubt anyone has playtested them all, and expecting that imbalance cannot exist anywhere in those possibilities is naive.

 

If you wish to present some alternative ways of dealing with the situations we've faced that might have been more effective, that would be more helpful than just suggesting we lack any talent at the game.  You might find it difficult though, as in my case the encounter was lost before the OL could have a turn and party abilities negated monster placement options.

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And, sorry to suggest that, maybe you aren't the smartest of the game.

 

 

I really don't think that bullying is a good approach to this discussion. If you can't understand the problems of others, or you can't teach, counsel, or point directions to another human being, then don't, but there is no need to tell others that they're not smart, just because you can't perceive, understand or feel empathy with their problems.

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I don't think that wilmanx was bullying.

Being able to take into account the fact that one's gaming capacities are a factor in the evaluation of the "balance" of a game is rather a healthy way to integrate all possibilities in an analysis.

Especially when one is stating that, in a constant, global way, a game is lopsided in favour of one side.

 

I tend to be very suspicious when people "blame the system" without expressing any doubt about their own competence.

Edited by Robin

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I understand that, Robin, but in this case, the same way that there is not enough data to say that the game is broken either way, Wilmanx hasn't enough data to judge the capabilities of someone who's giving his oppinion in a healthy discussion. Even if we are discussing someone playing capabilities, we can use ideas such as, "you're not doing it correctly" as opposed to"you're not smart enough". IMHO.

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Communication via forums (and emails, chats) can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

Now, wilmanx used "sorry to suggest" and "maybe" in his post, which I see as a way to attenuate the possible offensive aspect of the question...

But I understand that one could still not appreciate that suggestion - even though, as expressed, questioning one's competence should be part of a good analysis of the suggestion (for an example, I would consider Chess as terribly in favour of all my oponents, because I loose all the time... but the facts are that I am not a good chess player at all  ;) ).

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Robin, I'm a teacher, I play wargames, RPG's, Chess and Go since my childhood. I've played MtG for years and I went to tournaments and leagues. I'm 42 years old. I have had students and fellow players in the entire spectrum of brightness. I'm lucky to say that I must have won 2/3 of all the games I've played. (This score in much lower in chess and Go).

 

I played a lot of unballanced games. Some because they were historical games with the inevitable unballance of historical accuracy and some were broken. More than many times the player that was playing with me complained about the unballance of a particular game. I always offered the possibility of switching sides. The last time it happened was last week playing out X-wing campaign. After (Imperial March slowly rises) winning 3 games in a row with the Empire, one of the Rebel players complained about the game being broken (Imperial March fades) so I offered to play with the Rebels. We've played two games. I won the first one without losing a ship and I won the second one losing just an X-wing. All Imperial ships were obliterated. No more talk about the game being broken. I offered advice in how to play with the Rebels. In no way I think that the players I play with aren't smart. There are three main things about learning and using tools (be it a game or a plow) that must be understood:

 

1) Our perception of things is limited by our own experience;

2) Our use of things is limited by our fears and preconceptions, and;

3) Some people learns things easier and faster than others, but that doesn't mean that in the end they aren't capable of achieving an higher degree of competence.

 

So, I don't think that is correct to question the lack of intelligence of someone else without having all the data about something. I don't think that Descent is broken, but I don't have acess to all the experience other people had with Descent to be able to judge their inteligence based on their oppinions. Even more, some of these people that say the OL is underpowered don't have someone else kind enough to trade roles with them, so that they can see all the possibilities of the OL.

 

And as I said before, the OL role is not for everybody and maybe that is the thing that is the most hard in this game. Maybe FFG should create an expansion that "humanize and fun-icize" the role of the OL to make it more universal.

 

And to finalize, chess is never a good comparison with open ended games. Chess is in itself ballance. That's why it will be played centuries after Descent is forgotten. You can measure easily competence of lack of competence in chess. There is no luck involved, no dice rolls, no random decks of cards, no questionable rules, no Rules FAQs. I'm always weary when people compare chess with games that are in almost everything completely different from it.

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I didn't intend to offense anybody and sincerely do apology if I did. I wrote "smart" refering to "experience, focus, strategy", not "intelligence". My native language is french so my writing might be more rude than I would. I tried to add many forms of politness before and after that sentence.

 

Like Robin many forum experiences about Descent makes me think people are often concluding it is unbalanced for OL or players (50/50) too soon.

 

There are quite good suggestions to enhance your descent skills here

http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/85205-poor-overlord-heroes-op/?p=837320

 

 

 

My full vision of Balance in Descent is summarized there :

http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/85205-poor-overlord-heroes-op/?p=833418

 

"I've played with 2, 3 and 4 players, in both oneshot and campaign modes through many games.

My experience is the game is quite balanced.

Some thoughts :

 

1) In an Act I game, players are slighty stronger than OL. In an Act II game, OL benefits from tougher monsters and has packed some nasty cards (especially in campaign mode)

 

2) Some scenarios are advantaging more OL or Players, or are balanced. It depends and give interest to winning the previous game to be able to choice your scenario in campaign mode although only the final game makes you win all.

 

3) I might say the number of players are a bit of a balance factor :

- 2 players game is harder for the players because they lack of time and action.

- 3 players game is harder for the overlord because the monster increase in strengh (red instead of white) not in number.

- 4 players game should is balance because overlord has more monsters and players benefits from many powers they can combine, moreover if their team is well built.

 

Conclusion : yes, that tactical miniature games requires more reflexion than many others and has nothing to do with hack'n'slash. You need to use your brain, and play gentle and fast."

 

 

SORRY AGAIN.

 

PS : I think Bayushiseni 's suggestion about balance is THE solution - when calling unbalance, immediatly replay the game with players in others roles. And see what happens. The 2P miniature game CLAUSTROPHOBIA is all about that feeling and challenge. So was SPACE HULK back in the days.

Edited by willmanx

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Willmanx, I'm sorry if I didn't understood what you really meant. I like to discuss games very much and sometimes people start to personalize very quickly and I tend to drift away from those forums because of that and I was liking this discussion very much.

 

I understand now what you meant and I agree with you, as I have read your posts before.

 

And I'm Portuguese so we have this handycap that we have both different languages and are communicating in a third one.

 

C'est pas mal, mais on doit faire atencion quand on est dans la maison de notre voisin, comment les Chinois dit. (I hope that I can still write my French. ;)

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