Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Don't Cave Me In

And back we plunge into the Dungeons! The missions get tougher as Leofa and myself take on the fiendish cunning of Kraken in Mission 4 of Dwarf King's Quest: "Left Or Right?"

It's a good mission, but seriously, were these titles written on the back of a beermat?

I think they must have been. Similarly, the chunks of flavour text that give a prologue and epilogue to each level. There's a difference between foreshadowing and spoilers, and short of actually just saying 'in the following dungeon, you will fight x, y and z!', these couldn't be more specific. 

Anyhoo! In the following dungeon, the heroes will fight skeletons, collapsing ceilings and their own avarice!

Kraken here, taking over from Stylus for the writeup. 

It's a return to the standard mission of finding the way out to the next level - the heroes must navigate a rather more twisty dungeon than they've encountered before, get to a locked door on the far side and kick it open. 

As Overlord, I've got more actions per turn than ever before. It's still only three, but it feels like a huge increase. Especially as this dungeon is rather sparsely populated, with only a few zombies lurking here and there in the corners. Everything else is starting off as piles of bones, and of those, I have plenty!

Dungeon Bash - Go!

As the heroes set off, they're immediately ambushed by a pile of bones. When the fighters have romped ahead to kick down the first available door, the party is split by an interrupting skeletal warrior. He doesn't last long, getting shot up by the elf, but it does mean that the two groups are once again advancing along separate lines. 

The halls ahead are stacked with doors and dead, as well as chest. We're playing with the extra campaign rules - the heroes have a certain number of hours to find Mortibris, the arch-necromancer, and stop him. Each level attempt uses up an hour, unless they breeze through it fast enough (which they so far have every time).

To add to the fun, though, each level has a bonus objective that gives them a slight advantage in the next. For this level, it's trying to get both the available chests open, and the heroes are determined to do just that. Which I shall be capitalising on as much as possible...

The first half of the first turn, and the party already split! 

Around them, the ceiling creaks and grumbles. Every end phase sees a single tile potentially collapsing and being entirely removed from play, along with anything on it. All of us know which tile is at stake on a given turn, but it's still something of a worry. Gamble on a shortcut? Or take the long way round? 

I suppose the nice thing about splitting the party is that you can do both. As the Dwarf and Barbarian scramble to be first to bash the chest open, the Elf and Wizard tussle with an armoured revenant that has sprung up nearby. Zombies attack the Barbarian, scuffing him not at all, but the Wizard is already bleeding from multiple axe wounds as the Revenant pins him down. 

As the Elf bails on him, the Dwarf hurries back to put his undead kin back in the grave. Which works! Until another one rises up ahead, again next to the Wizard. The Barbarian moves off to try and put this one down, leaving the Elf to stick arrows in the lock of the chest. Predicably, this achieves little. 

Surrounded by ever more rising dead, the Wizard cracks the lock on a nearby warded door and flees through. Although he changes his mind when the corridor beyond proves to be full of zombies. And more skeletons, shortly after. 

A new way onwards! And the other chest...

Every time someone kills a Revenant, another one appears from nearby. Along with skeletal archers and warriors, these initially empty halls are quickly swarming with the dead. Progress is slow, especially as the party remains split. Indeed, becomes even splitter - the Dwarf slogs off through a row of Zombies to reach chest two aided by the Elf as the Barbarian returns for chest one. Only the Wizard stays on target. Sorry, stays as target - Revenants sprout from his every step, and his health vanishes like a WFB player's love for GW during the End Times. 

As the Dwarf slowly plods through zombies to try and open box two (box one was full of healing potions, now with the Barbarian), the Wizard gets slapped with one of the worst cards in the Overlord deck - he misses a full turn as he sits about, dreaming of illusory wealth and importance. His health is at rock bottom, with almost no potions left, and there are still Revenants on his heels at all times. No bodyguards, they're all off opening new doors - another board section out, but still no exit, and only a handful of turns left! It's getting tense. 

This gets even worse as the Barbarian moves ahead to open the final section. There's the door, but it's along a narrow corridor full of piles of bones. Nobody is in a position to rush for it right now, and it'll only take me a single turn to raise those piles, making progress so slow there won't be time enough to reach the escape route. 

And worse, the Wizard is now surrounded, out of health potions and down to his last wound...

Three turns to go, with the exit nowhere near. The Barbarian manages a risky turn of speed to nip back, give his healing potions to the Elf, then run for the door (now guarded by a lone skeleton with several other newly raised ones poised to block his progress). 

This gives me the time I need to interrupt and raise another skeleton right next to the Wizard - stopping the Elf getting to the Wizard to relay-team those potions to where they're needed. And there's a Revenant poised to strike! Perhaps I could have just used it to go slap the Wizard down, but this more complex scheme appealed to my inner outer evil sadist. 

As I rub my hands and monologue, the Wizard blows the skeleton off the board with an empowered firebolt, then uses his Brisk Work spell to whip the Elf forward, getting the potions anyway. And then the Dwarf finally manages to get his box open, grabbing a Haste potion for his troubles. 

And now it's the penultimate turn, and that final door is still out of reach... 

Desperately, the heroes crunch the options. There is one slim chance - if the Barbarian can kill the next skeleton in his path and the Dwarf can kill the Revenant menacing the Wizard, the Elf can shoot a lone Skeletal Archer now menacing the Barbarian's rear and open a path for the Wizard to rush forward and use Brisk Work to put the Barbarian at least in the right place to have a single crack at the door on the last turn. 

It's the second time this game has thrown up such a tenuous chain of teamwork for us, under very tight time pressure. So it's down to the dice, of course!

The Barbarian scatters his skeleton. Step one, complete. 

The Dwarf can't reach his target, he's blocked by a lurking Skeleton. So the Wizard has to risk breaking away from the Revenant, which he does, but only at the cost of another of his dwindling healing potion reserve. At least the Barbarian is now in the right place, even if that right place is 'surrounded by the undead and trapped in a blocked corridor'. 

Last turn - two chunks of the board have collapsed by now, a grim reminder that this area is unstable. But the nailbiting pressure ends with a payoff as the Barbarian obliterates the door, leaving the heroes sweaty, nervous and victorious!

The door lost five of its available one wounds.

Level Up! Level Down...

Another great game, and the heroes really struggled with the extra action I could throw at them. Scattered and greedy, as ever, they were so fixated on getting both chests that they very nearly ran out of time. 

If I'd been more cunning, I'd probably have beaten them in fact. I didn't realise how close to death the Wizard was, that single interrupt to block the Elf could have gone to set a Revenant on him for the game. Or if I'd saved that 'distract a hero for one turn' until the last moment, I could have paralysed the Barbarian at a miserably critical juncture. 

Ah well, no point crying over the milk I failed to spill. The increasing threat level is playing well against the increased powers of the Heroes, so I'm really looking forward to the next time we play!


  1. The missions are getting tougher, but I do feel they're still weighted in favour of the protagonists (fortunately I bring a healthy dollop of incompetence to the table as a balancing factor).

  2. Yeah, I agree. For now, anyway...