Monday, 2 May 2016

Om Nom Nom ... Zom

We return to Dungeon Saga - and the poor adventurers have been stuck down there for more than three months (hope they brought sandwiches).

Dungeonmaster Kraken read us a redacted prologue (avoiding Mantic's spoilerific flavour text), but with four missions left and three bad guys remaining, it wasn't hard to guess who was next up to bat.

Turns out I have actually met the guy who writes some of their flavour text, so I shouldn't really badmouth it. But come on, guys, a little suspense wouldn't go amiss now and again, would it? 'And next you will fight a zombie troll shaman!' kind of gives the heroes time to plan their approach in my book.

Zombie Troll Shamans: the original night watchmen

Away we go!

Mission 5 - Urban Regeneration

It's been a while, so Leofa and I are as rusty as an armoured zombie's cuirass. Dungeonmaster Kraken has also ratcheted up the difficulty by not telling us either our primary or secondary missions in advance - we'll have to busk it as we go.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

For all that, the first visible stage of the dungeon (we're revealing it as each door is knocked down) is straightforward enough - one door, one chest and one big Zombie Troll.

We're quite keen on our chances (since the last time we encountered a Zombie Troll, we were able to brush it aside in one turn), but we play it cautious - knowing that Kraken has a knack for using a timely Interrupt card and not wanting our weaker party members to get stranded.

So we send the Dwarf ahead to tie up the monster (being a tank is all he's proved good for thus far), while the Elf and Wizard take their places to shoot and flamebolt it respectively. The Barbarian follows up to take a swing of his own.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

Despite all of this, the Troll is still left standing. Aside from unfortunate (or fortunate, if you happen to be a rotting corpse) dice rolls, we also failed to work as a team (i.e. the Wizard should have cast Corrode - as he did last time - rather than going for firebolt glory).

I did roll tremendously well for the Trolls in the first few rounds - dozens of sixes. Well, almost a dozen. The 'tactical thoughts' text for the mission mentions that the heroes should now have no problems handling a lone troll, and this is certainly true. Without good luck on my part, it would have died in a single turn. 

But it was our first fight, and after an hour trying to synchronise our Skype call, I think we were all eager to get stuck in.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

Anyway, we get our act together in the next turn, and the Troll goes splat. Off we go again: the Barbarian kicks down the door to reveal: another Zombie Troll and, further away, a couple of zombies.

While the Dwarf once again plants himself on the monster, the Wizard magically opens the chest to win a handful of potions, then casts Brisk Work to send the Barbarian further in the room to intercept one of the lesser deadheads.

The Elf then scoots into the room and picks off the second zombie, meaning they'll be no ganging up on us this turn.

This turned into our strategy for the game: forget about zombie type and concentrate on reducing their numbers. The 'Mob Rule effect gives all types of zombies extra attack dice if they fight in numbers, so it's best avoided.

Game note: isolating the zombies was made easier by the fact that the Overlord only got one action in this mission - which was crippling to his chances of converging zombies.

Yeah, very tough game this one. There were generally only one or two minions about, so I was generally happy to activate the troll and save my cards for later action, but it felt pretty restrictive all the same.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

On our next turn, the Barbarian predictably squashes the regular zombie, but then our team stalls.

The second Zombie Troll takes some of our best shots and swats them all aside. Apart from the fact that my Wizard once again opted to burn through his stock of crystals, rather than act as a team player, Kraken was also rolling an exceptional number of '6's to weather to storm. We're still in the room with an intact Zombie Troll.

Eight dice and five sixes. I like them odds. 

Being pragmatic, and with the clock ticking, we decided to ignore the Zombie Troll (who can't move that fast) and press ahead with the mission. The Barbarian romps ahead and kicks in the next door.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death
Catching the enemy with their basecoats down.

At which point two things happen:

  1. The final room and end-of-level boss is revealed: two zombies, two armoured zombies and Hoggar himself. We have our target to complete the primary mission.
  2. We inadvertently complete the secondary mission! Apparently you had to break down the last door before you'd killed the second Zombie Troll, thus catching Hoggar and pals unprepared.

I didn't spell this out on the grounds that it basically makes it awfully easy on such experienced dungeon bashers. They've hardly been struggling so far, after all! My team is down five-nil at this point. The second door is keyed to automatically open as soon as you kill Troll 2, which meant there was a lovely moment earlier when the elf took cover next to it. Leofa even said "I mean, there's no way it's going to open by itself, right?", so I was kind of hoping the second Troll would immediately die at that point.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

The Elf throws herself through the broken door, dives into a corner and uses her ability to fire off three quick shots that fells the nearest zombie. The Overlord plays an Interrupt to send the second zombie against her, but its attacks come to nothing and it is immediately incinerated by the Wizard.

The Barbarian is send forward by a Brisk Work spell to lead the charge down the corridor, while the Dwarf disengages from the Zombie Troll (possibly without taking a hit - he's very hardy) and brings up the rear.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

In the Overlord's turn, Kraken is able to send both armoured zombies down the corridor (using Hoggar's magic, I assume) to take on the Barbarian, who only loses one wound.

On a fluff note: the flavour text states that Mortibris (the final villain) is activating all these minions - Hoggar included. So what's the point in making Hoggar a spellcaster if he has no will of his own? It just seemed a little unsatisfying having a villain with no agency.

Hey, what am I, undead chopped liver?

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

With two enemies upon him, the Barbarian considers this a good time to quaff a battle potion and use his Whirlwind special ability. It does succeed in smashing the first zombie, but the battle potion's effects only last one attack, not one round sadly, so the second zombie withstands the unbuffed attack.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

The Dwarf edges past the Wizard, collecting all his potions in the process, then joins the Barbarian against the armoured zombie - although he's also unable to dislodge it. The Elf comes up empty, though the Wizard finally gets the hang of fireballs and burns off three of the four wounds from the Zombie Troll.

The flambéed Zombie Troll shambles up to the Wizard and tries to drop that big rock on his head, but Danor is clearly on a roll, and escapes unhurt with a brace of sixes.

With very few minions left, Hoggar enters the fray and starts shooting off spells. His first one paralyses the Barbarian with Transfix. Although this only lasts until he casts another spell - and then he casts another spell (and so Kraken learns the importance of doing things in the right order).

Dammit. I'd even just read this rule out to everyone. Clearly, I can read aloud without listening these days. This is how I survive bedtime with Tinkerbell every night.

A report from Dungeon Saga, Dwarf King's Quest - Mission 5: Stench of Death

In our heroes' next turn, the Barbarian dispatches the armoured zombie and the Dwarf moves forward to plant himself in front of Hoggar. Fortified by a battle potion, the Dwarf actually achieves something useful and smashes three wounds off Hoggar*.

*We later realise this should not have been possible. Like heroes, bosses can only ever lose one wound per hit.

I knew it! I knew he felt flimsy! Gah. That would have changed everything.

Ignoring the massive troll on his flank, the Wizard throws Feet of Stone on Hoggar, which makes him more vulnerable to the Elf's shooting - which promptly despatches him. We achieve both missions in record time - bring on the next one!

Back At The Tavern

Yep, Dungeon Saga is just as much fun as I remember. But I was left with the feeling we'd been lobbed an underarm ball. Our heroes are pretty tough now (we only took six wounds between the whole party - and three of them got healed by the Barbarian and Dwarf's 'Tough' ability) and being sent zombies one at a time isn't going to cut it.

Were I to adjust this mission for 'advanced' settings, I might cluster the zombies together around Hoggar, so the heroes are forced to come to them. And certainly give the Overlord more actions - the frustration of the poor Dungeonmaster as we romped through was palpable.

A shame for Hoggar too - he's a great concept, a lovely model (I will get around to finishing him), and one of the eye-catching elements of the Kickstarter. Shame be was a damp squib (unlike Elshara, who went out with a bang). Fingers crossed for the final two bosses.

I didn't do him much in the way of favours, to be fair. And one of his spells is a smasher to throw at the wizard - Bleed may only roll two dice, but if it causes a wound it creates a free zombie. Not that I'd be using it much with one lousy activation per turn, mind you.

There are suggestions in the book for making the missions tougher if nobody is struggling. In general, I do feel the game is very easy on the Heroes. That might be the excellence of our gang, or it might be an introductory tactic to help the game appeal to a younger crowd. Either way, I reckon we can safely crank things up a notch in general.

However, after this one the missions definitely get tougher. And larger. If the last two villains disappoint, I shall definitely hang up my Dungeonmaster hat. Tune in soon for more...

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