Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dwarf King's Crushed

The Dungeon Saga saga continues, and this time we get to face off against the penultimate boss villain: the eponymous Dwarf King himself!

And this is just the starting room.

Time to bump and Grund!

And I see nothing wrong with a little of that. A simple quest for this one - get to the end and kill Grund before time runs out. Nobody seems to have noticed that he's dead already, so I'm not drawing attention to it.

Mission 7: Final Insult (the titles aren't improving)

After (finally!) getting through the last dungeon with a few penalty hours deducted, Leofa and I once again team up to take on Kraken, once again installed in his proper place as Evil Overlord.

My, my lord, what a beginning: the heroes don't even have to knock down a door before they are faced with six zombies, four skeletons, three bone pile and a Dwarf Reverent in a pear tree.


Not that this will daunt our now-legendary pros. We go straight on the room: the Dwarf takes right corridor, basically to stop zombies like a hairball in a plughole. The Barbarian goes left to do the same, augmented by a Steelskin spell for extra durability. The two squishier teammates hang back and blast the Revenant to bones.

As expected, the Overlord resurrects the Revenant (that's happens a lot, but this level is a dwarf tomb, so it's the Piccadilly Circus of dwarf skeletons, I guess) and swarms the fights with zombies. The Dwarf actually takes a couple of wounds, which just goes to show even a tank can get overwhelmed by sufficient numbers.

We respond by jumping in feat-first! The Barbarian does his Unstoppable feat (step, chop, repeat) and knocks off all three zombies facing him. The Dwarf declares None Shall Pass and denies his zombies the chance to do anything.

I was delighted to see the Dwarf doing this. See, although it means I can't hurt him for a turn and all those zombies are unable to act, it also means he's just spent a turn doing nothing. That's exactly what I want to see these heroes doing - they've got a decent amount of time on this level, and I want it all used up before they reach their target, Grund.

The Elf and Wizard continue their tactic of hanging back and flinging out hexes and arrows, knocking off the Skeleton door guards. Then the Dwarf Revenant bounces right back up again and flanks our Dwarf, who looks as though he could use some rescuing.

On the rescue mission, the Barbarian clobbers the Revenant who was rear-attacking the Dwarf, before another Revenant springs up and gets him in the rear.

More spells, and an arrow that Trick Shots around a corner, takes out two of the Dwarf's zombie attackers, freeing him up to shrug off the last zombie's Free Strike and move to whack the Revenant from behind.

We're finally getting somewhere! And as the Wizard begins the two-turn process of unwarding the door, the other heroes celebrate by killing the last zombie, opening a chest, and healing up their wounds by being Tough.

Amazingly enough, I'd hurt that tanky dwarf twice with lucky zombie shots during all this. My dismay at seeing him grow back like a small bearded troll was immense.

Next room - another corridor and more bone piles! The Barbarian charges at the flimsy Skeleton Archers, confident that, unless anything more dangerous springs up...

Aww crap, two more Dwarf Revenants spring up.

It was like an undead April - tiny shoots everywhere.

The heroes go to work once more, smashing up the undead and clearing the corridor.

As we make good progress to the next door, the Elf gets in position to use our skeleton key (somehow acquired in the last debacle) to speed up the door-opening.

NB: to save space, we removed the starting room and pushed the tiles against the wall - it's not a game mechanic where the rooms get absorbed if you don't progress through them fast enough. Although that would be an AWESOME game mechanic.

And sure enough, there's a mission in one of the better downloadable campaign packs that does exactly that!

Once again, they spend a precious turn getting into place before knocking the door open. I'm rubbing my bony hands together in glee at this point at all the vanishing time. Sounds like castanets. 

It's Grund! Standing before an unpainted tomb (sorry about that) in a corridor littered with bone piles!

That's our target: kill him, and we win the mission. We prepare to hit him with magic and missile fire.

We subsequently find out that Grund is impervious to both magical blasts and arrows. That doesn't stop us from casting a near-permanent Feet of Stone on him, to ensure he stays immobile and vulnerable.

But the only way to kill Grund is up-close, and one wound at a time. That might be the biggest issue, because our time is running out, and these corridors are so long, it takes a while to get into the fray.

The Wizard also tumbles into the corridor, as the Elf prepares to do likewise. And then, in the most unlikely of fatal errors, the Dwarf hangs back to kill off the last Skeleton Archer. This proves critical, as he leaves his back to a bone pile.

The bone pile resurrects into a Revenant! Actually, every bone pile in the room resurrects, but it's the one blocking the Dwarf (whose back was turned, so can't strike it down) that proves problematic, as it deprives us of a fighter just when we need to maximise attacks.

Perfectly, he's even stuck in a position where he can't break free. You need an unthreatened square to do that, and the only one to hand would back him into a corner even more. Wonderful interrupts!

As it stands, the Barbarian is going to alone, and the minute he steps to attack Grund, he's going to be outnumbered.

The missile troops help out by clearing the chaff somewhat, and the Dwarf smashes down the pesky Revenant. The Barbarian does inflict a wound on the Dwarf King, but with the clock running down, one wound a turn isn't going to cut it.

Grund strikes back at the Barbarian, but the whole party has wounds and healing potions aplenty, so we're not too worried at the prospect of anyone getting crippled. That said, the extra skeletons shoving their way into the melee are making life harder for the Barbarian.

Back in the previous corridor, the Revenant pops up again, and this time gets immediately struck down by the Dwarf.

As fast as his stubby legs can carry him, the Dwarf jogs into the room, falling short of Grund, or even being able to stand on a bone pile.

In his absence, the Elf quaffs a battle potion and steps into the fray. Between them, they get another wound off Grund, but we're down to our final turn and he still has three left. All of our fighters need to reach (and damage) the Dwarf King in the next round for us to triumph.

Then disaster! The Overlord spots a bone pile behind the tomb and brings up another Dwarf Revenant - we can't push the Dwarf through and it looks like game over.

The camera angle had disguised it, and it was only the casual mention by Stylus that the Dwarf wasn't able to reach it to stand on it that reminded me. Lucky, that!

But there is a way. There is always a way. using his feat, the Wizard will Corrode and Feet of Stone the Revenant, rending him supremely vulnerable to a Burn spell. that will clear the road for the Dwarf to muscle in, outnumbering Grund three times over and, with a lot of Battle Potions and a little luck, we can do this.

The Wizard massively whiffs his spell. We're not going to do this.

We play it out, just to see the mission through to the end. Sure enough, the Grund's surviving wingman is wiped out by the Barbarian's Whirlwind feat, the Dwarf piles through the pesky Revenant, and the Elf continues the Battle Potion assault.

And although Grund does bring the Barbarian down to a worrying-low wounds tally (he was hitting the Healing Potions pretty hard), there was never any doubt when all four heroes could give him their undivided attention.

Grund has fallen!

Except he hasn't really, because we ran out of time. It looks like we'll be replaying this level, and now we have some added incentive - the Dwarf really wants that hammer!

Back at the Tavern

"Bring out the flagons of defeat, that we may drink deeply from the well of despair."
"The usual then, lads?"

We were close this time, we were so close! And I think we were operating pretty well to progress our way though a very crowded corridor with minimal damage.

Yeah - the bonus sidequest here is to reduce everything on the board before Grund's final room to dust or bones before you open the last door. I was horrified to see that nearly happen. I had a single skeleton archer left when the final door was skeletally unlocked. Bleh. 

From what I can discern, we slipped up on two counts: one was the Dwarf's side detour in the second room - we really didn't have much to fear from the Skeleton Archer, and it cost him around three turns where he could have been productively smashing Grund.

The second was due to my least-favourite Overlord card: Delay. Aside from costing us victory (one more turn and we would have had it), I don't like it as a game mechanic - all it does is remove one turn from a game that is very reliant on a set number of turns. I don't begrudge the Overlord his advantages - if the card, for example, gave all his minions an extra go, that would be fine. But to arbitrarily shorten the game seems unsporting (and I can say this having played the Overlord myself - when I used the Delay card - and won the game because of it - I felt like a heel for depriving the players).

It's not the most sporting card, true. In fairness, there were a number of other cards that (situationally) do give my lot a second turn, and I did play a couple. And I actually held off with Delay, sticking it out only because I thought they were doing worryingly well! I drew a few very timely interrupts later on that allowed me some very good resurrects, but I couldn't have known about them in advance. 

I saw the Beasts of War playthrough way back during the Kickstarter where the Overlord won by playing Delay in the heroes final turn. There were some very sour looks, and a distinct feeling of anticlimax, which isn't a great mechanic. Personally, I think there is a place for it, but I'd try to play it early on so the heroes have time to deal with it. I'd also prefer to see it replaced by something better overall, such as a permanent extra activation every turn, for example, or a resurrect-and-then-instantly-activate card.

But enough grumbling - it was a good game. In many ways, the most 'bashing' of all the dungeon bashes so far, and our heroes are certainly getting formidable. After our early success, we've got plenty of hours left in the campaign, so we can take another whack at Grund to warm up for the epic finale!

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