Saturday, 8 October 2016

Tale Spin

By Grabthar's Hammer, we're never getting out of this dungeon...

"I think we've got this - as long as that garbage-snake thing doesn't play an Interrupt card!)

After suffering our first defeat in the Turned Around quest of spinning rooms, Leofa and myself (Stylus) tried to shake off four months of dungeon rustiness and have another attempt. As usual Kraken was Overlording, and also operating the webcam on his phone, so you'll have to imagine the images.

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This is not what I meant when I said level up.

By the second hour, I wasn't sure if the board was spinning or I was. I, Kraken, controlled the evil dead, while generals Leofa and Stylus were the forces of heroism, righteousness and revolution.

And so, forewarned about the tricky spinning mechanic, and forearmed with the knowledge of most of the dungeon layout, we set off to complete this quest!

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Minions! This is not what I meant when I said build a spinning room here!

Attempt 2: That Went Well

No messing about - we knew how easy it would be to get bogged down in the four-door spinning junction and we knew that the really dangerous obstacle was the large double-Troll room beyond it.

This room was referred to as the conTroll room, which was lame enough to stick.

"I found this - is it your rock?"
So we sped ahead, wasting no time dealing with the skeletons and zombies to the left and right of us. The Dwarf and the Barbarian charged into the Troll room to occupy the big boys, while the more squishy elements of Elf and Wizard hung back, waiting to dash in after them.

This hesitation cost us dearly when the room spun around, as one of the Trolls was now positioned so close to the entrance to the room, he was blocking both Elf and Wizard from getting inside (unless they wanted to take on the Troll in combat - which we didn't).

Before you could say 'French Revolution', a Dwarven Revenant and a pair of zombies shambled out of the side rooms and mugged the elf.

Our best spells and shooting feats choose a poor time to whiff, but the Elf was getting closed down so quickly, she was unable to shoot.

Still surrounded by three baddies, the Overlord Turn started with me playing the card 'Kill Them! I could nominate a hero and instantly get a bonus attack from each nearby enemy, then still use those minions normally for the rest of the turn. Six attacks in a row, thanks very much.

In a very short space of time, the Elf was clawed down by undead fingers. Fortunately, we'd stuffed up this attempt so quickly, there was time for a re-rack!

Attempt 3: For Real This Time

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Minions! You have failed me for the last time!

Right. No messing about - we knew we'd have to clear the undead creatures from the four-door spinning junction before we could attempt the large double-Troll room beyond it.

Like a medieval SWAT-team, we systematically cleared out three of the four rooms on the spinning junction. Taking no chances, we sat on bone pile and sent forth our tankiest fighters (hello, Dwarf) to do the heavy lifting before contemplating the two Trolls beyond.

Mostly, this went well - everyone leapt into the conTroll room together this time, and even though I managed a steady stream of undead from behind, the heroes stayed and played together.

Drow Know-how
United in purpose, killing the pair of Trolls proved to be pretty straightforward, aided by some useful hexes from the Wizard and one helluva killing shot from the Elf's bow.

The troll-room leads on to three separate rooms, all of them heavily-guarded and each of them, we eventually deduce, containing a chest that may lead to the way out.

With a hefty dose of bravado, the Dwarf charges alone into the five-skeleton room. Before you can say "I've got this, lads!", he's quickly surrounded and needing help from his companions (actually, he didn't take any damage, but he was blocked from moving anywhere and restricted in his attacks).

That's the thing right there about stomping off alone. Invulnerable as he was, even the dwarf started getting a bit nervy under a pile of enemies, and he asked for backup. It was slow in arriving, as I was still managing to dribble irritating foes (previously pile-of-bonesed) into the conTroll room.

The Barbarian and Dwarf smash up the skeletons, and the first chest is opened (no exit, just potions - boo!). The Dwarf takes the edge of his disappointment by smashing up a table - and finds a skeleton key (presumably resurrected from a regular key).

Although the Dwarf was clear, it took a few rounds. Back in the conTroll room, there was an awkward pause as Elf and Wizard got the last two doors open, realised the exit was elsewhere, and then looked at how many turns they had left.

But we nonetheless have a winning strategy - cast Brisk Work on the Barbarian to take on a solo mission to the chest in the ghost room, while the rest of the group pools its resources to clear a path for the Dwarf to get into the zombie room.

Typically, our winning strategy gets Interrupted at the first hurdle - a ghost wafts up in front of the Barbarian and blocks his path down the corridor. Ghosts are very difficult to injure - a hex from the wizard would help, but the rooms spins around once again, taking him out of range.

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Minions! This is acceptable.

The Barbarian can do nothing but flail against the whispy roadblock, while the other heroes do manage to kill enough minions for the Dwarf to lumber forward and smash the second chest - still no exit! That means the escape route is definitely in that chest we can't sodding get to!

The Elf was developing a health potion addiction by this point, although it stopped when it became clear that the only way they could win in the last turn was to kill the ghost blocking the Barbarian's path to the final chest.

One turn left and all seems lost - but the Wizard has a plan. It can Corrode the ghost's defences, then destroy it with a massive Burn. That will free up the Barbarian to slip past the pair of newly-revived Revenants and grab victory with the last swing of his axe!

... so let's pretend that happened. Rather than what actually happened: the Wizard totally whiffed his Burn spell and the plan stalled as time ran out and all the heroes disappeared under the tide of undeath.

It came down, as it so often seems to, to a single attack roll in the last turn...

Back at the Tavern

In the designer's notes, they described it as 'possibly not as 'fair' as other scenarios'. We certainly concurred, possibly with some more colourful language added for emphasis.

I don't know - my opinion is coloured by the lack of defeats I suffered here. I do feel for the heroes being swished randomly about with little guidance as to where they're trying to get to. However, the random factor is just as frustrating/amusing for the Overlord. Nobody ever ends up where you want them. Several times I had reinforcements cut off from attack vectors, even if I was served heroes on plates a couple of times to make up for it. If this mission is a crapshoot, I'd say it's a reasonably balanced one. 

Image result for revolving room trap
But then it has to be reasonably balanced, or the rooms won't spin properly.

The balance issue for me is more across the game overall, with some missions noticably harder than others. I'm noticing it in the Infernal Crypts as well. Early levels leave you the impression the heroes are hard to stop, later ones are the other way round. Is this appropriate, as the campaign advances? Probably, I suppose, although it's a sure way to lose your player base if you can get stuck too easily half way through a season. 

We don't play often enough to want to replay the same old missions over and over. It's a thorn in your side when you can't beat a level, true enough, but we might just chalk this one up to experience, pay an additional hour to the overall campaign clock, and move on to deeper dungeons.

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What do you mean, someone shot the food?


  1. Out of interest, since the Infernal Crypts has also hit a block, would the Dwarf King's Quest heroes do any better in the Abyss (since they seem to be lacking a tank), and vice-versa?

    And I agree about the achieveability of this level. We'd had totally got it on the fourth attempt. Totally.

  2. Good question! The Infernal Crypts lot are faster and harder hitting, and although they're very untanky they can do a fair bit of healing. Your crew would probably be able to shrug damage more, but you'd definitely have speed problems instead. Slow + Lava = Replay.