Monthly Archives: September 2017

D&D Adventure Game Analysis: The Scenarios

We have four boxes of the D&D Adventure Game, each with 13 different adventures, for a total of 52. Some of course, are more different than others.

Each adventure is listed with it’s adventure number, the tiles needed to trigger the victory condition, the victory condition itself, and any other notes.

If the tiles is written as a number- like CR-1: 11, it means that the 11th tile will trigger whatever needs to be triggered. If it’s written as two numbers separated by a slash, like CR-2: 9/12, the first number is the minimum tiles needed to be placed, and the second number is the maximum.

Some terminology:

Defeat Boss: A villain spawns. Reduce it to zero hit points.

Destroy Object: An inanimate token that has AC and/or hit points needs to be defeated.

Dire Chamber: Wrath of Ashardalon introduced the Chamber mechanic, whereby finding the objective tile spawns a number of tiles.

Exit: Do a thing, and then go to the start tile or some special tile and then remove your character off the board.

N Monsters: Each player spawns a monster.

NPCs: Friendly NPCs have NPC cards and can be attacked by monsters. It’s often good to keep them alive, and sometimes they help attack the monsters.

Random Boss: The boss is determined by draw of a card, token, or tile. Often a limited subset of bosses from the set.

Random Chamber Objective: In some Wrath of Asharalon encounters, a Chamber card is drawn. It might involve fighting a boss, fighting a bunch of monsters, or some other victory condition.

Solo: This adventure is designed for one player.

Special Setup: The adventure starts with lots of tiles already placed, possibly the whole board.

Town: The adventure is played with the Town setup. Some of the event cards have different effects in town.

Castle Ravenloft:

CR-1: 11. Solo. Find exit and escape. Spawn boss to pursue player (Strahd!) after timer track runs out.

CR-2: 9/12. Defeat N Monsters.

CR-3: 9/13. Chaos Magic- gain new powers. Defeat boss (Klak) and destroy object.

CR-4: Gain 12 treasure cards and exit. Spawn boss to pursue players (Strahd) after timer track runs out.

CR-5: 9/13. Escort NPC (who turns into a Young Vampire and back again). Spawn extra monster each round and defend adventure location.

CR-6: 9/12. Defeat boss (Dracolich). Can destroy object for extra damage.

CR-7: 17/24. Solo. Defeat three random bosses.

CR-8: Special setup. Characters are separated at corners of map. Make way to center, defeat boss (Howling Hag) and hold center tile.

CR-9: Special setup. Wandering monster tiles patrol the board. Defend start tile from monsters. Defeat 20 monsters.

CR-10: 11/14. Encounter deck is seeded with specific cards. Spawn boss midway through to pursue player (Zombie Dragon). Find exit and escape.

CR-11: 9/12. Defeat boss (Flesh Golem). Random tokens can be gained instead of treasure to calm boss down instead of fighting it.

CR-12: 9/12. Defeat two bosses (random boss, and Strahd). Extra treasure cards.

CR-13: 10/12. Defeat boss (Strahd) and destroy objects. Objects heal Strahd until destroyed.

It’s notable that four of these adventures include Strahd, one of the most powerful bosses in any of the sets. It’s certainly accurate for the Ravenloft experience.

Wrath of Ashardalon:

WoA-1: 7. Solo. Defeat boss (Kobold Dragonlord). Find exit and escape.

WoA-2: Defeat 12 monsters over course of the dungeon.

WoA-3: 9/12. Defeat 2 monsters and get object token.

WoA-4: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat Random Chamber Objective.

WoA-5: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat boss (Gauth) plus N monsters.

WoA-6. 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat boss (Duergar Captain/Kobold Dragonlord/Orc Storm Shaman). Three part mini-campaign.

WoA-7: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat N monsters. Find exit and escape.

WoA-8: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat Duergar Captain plus N monsters. Defend at least 1 NPC (of 5).

WoA-9: 10/13. Dire Chamber. Spawn two bosses (Rage Drake and Ashardalon) to pursue players. Find treasure, exit, and escape.

WoA-10: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat N monsters and destroy object before timer tokens run out.

WoA-11: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Extra monsters spawn each turn. Find exit and escape.

WoA-12: 13/16. Dire Chamber. Defeat Random Chamber objective. Then defeat boss (Ashardalon).

WoA-13: 9/12. Dire Chamber. Defeat Random Chamber objective. 11/14 part campaign. Complete series of Chamber cards (cumulating in Ashardalon).

We mostly played adventure 4, the random boss encounter, which seems to have informed most of my design on the gestalt boardgame. I don’t have any experience doing the campaign adventures. ToEE certainly seems more interesting for it.

Legend of Drizzt:

LoD-1: 9. Solo. Find exit and escape.

LoD-2: 9/12. Defeat boss (Artemis) and get Treasure.

LoD-3: 9/12. Defeat boss (Shimmergloom.)

LoD-4: 9/12. Defeat boss (random villain).

LoD-5: 5 Black Triangles. Traitor! Defeat traitor. (If no traitor, defeat boss- Artemis).

LoD-6: 9/12. 2v1, semi-cooperative. Find exit and escape.

LoD-7: Special setup. Fissures spawn a monster each turn. Second sealed fissure summons boss (Yvonnel Baenre.) Destroy fissures and defeat boss.

LoD-8: 9/12. Defeat boss (Errtu). Destroy object to release NPC.

LoD-9: Special setup. Competitive. Fissures spawn a monster each turn. Kill the most XP worth of monsters.

LoD-10: 9/12. Find exit and escape.

LoD-11: Special setup. 6. 2v2 semi-competitive. Clear objective tile of N monsters.

LoD-12: 15. Explore as much as possible. Total score is tiles revealed. (Minimum 15 for victory).

LoD-13: 9/12. Defeat boss (Errtu). Inflict extra damage by defeating specific monsters.

Drizzt certainly has the highest variety. Like Ashardalon, adventure 4 has the most replay value.

Temple of Elemental Evil:

ToEE-1: 9/12. Find exit and escape.

ToEE-2: 9/12. Defeat boss (Air Elemental). Optional objective to protect NPC.

ToEE-3: Town. Investigate NPC tokens to find doppelgangers.

ToEE-4: 9/12. Defeat boss (Arkashic Thunn).

ToEE-5: 4 tiles of same elemental symbol. Defeat boss (random elemental).

ToEE-6: 9/12. Defeat boss (Fire Elemental). Optional objective to defeat Fleeing Cultist.

ToEE-7: Town. Rescue NPCs before they are all killed by monsters.

ToEE-8: 9/12. Defeat boss (Water Elemental). Optional objective to protect NPCs.

ToEE-9: Get the Devastation Orb card (the 9th treasure in the deck.) Defeat boss (Earth Elemental.)

ToEE-10: 9/12. Bring Devastation Orb to target tile. Defeat boss (Swerglemergle.)

ToEE-11: Town. Defeat boss (Velathidros). Optional objective to rescue NPCs.

ToEE-12: 4 tiles with Water symbol. Defeat boss (Water elemental.)

ToEE-13: 9/12. Defeat boss (Velathidros.) Possible to set up trap to do massive damage. Optional traitor mechanic.

We can see a clear trend here: there are some exceptions in Curse of Strahd and Wrath of Ashardalon, then adventures in Drizzt or ToEE that explore different triggering mechanics, but for adventures that are “explore until you find the thing, then do a thing,” 9/12 clearly settled on being the optimal choice. Once you’ve gotten through eight tiles, you know that the next tile could be the boss.

We can divide these into some categories:

Defeat a specific boss: 24. (48%) The biggest group of adventures involve plunking down a specific mini and reducing it to zero hit points.

Defeat a random boss: 7. (13%) Much fewer adventures involve a boss that is not known ahead of time, though these adventures have more replayability.

More than one boss: 4. (8%) One of these spawns the Rage Drake and Ashardalon simply to pursue the player, however the other three are grueling meat-grinder gauntlets where you must defeat a series of two (or even three!) bosses.

No boss at all: 16. (31%) Often escaping the dungeon, or accumulating loot or some other goal. 6 of these are in Legend of Drizzt.

Explore the dungeon so you can escape: 11 (21%). Sometimes you have to do something else along the way (find a treasure), sometimes there’s a boss making your life miserable. 3 of these are introductory tutorial scenarios.

Special Setup: 8. (15%) 3 of these are ToEE’s town adventures.

Destructible Object: 6. (12%)

NPCs: 5 (10%) 3 of these are in ToEE.

Special Mechanics: 18. (35%) A catch-all category for any other mechanics of note- extra treasure/encounter cards, rules tweaks, or modifiers.

I found it a bit surprising just how many bosses aren’t featured as a primary adventure antagonist: CR’s Young Vampire, Werewolf, and Zombie Dragon, for example. The Otyugh in Ashardalon, Methil the Mindflayer, Jarlaxle, and the Yochol in Drizzt aren’t even featured as cameos- they only come up as a random boss. As a result, I don’t think I’ve even played against all of these bosses.

My conclusion is that any custom set should try to incorporate as many bosses as possible, and also try to include tweaks or other special mechanics to keep things fresh. Still, even without out that, I greatly enjoy the game and feel it has pretty massive built-in replayability.

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Temple of Elemental Evil Boardgame: By the Numbers

ToEE is a bit harder to quantify than the previous D&D boardgames, due to the built-in campaign mechanics. Cards are taken out of and added to the deck over time, and characters accumulate gold, which basically serves as xp to buy level up and bonuses. A number of mechanics that were present in previous sets are simply absent, and others work rather differently (such as trap tiles). ToEE also has the Town adventures, which use a pregenerated map and often have different rules for some of the cards.

Since which cards are added to the deck vary based on one’s performance, each group’s encounter deck will look different at the end of the game, and not every treasure or event may even get seen. Thus, it’s essential look at the cards both by the ‘basic’ versions, and the ‘advanced’ cards that can be added.

Basic Encounter Deck (30 Cards)

Events: 22 (73%)

Attack Events: 8 (27%)

Advanced Encounter Cards (15 Cards)

Events: 8 (53%)

Attack Events: 7 (47%)

Aggregate Deck (45 Cards)

Events: 30 (67%)

Attack Events: 15 (33%)

Entirely missing are Trap cards, Environments, or Curses.

This is three more Cards than Legend of Drizzt, but all 45 cards are unlikely to be in the deck, so it continues the trend of smaller Encounter Decks.

Out of the Attack Events, 7 attack the active hero, 3 attack all hero’s on the active player’s tile, and a whopping 5 attack everyone (I count the especially nasty Acid Fog here- it attacks everyone who has a treasure, and they must discard a treasure card, hit or miss.) 7 of the cards only do damage; 8 of them have other effects, but are fairly uninteresting. The aforementioned Acid Fog strips treasures, along with Invisible Stalker attack, but Magnetic Rocks allows one to lose gold instead. None of these require a hit. Frightful Presence inflicts Disadvantage (and 4 damage!) on a hit, Choking Ash activates a monster, and Distant Shot adds a new one. The most interesting are probably Whirlpools and Avalanche, which move heroes around in different ways.

Out of the events, 6 summon or activate monsters, 15 straight up deal damage (including 4 copies of Rage of Imix, which puts down lingering tokens. Included in that is two copies of Dark Gift and the advanced card Dark Temptation, which allow you to take damage, or have another player take more damage and you get a Treasure. There are also two positive cards, Appease Ghosts and Treasure Cache, which force another draw. Also in the stack is 2 cards to steal your magic items, and 3 to steal your gold.

Treasures

Basic Treasure Cards: (30 Cards)

10 Treasures (9 Consumable) (33%)

16 Gold (53%)

4 Fortunes (13%)

Advanced Treasure Cards (15 Cards)

9 Treasures (5 Consumable) (60%)

6 Gold (40%)

Aggregate: 45 Cards

19 Treasures (14 Consumable) (42%)

22 Gold (49%)

4 Fortune (9%)

Note that “Consumable” includes cards that say “Flip Over After Use;” these stay with the character from adventure to adventure, but normally can only be used once in a given adventure. The only basic non-consumable item is the Claws of the Umber Hulk.

The quantity of gold is so high that flipping a treasure card is about 50% likely to not impact the immediate gamestate. This actually increases as play goes forward, because treasure cards get pulled out and set aside, starting the game in the hero’s possession.

Also, some of these cards are completely bananas, like the Wings of Flying which cause you to ignore traps, or the Potion of Haste that gives two extra actions. Others are appreciated but underwhelming. The treasure deck is easily the most underwhelming part of the set.

Monsters:

Basic Monster Cards:

3x Air Cultist (ranged, debuff, 1 xp)

3x Doppelganger (melee, spawn effect, 1 xp)

3x Fire Bat (melee, 1 xp)

3x Troglodyte (melee, debuff, 1 xp)

3x Fire Cultist (melee, death explosion, 2 xp)

3x Gnoll Archer (ranged, 2 xp)

3x Hobgoblin Fighter (melee, aoe, 2 xp)

3x Water Cultist (melee, movement, 2 xp)

3x Earth Cultist (melee, 3 xp)

3x Bugbear (melee, 3 xp)

30 cards, 10 different monsters, 1.8 xp average

Advanced Monster Cards:

3x Empowered Air Cultist (ranged, debuff, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Fire Cultist (melee, death explosion, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Earth Cultist (melee, 4 xp)

3x Empowered Water Cultist (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Air Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Earth Elemental (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Fire Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Water Elemental (ranged aoe, 4 xp)

16 cards, 8 different monsters

Fully Upgraded Monster Deck:

3x Doppelganger (melee, spawn effect, 1 xp)

3x Fire Bat (melee, 1 xp)

3x Troglodyte (melee, debuff, 1 xp)

3x Gnoll Archer (ranged, 2 xp)

3x Hobgoblin Fighter (melee, aoe, 2 xp)

3x Bugbear (melee, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Air Cultist (ranged, debuff, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Fire Cultist (melee, death explosion, 3 xp)

3x Empowered Earth Cultist (melee, 4 xp)

3x Empowered Water Cultist (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Air Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Earth Elemental (melee, movement, 4 xp)

1x Fire Elemental (ranged, 4 xp)

1x Water Elemental (ranged aoe, 4 xp)

34 cards, 14 different monsters, 2.6 xp average.

1.8 xp average is par for the course, however the monsters seem to be weaker compared to other sets, making the basic deck mostly a pushover. With a fully upgraded deck, the xp value soars to 2.6, however with a couple of exceptions (the Water Elemental), there aren’t many area of effect attacks. The upgraded Cultists are tougher and do 2 damage instead of 1, but they are much less nasty compared to some of the previous 3 xp creatures. The extra xp does help against the generally nastier event cards.

Bosses:

ToEE features 8 boss monsters, the same as Ravenloft, and 1 more than Ashardalon or Drizzt (which have double-sided bosses). Four of those are Elementals, which mean they are mutually exclusive with the Elemental monster cards (the monster card can be unlocked after defeating the boss.)

My experience playing the set was that the bosses were fairly weak- but this is because the heroes get so many upgrades.

Of the Elementals, the strongest and most interesting is probably the Water Elemental, which always has an AoE attack, and the Fire Elemental which changes its behavior when under 6 hp.

Swerglemergle the Ettin has a fun name, but ends up just being a bag of hit points with a club and a really big rock. Arkashic Thunn the Salamander can spawn new monsters or activate ones in play, which is interesting.

Velathidros the Black Dragon deserves the most attention. It has two versions, one for a town encounter, but there’s really no reason it can’t be used that way in a dungeon. It features a flying mini on an elevated base, which is incredibly impractical- mine kept falling out of the base, and one of the wings fell off. We ended up just using the stand.

The weaker town version tends to hit and run, and the stronger dungeon version has some truly frightening massive damage attacks. These are certainly bosses worth fighting, though probably with a different mini (maybe Shimmergloom from Drizzt, or even the Asharalon mini).

One way to judge the difficulty of a boss is how hard it is to kill. An easy way to eyeball this is its AC times its hit points. I call this its Defense Factor (DF).

Here’s the Dfs for the ToEE bosses:

Air Elemental: 100

Earth Elemental: 150

Fire Elemental: 140

Water Elemental: 154

Arkashic Thunn, Salamander: 130

Swerglemergle, Ettin: 150

Velathidros, Village: 196

Velathidros, Dungeon: 224

The average DF is 155.5. If we look at just the non-dragon bosses, it’s 137.33

For reference, the DF ratings of the other sets are (everything/only non-ubers):

Ravenloft: 156.75/123.33 (Ravenloft features the two weakest and the two strongest bosses, the highest hit point variance of any set)

Ashardalon: 135.8/121.2

Drizzt: 142.85/124.8

…which basically shows that the bosses are actually fairly high, in terms of hit points.  The problem is that their abilities are typically underwhelming, and the players receive stat increases.

Tiles:

The Tiles are where the set is the most interesting. Like Drizzt, the set has tiles that are more mechanically diverse. This set has tiles with no monsters, tiles with multiple monsters, and tiles with built in trap tokens. There aren’t any tiles with printed on game effects, but the tiles play radically different from one another.

There are 32 tiles, same as in Drizzt. As in Drizzt, they are split evenly between White and Black tiles.

White Tiles:

No monsters, traps, x4 (25%)

One Monster, plus traps, x2 (13%)

One monster, no traps, x1 (6%)

Two monsters, no traps, x7 (44%)

Three monsters, no traps, x2 (13%)

Black Tiles:

No monsters, traps, x7 (44%)

One monster, plus traps, x1 (6%)

One monster, no traps, x7 (44%)

Two monsters, no traps, x1 (6%)

Notably, if you get an encounter card, you’re going to get fewer monsters. On average though, it balances out: 1.03 monsters per tile.

Nine of the tiles are Named Locations: The four elemental Altars, the Oubliette, the Guard Room, the Pool of Olhydra, the Furnace Room, and the Massacre Site. Mildly interesting: they all have white arrows.

Tile Orientation:

4 Left Turns (12%)

4 Right Turns (12%)

6 Straight Paths (19%)

4 T-Junction (12%)

4 Left T-Junction (12%)

4 Right T-Junction (12%)

6 4-Way (19%)

Average Exits/Tile: 1.75. (Compared to Ravenloft’s 1.78, Drizzt’s 1.72, and the claustrophobic Ashardalon’s 1.67, many of which are behind possibly trapped doors). In terms of exploration, I never felt trapped.

The Heroes:

ToEE has 5 heroes, the same as Ravenloft and Ashardalon (Drizzt had 8, and they’re all funky.)

Alaeros has the best Fighter stat block so far- speed of 6 rather than Arjhan or Vistra’s 5, and the full 10 hit points. All of the Fighters get one or two fixed powers; Alaeros’s is an at-will.

Barrowin, the Cleric, has the same stat block as the other Clerics. All of the Clerics get a fixed at will and a choice of other powers.

Nymestra the Wizard has the same stat block as the other wizards. Her fixed power is the at-will Shocking Grasp.

Talon, the Ranger, is the same as Alissa, and 1 slower than Drizzt. Both Talon and Drizzt get a 2nd utility power, but are limited in their choice of at-wills. (I throw Cattie-Brie the Archer in with the rangers; she has a weaker stat block, and fixed at-wills.) Alissa, from the core set, is the only character to get only 4 powers.

Ratshadow the Rogue has the weakest stat block of any of the rogues- 14 AC, 8 HP, speed 5, compared to Regis or Tarak, who have AC 15, HP 10, Speed 6. (Kat, from the core set, has 14/8/6). However, it has probably two of the best abilities: first off it gets a free non-attack action each round, which can be used to use the Reliable Talent power, which either automatically disarms a trap or grants advantage to a roll. Compare to Kat, who gets +5 to trap disarm rolls. Granted, Traps in Ravenloft and ToEE work very differently, but the two powers are simply not compatible.

Looking at the power cards themselves, the Cleric’s powers seem just slightly weaker, though Warhammer itself isn’t bad.

For the Fighter, Battleaxe is pretty weak- the Fighter has plenty of at-wills that hit at +8 instead of +6, and Sure Strike is likewise better than Dagger. The utilities are all pretty good- some of the stances from Drizzt are a bit better, but simplicity has its upsides too. All the Dailies are generally worthwhile.

For the Wizard, Shocking Grasp isn’t bad, but Ravenloft’s Thunderwave is probably better most of the time, and it’s much better than Poison Spray. Disintegrate is a pure DPS power that lots of Wizards will probably want.

For the Ranger, Longbow is a straight +2 to hit vs. Cattie-Brie’s Taulmaril, and Scimitars is rather better than her Khazid’hea. (Cattie-Brie is terrible for a number of reasons.) Natural Explorer is quite strong- disarming a trap or giving an extra move. There are a number of daily powers that are straight up better than Cattie-Brie’s stuff: Volley is strictly better than Clustered Shot, and Colossus Slayer is strictly better than Point Blank shot AND Head Shot.

Lastly, for the Rogue, Reliable Talent is just really, really good-too good, since it does not expend itself. Ratshadow’s Shortsword and Shortbow are both pretty terrible, compared to other Rogue at-wills. Sneaky is far worse than Stealth (passing a monster on, rather than discarding it), and Use Magic Device is terrible, throwing away a treasure to do a damage to someone else. Other than Deadly Assault, her Daily’s are pretty bad too. In a vacuum, Ratshadow is probably balanced against the other Rogues, but if the cards are mixed together, most of her cards are not worth taking.

Conclusion

Most of the components, taken individually, are pretty bland.  What makes the box work is the campaign mechanics, but if your group is like mine, we blew through the last few scenarios without spending a single healing surge.  Some mechanics of interest are developed- I quite like the trap tiles, even though it’s such a departure I won’t be able to use them in the gestalt set.  The highest impact cards are some of the treasures, the Dragon boss.  Getting a new Ranger, Cleric, and Wizard is also nice for variety.  When I update the Gestalt set, there will be less elements (pun not intended) from this set than other sets, but that’s okay.  It works as a coherent whole.