Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sidetrack - Sentinels of the Multiverse

Back in 2011, the same time that Fantasy Flight brought out Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, a small company named Greater than Games brought out their first game, Sentinels of the Multiverse.  The game follows exploits of various superhero teams (Freedom Four/Five, Prime Wardens, Dark Watch) as they fight the villains of their world and beyond.

If I explain this game to someone who already knows LOTR, I call it LOTR lite.  It's similar, but simpler at the same time, and this simplicity has its advantages as well as its own drawbacks.  Where as in LOTR, you have to build a deck before coming to play, in Sentinels, each hero has their own deck which is used each time that hero is chosen.  The only customization available is through the promo versions of certain heroes, which allows for different starting abilities, but otherwise they play exactly the same.  Instead of an encounter deck, the players choose which villain they will face, and a location.  These two choices will have their own respective decks.  The locations are especially interesting, as certain locations are more friendly to the players than others.  One of my personal favorites is Silver Gulch, where the heroes and villain have found themselves sent back in time to the Old West, in the middle of a shootout!  The combinations of different villains and locations allows for replayability, but because the players have limited hero customization, certain characters are significantly more powerful than other based on who and where is involved in the fight.
Sentinels of the Multiverse has enjoyed significant success, with five expansions out to date, another due later this year, a handful of mini-expansions, and a spin-off game in Sentinels Tactics, a scenario-based miniatures game.
If you're interested in checking out Sentinels, I highly recommend Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game.  Developed by Handelabra Games, this implementation is loyal port of the card game onto your digital devices.  Currently, you can get the base game, a few of the mini-expansions, and the first expansion, Rook City.  Not only is it significantly cheaper than buying the physical version, the video game version takes care of a significant amount of the accounting required in the game.  In the card game, between passive effects, temporary effects, advanced rules, etc, it can be very difficult to catch all the effects that take place, even with all of the tokens included in the game.  The digital edition tracks all of that automatically, for a much smoother experience.
I'd be interested to see who has played this, and what your opinions are.  What's your favorite heroes?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Climbing the Ranks Playtest Episode 1

This is the first playtest of my custom quest, Climbing the Ranks.  Unfortunately, OCTGN disconnected, ending the play session early.  I'm going to try to record another session this week.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Treachery of Rhuduar

FFG has announced the fourth adventure pack in the Angmar Awakened cycle.  The Treachery of Rhudaur has the heroes leaving the troll-infested lands of Across the Ettenmoors, into the undead lands of Rhudaur.  
To really press the side quest mechanic, The Treachery of Rhudaur requires to run through the side quests specific to this adventure.  I can see this as a thematic way to search for your path through this ruined city.
 Also included in this AP is a new and powerful hero, Erestor.  We had previously seen Erestor in ally form, where he allowed you to discard a card to draw a new one.  In this case, he allows the player to draw extra cards at the beginning of the round, but at the cost of discarding all cards in hand.  Per Matt Newmann, this sounds like it will be a theme of the Noldor in this cycle, where cards are discarded for various effects, to represent the decline of their people.  I am very interested to see this effect come into play, as it works very well with Eowyn, as well as Protector of Lorien.  Bringing Erestor to a quest such as The Dunland Trap would be interesting, as many of the effects are regardless of how many cards you draw.  We will get a chance to see these cards in the third quarter of 2015.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Location Lock

Monday night, I spent entirely too much time watching The Grey Company's twitch stream.  After a loss to Nightmare Morgul Vale, Matthew and Dan began discussing various topics of the state of this game.  The one that stuck out to me was location lock.  For those that don't understand the term, this refers to the situation where, especially in multiplayer games, the staging area is filled with locations to the point where they cannot be cleared fast enough, which then leads to a slow loss due to threat gain each turn until threating out.
The first time I recall experiencing location lock was back in the days of the core set.  Here I was, with his brand new game, and four decks to choose from.  In hindsight, I almost wish there had been less cards in that core set, to the point where they had two starting decks, both dual sphere.  Just like the core rules mention ignoring shadow cards until comfortable with the game, I wish they had given us these decks, so I wouldn't, like so many, assume that each of the decks were equally viable.  I played Passage through Mirkwood with the starting Leadership cards, and beat it with no problem, even after foolishly not pulling Ungoliant's Spawn in quest stage 3, when that was the objective (I kept questing until I got him, and with that still won).
With that win under my belt, I tried again with tactics.  It's an often repeated story, but needless to say, it didn't go as well.  I had a tough decision each round to determine who to quest with.  If I quest with Gimli or Legolas, I'm losing combat power, but if I don't, I'm slowly losing ground in the staging area.  I believe I ended the quest with Old Forest Road still as the active location.  The staging area was filled with all manner of location, and no chance to get rid of them.
That all said, whose fault is it?  Was it my fault for playing a deck that wasn't crafted for that particular quest?  Was it the designer for not making a more accessible quest?  I tend to favor placing the blame on myself, but that has a lot to do with the experience I have with the game, and it could be very off-putting for someone brand new.  So, what do we do about this?  The easiest choice is to build to handle locations.  You put in your Northern Trackers, Asfaloth, Riddermark's Finest, etc, but you're still dependent on being able to pay for them, and pull them out of the 50 cards in your deck when you need them.  What could the game itself do to cushion the blow of location pile up.


My first thought was an alternative to the travel action.  Similar to how the upcoming valor action seems to be an improved version of another action, based on the player's threat.  My idea, which I'm calling detour, is an action taken during the travel phase which, instead of making the location active, shuffles the location back into the encounter deck.  For example, perhaps a location has Travel: Deal 1 damage to a hero, it could be paired with Detour: Deal 2 damage to a hero.  Perhaps detours can only be taken if there already is an active location, but the important thing is to give the player a way to temporarily avoid a location, but at a cost worse than travelling to a location, and buffering your questing.

Multiple Active Locations

In most cases, the players are limited to one active location.  In Assault on Osgiliath, Ruined Tower introduced the concept of having two active locations. Similarly, Foundations of Stone and Breaking of the Fellowship both had separate staging areas for each player, each with their own active locations.  This is used very limited, and I am of the opinion that it is good to continue to do so.  Thematically, it makes sense when you have separate staging areas for players, but otherwise, it falls apart.  Furthermore, I think it confuses things a bit when you have two or more buffers for the quest.

Power Reduction through Errata

One of the more drastic means of correcting such an issue is errata, which has been a tool used conservatively to this point, to which I am thankful.  At this point, the number of meaningful erratas is limited enough to remember, but if used more heavy haneded, it could be come hard to keep up with updates without updated cards.  That said, it's still a tool that can be used.  There is a term in many card games called Power Creep.  This is something that I believe could be it's own post, but for the sake of this one, I will keep it limited location control.  Certain cards require a boost in encounter card power.  One such example is Asfaloth.  When it came out, most 2 quest point locations were negligible.  Due to this, we saw many more 3+ quest point locations, or locations which were immune to player card effects.  I believe that if Asfaloth was limited to placing 1 progress token, even when attached to Glorfindel, it would require less power creep on the location side.  Further, it could be a Travel action, so it couldn't be done before resolving questing.  To counter this, it could cost one less to attach to Glorfindel.  Perhaps Northern Trackers and Lorien Guides could have a planning action instead of a response, where they are exhausted to add one progress to locations, so you don't gain their willpower to the quest.
What are your thoughts on the matter?  Is location lock an issue we should worry about, and if so, what ideas do you have to counter it?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Strange Eons Tutorial

In previous posts, I've shown custom cards that I have made.  In this entry, I show how I do it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Land of Shadow

Hot on the heals of Treason of Saruman, FFG has announced the fourth saga expansion, The Land of Shadows.  In this expansion, we return to Frodo's journey to destroy The One Ring.  We see our third version of Fellowship Frodo.  This version appears to be less interested in hiding and more up front action.  In addition, we see a new double-sided card.  Players will face the dual nature of Gollum/Smeagol, where they may be able to fight along side the friendly Smeagol, or have to fight off the vile Gollum.

Outside of our new version of Frodo, and his new fellowship card, no news is revealed regarding what other player cards will be.  There is a hint of new ranger cards.  A new Faramir, perhaps?  We can expect more news to come out over the months we have to wait, when this is released in the third quarter.