Yesterday I had my second game of „Of Dreams and Shadows“, and this time with four players (my first impressions you can read about here). Frankly spoken, we ended up having our asses handed to us. One of us had played the game for the first time and (quote) „I do not have to play that again“. In the aftermath, we discussed a little about the game, what might have mistakes of ours during it and about possible house rules. This is what this blog post will be all about.
After we had explained the rules to our friend who had not played the game yet (I had played it once, the others about three times) we discussed the champions we would like to use to form our party. We ignored anything but might, agility, the “spirit-touched” (aka “magic-user”) trait and the other special skills, as we felt that we would have no control about who would run into what event (and thereby: who should use what skill) and ended up with Selene, Hadrian, Freya and Bron (which was my champion). Our plan was to move in pairs, so that each fighter was supported by one magic-user (Freya & Selene; Hadrian & Bron). The fighter would take the blows (unless the rules of the encountered monster said otherwise) and the Spirit-Touched would assist in dealing damage. As always, our aim during the first part of the game was to get equipment, allies, spells and tokens so that we would stand a chance against the nemesis, Arawn and his undead, in the second part.
During the first round, we did well, but it all went south quickly. While Freya was able to gain enough coin to buy a Claymore, Hadrian and Bron faced some “tough luck”, both in battle and during the encounters. “The Hand” did not offered many useful (or: “acquire-able”) things to us and we needed to skip/exchange some of the “items”. In the meanwhile, we were overrun by monsters that spawned, some reached the capitals (which drained our willpower), others made us pay a high toll in blood to stop them (life-loss). At the end of the first part of the game, Hadrian was “heavily wounded & low on moral” (the latter was true in regard to his player as well) while Bron had gained nothing but wounds, willpower loss and “Madness” (affliction) during the first part. Selene was doing “alright”, but all in all we did not felt that we would have the resources to deal with the board situation AND the nemesis, so we called it a loss and had a look at what has happened there.
Choices we made that might have been wrong
We all agreed that it was the wrong choice to use two spirit-touched champions in a four player game and that our strategy of “moving in pairs” would not work in that set-up. It had worked very well during a three-player-game, where a “fighter/mage-pair” moved across the map to deal with monsters while the third character tried to gather tokens, gold and items. In a four player game there were more monsters and our strategy was part of the reason that we had been overrun.
At that evening, it seemed to us that one magic-user must be enough (so that useful spells would not have to be shared) while three fighters seemed necessary. While writing this blog post, I think that it might be wise to have two fighters, one magic-user and one character with a high persuasion skill. The fighters would deal with the monsters and try to buy weapons and armor, the magic-user would seek to assist them where needed and try take any useful spell from “the Hand” that was offered while the Persuasion-character would hopefully be able to rally some allies in order to become more powerful. The Persuasion-Champion and the Magic-User would thereby roam over the board (and try to snatch tokens while doing so) and only attack monsters as “targets of opportunity” while the fighters would move alone (not in pairs) to slay monsters.
Thoughts about house rules
We had discussed some possible house rules, and the following are our shared ideas.
1) Regaining Willpower through Rest
In general, we feel that it is to hard to regain willpower. Willpower is needed to negate “bad luck while rolling the dice” AND it is an alternate “life point track” (as a zero indicates a defeated hero and a LOT of events and monsters rob the champions of willpower). Thereby, most of us felt that resting should have the champions regain one point of willpower in addition to the life points.
2) Four Actions instead of Three
That was a suggestion that was debated at the table. It would for sure help in recovering from lost battles and bad events, but -might- unbalance those elements of the game that rely on monster-movement as a thread to the players. But it might work out.
3) Weaker Monsters at the Start of the Game
Monsters often spawn randomly throughout the course of of the game, and some of them are “heavy hitters” that can stop the champions dead in their tracks when they have to be dealt with early on. One idea thereby was to lower both the attack and defense stats of the monsters during the first part of the game, by (-1) or (-2), so that the champions would have a better chance against them. While I write this, I think it might be a nice touch to limit this “early game penalty” to those monsters who do -not- match the nemesis of the game. After all, its the minions of the nemesis that should be the central threat of the story, shouldn´t they?
These are my thoughts (and those of my friends) so far, feel free to leave a comment.