Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Dungeon Saga: The Long Way Back Exclusive Quest Review
Mantic as part of their press outreach for the Dungeon Saga launch provided a exclusive quest to Tabletop Gaming. Now just because backers are waiting on like 19 quests still that we were supposed to get in physical form but instead are coming as digital downloads apparently did not stop Mantic from making some more quests including one for the upcoming Destiny of Kings, Kings of War supplement. I am going to review The Long Way Back quest here from the magazine. There are spoilers so if you think someone else might overlord this quest for you stop here. You have been warned.
The Heroes are hired by their co-adventuer Danor to recover a book of unknown power which is hidden in a secret lair accessible through a well in a Dark Forest. The heroes all start as their standard selves with no additional items at all except Danor has quite selection of spells, Break Ward, Crystalize, Burn, Feet of Stone, Steelskin, and Shield. It is a long mission with the overlord having a 22 card deck and being allowed the full 4 commands per turn. He has the core game full complement of skeletons and archers but only one revenant which is not available until later in the quest.
To win all the heroes have to recover the book and return to the dark forest entrance (Zone 1) before the time runs out. The overlord needs to prevent this or cripple a hero. The board is broken up into zones (1-6) each with its own text description. The first and second zones are considered on different levels but the well connects them and any model standing in the well square is adjacent to the surround squares on both levels. Similarly the 2 and third zones are separated by a stairwell with locked trap door which has models adjacent to squares on two floors. This is a nice addition to the game and might be interesting to consider as an option in a single zone in custom adventures. The mission also has a unique search rule that allows hero to search unlocked furniture by just moving next to it and not needing an action. Many pieces of furniture throughout the dungeon contain little goodies to help the heroes out.
Now a look at the maps.
Zone 1 in the dark forest is very lightly populated with enemies. You can see the well at the far end. The heroes start out facing sort of funny directions with the Ranger looking up and the fighter looking back away from the well.
Zone 2 is the first layer of the real dungeon and stinks of rotten flesh. I used my second well to mark the position of the entrance to make it clear. The cards near the barrels and table call out what is waiting at those locations. Again the level is pretty weakly populated with 1 skeleton warrior near the entrance, 2 piles of bones, a Ghost in the middle, and a skeleton archer near the trap door. The trap door position is marked with the locked double door on top of its squares.
Zone 3 takes you deeper into the Dungeon with the door there shown to mark the place where the two squares above meet this level. This is a small section with three doors down narrow passages going from right to left that are warded, locked, and unlocked respectively. The lonely zombie and pile of bones guard this section.
Zone 4 is behind the warded door on the far right side and is the alchemist's chamber. A single ghost and pile of bones defend some great rewards here with potions on the bookcases and a magical staff in the locked chest. The long single hallway and warded door pretty much makes it such that the wizard will be taking hits from this room unless he has a haste potion to get another move to back up after opening the door.
Zone 5 is behind the middle locked door is the armory and also contains great riches like Forgebreaker on the weapons rank and the runic breastplate in the locked chest for the hero who can best a single pile of bones and armored zombie. That sounds easy but in my run through my barbarian just could not get it done and was pinned in the door for while until a crystal enhanced burn brought down the zombie. This is another place where that haste potion from zone 2 would make it easier to move into to surround the armored zombie.
Zone 6 is behind the unlocked door on the left. It is a long room with 3 zombies near the back left with 2 piles of bones on the back right and the book of power on the lecturn near the throne all the way at the other end. Potions hide in the locked chest while if the heroes move next to the tomb a dwarf revenant rises up but he has to survive the free strike of the model searching the tomb. You can see him near the top of the zone standing on the tomb in the image.
Once the heroes have recovered the book they might think that they can just walk out but the halls become filled with ghostly laughter when a skeleton archer rise next to the trap door entrance in Zone 3 and next to the well entrance to zone 2. They have to defeat those to foes and any remaining minions as they flee the dungeon before the timer runs out.
While the levels are not densely populated the attrition on the heroes health can be significant especially if caught in one and one first verses the armored zombie or ghost. I failed the mission at the very end when the IO overlord drew a serious of interrupts in a row that allowed the Skeleton archer from Zone 3 to move into position and shoot Danor twice dropping him. I had plenty of potions of healing still so should not have left him so close to being crippled and exposed to attack own the archers appeared.
Overall it is not a bad adventure. I might if I was running it and thought the heroes knew which door led to the book, randomize the placement of the rooms behind the three doors. Just to mix up anyone who glanced at the adventure on the news stand. It does highlight one of the issues with Dungeon Saga as a campaign style game. This supposedly happens after the core game but the heroes are basic so not really. It also gives out treasures from the core game that are pretty good. Forgebreaker yields essentially a high level ability Smash!. So if your characters play this before the base game you have to take this stuff all away.
Critically the issues with the campaigns in the d6 system. You want to be able to advance heroes in small increments so they are always getting better but that is very hard in this mechanic. One point of armor or one combat die are huge improvements. Compared to a classic d20 system where a +1 sword is a slight buff a +1 combat die weapon drastically increases your chances of taking out minions. Even a d10 system would be better as it would allow more Armor modification where the Forgebreaker would not essentially triple your chances of killing a ghost.