Not much to think strategy-wise for the Sorcerer King for the first week: Since he starts far away in the lower left corner of the map, Lord Alric is sent to the only destination he can go in the beginning, the Bitter Downs. The heroes on the other hand have plenty of options, and much to my surprise, they decide to move to Starfall Forest!
Why was I surprised by this? Well, I expected them to go to Thelsvan Highway first, trying to reach the great market of Riverwatch - I would consider this a strong opening move. Either they didn't think of this, or they have other, even better plans. Anyway, even though it's a green trail, they roll an encounter! Excellent! This would hopefully mean I could wound the heroes or even kill some of them even before they enter their first dungeon. Or best case, killing them all to set them back to Tamalir... only they meet the Alchemist instead, who sells potions for half price. Since they still have 25 gold left, they buy another healing potion (they've bought several power potions, healing potions and some fatigue potions already).
After collecting their one conquest token for reaching the area for the first time, of course the heroes decide to enter the dungeon. We draw...The Mine(11).
The Mine is a dungeon with a chest, a gold pile and four encounter markers. Every encounter marker can give the heroes 200 gold, cause 2 wounds or do nothing, depending on a die roll. As it turned out, the heroes got lucky and rolled gold three times, "nothing happens" one time, and no wounds. Yay.
Since I have sniper skeletons, I decided to populate the dungeon with the 5 skeletons, 2 razorwings and the sorcerer, plus one extra normal and one master skeleton thanks to my two bonus power cards. Here's a shot of the dungeon one turn later:
As you can see, I had placed the bulk of my minions in the room with the chest, as this was the most important location on the map. But since Geos (a master spider named after an ancient operating system...? ) starts at the end of the initial corridor, I decided to place two sniper skeletons and the sorcerer behind her. Her increased wounds and armor would hopefully make her last longer than one turn, allowing the sniper skeletons to pling away at the heroes from behind.
The heroes decided to deal with the spider first, which allowed me to spawn some ferrox in the side corridor attacking the heroes' flanks. Unfortunately we played both the spider and the ferrox wrong: Only after the session did I learn that web and bleed tokens are assigned if the monster hits before applying armor! As it was, the spider used her breath attack three times (I discarded a kobold swarm, a spider and a hell hound spawn card), but was unable to penetrate the tanks' high armor except for one wound on Sarina, and the ferrox did no damage too. If we had known the rules correctly, I could have all except Rin webbed, and at least three bleed tokens on Sarina and someone else (I forgot whom)...
Anyway, what mainly happened during the first few rounds was a lot of misses, both on the heroes' and the monster's side. The most extreme was that Rin made an attack with his bow, missed, smiled triumphantly because of his "Dead Eye" ability, rolled again...and missed again. Unbeliebable...
When the misses subsided, the heroes made short work of the monsters though. I saved the spider one turn with a crushing block, preventing Kenor from reaching her to deliver the killing blow, which allowed another (useless) breath attack and another volley of archers from the skeletons behind. All I accomplished was a couple of more wounds on Sarina though...so when I drew Dark Charm, I felt my time had come for my first kill!
I played Dark Charm on Kenor, who had the highest damage potential and was conveniently placed adjacent to the wounded Sarina. He rolled the black die...and yes!!! It came through! Now attack Sarina with all your might and KILL HER! Strike your friend with all your might, and GIVE ME THESE CONQUEST TOKENS! MUAHAHAHAHAHAAA!
What? You missed? Oh.
Ah well, so that didn't work. The heroes killed the spider and the rest of the monsters easily, and I was only able to cause some minor wounds but nothing critical - even though the master skeleton managed to make his undying roll three times. But overall, the heroes' command 2 and defender ability plus high armor were too much to overcome. Especially Vladijodeldu was annoying: He did 10-12 damage over range 5+ multiple times...scary!
They looted the chest, getting a Ring of Quickness for Sarina. That choice made sense: The ring provides her with one extra movement regardless of what she does, so now she can use her Unmovable skill more often. They also rolled gold thee times, and overall got approximately 1600 gold out of the dungeon. At the end of the dungeon, Rin returned to Tamalir to have a look at the market, and they drew Backbiter and the Crystal of Tival, buying both.
As they moved towards the rune door, they made one positioning mistake though - I was able to spawn a beastman war party in the side dungeon, and the master and one normal beastman were able to reach Rin, nearly killing him! The only thing that saved him was his shield, which cancelled the last, killing wound. Damn! One wound short of my first kill! Unfortunately, I suffered from severe sensual and informational overload at that time, flooded by all the rules, reading all the cards, discussing all ambiguities etc., and so I had overlooked one spot behind the crushing block obstacle from earlier where I could have placed the last beastman. That beastman then would have been able to reach Rin and kill him for good...ah well.
The end result of this dungeon was 5-0 CTs for the heroes, which was not good. I lost 4 CTs due to bad luck (the dark charm), 4 CTs due to the major tactical blunder when I didn't see the safe spot for the beastman to spawn in, and maybe another 4 CTs if we had played the bleed and web tokens correctly. At least I managed to get Evil Genius out, so we'll see if I can reverse the scoring in the next dungeon!
Lesson learned (from the "easier said than done" department): Don't let yourself be drowned by the information overflow!
The next dungeon level was the Anicent Library (10), a dungeon with several tables allowing for elevation (+1 range and +1 damage against non-elevated figures) and a population of weak spiders.
Against high-armored heroes, spiders are extremely weak. They are hard to maneuver with because of their size, and they stand no chance getting through the armor with their puny attack. The only nice thing they have is their web - but against three heroes with three melee dice, this is almost a non-issue. After careful consideration, I chose the 3 skeletons/naga combination accompanying the spiders. First, skeletons are supposed to be my main support monsters as the Skeleton King, and second, I could upgrade the naga to master with my Brilliant Commander power card, providing me command 1! So a skeleton on a table firing arrows against a hero on the floor would receive +2/+2, which should be quite nice.
To get to the exit portal, the heroes have to end their movement on an encounter marker for a 1-in-9 chance of opening the rune-locked door. I guess this was done to increase the time the heroes have to spend on this small level, and to increase the chance of at least some heroes standing on the floor so that the tables would actually help the monsters when attacking. Nice design in theory, useless in practice: On their first turn, the first hero moves onto the first encounter marker...and rolls the two surges, openening the door. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, I guess...
At least the skeletons managed to dish out some damage, thanks to the master naga and the tables - and to the fact that the goldpile isn't elevated. On the second turn I severely hurt Votoruju, who had to use the Crystal of Tival and a healing potion to stay alive. You can see him here on the northern gold pile:
And one turn later, finally!, I scored my first kill: A raging mad sage finished off Vurtojutu, after "preparing" him again with my skellies. My first 3 CTs, whohoo!
As expected, the bane spiders failed to accomplish anything except dying instantly, and the skeletons crumbled to dust quickly as well. Thorgrim advanced on the master naga and grappled her! Quite ironic, as she had grapple herself...but why would she want to grapple a hero, having a ranged attack? So they grappled each other, and I played aim on her, trying to make a dent into that pesky dwarf...no dice. That defender dwarf is reeeally annoying! The naga didn't survive the next turn, and that was that.
Vrareriroru rushed to the chest in the north, and the party rolled one treasure: The Staff of the Grave. What?!? I don't even have Krieg the Relentless out yet, and the party already has a weapon that ignores undying? What is it with my luck in this game? Ah well, nothing I couldn't deal with with a crushing blow once I have some green treachery. *sigh*
The upside of that chest though was that it was cursed, and Vjotudeldu now was a monkey. On his way to the portal, he managed to escape a spiked pit, but then the party made a mistake and forgot to cover one tile with their line of sight. One measly tile...enough for the mad sorcerer to return, and kill V-Man a second time for another 3 CT! Nice to know that not only the Overlord makes tactical blunders from time to time, but the heroes as well.
Not much else happened in that dungeon: The heroes opened the second chest, receiving another treasure (the Crystal of Tival again), and I drew some nice cards, saving for the next dungeon level: A skeleton patrol and a beastman war party, among others. Depending on the layout of the next level, this could get interesting... Overall, this dungeon ended quite quickly, mainly because the runedoor had been so easy to open. End result for this level: The heroes scored another 5 CT, and I made my first 6 CT.
As soon as I saw the level to come, I knew finally a real challenge awaited the heroes! The level was called "Stuck in the Middle" (30), and revolved around a bunch of webs and lots of skeletons ready to pierce the entangled heroes. Skeletons? Oh yesss, preciousss skeletonsss...
I chose the deep elves/dark priest monster option, as I thought the deep elves' shadowcloak ability would help nicely protecting my skeletons, and upgraded one of the elves to master. Hmm...pierce 4...yummy! What made the level even more dangerous is that I immediately spawned the beastman war party behind the skeletons guarding the chest, and of course refused to advance with my monsters and instead waited for the heroes, happily plinging away while they tried to locate the webs.
One of my players realized how dangerous this level would get, and actually suggested fleeing the dungeon. But after dominating the other two levels so easily, the party was confident they could win this dungeon as well, and stayed.
In hindsight, it might have really been better for them to flee - they were clearly leading the CT count at that point. But the prospect of being able to slay two dungeon bosses and gain double reward for each because this was the third level was too much a temptation, and so they decided to continue (why, oh why did I draw the only dungeon with two leaders on the last level?!? ). And I'm glad they did, because even though in the end I managed to catch up in CTs, it was a lot of fun for all of us!
The heroes advanced, got entangled and then shot at. Here you can see Sarina and Thorgrim webbed, while Kenor had found a safe path to the northern outcrop at least. At that point, they finally realized what the name of the dungeon meant...
(Note that what you can see in the top left corner of the picture is the new "eternal trap" prop from the upcoming "Descent: Sleepless Nights expansion... )
But before I managed to slay a hero, Kagus died first: After Thorgrim dealt with Kagus' guard in the south, Vrjtrtjr gulped a power potion and blasted him out of existence with his damn staff of the grave for 19 points of undying-ignoring damage. Bye bye first level-boss, and 4 CTs more for the heroes...
Then came my time, though. I paid 15 threat for the spawn counter and reinforced my skeletons with another skeleton patrol, and then Rin was the first to die, providing me with 5 CTs (he was cursed because of his Backbiter bow). Then, a wounded Sarina reached my monsters, and got overwhelmed by the deep elves and the master beastman: Another 4 CTs for the evil side! And shortly after that, I cycled through my deck for another 3 CTs. (That I managed to cycle through it only now even though I had Evil Genius out since the first dungeon shows how easily the heroes had dominated the two previous levels!)
But the heroes made progress too, and one by one my monsters bit the dust. Another opportunity presented itself though: Vratitijo stood in the southern corridor not too far away from the middle room, and I had another beastman war party on my hand. I had run out of threat though...but had a full hand of 8 cards, some of them very nice. The level was nearing its end anyway, so I quickly counted the threat I had plus the threat I would get for discarding all cards, and it came out at exactly 19, enough to turn the spawn counter and pay for the beastman war party! So I discarded my entire hand for that spawn. It was not easy to get rid of some very nice cards, but it was worth it: The beastmen shred Vratjajatja to pieces, beat him into a bloody pulp, ripped his heart out, ate him for lunch, er...I think you get the idea. In summary, I received another 4 CTs (thanks to the cursed Staff of the Grave).
Allina died next, the heroes activated the glyph and opened the treasure chest. Fortunately for me, they didn't roll a treasure this time, giving them an extra 1 CT as compensation. The level was clear now, I had nearly no threat or cards left, and the heroes discussed what to do next. They decided to stay for an extra turn in the dungeon so that the wounded party members could heal an extra turn in Tamalir's temple. One player objected, "what if the Overlord draws a dark charm though?", but they (reasonably) decided that the risk was minimal.
During that last turn, I drew...a dark charm. And an aim to boot. Remember my last dark charm, when Kenor missed? Not this time, my friends! This time I have an aim to prevent a miss, so VRAJOTORU, USE YOUR DAMNED STAFF OF THE GRAVE and send Sarina into oblivion! GIVE ME ANOTHER 4 CT, AND THIS TIME YOU WON'T MISS!!! MUAHAHAHAHAAA...
What? You rolled a blank? Oh.
What the (-CENSORED-)?!? Why doesn't my dark charm work...again? (Oh no! There must be a glitch in the matrix!) One of the few instant-kill cards, and I cannot use them properly it seems...
So the heroes healed another turn and then left the dungeon through the portal. But wait! If you thought I had enough bad luck for the first week, take heart and read on! After leaving the dungeon (to Tamalir), the party can visit the town, which of course they did. They decided to visit the tavern - you see, some of my players are reading the Descent internet forum as well (I'm mainly looking at you here, Phil and Bernd! ), and knew what rumour to search for. So why not make a first try on the first week?
Question: What exactly are the chances to draw The Twins from the complete deck of rumour cards?
Answer: For my heroes, 100%.
Oh yeah. They had 3 heroes in the tavern, and the first one already drew The Twins, the most hated rumours of all for any Overlord. I hadn't spent any XP yet (I didn't even have the chance!), and already I'm forced to buy Soul Ward and Phylactery next so that the heroes cannot take them away from me. Yay.
Luckily for me, the heroes made a major mistake though. They had forgotten to place one hero on the market and buy the item that would grant them two movement on the overland map, as they had previously intended! They had placed The Twins on the Gardens of Tarn, and with said item they would have been able to reach it in only one turn. That would have allowed me to buy only one of the upgrades; now I could buy both, which was a major relief. That's only fair though I guess, seeing what dumb luck they had.
But still, this ultra-early The Twins rumour sucked big time. Here's why: As most Overlords will tell you, the first thing you should do above all is to upgrade a monster category to silver. At the beginning of next week, I will have 24 XP to spend, not enough to upgrade any of the monster categories. (This may surprise you, but I'm not entirely sure yet whether to upgrade eldritch first, which seems natural, or humanoids, which will provide more a punch to get through the heroes' high armor. I only know that I won't start with beasts, though.) So that means for next week, it doesn't really matter that I'm forced to buy an avatar upgrade.
However, assuming that the heroes will do another dungeon next week (which they already have announced), I would have enough XP to upgrade monsters in week 3. Being forced to buy the second avatar upgrade then is a major PITA, because it means the heroes will be able to do yet another dungeon with copper monsters! You see, upgrading monsters normally results in a snowball effect: Tougher monsters result in more CTs for the Overlord and less for the heroes, allowing the Overlord to get more upgrades even earlier, resulting in even less CTs for the heroes, and so on. So being able to do another 3 dungeon levels with easier monsters and more chances to get treasure for free is huge. But I'm sure I'll find a way to deal with it.
Lesson learned (from the "wave at Sirian" department): Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good!
The heroes also bought the Tamalir market upgrade, and that ended our first week of the campaign with the heroes at 23CT and the Overlord at 23CT. If all upcoming weeks will end up becoming so exciting, I will have grey hair at the end of the campaign, that much I can tell you...