On the seventh game week, Sir Alric moved on to Moonglow Marsh, and I bought a point in trap treachery (more fun! ). The hero party finally left Dawnsmoor, moved to the Bitter Downs on their way to Olmric's hut, and explored the dungeons which had the Dust to Dust rumor on the lowest level. This will become interesting: Heroes with new skills and dice will fight new silver eldritch monsters boosted by new event and trap treachery! I shuffled in Poltergeist and another Dark Charm into my deck.
As luck (or RtL's bias towards eldritch monsters in dungeons...) would have it, the first dungeon level we drew was one especially designed for skeleton snipers: King of the Mountain.
The two ogres of course were laughable, and only served as a (very) temporary meat shield for the king and his skeleton guard. But shooting elevated at the heroes through obstacles from afar with my new silver toys, only to move into cover behind the corner immediately thereafter, was fun! Well, for me at least.
The skellies managed to bring Rin down to 1 wounds (and 2 fatigue, which he can use to cancel wounds) on the first turn. With a little bit of luck, I could have killed a hero on the first turn already - I'm already loving silver skeletons! He retreated to the glyph immediately to return to town and heal the following turn, but I managed to find four tiles not covered with line of sight, and spawned two hell hounds. I loathe hell hounds normally and consider them to be the worst monster on copper level, but here I didn't have any alternative - it was my second turn on the first level, and so this was the only spawn card I had. But it might be enough for low-armored Rin (4 against ranged/magic attacks)... The first one moved, breathed, and brought Rin down to his last wound - but still alive. The problem then was that V-man was guarding, and the second hell hound had to move through his line of sight to reach Rin. V-man fired his Staff of the Grave, and easily rolled enough damage to kill the hell hound. But I also had a dodge card on my hand! With their low number of wounds, the only thing that would be able to save the hell hound was a miss, a 1 in 6 chance. Not great, but hey! The potential reward of a dead hero was definitely worth the risk! So I played the dodge, V-man re-rolled, and...missed! Sometimes it's better to be lucky and good. The hell hound didn't miss, and then Rin was dead - 4 CTs for me.
This event as a whole serves as a typical example for this whole session. I really have to say both sides managed to play their "A" Game that evening - only very few minor mistakes were made, and complex tactical situations were approached in original and unusal ways. What shifted the balance slightly towards the Overlord this time was a huge amount of bad luck on the hero player's part. Although I would argue that in this case, bad luck had been kind of forced upon them by the dodge, what followed was an unbelievable amount of missed attacks and monsters at 1 wound left and no more fatigue to spend. It wasn't easy being on the good side this time! But as we all know, Road to Legend is a see-saw game: Both luck and success swing like a pendulum from one side to the other. I had my share of bad luck already in a previous session, now it was the heroes' turn, and they got hit by it real hard!
After Rin was dead, the heroes rushed to the skeletons and drove them away from the high ground. While the skeletons retreated, they fell one by one until only the king itself remained, in the end hiding on the chest behind the obstacles (which he could ignore when shooting) in the lower right corner of the map. He didn't last long in his hideout however, as Kenor advanced on him and smacked him out with his Mace of Aver, using its knockback ability to throw him through the obstacles out into the open where he was finished off by V-man's Staff of the Grave. Fun stuff, I have to admit! Ah well, I had suspected that his special undying rules were of no use as soon as I had drawn the dungeon - I really have to do something about that Staff of the Grave. As soon as the campaign will be silver, it has to be crushed by a blow so that it will be gone, once and forever! (I find it silly from a game-design perspective that such a major element as "undying" can be completely nullified via one item, and thus this element heavily depends on luck. If the heroes have the luck and find the Staff of the Grave early, they can ignore undying completely. If not, they are in for some frustrating moments...with no middle ground inbetween.)
Thorgrim remained on the center tile in order to open the runelocked door, when one turn before the door would open I drew Poltergeist, the card I had looked forward to use the most since the beginning of this campaign. This card can be so powerful and so much fun at the same time! You can do so many unusual things with it...and now, the first time I had drawn it, already the perfect opportunity had presented itself. With an evil grin I played the card, earning only puzzled expressions on the hero's side. I explained what it does, namely allowing me to move every figure and token on the map up to two tiles, and now am proud to showcase its three main strengths in one use of the card only:
So tell me: What's not to love about Poltergeist? One point of event treachery provides you with tons and tons of fun!
The rest of this dungeon was straightforward. I patiently prepared for the next level, the heroes opened the chest (only to find no treasure in it, collecting another CT as compensation), and Sarina managed to miss three times in a row trying to kill the hell hounds. When after four turns the runelocked door to the portal finally opened, I had collected all threat tokens available in the game. This dungeon level had been so cheap, the sorcerer king's ability increased my income so much, and the four turn delay for the heroes so long that actually had to discard two cards for no threat as there were no more tokens left. I still had not found Evil Genius or Trap Master, but otherwise was perfectly prepared for whatever level would come next!
The level we drew next was the first dungeon where the party's size of five actually removed the twist of that level - as can be seen by the name already, Two by Two.
The idea behind this dungeon obviously was that it forced the party to split up to be able to open the runelocked doors, and that the Overlord could use that opportunity to spawn whatever he wanted in the middle corridor, attacking either of the two groups. With five heroes, Thorgrim was able to act as Boggs the Rat and cover the long corridor with line of sight. Because of that, I had placed all my monsters behind the door near the master naga to await them - no use throwing away my good monsters!
The heroes unlocked the door, and positioned themselves behind the closed door to open it next turn and attack. I had moved my monsters out of sight to prevent Rin and V-man from shooting at them, and placed the important naga behind the skeletons to protect it. Also, the two dark priests (one a master, thanks to Brilliant Commander) were patiently waiting in the backlines, and I was really looking forward to use them.
Thorgrim opened the door, and ran to grapple the three leftmost monsters, the two master skeletons and the normal one. The other heroes followed, their idea being to use Kenor to taunt all the skeletons to attack him, basically negating their pierce with his ironskin, and V-man and Rin guarding to wait for the dark priests to come out.
Here, the heroes made one of their two mistakes that evening, although this was really hard to anticipate for them. Since the rightmost skeleton wasn't grappled, it simply moved out of the Taunt range and then shot at V-man, wasting his guard order. Now the tile where the skeleton had been could be used by the sorcerers to attack V-man and move back, and the Naga now had line of sight to him too - and V-man went down, scoring another 3 CTs for me.
Then it was the two dark priest's turn who happily attacked Kenor - and boy, are silver dark priests powerful! To say I was deeply impressed is an understatement. They nearly killed Kenor, leaving him standing with only one wound left! Very nice. When it was the hero's turn, Kenor immediately drank a healing potion and ran to the glyph, but I had my second Dark Charm ready and finished him off for another 4 CTs. My monsters then fell quickly to the heroes, and the chest provided them with two treasures - one the Crystal of Tival making yet another appearance. Since I had all available threat tokens again, I spawned a skeleton patrol and a sorcerer circle, and at least managed to use them to force the heroes to use the Crystal almost immediately after finding it. I also drew Evil Genius finally, and felt happy and well prepared for the unknown rumor level to come!
Unlike normal dungeon levels, "special" dungeon levels like the legendary areas or the rumors have multiple areas like in vanilla descent. The starting area of "Dust to Dust" is a corridor seven tiles long and 2 tiles wide, leading to a door, and that's it. Uh, whose idea was that? Can I smack the designer's head against the next wall, please? As one of the hero players rightly pointed out, I had to populate this starting "area" with two monsters, one of them master - both Hordes of Things and Brilliant Commander do not contain the word "may", but force you to place two extra monsters in every area and upgrade one to master. Oh great, just what I needed...so I placed a normal and a master skeleton right in front the heroes, who of course went first and slaughtered them for 50 gold and a free point of fatigue for some thanks to Sarina's Battle Cry. A really great start for the Overlord...but it would get better dramatically in the next room.
The next room contained a good altar, a master deep elf (yummy!), a master sorcerer and most importantly a master chaos beast! That is a rare sight indeed, and with armor 7 and 23 wounds it might serve as a nice deterrant to the heroes. I didnt't really expect it to last for one turn though, as the heroes had just too much firepower - but at least they would be busy and wouldn't be able to kill the other monsters in the room while bashing on the beast.
The heroes decided while their firepower might be impressive, it's not enough to get rid of the chaos beast quick enough. They drank power potions to make sure it would die on the first turn without a chance to attack! V-man went first, and chose to aim so that the power attack wouldn't fizzle. A wise decision, as he missed the first time and had to reroll, scoring 19 damage, 12 wounds coming through.
Next up was Thorgrim, who drank his power potion...and missed.
Last but not least, Kenor rushed in, drank his power potion and even scored a hit - only it was not enough, leaving the chaos beast at one wound and Kenor with no fatigue to add more power dice! Yay for the evil side, I actually could use it to attack!
When it was my turn, the chaos beast (using an aim of my own), the skeletons, the master beastman and the master deep elf with its fantastic pierce 4 overwhelmed Sarina and killed her for 4 CTs, even though she was wearing a plate mail by now and had armor 5. The heroes then offed the chaos beast and removed the master beastman, and when it was my turn again, Kenor taunted my skeletons to attack him, thus preventing 7 wounds from being made to other party members thanks to his ironskin. It nearly killed him though - he ended the turn with one wound left, and then died on his way to the glyph thanks to a crushing block for another 4 CTs for me.
Meanwhile, the "X" curse continued to harass the heroes, causing a lot of frustration. The master deep elf especially proved to be very hard to kill, as Thorgrim and Sarina together missed three times in a row before finally being able to land a deadly blow! It was amazing how long it took them to clear this room, and to delay them even further I spawned a normal and a master dark priest on the northern teleporter, with the help of a card I rarely find a use for: Gust of Wind. Here it was king, as it allowed the priests to appear and immediately close in on Vctsource, killing him for yet another 4 CTs. I don't need to mention the heroes had much problems getting rid of the priests afterwards, either missing or leaving them at one wound left...although to be fair, luck took revenge on me and the master dark priests rolled only 4 damage on his white,silver,silver,black,black,black dice on his next attack, failing to get through the hero's armor.
The heroes took so long to clear this room, that once again I had collected all available threat tokens, and also had finally Trap Master in play. With me swimming in threat and my hand full of spawn cards, the heroes opened the door, crossed the lava room and threw themselves into the final battle. Here's a shot from after the heroes had already entered the room and Thorgrim had managed to grapple some monsters, including the boss sorcerer:
With the fog and the pits, this room was great fun to fight in! Lots of opportunities for surprise spawns, but surprisingly I didn't manage to kill a hero here "normally". Although what saved some of their asses here was a misinterpretation of the rules. It was late at night, we were past the planned deadline by two hours already, and somehow we thought fog and corrupted terrain tokens would count as obstacles for playing crushing block. I had two of them on my hand and Trap Master out, but I discarded them both after we had discussed this and came to the conclusion it would be illegal to play them anywhere in this room. Of course we found out the next day that only boulder, rubble, crushing wall and water tiles count as obstacles for this purpose. But mistakes like this happen when all players are tired, I guess.
Another mistake the heroes made and which I chalked up to the time of night as well was that Rin opened the chest in the room while the party was still fighting, even though they knew I had a Curse of the Monkey God on my hand! I hadn't played it yet, but had already cycled through my deck, so it was clear I had it (and they had even talked about it before). Wham! A monkey appeared, and for a change it wasn't Vhappymage this time. .
The party made up for their mistake by positioning the grappling dwarf and the taunting Kenor very well to protect the monkey, but I managed to spawn a beastman war party nonetheless, the master in the large pit and the other two behind the fog. One of the normal beastmen would die to a guard order, so much was clear, but the other two would be able to attack the monkey. Would it be enough to kill him? Probably not, but much to Rin's dismay I had two aim cards on my hand, assuring me another 4 CTs before the heroes finally left the dungeon and succeeded in completing the rumor. Additionally, the chest gave them 3(!) treasures, somewhat making up for their bad luck with chests in previous dungeons. Once we reach silver level, I guess I will give you a breakdown on the hero's equipment, some of it already marked as a target for crushing blow to prevent some broken combos.
And thus ended Dust to Dust, increasing the temple rating of all cities by one at the cost of me overtaking the heroes in conquest tokens, but also with having played a very interesting and fun rumor dungeon! We are very close to silver level now, only a couple of CTs away from the 200 CT threshold (Overlord 95 - Heroes 93), so the heroes will move to Olmric's hut next turn to get their secret training for this level, and I have to think about how to spend my sudden riches.
Some very interesting options opened up for me this week. The hero party was at the Bitter Downs on their way to Olmric's Hut, and I knew they would want to remain two weeks there: One for secret training, and another one for buying the skills offered there. So...what if I bought the Transport Gem now, use it to teleport Alric to Greyhaven and let him siege it? If I also bought Siege Engines next turn to lower its defenses, I would get one chance to raze Greyhaven and thus take out the strongest hero skill in the game, Telekinesis, without the heroes being able to do anything if they didn't want to leave Olmric's Hut prematurely! And if they did, the campaign would change to silver before they would be able to return, thus giving me the chance to raze Olmric's hut via my special plot card...
I thought for very long about this, and in the end decided against it. It would cost me 23 XP for a 56% chance of razing the city, and then the heroes could be there to chase off Alric. Too many XPs for such a gamble...and to be honest, I didn't really want Telekinesis to be out of the game! This may sound strange, but I hope by seeing this broken skill in action, all will become convinced to house-rule it for our next campaign.
Instead, I opted to try out plan B. After collecting my weekly CT, the campaign was only 11 CTs away from becoming silver, and the party was only one trail away from my keep...so I bought Krieg the Relentless, moved him to the Bitter Downs and attacked the heroes! The idea was that if I and the heroes could somehow make 11 CTs together, I could deny the heroes their secret training for copper and the skills at Olmric's hut. For that to happen, I "only" had to kill two heroes for 7-8 CTs, and then let the heroes kill Krieg for 4 CTs...with his huge army of skeletons and my treachery, this seemed very much doable to me! The only slight risk was that I had to manage to play Crushing Blow on the Staff of the Grave, as I didn't want to lose Krieg permanently...
I fully expected my players to see through this, but I just had to try this! With a lucky map draw, everything would be possible. Alas, we drew the Swollen River, which has two narrow corridors leading to the two very near exits, a map not providing me with the room to maneuver as I had hoped for. Since the heroes would begin, I had to place my minions so far away so I wouldn't lose most of them during their turn, but that meant I couldn't block both exits. Well, let's see what the heroes would do. Would they be foolish enough to fight? I was secretly counting on their greed...
What happened is that the hero players sent me out of the room so they could discuss things without me being able to hear their planning. Er...what? It's not that I wouldn't see what they were doing anyway, as they would go before me! But they insisted I should leave, and so I did, staring at the kitchen walls for some boring minutes. Sometimes, some of the players take this game a wee bit too serious, methinks...
When I was finally allowed to come back, they had made the reasonable choice and fled, with Kenor and his taunt skill covering their retreat. In all honesty, I hadn't expected less from them, and at least I was able to play Crushing Blow on Kenor's Gauntlets of Power, removing one crucial part of many potential broken combos before the encounter ended.
At least Alric had reached Riverwatch this week, with enough time to siege that (rather unimportant) city while the heroes would milk Olmric for two weeks.
While the heroes received secret training and bought Rapid Fire for Rin, Quick Casting for V-Man and Cleaving for Thorgrim, Krieg slowly moved towards Riverwatch, which Alric was busy sieging. I bought a second point in trap treachery and Focused, removing the two Kobold Swarms, a Dodge and a Gust fo Wind from my deck. I knew I would never spawn kobolds, as I didn't intend to ever upgrade humanoids...
On the eleventh week, Krieg joined the sieging Alric at Riverwatch. With only a couple of CTs away from silver, the heroes decided to move to the Misty Plains and explore only the first level of the dungeon, so that they could then draw silver treasures as soon as possible - no reason to open more chests with copper treasures if you could find silver treasures in them, right? The last dungeon level we would play on copper level was...the Fountain of Life (14).
The Fountain of Life is a level full of bane spiders and a master beastman...uh, hooray?
As I had anticipated, the bane spiders were only marginal speed bumps - some of them had already died easily on the first turn.
To make matters worse, I wasn't used to Rapid Fire and Quick Casting yet, and lost the master naga to a rapid fired guard action before she was able to attack...and thus also lost the second command she provided. Damn, that had been an annoying mistake on my part! Chall I moved back to stand on the fountain itself. With Kenor's Mace of Aver and its knockback ability, the heroes would be able to kill him - but now they needed at least two attacks to do that. Kenor did some clever spending of fatigue and positioning, and with a battle action first knocked Chall away from the fountain, then another three spaces out of its protective range. Together with the glyph, the heroes had now already collected five CTs, only needing two more to enter silver level. So let's help them a bit, should I?
At least I got somewhat lucky with my card draw this time. That I drew Evil Genius was actually a bit frustrating, as I knew the heroes would leave the dungeon after that level anyway...but I also got a shiny new toy: Animate Weapons! Cackling gleefully, I ordered every hero to smack themselves for good measure. Nobody rolled a blank, but unfortunately Thorgrim and V-Man both missed their attacks, and the rest did only moderate damage on themselves (Sarina: 5, Rin: 2, Kenor: 6). Maybe the heroes do need silver weapons soon...
I also drew the black order, and both dark priests managed to bring down Thorgrim to one wound. Damn, one wound too much...and next turn, both dark priests missed (and then died). Hmpf. But my card draw luck continued, and next up was my dark charm, hooray! Kenor smacked the already wounded Sarina...who had only one wound left, too! But remembering Kenor's Mace of Aver, I knockbacked Sarina into a pit I had played some turns before, and she died, earning me 4 CTs.
That was enough for the campaign to become silver next week, so the heroes left.