Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dungeon Twister Strategy: Putting It All Together

I'll start by picking a strategy - I choose to go with the Run, so I want to focus on maneuverability. Four "strategy match" characters (in this case, Runners), two Blockers and two Specialists.

I choose the Thief, the Elf Scout, the Pickpocket and the Prophet as my strategy match characters - they all move 5 or more, and the Prophet has the added bonuses of being able to orient rooms before I reveal them AND being a Magic User. For my Blockers, I'll choose the Troll and the Weapon Master. I'd choose the Undead Dragon, but I'm concerned about running into the Hit strategy, and a dead Dragon is 2 VP. A dead Troll is only one.

For Specialists, I'll include a Mekanork on general principle and a Wizard.

This way, I have eight characters - four theme matches, two Blockers, and two Specialists to support my team. Using the Prophet and the Mekanork gives me a great deal of control over the maze. The Wizard can fly, which enhances my mobility. It also gives me a second Magic User, so I may consider including some Scrolls in my item mix.

The next thing I want is Items. My party is combat-weak, with an average combat value of Pathetic. But I've got two Magic Users.

Given that I'm pursuing the Run, I'll start with at least one Rope. I'm also going to grab a Key - there's no telling what sort of rooms my opponent is going to challenge me with. I think I'll also take an Elven Shield so I can bypass the Falling Rocks squares (if any) which show up in the maze. The Seven-League Boots will allow a character to fly for ten squares, and it fits well with my strategy thus far.

I have two Magic Users, so a Scroll or two wouldn't hurt. Plus, my opponent wouldn't be able to use them without a Magic User - I think the Scroll of Flight would be overkill, but the Scroll of Inversion and Scroll of Confusion both appeal to me.

My only worry is having some of my items falling into my opponent's hands.

Now, to rooms. At some point, I'll be taking photos of the rooms so that I can show them off.

I don't want to give my opponent the chance to animate or create anything that helps him against me. This removes most of the rooms from Créatures Sylvestres, as they have Trees. It eliminates a couple of rooms from Forces of Darkness, as they have Tombs.

I have two Magic Users - it might be worth grabbing the Library room (part of Pair 16) from Fire and Water. The drawback is that the Anti-Magic room which is paired with the Libraries can make my Magic Users (and the Scrolls and the Elven Shield and the Seven League Boots) useless for at least part of the time.

The other two sets of rooms I'm looking at have the Fountain of Youth in them - with no Cleric, I'd like to make sure I can heal if necessary. The rooms I'm looking at are Pair 22 from Mercenaries, and Pair 28 from À feu et à sang. Both rooms have the Fountain of Youth I want. Both Fountains are in difficult positions - Pair 22 has it surrounded by remotely-triggered traps, and Pair 28 has it surrounded by Water.

Both rooms in Pair 22 have the Ultra-Gravity Holes, so no Flying will function in them. They're also covered with Remote Traps that I may not have control over.

Pair 28 is newer, so my opponent may be less familiar with them. They also have Chasms, Water and Small Bridges (which won't impact me, as I have low-Strength characters).

Any of the three pairs will work for me - For this group, I'll choose 16 and 28.

... and, with that, I've assembled a tournament force.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dungeon Twister Strategy: Narrowing It Down II

Continued from my previous post.

Step 4: Choose Items Which Reinforce Your Team
Items can be used in two ways: they can enhance the strengths of your team, or they can reinforce the weaknesses of your team. They can also define your character's roles a bit more specifically. There are also utility items which should not be neglected.

An Elf Scout with a Potion of Speed won't be in the maze for much longer - the potion enhances his strength. A Thief with a Shield is the equal of an unequipped Warrior, because the Shield shores up her weakness. A Troll with a Two-Handed Sword is a Hitter. A Troll with an Elven Shield is a Blocker. A rope will help any character in nearly any room in the game.

Some character/item combinations are just silly, however - the Stone Elemental, for example, should never be given a weapon (unless it's to keep it out of your opponent's hands).

Choose items which make sense given your character selection and strategy.

And that leads us to the final step:
Step 5: Choose Rooms
In a Free Choice environment, you will be selecting two pairs of rooms to bring to the table. Again - choose rooms which make sense. If you have the Elf Scout, the Elf Enchantress and the Elf Archer, then pick some of the rooms from Créatures Sylvestres which feature the secret passages or trees. If you have more than one flying character, then don't choose any rooms with the "gouffre d'ultra-gravité" squares. If you have a Cleric, you won't need Fountain of Youth. My contrast, if you DON'T have a Cleric, you may find that need somewhat more pressing.

If you know your opponent, you may also be able to choose rooms specifically to frustrate him (or her). Many of the rooms from Fire and Water are ideal for this.

Just remember: if it's easy for you to pass through, it's probably easy for your opponent as well.

So let's put this all together and drag out a tournament force.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dungeon Twister Strategy: Narrowing It Down

As I mentioned in my last post, you have a lot of narrowing down to pick your team - especially if you hurried out and bought the French sets, rather than waiting for the English releases.

So how do you narrow it down to the eight characters, six objects and two pairs of rooms you need for Free Choice Tournament Play?

There are four steps I follow when setting my force up:

Step 1: Determine Your Strategy
Will you be using the Hit, the Run, or a balanced strategy? You need to decide this early, as your core strategy impacts the other decisions you will need to make.

If you can't decide on a strategy, play a couple of games with your friends - use the characters and items from one set and the rooms from another. Figure out if you get more points from escaping the maze or from killing your opponents, and build your strategy accordingly. I don't suggest using the Mercenaries set of characters for this, as it's set up primarily to support the Hit.

Step Two: Determine Your Balance
Regardless of what strategy you're going with, you'll probably want a character or two who can support a different strategy. When I'm going for the Run, I'll still tend to include a couple of Hitters. You also need to balance your offense and defense - will you be including Blockers? What Specialists or support do you need?

My usual mix is four strategy match characters, together with two Blockers, and two Specialists. If I know my opponent, I may juggle that a bit. Against the Run, I tend to add more Blockers, for example.

Step 3: Determine Your Strong Characters
I don't use my Wall-Walker very effectively. For me, she's a weak character. Because of this I will almost never include her in a free choice team. By contrast, my Mekanork is one of my stronger characters - I'll use him in almost every team I assemble.

Know who your strong and weak characters are. Build your team to your strengths. I know that this is something that should be plainly obvious, but far too many people overlook it in favor of cool-looking or cool-sounding characters that they can't use effectively.

There are two more steps but - once again - this post is getting a bit long. I'll post those two steps (Choosing Items and Choosing Rooms) later.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dungeon Twister: General Character Strategies

As I mentioned the other day, I'm not quite ready for a "Multiple Uses" post on Mercenaries. I'm sorry. As part of my busy weekend, I plan to play a few games of Dungeon Twister, ideally including some of my French expansions.

There are two basic strategies when playing Dungeon Twister - Hit and Run. Players can also go for a more balanced strategy with a mixture of the other two strategies.

A strategy based on the Hit will score victory points by pounding the opponent's characters into pulp. It's all about the combat - forcing your opponent to fight you to get out, twisting rooms to minimize escape paths, and forcing Group Combat as much as possible. It requires careful use of your Combat Cards and you need to be able to move so that your characters have the edge in combat. I've also seen Hit Squads assembled, where a small group of characters patrols the maze, double-teaming any opposing characters they happen to find.

A strategy based on the Run will score its points by escaping the maze. It's all about choosing characters who can get around over and across obstacles, and the objects to support them. It requires characters who can get away from your opponent's hitters, as well - you'll want to make sure that any combat you engage in is Group Combat with your side having the superior numbers.

To support these strategies, there are four types of characters:

Hitters: Hitters are characters who will either have a high Strength or whose special abilities support other Hitters in some way. Good examples of Hitters are the Dragons and the Golem. Another character I consider a Hitter is the General - even though his Strength is only a two, his special ability makes other Hitters more effective.

Blockers: While Hitters can double as Blockers, the best Blockers have a special ability that allows you to slow down opposing characters in some way. The Troll is an excellent Blocker, for example - they can knock the Troll down, but it'll just get back up again. Other key blockers include the Illusionist, the Courtesan, the Living Trap, and the Stone Elemental.

Runners: Runners are characters who can either get through obstacles or whose special abilities can enable others to get through obstacles. They also tend to be faster characters. The Thief is the first (and most obvious) runner. The Acrobat and the Elf Scout are both excellent runners, as are any Flying characters. The Druid's ability with the climbing vines puts him into the Runner category, as well.

Specialists: A specialist is a character whose abilities or stats don't put them in any of the other categories. Most Magic-Users, the Magophage, the Cleric and the Pickpocket are all examples of specialists.

It's possible for characters to fit into more than one category - the Troll, for example, can easily serve as a Hitter or as a Blocker.

It's also possible to use Hitters to support your Run strategy or Runners to support your Hit strategy - the Golem's ability to clear walls can make movement much faster and easier for your runners, for example. Runners can make excellent flankers to aid in Group Combat, as it's easier to get them into position.

Objects and nearby characters can also impact a character's classification. A Troll with a Sword is a Hitter. A Troll wearing Armor is probably a Blocker. A Warrior with an adjacent Cleric is probably a Blocker.

In Free Choice play, each player chooses eight characters, six objects and two pairs or rooms. This selection is your first strategic decision, and all three sets of decisions (characters, objects, and rooms) are tied together - if you're not bringing any Magic Users, then you won't need any Scrolls. Are you bringing a Cleric to trail your Hit Squad, or will you be relying on Fountains of Youth? If the latter, will you bring your own or hope that your opponent does?

If you have all the English releases so far, you have 24 different characters, 191 different items (plus duplicate ropes and keys), and 16 different pairs of rooms. In France, they have 48 different characters, 332 different items, and 32 different pairs of rooms.

So how do you narrow it down? This post is getting a bit long, so I'll go over that later this week.

1 This number includes the two-handed sword held by the Statue
2 This number includes the Grail from À Feu et à Sang (Likely English title: The Fire and the Blood)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Coming Soon: General Dungeon Twister Character Strategies

I know you are expecting my Mercenaries character overview this weekend.

Sadly, I will be disappointing you on that front - see, I hit a bit of a snag:

Every character in Mercenaries is completely straightforward.

I know there are alternate strategies for them somewhere. I know there are ways to use these characters in new and interesting ways. I just haven't found them, yet.

See, when Chris sits down to design another DT expansion, he looks for a rules-based theme on which to build the expansion. Forces of Darkness, for example, is all about dealing with wounded characters.

Mercenaries is about effective use of combat and combat cards. This means that the special ability focus of the characters is combat, which tends to be pretty straightforward.

Instead, I will be posting something different this weekend - a general overview of team selection strategy for free play. I'll break down the basic strategies of the game, the four basic character types (in my opinion), and discuss how item selection can impact (or be impacted by) your strategy.

The post will probably be late - this weekend promises to be strangely busy - but I should have it up no later than Monday evening.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Dungeon Twister Characters: Multiple Uses Part III (Forces of Darkness)

I'm going to preface this with the same warning I used last two times: What I'm about to say is my analysis. There are players who are better than I who will disagree with every word I type. There are also players who can regularly trounce me who will agree with every word I type. Your mileage may vary.

This is my third entry on Dungeon Twister Character Strategy, and will cover Forces of Darkness. I'm proceeding in the order of English-Language release, because the bulk of you who read this aren't French and don't read French. I'll get Mercenaries up next week, and will TRY to get Fire and Water up without too much of a delay.

As ever, please feel free to let me know what you think.


Base Set Average Movement: 3.62
Base Set Average Strength: 2.00

Forces of Darkness Average Movement: 4.1
Forces of Darkness Average Strength: 2.1

Christophe told me a while ago that every set has a rules-related theme around which it's built. Forces of Darkness is all about wounded characters and how to deal with them.

Angel of Light: For the most part, she's pretty straightforward. The fact that she flies supports a runner strategy very well - and she's fast, too. Her ability to illuminate Darkness makes it possible to move through some otherwise impassible rooms.

I've also seen her used as an Undead-Killer - Give her the Holy Cross, and have her fly over an opposing undead character. If they're not carrying anything, you can drop the cross on them as you fly past. Since six of the eight basic characters in this set are undead, this is a powerful strategy in standalone play (to counter it, make sure your undead characters are carrying an item). I'll usually use the Angel as one of my starting four, and place the Holy Cross in the room directly in front of her.

The Pickpocket (From Paladins and Dragons) can work well as suport for the Cross-Bomb strategy - but there may not be enough undead on the opposing force to make it worthwhile.

Undead Dragon: Much like the Troll from the basic set, the Undead Dragon makes an excellent Living Wall. Just make sure he's carrying something to protect him from the Cross-Bombs (torches are readily available in this set). Two VP is a lot to give up that easily.

Ghoul: The first character to reflect the set's theme. The Ghoul can carry your opponent's wounded characters as well as your own. He can be used to counter a living wall strategy, or to temporarily deprive your opponent of an exceptionally powerful character (characters being carried by the Ghoul can't Regenerate, for example). AND he can carry that character off of the board for 1 VP.

But you don't have to run off the board with the Ghoul. There are still Traps and Chasms - if you leave a rope on a trap, you can sprint the Ghoul across that space. Drop the opposing character and pick up the rope - one more VP for you without giving up your Ghoul. The Ghoul is fast enough to get in and get out quickly.

I will frequently use the Ghoul in free-choice play.

Mummy: There are a lot of Math People on the Geek. I'm totally cool with that, because they keep trying to break down charactaers into values. The Mummy tends to be rated fairly low, despite his above-average movement AND combat scores.

The key to the Mummy is to hold him back for Group Combat against multiple foes. This makes it less likely that you'll be forced to throw your +0 card (although a combat value of 4 often means you won't need much more).

In Free Choice play, the Pickpocket (from Paladins and Dragons) can defend the Mummy from having to do throw your +0 - you only need to steal one torch!

I did see one player give his Mummy a Torch before sending it out to hunt his opponent's Mummy. I laughed for a good long time about that one ...

Necromancer: I've seen a LOT of people use the Necromancer only to raise Zombies from graves. This is silly - the Necromancer is one more way to deal with a Living Wall strategy, for example. First you knock the Undead Dragon down, then you turn him into a Zombie. The Necromancer excels at depriving your opponent of useful characters (once you've wounded them). True, you don't get a VP for killing them or carrying them off the board, but you've deprived your opponent of one character while adding another to your side - one that you can move off of the board for 1 VP. Eventually.

Zombies are Token Characters - see the general rules clarifications page for general Token Character information. Otherwise, just remember that Zombies are characters with no special abilities.

Shadow: I have to admit - Darkness Squares annoy me. I'm unfond of the Shadow, in general. The rulebook has an example that covers the extent of my Shadow knowledge - you can use him as a surprise ambusher to trigger Group Combat instead of a one-on-one.

[EDIT: My Wife reminds me that the Shadow can use the Ring of Light to illuminate Darkness creating a path for other characters. He can also retrieve items which are placed in Darkess when a room is revealed.]

I suspect that there is a great deal of Shadow-related strategy that I'm overlooking, and I VERY much hope that someone can fill me in ...

Specter: This is the character who triggered these entries. Everything I said previously about the Ghost applies to the Specter (except for the bit about easily escaping). The Specter's "special ability" makes it very unlikely that she will escape the maze. But she can function like a one-shot Necromancer to deprive your opponent of a useful character or to stop a Living Wall. She's more powerful than the Necromancer in that stealing a body maintains the special abilities of that body - can you imagine controlling two Undead Dragons?

And yes - you can steal your opponent's Specter with your Specter.

Vampire: If you're running a Hitter strategy (victory through elimination of opposing characters), the Vampire can become quite powerful. Early on, use the Vampire as part of a Hit Squad, and just Group Combat enemy characters. Later, the Vampire can hit on his own.

His ability to turn to a Bat makes him extremely useful for getting across a series of obstacles so he can turn rooms for your non-Flying characters. [EDIT: My wife, again, points out that by turning into the Bat, he can also fly across the Holy Cross if it's blocking a critical hallway]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One-Note Symphonies

I know that my last few posts have all been Dungeon Twister-related, and not all of you play or are interested.

It won't be this way, forever. I've only got a few more expansions to get through character-wise, and then I'll start talking about other games, again. I promise.