Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dungeon Twister: Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

I do a lot of Dungeon Twister demos locally. Sometimes, it's formal - I'll make arrangements with a local game store, and I'll show up with my game, and teach people to play for four or five hours. Sometimes this is in conjunction with a tournament. Other times, I'll be going to a game store to shop or hang out, and someone will point me out as "that Dungeon Twister Guy." Or someone will ask me if I know of a good game.

Either way, I've seen a lot of rookie mistakes in the five and more years I've been playing and teaching this game. Here are the ones I see the most, and a few tips on how to avoid them.  Most of these tips are tailored for the original Base Set, but some of them cover Prison, as well.

There are exceptions to every single one of these guidelines. There are (as ever) extremely good players (including at least one World Champion) who vehemently disagree with my analysis on one or more of these points. Take what I say here with a grain or two of salt.

Trolls on the Starting Line
I like having diversity on my starting line, so I can react to what my opponent has placed in my front two rooms. That means I want at least one Hitter and at least one Runner. I also want to be able to conserve my AP - especially early in the game, where my card choice is restricted.

If you put a Troll on the starting line, he's too slow to reach the fight. You're better off using the Warrior as your starting line Hitter. He's just fast enough to be able to get in the way for 1-2 AP most of the time.

Clerics in the Maze
I nearly always put my Cleric on my starting line. If I put him in the maze, I'll put him in one of my front two rooms. The reasoning for this is simple: If I lose my Cleric, I lose the ability to heal. If my opponent reveals the Cleric, they'll probably be able to thump him before I can move him to safety. So I always want my Cleric in a room where I get to reveal him.

Spending Your Last Action To Reveal A Room
Christophe Boelinger used to beat me because I'd spend an action to reveal a room only to be unable to respond to what I found in that room - even if I placed it well, I wouldn't be able to take advantage of that placement. The primary exception to this is if your opponent is in a position to reveal that same room - it's nearly always better to reveal rooms yourself so that you have some control over its contents.

Forgetting That the Wizard Can Fly
This is an issue both on offense and on defense.  I can't block your Wizard just by standing in front of him. Similarly, I need to remember that my Wizard can fly past you, too. Someone who forgets this on offense will probably forget it on defense, too.

Attacking a Troll
If you attack my Troll, then I get to spend one Action next turn to stand him back up. If you win. Even if you gang up on him, as soon as you wound him on your turn, he's safe until the next turn, which is mine. I don't throw a combat card greater than +0 when my Troll is defending. This will use up your combat cards and we'll both waste one action - you to attack, me to regenerate. It's no gain to you, long-term.

Starting Fights You Aren't Willing to Win
A shorter way to say this is "Don't bluff with combat." If it will take the +6 to win a combat, don't initiate that combat unless you are going to play your +5 or +6. If I attack your Cleric, it's not because I'm trying to burn your combat cards (unless I'm starting a fight I know I can't win). It's because I want to wound your Cleric. And then kill him next turn.

Leaving Enemy Wounded On The Board
Just kill them. Really.  Their Strength is a zero, so you should be able to kill them fairly easily. And it's a victory point that you need to win the game.  If you leave enemy wounded lying around, you give your opponent a chance to get a Cleric there to heal them.  Or someone else there to carry the wounded character off the board, costing you your chance to kill them (and gain that point).

Rotating Rooms to Set Up Future Turns
It's silly to try to set up future turns by rotating rooms. Especially if your opponent has any character on a Rotation Gear that controls it - this goes double if it's the Mechanork. You should only rotate rooms for two reasons. Either you need the room turned so you can take advantage of the rotation right now or turning the room will make things more difficult for your opponent. Any other reason for turning the room is a waste of AP.

Relying on Items
This is an easy trap to fall into. That Fireball Wand ... it's a Victory Point! So is that Treasure. But you can't guarantee that you'll be able to get your hands on either of them. You can tip the odds in your favor, but you never know what's in a room until you reveal it. You will never be sure you can get your hands on them, so basing your strategy on them is doubly silly. If my strategy is Victory through Fireball Wand and Treasure and I never get my hands on ether one of them ... well ... my odds are looking pretty bad.

Giving the Treasure to the Goblin
It's predictable at this point. Rookies always seem to try to get the Treasure to their Goblin for a quick three.points. It's really good - if you can do it. But if I have a choice between running the Goblin out this turn or grabbing the treasure and running out next turn, well ... I'm going to look long and hard at where my opponent is on the board. Can he kill my Goblin with 5 Actions? Can he turn a room, blocking my escape? How many extra actions will it take me to grab the treasure and get out? Would those actions be better spent putting a Hit on one of my opponent's characters?

Escaping Before It's Time
My Thief isn't just a victory point waiting to escape. She's a toolbox that is used for helping other characters escape.  Even though she's fast enough to get out in two or fewer turns (most of the time), I very rarely escape her until she is my 4th or 5th Victory Point.

The thing to remember with escaping is that every character who escapes is one fewer option I have on the board. I'll run my Goblin off as soon as I can. His Strength of 1 isn't significant in Group Combat - not enough to be worth the extra AP to get him to the scene, at any rate. The Wall-Walker is similar to me - she has other uses, but her best use most of the time is getting off of the map. The rest of them usually stick around long enough to be useful. Warriors and Trolls pick fights. The Thief clears the path for the Wall-Walker and Goblin. The Wizard - once he's used his Fireball Wand - should run for the border, too.

Now these aren't - by any means - all of the rookie mistakes people make.  But they're the most common. And (as I said at the beginning), all of them have exceptions. Avoiding these mistakes will improve your play almost immediately, however, and will make you a more competitive player.

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