Friday, June 27, 2008

WoW Boardgame Session(s)

Laurent was the only person to make it over for our weekly Tuesday session this time out (I was subbing for Chris) and I thought it would be fun to play the World of Warcraft boardgame. Fantasy Flight has a more strategic game (if that can be imagined) coming out this summer (in theory), so I thought it would be fun to play this again. I have little experience with playing this with actual people - one session at GameStorm more than a year ago, a co-op game with Chuck and Dave at WBC West nearly two years ago, a game with six people at Matt's before I started playing online, and another game with Jesse just about the time I was playing (but before I'd spent any time in Loraedon, which comes up if you're playing Undead or Horde before level 30, but not for Alliance, which was my bag). 

As you can see, this was really the first time I'd played the game other than one solo session after the Burning Crusade expansion (for the boardgame) came out in a little while, and so I was interested as to how well it stood up for WoW players. It's kind of a mixed bag, which I'll describe below. 

My biggest mistake was not helping Laurent pick his powers on the first turn. We were playing with the Shadows of War expansion, which is a small box add-on that more or less doubles the character development options, adds a "Destiny" deck that adds timed special conditions, and also some Blue Quests to make fighting independent (non-quest) monsters more profitable, at least sometimes. I think that all of the additions add to the game and correct some class imbalances, but they do make picking your powers a bit more complicated as now instead of three first level powers you have five, and the corresponding talents (added as you ascend in levels) as well.

As such, Laurent wiped in both of his initial combats, essentially dropping him back a cycle. Like Formula De, this game is about efficiency and not wasting effort. Every time you wipe against an opponent, you lose at least four or five actions. The one you spent moving to fight the critter, the one you spent fighting the critter, the one you spend resting and getting your strength and energy back, and the one you spend getting where you were before all of this happened. That's two full turns out of fifteen each character has to work with, and it's a burden that's difficult to overcome if your opponent doesn't do so well. This is, frankly, one of the reasons I prefer the game solitaire. 

I, on the other hand, did quite well (or so I thought). I was a level ahead of Laurent with both characters for the bulk of the game, and felt I was a shoe-in to take down the boss with a turn to spare. Both of my characters dinged level 4 (the game goes to 5 without the BC expansion), and for most bosses that's a good level to fight them if you're dice totals are decent (and mine were). The problem was that my Shammy had enough energy for a single round of combat, with fewer dice in the second round and almost nothing from there on. 

When I went to take on the Overlord, in this case Ragnaros from the BC expansion, I learned that I really needed to be a little stronger. My Lock did alright, mostly because he had things that lowered threat, but I didn't get enough red or green hits and the 22 damage Ragnaros dealt was only lowered by 12. In the second round, I didn't do very well and wiped. I'd had a card that looked like it would help a lot until I realized you had to roll your opponent's attack value or less on a blue die, and with an eight sided die and an attack value of 22, that was unlikely even after medication. 

During this time, Laurent was slowly building up his forces and leveling, and after I'd wiped there really wasn't anything useful I could do. There were no local quests, no point in trying to take on Ragnaros again, so I sat for about three turns with little to do but regain strength. We ended the game with a PvP fight, one of the few I've ever done, and in the end we both forgot to use various bag items, and Laurent forgot to use one or two talents, and I ended up winning with each of my characters at a single health. 

The really interesting part should not have been a surprise, though, although it's not something I've dealt with much in the game because I don't play on a PvP server. When you fight other players, you may want to gear up differently. Red dice, for example, are your most valuable in normal combat because they prevent hits and cause them. In PvP, however, only the Green dice prevent hits and red dice are taken sequentially in such a way that you can have a huge advantage and still lose. Attrition points are almost useless, as armor removes them *and* one other hit from the Damage or Defense boxes. 

The other interesting element is that powers that are particularly useful in the online game are not so useful in the board game. Rogue powers are a good example. Vanish is vital to a soloing rogue online, as they can get out of very sticky situations and avoid a corpse walk, but it's not that helpful in the game if you've got the right dice (there's little chance of a mob running to pull in more mobs in the boardgame). Potions are helpful to a point, but against a massive boss that is going to inflict losses of more than half of your damage points in a round there just isn't much point (although if that saves the fight for you, great). 

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the game, just that I think it's more fun with four players if you've got four hours. I like the conferencing that goes on during downtime - "I'll go take out this Murloc, and you travel over to the Hinterlands and grab that boss from the Event deck." When it's just you, the planning is less interesting. We're hoping that Jesse and Iveta will come over and play in another month, as like the online game this is really a more interesting game when it's more social, at least when you play both factions. Solo, it's a puzzle game and also interesting, but with two it's lacking a little bit. 

One final note: the one solo session where I played the BC expansion seemed to go on for a very long time. I liked the dungeons, although they added considerable time to the game (I could usually play an entire game, from opening the box to having it put away, within two hours, but BC pushed that out to four). I had not gotten to Outlands at that point, so the extra critters and map were unfamiliar to me while the rest of the map and critters were. That made things a little odd. The game felt a little more compressed because there were more levels but not any more XP points to gain, so you barely got comfortable with new powers before you were training to get even more. I'll give it another try, but I'm loathe to ask people to play this game for six hours, which is what it would take. That and two extra tables. It's a lot of game.

No comments: