Monday, August 15, 2016

Eye Spy(der) - Kingdom Death Spidiculese Review

A review of Kingdom Death's resident spider with a foot-wide footprint.


Materials
Hopefully pretty self-explanatory.

Miniatures
Well, it's a very cool, creepy, huge, spider-ish thing. I'd be upset to get one in resin or PVC just because of potential heat warping, but fortunately it's in HIPS, which is the perfect medium for such a kit.

The main (monster) model is extremely impractical. The legs get in the way all the time, since they're all over the
An example of how fights often get very difficult to position, especially
when it comes time to move the Spidicules and models are standing
on top of it or entangled in its tentacles.



place, and the hands will often block spaces you'd occupy. The worst part is, the model's blind spot, directly under the model, is cluttered with weird tentacle bits and hands. Exactly where you want your survivors is probably the hardest spot to get them.

It's like someone realized this, by having a counter for where the Spidicules goes, but it's just a spare base, so hardly the most elegant solution. I personally suspect that at some point in the design process, it had a normal body that survivors weren't intended to fit under and the legs were targets (exclusively, or in addition), but something in the rules changed this. I hope so, at least, since, like I said, it's really impractical- we more often than not left the Spidicules to the side once combat had started more seriously, and just used it to indicate facing, while the empty base was what we fought.

Many were packed with incorrect legs. I cut mine until they fit, but am an experienced modeler. These have been replaced if you send in a request, and new kits will have extras included. Also, another strike against KD for their complete lack of instructions, still, at the time of writing.

The Spiderlings are all identical models (not even some mirrored), which I felt was a little odd since it wasn't just 6 duplicated sprues but one sprue with 6. That said, I can see the practicality in them all having the same parts, for assembly sanity (speaking of which, it's a little tricky, but if you dry fit them, it's not very hard to build them, assembly-line style). Also, they're pretty charming, in an ugly sort of way. Also, they're fun to stack or put on stuff, since they've got a wide footprint so are well balanced.

The Silk armor is pretty nice, I like the aesthetic quite a bit, and the parts fit well. Some of the bits are delicate, and one broke in shipping. I don't think the style particularly fits the more core survivors aesthetic of hodgepodge gear, but I still like them a lot since they've got a fashionable swagger/style that I think fits more elite models. Bonus points that the women's armor sets don't have ridiculous cleavage or anything, like many in the line do.

I don't know why the halberds are all facing backwards- is this some weird style of fighting I'm not familiar with, or did they just get digitally built incorrectly? (Seriously, if you happen to know why, please LMK.)

Paper Components/Quality
I really like the illustrations in this one.

The rule book is the same quality printing as the other expansions, meaning decent but not up to par with the standard set of the core rule book. As with most of the expansions, it comes with a lavishly illustrated intro story on par with the First Story rather than the other, single-spread, core monster introductions. As with most of the expansions, it also was clearly rushed compared to the core game and has more typos etc., and as with all of the game, I think it could have benefited from a dedicated editor/proof-reader, since there are some wince-worthy instances, such as using "less" and "fewer" interchangeably.

The kit comes with some terrain, of the same quality as the core terrain. I think that a printed object would have been a better solution to the "shadow" marker, but don't remember if something like that would have fit on the sheet.

Storage
Not to assume anything of my readers, in case you haven't gotten any expansions, all major expansions come in basic brown cardboard boxes with KD stickers on the front and no storage method. While aesthetically nice enough, these probably wouldn't last very long, even if they can store whatever came in them. Even sleeved, the card content from the entire game and all expansions just barely fits in the core box (removing terrain, rules, and of course minis), so this isn't much of an issue, but worth noting.
Mechanics + Rules
This will have some light spoilers.

Combat
The Spidicules replaces the Antelope if you start with it (you could theoretically game it by "adding" it the same year, but I think gaming it like that is on par with various other loose interpretations and house rules, rather than the intention (IMHO adding it to a campaign if you get the expansion after you've begun)).

As a reminder, the Antelope is necessary for the vast majority of both Stone Circle and Barber Surgeon location gear, so, in addition to losing the Screaming Armor and a few weapons, you're losing access to many utility items.

The Spidicules is equivalent to the Antelope, in having a relatively punishing hunt, running all over the place, and having some extra resources available in the showdown. That's about it, though.

It has an enjoyable showdown, that's very unlike anything in the core, which is nice. It moves very quickly, and has some different tactics due to how it and its Spiderlings- a new class Minion class of monster that are essentially very primitive AI and easy to kill- if you played the Messenger of Humanity promo in beta, these are on par with those enemies. Like most monsters, there are definitely better and worse gear setups for fighting it. It's not super-exciting, but still different enough that I like it.

Gear
...But, the issue I have with it is that, unlike the Antelope, it isn't really a good alternative early fight, since you don't get equivalently good things from it. You do get some unusual weapons that use some nice mechanics. But, its armor is extremely demanding.

All of the pieces require four or more resources and/or a specific resource that there's only one of in the deck. Furthermore, (biggest spoiler-- one required element for the set requires beating a level 3 Spidicules). We went an entire settlement regularly fighting one and eventually gave up on getting the set due to the level restriction making it not worth it (since, like all higher levels, the risk increases by far more than the reward), just supplementing other builds with its more useful parts.

It actually feels like it's designed to be incorporated into other sets, since it's so difficult to complete, and has some fairly good abilities on its own, so, if this was the intent, I think it succeeded, but I don't agree with its timing as an early monster.

It has one bit of gear that's expensive and only really useful against high-level monsters, and you're almost certainly not getting several other pieces without fighting some level-2's. There's also some stuff that requires wounding it a lot, which would be very difficult against a level-1 since it simply doesn't have enough health. Its gear appears fairly specifically designed to take it down at higher levels.

What it amounts to is something closer to a Phoenix-level fight (and what I consider to be basically the defensive equivalent of Phoenix-level gear), usually wanting to fight a level-2, to get more than a few weapons and some armor out of it. For a monster you can start hunting in year 2, it's one that focuses on high-level fights.

Finally, it has a whole slew of particularly unpleasant (and sometimes automatic) events associated with it, that I find really counter-intuitive (or under-explained, if there's some reasoning that wasn't clear) and therefore kind of irritating.

Errata
Kind of strangely, the Spidicules also contains minor errata/clarifications that update some of the mechanics in the game, which interact most notably with the Spidicules (why it was included here), but haven't been included in the online FAQ/errata. This was useful info, but once again it frustrates me how poorly maintained Kingdom Death's site assets have been.
Final Thoughts
I don't think this is a great expansion- it's an interesting fight, and has some cool weapons, and a nice aesthetic, but I don't think it does its core job of replacing the Antelope, and has some annoying features (mechanics and model), and I think the monster model is a real pain to play with. I don't usually give specific quantified scores for this sort of thing, but this feels basically like B- material: there's nothing terrible, but it also isn't exciting.

I'd recommend the Gorm or Flower Knight as more interesting/enjoyable/influential early game options, and would say that this monster's best hunted as a mid-late game piece. I don't think it's something that should be avoided, but on a budget I'd certainly get others first.