Monday, October 9, 2017

Pedomorphic Pachyderm - Kingdom Death Gorm Review

Who's a big boy? That's right! You're a big boy!

Time for a review of Kingdom Death's Gorm expansion.

(For consistency, I'll be trying to keep the format of these expansion reviews the same.)

What it's made of, obviously.

The Gorm is, IMHO, a really, really ugly model, and not in a fun way. I picked it up very late in the KS because it was so ugly, and the only reasons I did were because it was an early monster and I thought the armor look kind of salvaged it, despite also not really liking the theme.

However, those big, mostly flat, textured surfaces means it still takes paint pretty well. I don't think the seams are very well positioned, and as has become the expectation, the multiple, near-identical set of parts (mouth hands) weren't labeled in any functioning system (and there still(!) aren't any official assembly guides, even as the second Kickstarter is nearing shipping), so it took looking at the site images and a little guessing.

OTOH, I really like the Gorm Armor. It's got a cool, creepy look, that's actually got some modular elements that make it blend surprisingly well with other armor types despite being a pretty substantial divergence from them. My only complaint (besides some issues with instructions, again) is that I think there was pretty clearly a mistake on sprue layout- there were a ton of one weapon type, and only a single one of another (non-unique) one, where usually just about everything comes in sets of three (or more, if paired) on every other weapon in the game.

It's worth noting that the Gorm box comes with the Regeneration Suit pinup model (probably the most clothed, if you count skin-tight bodysuits), which has a strange wrist-mounted weapon that's not mechanically represented (in the blue pic below). Maybe it's supposed to be a variation on the Rib Blade? Maybe it's a blocking weapon? I gave mine a different weapon (orange/purple pic at the end) because I didn't know what to do with it.

Like all of the other Kingdom expansions, all the miniatures are HIPS plastic, which is best built with plastic cement. Also, for anyone concerned with Kingdom Death's well-earned reputation for gratuitous body parts, while I haven't felt the need to photograph it, the monster is anatomically correct, plus a rather suggestive pharynx(? I think I'm using that correctly? Back of the throat... area?).

Paper Components and Storage
The rule book is of only okay print quality, worse than the core, the same as the other expansions. The cards, etc. are of the same standard as the core. As with all the expansions I've run across, the content is generally not as well edited as the core. The illustrations are pretty nice, minus one that I think is a taste thing and one that's way lower resolution than it should be.

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 1st KS 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. (Copy-pasted since it's the same for all expansions...)

Mechanics + Rules
This will have some light spoilers.

The Gorm is clearly intended to replace the White Lion as a starting option (after the First Story that, to date, doesn't have a replacement monster option). It has a lot of reminder text, similar to the Lion, and the showdown has Tall Grass.

It feels a bit like the Antelope, in that a large portion of its abilities interact with movement, but proportional damage emphasis to the Lion.

I think the Gorm is a great early monster addition, nothing really weird or inventive, but much more position-based, so teaches you tactics that are pretty valuable.

The higher levels see notably more difference than the core game's equivalents, with some cool alternative means of interacting, but I think that the difficulty stays about on-par with the Lion, though, in the theme of messing with your settlement, there are reasons you probably won't farm level 2 Gorms the way you can Lions or Antelopes.

The Settlement
Trying to avoid spoilers here, so this will be a little ambiguous. The Gorm interacts with the structure of your Settlement more than anything currently does except the campaign variants. You can get a lot of free stuff out of it, and you're likely to have some setbacks. The only way to prevent them is to go down rather unusual development paths, that will likely have you structuring your early campaign differently than you usually would.

First, I love many of the gear options the Gorm provides: a non-frail grand weapon and two non-frail axes (all cheap but requiring specific resources); a very early offensive shield that's clearly meant for training; a mid-level club; a pretty strong dagger; an epic late-game sword; lots of things that include Deadly. It's just great. The weapons, as with how the settlement is modified, gives you a lot of reasonably strong starting directions that are absent from the core.

Less important, the weapons mesh well with support items that they work with, and the Gorm gear generally provides a few affinities that are harder to come by.

Also, the resources from the Gorm are just super-flexible. There are a lot of multitype resources, which means it's a great way to farm some generics while looking for a specific Gorm resource or two, even if you're done, or uninterested in, building its armor.

The armor set is interesting. It's equivalent to the other low-level, quarry-specific sets, and only takes four gear pieces, but there are some requirements that mean you'll almost always have one defensive element required for the build (so it take 5 to take full advantage of the armor set, despite 4 being enough to get the set). There's another piece that boosts the armor to its second level, through a rough fight, but, unlike the Silk armor, I think this works out okay. I find it closer in concept to the Rolling armor, where you can unlock better options, and I expect that the second set of KS expansions will be based more off this structure, of further reward for harder fights rather than a sense of it being incomplete without that effort.

The worst thing I can say about the Gorm armor is that it doesn't mesh well with most of the fairly extensive collection of Gorm weapons. It affinities are some of the more demanding 1st tier armor sets.

Having run a campaign heavily using the armor, I think it's one of the better early armors, but, as with the others, it doesn't compare that favorably to the control and Survival of the Rawhide set and the extreme (if boring) reliability of the Leather set, and generally feels like its strength drops off as you get better defenses and more survival. Ranking early quarries' armor set value, I'd probably say Antelope; Gorm; Lion; Spider, though I'll stop at that, before this gets to be too much of a tactics piece.

The Gorm also comes with Gormchymy a location where basically all it does is turn organs into resources or, more likely, cool little potions (assist gear) that, for the most part, give you affinities and either a passive thing or a support action. Your odds of getting good things is based on how many Gorm innovations you get, and the Gorm comes with a way of achieving these for cheaper.

The Big Picture
I think the Gorm is a great expansion, that does exactly what it should, which is notably change the early game by presenting a slightly more advanced and difficult, but also more rewarding, scenario. I don't think there's anything I would change about how it functions.

The only reason I wouldn't recommend it is that it does really force a different beginning: it isn't like many quarries that simply have an event and then you can choose to fight them. I'm like it as-is, but if you want a seamless change with just a new option that doesn't interrupt things, this isn't that.

This is the expansion I'd usually recommend adding first, for a second or third run through, after you've won or are at least very familiar with the first half. I'd recommend the Flower Knight if you are specifically struggling, a Dragon King campaign if you're already pretty good at the game and want something more advanced, and the Gorm as the option if you like the current campaign style and difficulty but want to try something that encourages you to use a different set of tools.

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