Monday, December 25, 2017

Is that You, Santa Claus? - Kingdom Death Gold Smoke Knight and Campaign years 26-End

Here's some holiday cheer from an ancient fat guy trimmed in white fur who comes to judge all the little guys, once a season!

Also, he's got a hammer, for some reason.

The Gold Smoke Knight is pretty epic looking, but I wasn't really interested in the standard color scheme.

This one began a bit differently: I intended to do a clean silver look, but as I started painting the blue, I got a Japanese vibe off of it, and started using colors from traditional prints, for a pretty interesting effect IMHO.

(Yeah, I know it's supposed to be gold armor, but that's whatcha get for writing with unclear grammar. I decided my version was cooler.)

(continued from part 1 (including its modifications), part 2part 3part 4, part 5)

Year 26
The plague continued to kill us at a rate of one guy a year.

We had a Grand weapon baby, got 3 scrap, and an iron, so that was pretty nice, otherwise.

We decided we weren't interested in how damaging the Gorm's puke could be at level 3 and were bored of fighting spiders, so decided it would be more interesting to burn out a Green Savior on a level 3 Sunstalker.

On the hunt, our second least-valuable survivor got swapped out on the statue chair, dashing our dreams of a second Grand Weapon Master but otherwise not doing much.

We then used our Green Savior (about midway through the fight) and wrecked up the Sunstalker, mostly due to the Dragon Slayer (I think this was only the second time we've taken it out).

Year 27
Well, we started with Spiderlings coming to town for the third time, and somewhere along the way, I think some more people died. Either way, by the end of the various events we had, we'd hit 10 or 11 endeavors, and had finally kicked our plague. We also had enough resources (after hunting for and smelting scrap) to complete a Lantern Armor set, but decided to wait a year, since it would spend 2 of our Black Lichen, and we could wait a year before building up the tank for on the Slenderman.

We fought L3 Spidicules, mostly because we were feeling conservative. It was pretty unremarkable, except, for the first time this campaign and without a Cat Eye Circlet (but with a sword specialist), we would have gotten the ball, but decided that we didn't want to take the 1/3-ish risk of things we didn't want because we were on a precise schedule for boss prepping, so redirected the wound to another leg (again, due to sword specialist).

Year 28
We got Glossololia and took advantage of Deep Listen, because we were going to fight the L3 Slenderman, and wanted to have the movement. (And we forgot about the movement buff as soon as we started the fight.) We also built a Lantern Armor set this year, and tried out building our first Death Mask (dun-dun-dunnnn!) for my favorite survivor who's training with the Black Sword. And we spent 3 of our black lichen getting White Secret on 2 survivors, neither of whom got the abilities we'd hoped for.

Things went just about perfectly in the fight, until it had 3 health left: our Savior took a nasty hit and survived 2 severe rolls, but everyone was around 0-1 insanity, and had mostly stayed that way from round to round. Out of 2 2+ wounds, we rolled a 1, its remaining card was the worse one, then we rolled wrong on 2 randomizing rolls and 2 insanity rolls, which nuked our second-best survivor in the fight, who we'd been considering taking on the boss fight, with nothing we could have done on any of those. Then we killed the jerk. (Oh, I guess we also very few Dark Waters, which was a little disappointing, but we'd always considered the 4 we were hoping for to be a long shot).

Year 29
The Hooded Knight came for the last time, and our veteran Twilight Knight left to go on the grand crusade or whatever they do. And we yet again got a redo from our settlement event (so we'll have 3(!) shots at the boss... That may end up a horrible slog.

Well, while looking around, I discovered we were still allowed to make a Stone Circle, and, with only 3 weapons with strength we felt confident on, we decided to make the Circle and a Red Charm.* We also executed what we'd already planned, which is breed a Green Savior (after a lot of waffling between it and Blue) and we built a Beacon shield. We also picked our tentative final crew, with the remaining goal of trying for a third Beacon and we probably had enough left over organs for a few attempts at Life Potions.

* the language on the Red Charm is really problematic. We debated a lot, and decided that the only way to interpret it consistently that didn't break a lot of mechanics was that you only replace the "strength + roll vs. toughness" part, and you're still able to crit (among other things), because anything else starts to make widespread or arbitrarily specific changes to how attacks are resolved.

We took our Sword guy training for mastery, our new Savior to get a little XP started, and two guys who we didn't care about, and went out to conservatively fight our last Level 3 Spidicules.

The hunt was pretty good: we got a few understanding/courage points, and no one got anything horrible.

The fight went just about perfectly, other than the sword guy not being able to roll a 3 to save his life (good thing he didn't need even that good odds), and the spider swarm dealing a ridiculous number of hits to various crotches. We got Clarity of Darkness and on our Savior, some average to good fighting arts, and nothing bad happened.

Year 30
We got Skull Eater on our now Sword Master, and almost rolled low enough to kill him. Good thing this was our last year, since that triggered Murder (as a reminder). Those were two extremely narrow misses that had us sweating bullets for a moment.

First things first, we rolled Shrine and got a third Beacon Shield. Whatever else we did, it wasn't very impactful.

So, as is tradition, our final lineup:

Old School, with Crystal Skin, and a particularly nice ability set. Normally, I don't go into combo details, but: Abyssal Sadist for 1 insanity and 1 survival for each attack that wounds; with Peerless for 1 survival for each insanity (up to 2 survival for each successful attack) and Extra Sense to use the Survival and Clarity of Darkness to run off of the insanity. (This is on a 7YO who I think had been on one fight before the Watcher went down.)

...with a Beacon Shield; Silk Body Suit, Death Mask (meaning it only takes 3 survival to avoid a severe roll); the Black Sword (final stats: 4/3+(perfect hits for more survival)/36(sometimes sharp)/6+ crits), and some other defensive gear.

Emerald Ultra, our Green Savior with Clarity of Darkness, rocking a Cycloid set for 8 affinities, with a Red Charm to be able to wound anything (otherwise pretty lame offense), wielding an Amber Poleaxe (as an unlikely but other means of damaging without relying on strength or luck), and the Poleaxe benefits from both axe specialization (having a Master) and spear specialization (having inherited it).

Peacock Ultra, our second-stringer for the build after the first got unluckily killed by the Slenderman, with not a lot going except some decent stats. Rocking a Lantern Armor set, a Gloom Hammer, a Beacon Shield, and a pistol we done stole from a mean cowboy. (The Hammer swings at 2/4+/18 sharp/9+ crit)

Briniging up the rear, Toucan Ultra, our veteran Grand Weapon Master from the Watcher fight, now swinging a Dragon Slayer (1/3+/15 sharp/Devastating 1), with a particularly preferred combo of Timeless Eye (expanding the Perfect Hit range) and Combo Master (Perfect Hits generate more attacks).

He's awkwardly on the Rawhide build, because Old School doesn't like wearing clothes; Emerald is abusing her set bonus; the Gloom Hammer requires the Lantern bonus to really push its stats to impressive levels. It's a bit unfortunate for our only Devastating weapon and a good one, but it's got the lowest effective strength and someone has to man the Rawhide armor. I don't think he was the progenitor of the Ultra line but is, I believe, its oldest surviving member.

Time to fight!

(Fair warning: I can't really wholly avoid spoilers.)

First off, we started with useless terrain (obstacles and some resources we couldn't spend) and our Wisdom Potion revealed the very first hit location was the trap. Not a great start, though at least our overpreparing meant that most of our weapons were more likely to wound than fail.

Fortunately, the fight mostly involved conventional (if heinously high) means of damaging, and as soon as we figured out the things to avoid, we did fine. We got a good turn for Emerald to pump everyone's armor by 8 and her own by another 3 more. As has become tradition for KD boss fights, my incredibly accurate and fairly high-speed sword guy rolled embarrassingly poorly to hit, and our Timeless Eye guy kept rolling Perfects for absurd amounts of damage.

It was surprisingly difficult to maneuver with two Gloom Man survivors on the field, but, other than that, we won with flying colors: I'm pretty sure no one came closer to a Severe roll than 2 hits (or one particularly nasty one) away, and a backup Acanthus had shielded us from the one that bypassed armor. While we sometimes had difficulty maneuvering, we were quite satisfied with our final team.

Final Thoughts
On Our House Rules
I think the Gorm was a great complete replacement to the White Lion. It is more restricting and probably a bit harder to run a complete campaign, but I liked it, and it provides some interesting options that successfully fill the absolutely necessary roles the White Lion, providing a different form.

I was satisfied, too, with the Sunstalker replacing the Phoenix: I feel like it's a more finesse-oriented version of a similar monster and its gear, with less overt power and more interesting flexibility. It doesn't allow the settlement reset shenanigans if you really game the Phoenix hard, but my group never pursued that option.

Limiting our events/innovations/etc. to only the expansions we played worked well enough. The other players preferred this more than I did. It flavors the campaign more.

I don't know if it was a result of bad luck or something from our combination of expansions or something, but this was by far our highest death count: We lost forty-one Survivors!

On Expansions (in order... mini-reviews)
I'm even more convinced that the Gorm is the best early expansion.

Having played the Spidicules a lot, I've finally warmed to it to the point that I think it's a good monster with a poor context.

The Manhunter is a really nice addition. I'd play it in any campaign. I think it's nicely balanced, and enjoy its rewards and character. A slight gripe that some of its abilities conflicts with the 1.5 updates.

This is the first time we really understood the Slenderman. Until seeing the Gambler's Chest campaign modifications, I'd never play the King's Man when I had this option.

The Sunstalker is a much more enjoyable quarry than its campaign is. I still think the most of the story/context is nonsensical (including why the Katana works as it does, at all), but learned to really like the monster. My only gripe is how limited some of its key resources are.

On 1.5 (mostly the postgame)
Having spent most of the game's last third playing 1.5 edition, some notes before I eventually do a much longer review.

I thought the Innovations were generally better (even though we didn't get the choice any more), but was fairly disappointed with the gear. I felt the Oxidation system exacerbated the issues with the Blacksmith gear ("How many resources can you possibly invest in one piece of gear?!" The answer is something ridiculous like 25. Which we never paid.), rather than fixing the gear. So, that, along with a lot of other gear not really getting patched, wasn't very exciting.

I was, however, surprised and very happy with how the postgame changed fighting only level 3's. We largely rebuilt our team in the postgame, so we were playing with basically no room for error (a single survivor skipping a hunt would have derailed our plan) which meant we played a little more conservatively than we wanted to, but we still fought a level 3 Sunstalker and some level 3 Nemeses.

I didn't like the postgame story, however: I've gotten increasingly dissatisfied with the Kingdom Death narrative, and the Gold Smoke Knight fits right in there. Maybe it's a spoiler, but it has as little buildup as the Butcher: I think it really should have included an event or two ramping it up for the final fight, like the Dragon King, Sunstalker, and Watcher all did. Even "There's something spooky in the distance! Everyone feels a sense of dread! Here's a random thing that happens or maybe someone gets the Thunder Maul with enough time to get specialization!" would have been better than, well, nothing.

I was quite happy with the Gold Smoke Knight, itself: I was worried it was going to be stupidly rules breaking, but I thought that it did a very nice job incorporating (most of) the core mechanics.

(Getting into mild spoilers and game design theory for the last bit of this...)

I much prefer (multiple) autohits that interact with conventional defensive mechanics, to a lot of the advanced monsters where the largest threat from them is high-damage effects that nearly completely ignore defenses other than (or sometimes even including) armor.

I'm not sure if the conventional defenses made this fight overly easy (when we were really prepared, but that's always what you're shooting for) vs. some of the more tense fights, but my group much preferred a fight where it felt like we were actually fully participating in the fight and its choices, vs. just dealing with the consequences of rolling a bunch of dice as the result of an event.

I think this may have swung just a little too hard towards controllable, but I preferred this to the "standard" high-level fights, and hope to see something similar to this model for the second wave of expansions.