Monday, January 4, 2016

The Abyss is growing

So while I am enjoying the extra two month dumb-ass tax (i.e. wait because I managed to screw up my pledge manager, so won't get it until Feb) I am taking advantage of the fact that my son only managed to screw up his address, and has a lot of stuff.

The Infernal Crypts expansion for Dungeon Saga is targeted for a March release.  Much like RPG modules, expansion adventures are both fully playable by themselves (with the base game, of course) as well as providing material for use with your own custom made adventures (with the Adventurers Companion).

One thing to note - the expansion for Kickstarter backers is missing two things that I expect to be in the retail expansion - the box (which I am guess is a differently colored book like the other retail releases) and the figures for Venetia and Arianya.  These two figures were include in the base pledge, which is great UNLESS you picked up a 2nd copy of the expansion for someone like your dumb-ass father - who now doesn't have those figures.  Again, I expect those to be in the retail release to make this playable.

Ok, first up is the quest book.  Just like Dwarf Kings Quests, it contains a series of 6 linked adventures with pre-set characters that advance automatically through the campaign.  This assures you that you can play any adventure using the pre-generated characters.  I don't want to spoil the adventures, but if you haven't figured it out already this is a party going down into the abyss fighting Abyssals.
Quest Book
This is a completely stand alone campaign - it has no ties to the story in any of the other expansions. I enjoyed the background and storyline - not all adventures have to be about saving the world - some can be much smaller in scope but just as much fun to play.

As I mentioned above, this expansion introduces two new characters.  Actually you get four new hero cards.  In addition to Venetia and Arianya there are cards for Ragram the human barbarian and Semential the Human wizard.  But wait you say, don't we already have a barbarian and wizard in the starter set?  Yes, and in face the pictures on the hero cards are the same with the names changed to protect the innocent.  In fact at first glance the cards appear identical.

Semential has different spells (and motivation) than Danor does, and progresses through the campaign differently.  Same with Ragram, while his card is almost identical to Orlaf (his legendary side has a different ability), his progression is different.

This brings up a concern I had when reading the quest book.  If you have the Adventurer's Companion, then you can basically take any hero and use them in any campaign, including heroes you create yourself.  If you do this, then each adventure as an appropriate 'difficulty' level - which is the combined level of all the heroes.  So the first adventure in DKQ is 0 - and all the starting heroes have not leveled up yet.  The final adventure is level 20.  For this expansion, the first adventure is level 20 and goes to level 30 for the sixth.

So are the four heroes here all equivalent to level 5 each?  If I put one of these in DKQ for example, would it throw off the balance?  If I put a DKQ hero in this, would they be sucking wind and getting their butt kicked?  Could I run this with the final hero setup for DKQ (which is 20)?

I did play thought the first adventure with the provided heroes.  They did not have a difficult time, though as always it is key to pay attention to the victory conditions (I was not paying that much attention to them until almost too late, as the heroes were just about to run out of time).

So while the provided characters / progression seems balanced - I'm not so sure how things would go with other or custom heroes.
hero/boss cards
Comparing this to DKQ, I did notice there was not 'table' of hits to look up.  Instead almost all the minions have the wounds(n) rule - where every hit causes a wound, but they are not killed until they reach 'n' wounds, and are never penalized for being wounded.  Some of the minions do not have the wounds(n) rule - apparently they only can take a single hit.  This is emphasized by the special ability for tortured souls (cause 1 wound to itself and all models adjacent to it) which specifically says it kills the model.
Overlord reference
One of the new features in this is lava - you can't avoid it in the scenarios.  The new tiles provided for the expansion are all lava based.  This has one tile that is basically as big as you can get and still fit it in the box - it is basically 11 x 8 squares (only achievable because it is an entire single sheet - no border at all on it).  Yes, it is a lake of lava!

The expansion has special rules for lava, which are key for the adventure as the environment is very important here.  As you can imagine - it is dangerous to cross lava, and even more so to stop on it (crossing it is a 3 dice attack per square, stopping on it is a 6 dice attack), unless of course it is your home.
largest tile
One thing that is different is you have tiles that go on top of other tiles.  For example, the lake above can be modified when playing by putting the rocky outcroppings (the tiles with red edges and black centers) on it from the tile sheet below, thus giving you stepping stones to cross the dangerous terrain. Of course, to balance this, there are also single tiles that the overlord can add to make a specific square lava that wasn't before.
river of lava
All of the tiles are double sided.  The outcropping and lava tokens are the same on both sides, but the larger tiles also have 'normal' dungeon floors on the other side.  Also there are few tiles that match those from DKQ but reversed - cracked rock with lines of lava on it on one side - normal dungeon on the back.
back side
So the real unique tiles are a huge and small lake of lava, and two river of lava tiles.  It looks like things are going to get a little hot in the expansion.  There are also some new spell markers as well as some special lava flowers for the campaign.
lava flowers
Of course the expansion has more cards.  There are new abilities, items, spells and overlord cards. The overlord cards replace the undead ones in DKQ when making the overlord deck.  Demons don't raise the dead or even have bone piles, instead manipulating the lava on the tiles (oh, you hoped to move THERE next turn - well that square is now lava - have fun in the fire!).

In addition, there are cards for use in the adventurers companion.  Invisible Overlord and Uncharged Dungeon are used in those decks (when playing with the overlord AI, or in an unknown random dungeon).  There are also new locations to give your custom heroes more choices when gaining new abilities.

I saw a quote on line from Ronnie Renton himself saying, "If I knew there were going to be this many cards we would have done something else!"  Yes, there are a lot of cards, however to me that is not a bad thing, as you can easily change and update just about anything in the game with new tiles and cards.  When everything is printed in a book (as is done with Kings of War) then nothing can change until the next book comes out and it is very difficult to add anything new that can be used without a new book.  This way any expansion just needs some new, additional cards and can really change the game for the players.
Ok, enough with the accessories - people want to see the miniatures!

Each bag of miniatures has two lower abyssals, an abyssal guard, a flamebearer, a succubus, a hellhound, a tortured soul, an efreet and a moloch, and the set comes with two bags.  In addition is the boss Drech'nor, and as I mentioned I expect the retail release to include Venetia and Arianya.

The abyssas are all molded in the same plastic as the minis in DKQ, however this time the minions are red instead of white.  I found that this color did not work to show the details of the minis well (much like the dark blue for the heroes).  A part of me wants to just do a quick drybrush over these so you can see the details - but it is important to show what is in the expansion as it comes.

First are the base troops, the lower abyssals.  There are two poses for these basic minions.
Lower Abyssal
These models are a bit smaller than I expected, the lower abyssals are not as tall as 'human' miniatures, about half way between humans and goblins.
The other lower abyssal
Flamebearers are basically lower abyssals that have a shooting attack.  Having seen these, I'm now very curious how they will compare to the Kings of War Abyssals being released in February (you can see the promotional pictures of them here).
Lower Abyssal Flamebearer
Then comes the abyssal guard.  I was very disappointed with this - it is only an armored lower abyssal.  The pictures of the "Abyssal Warriors" which these replaced were significantly larger than the lower abyssals (though the sculpt is fairly close to the concept art in all other respects).  Even on the overlord card their outline appears to be larger than lower abyssals.
Abyssal Guard (armored lower abyssal)
If you have built many plastic toy soldiers, you will realize that they are all fairly flat - simply because of the way the molding process works.  In general this results in not much 'depth' to the miniature, especially those that are one piece.  The succubi are the opposite of this, they are in the mold sideways, so instead of spreading out along their width, they do it behind and in front of them. This, unfortunately, makes them MUCH harder for a poor, unskilled schlub to take a close up picture of from the front with my cell phone (which is a better camera than ANY other I have ever owned), because it wants to focus on the blades, not the body.  So these are from the side.

Since I play Kings of War, one idea I've had it to mix these miniatures with the ones from Kings of War.  While I can easily see the plastic succubus from KoW being used here - these just did not impress me enough to want to put them in an army.
The tortured soul is an interesting model here.  These don't move quite as easily to Kings of War, mainly because there you will have a group of these per base, instead of a single model.  In the KoW Forces of the Abyss list, these are flying, shambling large infantry with CS(2) and Lifeleech(2), that are even more expensive than Molochs.  From what I can gather, there will be three human sized figures (or something similar) per 40mm base. For DS, these are only human sized.   In addition, I don't care for what appears to be a fireball it is shooting - as it really doesn't have a ranged attack at all.
Tortured Soul
Next is a model that I expect many people to want for their Kings of War armies - the Hellhound. While these are a bit small for KoW cavalry, they do fill the 25mm base.  These models are not currently in the KoW line, so I can see people using these there.  This is one of the better models in the set if you ask me.
The Efreet sculpt appears to be very close to the Kings of War version - I am definitely a bit curious to compare them next to each other.
Lastly is the big guy, the moloch.  A large model on the 50mm base, they, like the zombie trolls in DKQ, are the minions to really watch out for.  These may be the best minions sculpts in the set - and unless they are dramatically different than the metal ones coming out in February, I can see people using them to add variety to their units of these in Kings of War.
Finally is the boss himself, Drech'nor.  Like other bosses, he is molded in grey plastic - which photographs much better than the red or blue.   One note, I have not reposed any of these minis using hot water yet - and this is the one that needs it the most, and he is leaning backwards and doesn't stand up well.

A nice 'smaller' demon it is curious as to why there appears to be a mold line across the front of the wings, but no corresponding line on the back.

While the model is nice - it just isn't impressive to me.  As the final boss, I want something that is overpowering and dangerous looking - and is not dwarfed by his other minions (i.e. the molochs). However I can see this model as an Abyssal Champion with wings in Kings of War, and it makes me curious how well the wings come off as well.
The wings actually look better from the back.
And that is the Infernal Crypts.  This seems to be a good expansion for Dungeon Saga, and combined with the capabilities from the Adventurers Companion to make your own adventures, adds some fun new challenges.

Keep watching my blog, as I'm going to do a figure by figure comparison from the DS models to the Kings of War versions - if you wanted to see how compatible they may be.

Because it is all fun and games . . .

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