Descent Co-op: Redjak’s Automated Monster Variant – Part 3
Posted By: Dillon
Continuing on to the Second Quest of the Shadow Rune Campaign using RAMV
In our previous segments, we took a look at RedJak’s Variant that allows Descent Co-op by automating the monsters in the game. It also allows traditional persistent campaign play, as well through scaling difficulty by the use of event cards that are made increasingly nasty as the campaign progresses. If you missed any of our previous segments, check them out to the right:
Now we’re going to take our party of adventurers on to their second quest. How will the AI respond after a relatively easy victory for the heroes in the introductory scenario?
The second Quest we chose was “A Fat Goblin”. This ended up being largely Syndrael’s decision for two reasons:
1. She is racist towards goblin-folk
2. She heard that the fat goblin, Splig, loved Meghan Trainor’s song “Dear Future Husband”
To be perfectly honest, #2 would have been enough for me, but I respect that she went above and beyond with adding racism as a quest motivation.
Right away this quest starts off a bit different from the introductory quest by having an open monster group. The way that the RAMV handles that is just by drawing one of the random monster cards for the Act that you’re currently in – we drew the Cave Spiders.
These nasty little bastards come in a large group, with 5 of them showing up, and they also can poison our heroes, while the maser minion can land a web that will slow them down. That could be very bad considering our objective is in the middle of the map.
On the other side of the map are more of the very fast Goblin Archers that we saw in the first quest. They can do decent damage in numbers, but their speed is the trait that makes this difficult – since their EO (Encounter Objective) is to race to the middle of the field and try to steal crops by dragging them back out of the exit. The spiders could be a real nuisance as any turns they can hold the heroes up will give the goblins a chance to steal some of these to bring back and feed their Fat Goblin pal, Splig in the next Encounter.
Speaking of which, A Fat Goblin is a Quest that has two Encounters. These are kind of a part 1 and part 2 of a quest, and usually performance in the first half affects aspects of the second. In this example, the more crops that are stolen by goblins, the more health Splig will have (although this isn’t known until the second Encounter, this is just for the sake of explanation!)
The first event card we drew was a nasty one as well – since healing can be a big part of a team’s strategy in Descent Co-op, individual healing effects giving master monsters and lieutenants extra attacks is a BIG deal. This pretty much meant that if they were anywhere near range of a red monster, it wasn’t worth it to heal.
Roganna’s first adventure was fraught with emo moments and lots of moody stalking out alone. The group chipped in to buy her a nice bow in an effort to help her feel like part of the popular crowd, and it was rather effective. Her first turn saw her laying a trap, taking out one spider and wounding another one.
After much ridiculing from his fellow adventurers during the first adventure Avric “Avarice” Albright attempted to prove them wrong about his greed. Instead of his typical turn one strategy of running directly to a search token and ogling it while ignoring threats, he ran headlong into the mass of spiders that was blocking our path. He also completely forgot how inept he was at anything resembling combat and swung blindly, hitting nothing. Way to go, bud.
The first turn that let the goblins move had them racing ahead and with their 5 movement per action hey were able to get up to the crops incredibly quickly. If we aren’t able to get through these spiders soon, this encounter could be nearly out of our reach.
Syndrael had the great idea of clearing a path through the spiders and used her skill to dash ahead to help Avric and attack once then again to make room to get through. This allowed Leoric to slip past the skittering crawlers and move up then use some stamina to move just a little more and summon Meatball. Meatball was set with the task of just slowing the goblins up as much as possible until the rest of the party could get through the spider blockade.
This ended up being a bit of a gamble, but it paid off as Syndrael was able to make her way up towards the goblin group in the next turn and start to do some damage along with the shambling Meatball. One goblin did end up slipping away as they had such a fast head-start, but the rest of them struggled to get away with the crops as more of the heroes were able to make their way towards the center.
The AI was allowed one more goblin and one member of the open group each turn as reinforcements. This let them bring more in, but with the objectives all centrally located, once the heroes were able to get to the center there was realistically little they could do.
This stood out to me as the moment where a major weakness with Descent’s reinforcement system when compared to Imperial Assault was quite apparent. In this case having an open group of smaller monsters means that each individual reinforcement was weaker. Whereas each individual unit and group has a point value that can be spent for deployment in Imperial Assault.
I do understand that Descent uses a larger stating number of monsters to account for that, but I wonder if there is room in the RAMV to address this with reinforcement “points” for monsters in Descent as well? Maybe the monsters could be valued at small/medium/huge/massive 1/2/3/4, and the event cards tied into a system that generates threat for the AI?
Alternately, I think if we would have drawn a monster group with larger sized monsters we would have had a lot more trouble, as making a path through them is usually tougher than eliminating the low-health spiders. If the goblins had even one more turn uninhibited they could have very well captured all crops and been gone before we got any heroes up there.
Another of the cool Event cards popped up during our turns which passed conditions to the unit being attacked – it’s neat to see some of the thought that RedJak has put into this variant and ways that mix up the rounds.
The second encounter looks much more intimidating from the start than anything else had previously. We went from seeing two monster groups in each of the first quest and second quest’s first encounter to now seeing 3 monster groups AND a lieutenant!
Splig himself got one extra health from the crop that the goblins were able to return and the spiders and goblins both returned for this quest. His objective for this quest was to interrogate the prisoners that the goblins would be bringing back, and if he finds the correct prisoner (with the blue token) to escape with him through the entrance and the heroes. Who he hell is this guy that thinks he’s just gonna wade through our heroes?!!
The open group went to the nasty Plague Worms that are included in the Trollfens Expansion. I was really curious to see just what the monster AI cards for these had in store for the Descent Co-op.
Now our adventurers had been on two fairly easy adventures and were starting to get just a bit cocky. Syndrael followed up Roganna’s attack, and between the two of them were able to trim the spider’s numbers down early. The AI receives no reinforcements in this quest so the heroes thought that they would get a head start on the battle of attrition and take out the spiders before they had a chance to attack.
The other aspect that is important between encounters is that health loss isn’t recovered, so we came in with a few wounds, but not many. Enough that we had to try and be careful with Roganna and Avric early, though!
Remember when I mentioned being anxious to see what the Plague Worms AI would do? Well when their turn came around they promptly showed us by moving and then burrowing to cause COMPLETE CHAOS in our heroes’ ranks!
Each one took a move and then burrowed as far as they could popping back up and knocking heroes back, doing damage to them each time they did. Leoric got pushed into the corner, and Avric got slammed around repeatedly like a ragdoll. Syndrael the protector was suddenly pushed far to the other side, and for the first time our heroes felt legitimate worry.
Meanwhile, down the hallway while the Plague Worms and Spiders were jacking things up, the goblins had returned all of the prisoners to Splig who started his interrogations and then they also started to run down the hallway at breakneck speed to pile on to the disaster right in the entrance that was taking place.
Meatball was summoned soon, to try and provide another target for the Plague Worms, but also to help with the spider threat. His big hammy zombie hands were able to kill one more spider while the rest started to try and fight back against the nasty plague worms. Only one of them went down, but it was the master, leaving two units left who continued to attack, and infect the heroes
…and then it happened.
Avric had managed to be pushed to the back surrounded by menacing Plague Worms that were burrowing underground and popping up forcing our heroes in all directions until he was overcome with attack after attack from the remaining worms.
This was the first point in the Descent Co-op with RAMV that I started to realize that the game had some bite to it, and couldn’t be ridden over with ease. A downed hero means they have to take one turn to pop back up on their own, with such little health that they would probably go right back down from a single attack.
Meanwhile the goblins had dropped their prisoners off for interrogation so we were looking at two worms, two spiders and five goblins all bearing down on us with Splig making his way through the prisoners quickly. We would need a bit of luck to pull this off.
By now the goblins had all raced down the hallway and piled onto the monster barrage our heroes were fighting back. Avric was still down and now Roganna was on her last legs as well after spider bites had weakened her. All of the time she spent listening to The Cure wasn’t enough to save her from the master goblin’s arrow, however.
She was taken down just a turn later, and at this point we had just revived Avric but he only had a few health coming back.
The RAMV here seemed to stand a very good chance of winning the encounter – Another miss from us or lucky big hit from one of the monsters could put the adventurers in a very bad position.
It came down to Avric reviving Roganna and then using his heroic action to heal everyone nearby to keep us in it – and the big heal saved the day rolling a huge 5 to prop everyone up enough to continue the fight.
Splig meanwhile was getting pretty frustrated and highly hungry as well, interrogating over and over until he FINALLY found the prisoner he’d been looking for. He then raced down the hallway as fast as his fat little legs could carry him.
In a few dramatic blows the Plague Worms and Spiders were wiped out finally and then Leoric found a secret chamber while walking around aimlessly like old men are often found doing.
Syndrael pushed the warriors on however, yelling to leave the secret door behind to try and make a blockade for Splig. Meatball was summoned back into action to run interference.
After another bloody round of battling, mostly for the now-dead goblins, the heroes were able to block up the path and corner Splig who had almost made it to the exit. If he still had some backup here he could have been very dangerous but with his forces exhausted, it all ended with a pinpoint shot from Roganna’s bow, piercing the fat goblin’s left eye socket and punching a nice fat hole in the back of his fat head.
The last round also saw one final Event card pop up to hurt us but momentum had swayed too much.
In summary, the second Quest showed RAMV’s teeth for the first time. The AI for the Plague Worms was outstanding and caught me completely by surprise. For this reason I would recommend NOT looking at the AI cards for monsters when you draw them, as it really adds to the challenge and fun when you don’t quite know what your opponent is going to do.
It also hinged on a bit of luck in that Splig found the prisoner in 3 turns instead of 1 or 2. Had he found him on the first turn I would think that we would have lost the quest for sure, and even on the second could have been incredibly challenging.
I am curious to continue on the quest and see how the addition of the Dark Influence cards will give the RAMV some more weapons to work with. I also am looking forward to the rules about reinforcements in the future scenarios as the current methods of reinforcing (or lack thereof) seem very much inferior to Imperial Assault. This might be a great opportunity for the RAMV to add on some extra rules helping the AI with reinforcement similar to how RedJak brought the activation rules over. It could be very well fine as is, however, since the second encounter of this quest is the one that counted and it could have gone either way.
Next Quest Up: Taking requests! Any suggestions on which Act I quest the group should embark on next?