A Brisk DS Round Up

Just in case I don’t get time online this weekend, I wanted to post a quick summary of where I’m at with DS comments.

To start with, I’d like to say  a big thank you for all your comments both here, on the Kickstarter, and on the Mantic blog. Loads of useful and interesting thoughts and suggestions for me to consider. I haven’t had a chance to answer all of them individually, though I have read all the ones posted here and on the forum (I try but can’t keep up with the KS!). Please do carry on posting your thoughts.

It seems to me that the comments mainly fall into two related themes. The first is that you want more detail, and the second is that some people don’t think the current structure allows for enough expansion.

I’m here to tell you that I agree: what you see in the bare bones of the Alpha does indeed need more detail, and the current structure needs a small amount of expansion (though I would argue that it does not need to be fundamentally changed). The question is where do these changes go. The answer is largely in the Advanced rules.

My thinking is probably best illustrated with an example:

I think that the fixed turn structure of move then act is fine for the Core game. It allows turns to be done quickly whilst still allowing for some tactics, planning and discussion. My current approach for the Advanced game is to essentially give each model 2 actions in a turn, and not allow any single action to be repeated. Moving would become a type of action. This is similar to Deadzone, and works fine there. I have also thought of a few ways to improve on that basic principle.

This expanded and more flexible approach to the turn structure comes at a cost in time. With more options comes more thinking time to consider them, and though each turn may not add a lot it does mount up over the course of a whole game. This is doubly true when you have co-operative play as there are more options for others to suggest and discuss. This additional time isn’t really something I want to include in the Core game as that needs to remain a quick and simple game you can pick up and play (ideally) in under an hour (for all but the largest of the scenarios).

This sort of simpler, but tweaked change is the sort of variation you can expect between the two approaches. The Core is defined and less variable than the Advanced, and by being this it is also quicker to play and leaves less room for question, confusions and misinterpretation. This is the difference between a game you want to pick up and get straight into, and one where you dig around in the detail of designing bespoke adventures, managing experience and so on. Both are equally valid, but both need different approaches.

Thanks again for your comments, and do keep them coming 🙂





PS: did you notice this tease on the last Kickstarter update:

“Speaking of playability, it would be nice to add some great new game modes to Dungeon Saga, wouldn’t it? We’re building up to a milestone $300,000 and we’ve got something we think you’ll like lined up.”

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32 Responses to A Brisk DS Round Up

  1. C says:

    IIRC, With Advanced HeroQuest, the GM’s figures were “Move then Act”. I will say that I’ve seen too many reviews by hobby gamers on the “Basic Rules” when they were clearly capable of playing the “Advanced Rules” on their first game. Perhaps include a note in the Core Rules encouraging experienced hobby gamers to at least read the Advanced Rules, or title the rules “Apprentice Rules” and “Journeyman Rules” or something.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m certainly intending to explain what the difference is and what people should expect by moving to the Advanced rules. That explanation will go in the Core rules. In the end though, people play what suits them – I’m just offering some options 🙂

  2. Jon says:

    After watching the BOW video one of things I did like was the simplicity of the combat (remove dice, then compare) I think this is great for fast combat, a necessity for this sort of game. Is this going to be the new king of dungeon crawlers? No pressure then 🙂

  3. Nick Williams says:

    Hi Jake,
    I might have missed something here, but is there a particular reason why you’ve decided to move away from the Success/Armour system of Deadzone? I thought that it worked quite well and intuitively (maybe apart from the doubles/triples stuff :-p) but the way it works in DKH of discarding certain dice then pairing up the others seems quite slow and clunky by comparison and takes longer to explain and do than “Compare number of successes, you need to beat your opponents by more than their armour to wound them”.
    It always felt to me like there was a natural evolution in the opposed rolls system from the first DKH to Dreadball then to Deadzone/Mars Attacks and this honestly feels like a bit of a step backwards.

    • mastertugunegb says:

      Whoops, reply to Jon above, should have been here, regarding a Deadzone Fantasy game.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      A few reasons.

      Firstly, this mechanic was used in Dwarf King’s Hold before DreadBall, etc, and so chronologically it is a step into the past. As DS is the successor to DKH it followed that it share the core mechanic. Several other elements have been removed, and if you remove this too then you’re writing a completely different game and I didn’t think that was necessary or desirable. People liked DKH, and this would hardly be a follow up if there were no links left.

      Secondly, as mastertugunegb says, There is another game planned which would use those dice conventions, and it seemed silly to duplicate them here. This mechanic gives DS a different atmosphere from DB, DZ, etc, which is important.

      Thirdly, I think this works very well for a board game where you have a slightly different audience and mindset (go to pure board game conventions and pure figure game conventions and you’ll see what I mean).

      Lastly, whilst the dice roiling bit takes slightly longer to explain, it’s one of a very small number of mechanics in the game. DreadBall, Deadzone, etc all have a larger number of involved concepts to get your head round, and I consider the overall mental footprint probably more important than the individual complexity of rules (and this is smaller with DS than the other games).

  4. Pezzapoo says:

    Hi Jake, loving what I see so far, I think that there needs to be a balance between giving the game more detail (complexity) and keeping the game fluid/intuitive and fast. I’ve played quite a few where it just takes too long to long to plough through the mechanics of the game and it dulls down the game and the mechanics become a chore. I also like things to be thematic so characterful variation between the heroes in their abilities and how they fight/react is always good.
    an example is the Paladin thing, having a 1 square zone around him for example where he weakens evil magic passively allows for some strategy to staying together etc, whereas giving a healing potion to anyone anywhere on the map just breaks the suspension of disbelief. If your hero is going to stop mid fight and grab a potion then start chugging it down then surely this is an action?, if enemies are engaged with them then surely they would get a free strike or the hero would roll one less defence dice or something. It would make the choice of when and where to heal more strategic. Plus to give another hero a potion they should have to be in B2B contact.
    The idea of AI cards is great, however Gears of War was terrible I thought, very slow to even get through a round. anyhoo, don’t want you to suck eggs, just a ramble. ) look forward to what’s unlocked next. Pez

    • mastertugunegb says:

      I like that the basic game has a share the potion mechanic this ‘easy’. Especially once the damage piles on and your Wizard is surrounded and isolated from the rest of the group, wounded… possibly near death…

      Throwing a potion to your mates in a fight could just be re-interpreted as ‘that’s how BADASS the heroes are.’ I mean look how they shrug off multiple hits in one attack that would destroy a Zombie?

      Good times.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Pezz.

      Drinking potions was originally an action for the reasons you describe. However, in play this was too harsh. The time potions usually get drunk is when a Hero is hard pressed already. When drinking a potion stopped him casting a spell or fighting back it was just too restrictive and people just stopped using them, hence the change. The free movement of potions was for similar reasons, though I do have a strong mental image of people doing exactly this sort of thing in action movies so it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable for Heroes. It is, however, a thing I am considering restricting in the Advanced rules.

      • Tyr says:

        Idea: Keep the part that drinking a potion is free, and that potions can be passed to other heroes at any time, BUT include a limititation, ie line of sight, within a certain range, or both. Still keeps it simple, doesnt punish drinking or passing potions, with the added bonus of punishing players that rush headlong into battle without thinking about what happens next. Just saying.

        (also, any chance of a wounds characteristic instead of a flat 5 wounds? Or maybe a focus stat used for anything that requires concentration? (picking locks, casting spells, shooting bows, throwing grenades, that sort of thing… it would open up using ranged items on CC characters without having the item define how good it is (ie, a crossbow with a basic 3 dice shoot, which would do the same thing in the hands of the barbarian or the elf, compared to an item that just unlocks the ability to use that stat. (which could still be used for other things not involving ranged combat)

        Sorry for the wall of text and stuff. <.<

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Er, if you think that’s a wall of text you haven’t looked around here much 😉

          Seriously though, the problem we had with the potions in early play test (where their use was much more restrictive and “realistic”) was that the bulk of their use was by the wizard when he was surrounded by a pile of skellies. If you have any LOS, range, etc restrictions on it then it basically does’t get used and he dies. Not every time, obviously, but that was very common.As the whole point of the potions was to allow the Heroes to mitigate this circumstance, they had to be made much easier to use.

          We already have a wounds characteristic – all Heroes have 5. Because we have several other ways of modifying the rate at which Heroes suffer wounds and die, I don’t see a need to vary this as well. You don’t need everything to be mutable, just enough to get the effect you need.

          The fact that certain tasks require an action to be spent on them shows that they need your focus. Would adding an extra stat really add enough to the game to make it worthwhile? Perhaps. I’m not convinced though.

        • Tyr says:


          Hm, I see what you mean… still, if noone is near the wizard, something went wrong in any case. Might be an idea for the advanced rules though. And regarding the focus stat, itd mainly be a way to have a ranged stat that doesnt depend on additional text (such as the elfs current exception that she does shoot actions with a different number of dice). It would also allow more options for character creation in the advanced rules: Have a base focus stat for race, modified by class.
          A focus stat might also be used for dodging, picking locks, foraging for items, resisting magic, avoiding traps, casting particularly strong spells (that have a chance of going wrong), resisting fear effects or more scenario based stuff (for instance, warding a door while enemies are trying to break through). Basically, it would be used for anything that requires intense concentration, as opposed to gut instinct.
          As to wounds, it might just be a good idea to have a reminder on the card. Even if everyone has 5 wounds, a space to put wound markers would be useful. And itd still open up the option of playing around with wound values later on.
          Just have some spaces at the bottom of the card, put wound counters on them once you get wounded. Nothing fancy.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’m working on some new Hero cards that do have spaces for wounds on them.

          Almost all of the things you suggest as needing a focus stat are Advanced rules rather than Core. That, in itself, doesn’t mean it’s a good or bad idea, and it’s certainly one approach to explore. I just think it can be done more elegantly and simply. We shall see. That’s not all written yet 😉

        • Tyr says:

          Awesome about the wound markers! And if everything needing a focus stat is in the advanced rules, you could add the focus stat in the advanced rules… after all, advanced cards are included, why not use them? 😉

          Thanks for the answers though, much appreciated! 🙂

  5. Danny says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on movement and action sequences in the game, Jake.

    I feel you have a valid point about the increase in game time if you were to switch to a more flexible movement and action sequence in the base game. Would the time increase be that much to blow the game time out unreasonably? Maybe. Maybe a more flexible movement and action sequence would decrease time in some instances as people would have more choices available to them to choose from and spend less time trying to squeeze every advantage out of a more restrictive movement and action sequence.

    I feel a little sad that between the base and advanced game, there will be a change to one of the very core elements to how the game works. I would think it a more logical step to build on core concepts rather than change them. I worry at the player interest in the replayability of the base game with the more restrictive movement and action sequence after having had a taste of the more flexible movement and action sequence in the advanced game. Will the desire be there? Will people just house rule the advanced movement and action sequence into the base game anyway?

    On another note, it looks that you have picked yourself up a truck load of work with the next stretch goal about to be hit very soon, congratulations 🙂

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Truck loads of work appearing during Kickstarters is normal. I think it’s happened every time so I was expecting it. I’d be far more surprised if it didm;t happen 🙂

      Some people may house rule a change. Then some people will do that regardless of what I write, and that’s fine by me. Every group is slightly different and you rightly want what suits your group best. If a slight tweak does that then great. I’m dealing with what I think appeals most broadly to the widest audience.

      In the case of move/actions it’s another thing that would not be hard to include, but which I think may add perhaps 5-10 minutes to a game and this little bit here, little bit there is how you end up with bloat in the overall time. Is it worth it? That depends on who’s playing. On the flip side, it does allow you to plan for this process, which is simply changing the required thinking rather than removing it all. A final decision will fall out of playtesting.

  6. Danny says:

    To be honest, the potion thing is such a non issue to me…I’m perfectly fine with it. I guess if the Heroes could pack unlimited potions and could chug down several each turn, it would get silly, but how it is now feels fine to me, especially so in the base game with set and balanced scenarios.

  7. Danny says:

    I’m also perfectly fine with how the dice mechanics work, and I don’;t think that is “only” because I have been a player of DKH, I think it just is a good mechanic for this game. I think people are getting stuck on a couple of things here;

    1) It could be a little better explained. In that it could be a “to hit” number instead of a “to beat” number, and the basic principle could be roll once, read once, instead of read twice. Peoples minds get stuck on what they read sometimes and they are seeing 3 steps in that when really it could be two > roll your dice, removing those that don’t reach the to hit number > compare the remaining dice. These two steps are exactly the same as the three steps, but some people just can’t see through the “steps”.

    2) A lot of people are not realising that boosts and buffs don’t always have to take the form of +1 or +2 etc, they can be granted abilities, properties, re rolls, extra dice…imagination is the only limit, there can so many other things rather than just sword +5.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You may be right. I took the approach of breaking it down into 3 steps to make each step as simple as possible. I think with diagrams and examples this will be fine. It may be worth experimenting with 2.

  8. Oileta says:

    so, my problem with having such a difference in core vs advanced rules is the fact that that will throw off game balance completely. it will be impossible to play the scenarios with the advanced rules because with more options come an advantage. Part of the lure of the game to me is the fact that it is meant to be competetive, and the scenarios are balanced for that competition. However, the advanced rules, to my knowledge, will not have any scenarios that come balanced (unless the KS exclusive stuff is for the advanced rules) so I will have to rely exclusively on fan-made content to have an advanced rule competetive scenario. Sad day 😦 (please disregard if you plan to have some scenarios in the advanced booklet, ideally, the same scenarios but modified with needed changes).

    Also, I am still going to vote that if you had action then move, that doesn’t seem like it would add too much time, seeing on how what appeared to happen was that people then just lost their movement while fighting. If it would break the game to move after the action (the front arc stall seems in place by design), maybe it could be a ‘action then half move’). also maybe movement should be lower across the board.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The Core run through of the scenarios will be more finely balanced than the Advanced run through because everything is known. However, I don’t see any reason why the Advanced ones can’t be very close.

      The idea is to have a value for the dungeon when you build your own, and then have the Heroes take models and buffs to balance that. Once this is worked out then all I need to do is rate the Core scenarios as a specific value. The challenge lies in balancing the process and costing the various elements. Nothing strange about that.

      Having a non-fixed action system adds a great deal more thinking time in two main places. Firstly, it offers a player a wider number of options to consider. Secondly, it reduces the amount of planning you can do in other people’s turns because you are more likely to be presented with an unexpected situation. Some players I know more than double the time it takes them to play each turn when given this sort of option.

  9. Arthur Monteath-Carr says:

    Had some time to digest the Alpha and some of the chatter about it and thought I’d offer up some thoughts. It’s a good base for the game, although I do think the Wizard needs one or two more minor spells in the playtest packet (otherwise, what’s the use in being able to cast 2 minor spells in a round if you only have one?)

    I like that healing is a limited resource shared amongst all the heroes – it forces a tactical choice, which is always a good thing. It may need a different name or even a breakout box in the rules explaining why it works the way it does if people are reporting that calling them ‘healing potions’ is hurting their immersion or feelings of versimilitude.

    I do think that the basic rules could handle “Move then Attack, OR, Attack then Move, but not move-attack-move.” That’s how it works in Hero Quest, which is about as basic a dungeon crawler as you could hope for. 🙂 It also means that the heroes don’t bash down one skellie and then stand around waiting for more to rush up to them, making for a more dynamic game, and opens up another tactical choice – where can I move my Hero in order to block re-inforcements from getting to the squishier party members?

    I’ve seen some folk suggest letting models continue to move after getting hit by an enemy model once they break away. I’m not sure how I feel about that – if Heroes can do it, it’s only fair if Monsters can do it too, and it basically means that the Dwarf and Barbarian lose a lot of their ‘stickiness’ and become worse defenders. Given that the Necromancer’s main winning strategy will be to mob up on the Wizard, giving him an easier chance to do that might change the balance of the game.

    Hope this is useful feedback for you.

    Cheers, Arthur

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Arthur.

      I’ve discussed the move/action in comments above. The potion usage is a simple abstraction based on people feeling cheated when they lost the game even though they had potions elsewhere in the group. Whilst it is fairly unrealistic (unless you’re a hero in an action movie when it’s entirely reasonable) it avoids any need for rules governing item exchange. I’m considering whether such rules actually add enough to be worth including in the Advanced rules. Probably. I still think in the Core rules they need to be this simple and “friendly” to the Heroes. Off the top of my head I can’t think of what else it might be that would be one-use but would not be a physical thing that needed to be passed about.

      • Leigh says:

        Magic can fix anything! What about calling them a one use only “bound spell” rather than a healing potion? Maybe there are healing crystals containing a bound spirit. You say the name of the hero to be healed and smash the crystal then the spirit flies off and heals them. The effect is exactly the same as the potion and still gone after the first use. It might even be easier to use in combat rather that chugging a vial of gloop.

        If you wanted to run with this idea then you could have bound spells for other effects like attacking enemies. You could then have magic in parties with no spell casters too.

  10. Doug says:

    Something that struck me as potentially confusing and took a little while to understand (based entirely on presumptions of my own) was the usage of ‘pairs’ of dice in the attack rules.

    The reason it confused me was due to referring to pairs of dice from separate and antagonistic dice rolls. I’ve not encountered that usage before. To me a ‘pair’ of dice is a pair YOU are rolling, they are associated with one another. So I was trying to figure out how I compare a pair of my dice to a pair of zombie dice.

    That’s a little semantic quibble, but I was wondering if it might similarly confuse players who are less used to games. Is there an easier or clearer way to describe the process that doesn’t use potentially loaded terms?

    Compare highest scores – maybe ‘Match’ rather than ‘pair’? or Compete. or something to that effect.

    The only other thing that confused me for a little while was the way armour worked. Because the example used has a model with the same value in armour as dice, I was thinking armour not only gave you a value to beat (more than 2) it also gave you that number of dice to roll (2), creating a doubling effect.

    Rereading the rules a few times made it clear that’s not the case – it was entirely the fact that the example creature had identical values for those two that had me conflate them.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Pairs? I think diagrams and pictures are the key. If you hear the phrase and see the images of dice used like this I think it’s very clear.

      Armour? Again, more examples will help. Good point about the same armour and dice being suboptimal as an example. It’s an easy thing to muddle up on a first read through.

  11. Brynn Wood says:

    Hi Jake,
    On core vs advanced rules I was wondering which of these two ways you see the advanced rules,

    A) when you choose to use the advanced rules then all of them apply.
    B) players read the rules and decide they want a touch more (maybe because they are experienced gamers) so pick and choose which advanced rules to use in the base game.

    I undersatand that players are inclined to ‘house rule’ regardless but wanted to hear how you saw them.

    Perhaps some of these advanced rules can be presented as additional rules printed in the back of the core book (thinking specifically the move-fight vs 2 actions rule) to boost the game experience without changing it wholesale.

    Also if traps and seaching for loot are going to be advanced only I can see it severly limiting the replay of the core rules.

    P.S. Thank you being so accessible to feedback.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      B, sort of. The Advanced rules come in chunks, some of which are interwoven with each other and don’t make much sense on their own. That said, I think people should be able to use parts rather than the whole if they so chose.

      The more I think about it, the more I think that the “2 actions” way of playing is actually a wholesale change, and very much against the brief I have for the Core game. As you say,. people can house rule what they choose, but if they do so then I’m taking no responsibility for any of it working or being balanced 😉

      I’m not convinced that the replayability of the Core rules (and associated campaign) is dependent on any one detail, nor really why it would be. If I play a game and it is close fought and exciting, I’m encouraged to play it again. I don’t stop to think whether it specifically includes carrier pigeons, pit traps or pangolins – the impetus to replay the game is down to the experience as a whole. Perhaps you’re just doubting my ability to make it that interesting without traps. I think the answer is that we’ll have to see how it pans out in playtesting. It may be that some simplified taste does need adding, in which case I shall do so. It may also be that it isn’t needed to make the game exciting, in which case it will be left in the toolbox that is the Advanced rules.

      PS: You’re welcome 🙂

  12. Pingback: A Brief DS Alpha Update |

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