DS Commands & Command Cards

One of the changes on the DS FAQ is a piece of errata for page 76, explaining the numbers of Commands per turn and Command cards the Overlord has. Some folk have found this a bit contra-intuitive, but it is correct.

The confusing bit seems to be that the Overlord gets more Command cards against inexperienced opponents. That’s because the cards are the game’s timer, so more cards means more time for the neophyte Heroes to make their way past the Overlord’s minions.

Commands per turn works the other way, as this is the real danger to the Heroes. Here the Overlord gets the ability to do more against higher level Heroes, to balance the game better.

However, these are just guidelines. The number of Commands per turn is particularly hard to make fixed rules about because it is so sensitive to things like the layout of the tiles. You’ll note that the pre-written adventures have a much wider range for Commands per turn than mentioned here, and this is because they’ve been balanced by repeated playing.

When you design your own adventures I’d start with 3 Commands per turn as a starting point and see how that goes. You may find that the layout makes the Overlord’s job easy, even if he doesn’t have that many minions. All sorts of things can impact this balance, such as the type and strength of locks, width of corridors, number of doors and so on. And that’s not to mention the combination and levels of Heroes and the relative skills of the Hero and Overlord players.

All told, you will probably need to be prepared to adapt things to suit your player group if you want every adventure to be perfectly balanced. I will be adding another article on balancing quests to offer some more suggestions, but the fundamentals aren’t going to change. There’s no way to make something this flexible into a hard and fast universal rule (that works). That was always going to be the downside of having a system that allows so much mutability 🙂

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12 Responses to DS Commands & Command Cards

  1. Hi Jake,
    This is not really a FAQ so not going to clog that up but do you know who actually reads emails at mantic, I have nearly completed the base game tile pack for bgmapeditor, just got to do furniture and minion icons, so I can get permission to release for community scenario generation?

  2. “However, these are just guidelines. The number of Commands per turn is particularly hard to make fixed rules about because it is so sensitive to things like the layout of the tiles. ”

    Would this mean that uncharted dungeons are inherently unbalanced?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Basically, yes. Allowing you to fiddle with every parameter in a scenario makes the number of variables too big to really balance finely. Especially as so many of them are both synergetic and difficult to quantify, and/or to do with things like how the tiles are laid out in relation to each other (rather than just which tiles you use). Not to mention some of the biggest variables being to do with the players rather than the rules.

      I don’t think this is a failing of the design, I think it’s an inevitable consequence of one of its strengths (flexibility).

    • eriochrome says:

      I do not want to sound to harsh but yes, there is no balance in uncharted. The monster levels on certain event cards will crush new adventurers and the lack of any guidance on Boss preparation makes the whole section clearly not balanced. It is not that the overlord or heroes have some inherent advantage in the balance system, the system just was not created in any way.

      I do not think people wanted 50-50 exact win splits all the time, but providing essentially nothing is a lot different than not getting a fine balance.

      • Sam P says:

        The charm of many games such as HQ, WHQ etc that DS is attempting to invoke was that they too were unbalanced. I remember playing WHQ for the first time with friends and our lvl1 heroes, and dyeing in our first three dungeons, one of which was because a portcullis dropped behind us blocking the door we’d just walked in and then there was a cave in, blocking our exit too!
        Another time our wizard kept rolling 1’s and we were surrounded by minotaurs and orcs! Other times we’ve killed it, slicing through opponents like butter
        If anything, I have more fond memories of the times that the game was unbalanced, whether this resulted in death of characters or a lucky escape.
        So in regards to balance, if anything I think this is a genre of game that shouldn’t be balanced and if anything, they shine when they are unbalanced.

        • eriochrome says:

          Now Jake did a very nice job of making the overlord not the storyteller in the downtime section and he did a nice job of creating lots of chances and such for the heroes but I do not think it was to much to expect the uncharted section to at least suggest like when making a single boss a good guide is to have him 2 levels higher than the heroes. This might need to be adjusted based on hero skill and number of magic items. When using 2 bosses a good starting point is that they be the same level as the hero. Or something like for low level heroes some of the monsters the overlord might be able to use based on the event card and table might be to challenging. A good rule of thumb is to restrict the available monsters to the heroes average level *2 with a minimum value of 2.

          That is not going to fix that sometimes you will just get a bad card draw for the necromancer or heroes but it just gives a little more structure to get people started.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I think you’re right. It was an oversight that I aim to correct. Working on that article 🙂

        • eriochrome says:

          Thanks Jake. People really want to use the uncharted very early and I keep seeing these types of questions on BGG. I think they do not want to take the surprises out the core missions so try it for some quick fun. I suggested to Chris that a great Mantic blog post would be a set of villians based off the KOW leader minis but he and I do not really see eye to eye much. I do not think they would even need to go so far as the character mats just the character details and the spells already chosen to allow people to just get playing.

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