Quest IV - The Shadow Vault (Part 2)
Picking up from where we left off last week, our group settled in to continue with the grueling Interlude quest that began last week. Consensus was that it's a sign of how well balanced the game is, that both sides have essentially been brought to a near stalemate. The heroes had only made it to the Cave, but had largely cleared it out (only a wounded Baron Zachareth and one hybrid sentinel minion remained nearby).
The heroes finished off Baron Zachareth (forcing him to flee once more) and the hybrid sentinel (though not before it got one final hit in on Leoric). This worked out well for the Overlord, as his next wave of reinforcements were finally making their way to the River's Edge and were preparing to engage the heroes. The barghests, which had been instructed to remain at the River's Edge until the heroes moved past the Caravan to the north, were finally allowed to join the assault as the heroes moved forward. [I decided that this was probably my last chance to pull out an Overlord victory. Grisban the Thirsty was a tank and what little damage I was managing to do to him was all to easily removed by Avric's healing abilities.]
One group consisting of a shadow dragon and two barghests proceeded around the path, as a similar force remained near the "shortcut" leading to the River's Edge from the Caravan. Unfortunately, the heroes wisely saw that they would be trapped between two forces and decided to take the longer route. However, they heroes' false sense of security was lost when Baron Zachareth managed to knock the stuck door free, allowing the second group of the Overlord's minions to move into the Caravan and flank the surprised heroes! [Kudos to the heroes for not blindly walking into the trap, and it would have worked well for them if I didn't have a Lieutenant (such as Baron Zachareth) in this mission. Normal monsters do not have stats, and as such would not have been able to get the stuck door open (it requires a Might check to open). As it was, I managed to pincer the heroes on the northeastern most tile, trapping them between two shadow dragons with barghests within range to use their Howl ability.]
The heroes fought valiantly, but were completely surrounded by two shadow dragons, four barghests, two hybrid sentinels, and Baron Zachareth himself. The Baron saw that Grisban had the casket from the Shadow Vault, and focused his attacks on the dwarf. Grisban fought bravely, and managed to slay one of the shadow dragons. However, before the heroes could break free, the other shadow dragon moved in to keep them pinned in with its shadow and bulk, preventing them from escaping. The hybrid sentinels kept Jain Fairwood and Leoric occupied, as the hybrid sentinel master, shadow dragon master, and the Baron finally managed to take down Grisban! Baron Zachareth grabbed the casket; now he just had to fight free from the heroes and escape with the relic! [The melee on this tile was epic! The shadow dragon minion's positioning on the tile managed to pin the heroes in, both preventing them from escaping and keeping them all adjacent so they would be affected by the dragon's Shadow ability (which requires the hero to spend a Surge or miss with their attack). Grisban was making some excellent rolls, avoiding the fatigue from the barghest's Howls and generally making great defense rolls when attacked. However, he finally went down under the combined assault, and Zachareth managed to grab the casket before another hero could sweep in and do so. Unfortunately, that was his last action, so he had to survive the upcoming turn and then escape!]
The heroes rallied, but it was too little, too late. Grisban managed to recover, but Baron Zachareth got in one final blow and then escaped back down the path to the River's Edge. The heroes were still pinned in by the Overlord's remaining forces, and more reinforcements were moving up (namely the shadow dragon minion). [I played two Overlord cards on Baron Zachareth on my next turn: Frenzy and Dash. This gave him one free attack (which was really just adding insult to injury) directed at Grisban, and Dash gave him an extra Move action. On top of this, I used Zachareth's two normal actions to Move, so he managed to get twelve spaces away from the heroes. At this point, we called the game as the heroes would have no way to catch Zachareth, and even if they broke free of the current fight, the second shadow dragon would have delayed them long enough to allow the Baron to escape. Victory for the Overlord! The Shadow Rune was mine! Muahahahaha!]
I was very pleased with how my choice of monsters (shadow dragons, barghests, and hybrid sentinels) played out. It took forever for the barghests to get activated (the heroes have to make it to the Caravan tile), but their Howl ability was nice and allowed them to contribute even when they weren't on the front lines. They had decent damage and resilience, and a couple of barghests (minion and master) were giving a wounded Avric a tough time. Since their Howl ability does not cause damage, it does not qualify as an attack, and it can be done either in addition to their Attack action, or have them perform two Howl actions. I can see this as a potentially unintended effect, so I'll watch the Descent FAQ to see if it's addressed at a future date.
The shadow dragons were immensely useful, as their Shadow ability (mentioned above) played a huge role in the final battle. In addition, after we checked the FAQ and learned that the Fire Breath ability can change directions, that made the shadow dragon and hybrid sentinel masters' that much more dangerous. I would like to see more "area of effect" abilities for the Overlord, as the heroes seem to get much more dangerous (and resilient) when they stay bunched together.
The hybrid sentinel's Fly ability should not be overlooked either, as it enabled them to get into convenient locations past the "front line" heroes and pick on the back ranks. Coupled with their Prey On The Weak ability (which adds one damage when attacking a target with a Might of two or less), this makes them excellent at targeting the support and ranged heroes (in this instance, Jain and Leoric).
One final note: as the final quest of Act I, I suspect this is the point of greatest imbalance between the heroes and the Overlord. The heroes have all gotten numerous skills and new gear, which has enabled them to tear through most of the Overlord's monsters (I suspect the shadow dragons were limited in Act I as a sort of counterbalance to this). Going into Act II, the Overlord's monsters and Lieutenants all get significant upgrades. I look forward to seeing how the balance of power changes (or if it changes) on our next quest!