Monday, April 15, 2013

Descent: Journeys In The Dark (Quest) - Death On The Wing

Quest III - Death On The Wing

Following the Overlord's attack on Lord Theodir's Masquerade Ball and successful theft of Fortuna's Dice, the heroes directed to the silver mines in the Carthmounts by Baron Zachareth.  Greystone Watchtower, which looks over several of the main mining sites, had not been heard from in some time and Baron Greigory sorely needed a shipment of silver to pay his troops.  [The Overlord won the last quest, so I chose Death On The Wing as the next quest.  As the Overlord and the Heroes were 1:1, the winner of this quest would determine which Interlude quest would be played next!]

Jain Fairwood parted ways with the band of heroes to help some local villages fend off the Overlord's raiding parties, so Grisban the Thirsty, Avric Albright, and Leoric of the Book departed for Greystone Watchtower.  On their travels on the road south of Arhynn, they encountered a traveling merchant and haggled for some additional supplies.  As they crossed the river, they encountered a mysterious ferryman, but decided not to use his services.  [Two of the three heroes gained a free Search card from the merchant Travel Event, and they decided not to use the ferry since they did not need to recover any fatigue (and since Travel Events are always done at the start of a quest, where heroes are fully rested, I'm not sure what the purpose of that event is unless there is travel mid-quest later in the campaign).]

As the heroes neared Greystone Watchtower, they approached a twisting ravine.  The winged form of a dragon hybrid landed on the slopes ahead of them and introduced himself as Belthir, Scion of Gryvorn.  He announced his intentions to slay everyone in the Watchtower and promptly departed, leaving his minions to deal with the heroes.  The heroes wasted no time moving forward to attack, encountering a merriod and a host of cave spiders as goblin archers on the slopes began rolling boulders into the canyon to block the heroes' path.  Grisban rushed forward (at least, as much as a dwarf can rush) to clear boulders out of the way, while Avric and Leoric held back to deal with the merriod.  A few of the spiders attacked Grisban, but others rushed forward to attack the heroes who were under the merriod's flailing assault.  [This was the heroes' first encounter with a merriod, and the monster's Flail ability (which allows it to attack two separate heroes with its attack) came in very useful).  The master cave spider's Web ability (which costs adjacent heroes one fatigue to move) helped slow down the heroes' progress, which was my plan from the beginning!]

Avric and Leoric managed to take out the merriod, but the Overlord's reinforcements had another coming back the next turn.  The heroes hurriedly searched the Fire Pit while Grisban continued to advance down the Canyon and clear the accumulating boulders.  Eventually the heroes made a break for it, rushing down the Canyon as Grisban cleared the path.  The heroes had successfully escaped Belthir's canyon ambush!  [The heroes won Encounter 1, so the Overlord would not gain a free first turn in Encounter 2.]

As the heroes reached the stone bridge leading the Greystone Watchtower, Belthir and an elemental stood before them, as an ettin was preparing to hunt down any guards.  The heroes rushed forward, quickly felling the elemental.  As the creation scattered into its component elements, Belthir fled back and followed the ettin into the Gatehouse and joined the assault against the surprised guards.  The elemental quickly reformed and assaulted the heroes from behind, surprising them with a conflagration that caused a significant amount of damage.  [The first elemental didn't survive the heroes' first turn, but was brought back by the Overlord as reinforcements and used its Fire ability (along with some Overlord cards) to cause  seven points of damage on all three heroes.]

Unfortunately for the Overlord, the guards put up a good fight, and managed to hold off the ettin and Belthir.  The heroes defeated the second elemental and rushed forward to save the guards in the Gatehouse.  The ettin was already wounded from fighting the guards, and was easily finished off by the heroes.  Belthir finished off the second hero, but Leoric's runic blasts wounded him and forced him to flee.  [The heroes were cunning and decided to rush forward to pin Belthir in the Gatehouse.  However, they didn't consider his Fly ability, which let him move over opposing models.  In the end, it didn't matter, as the heroes' vastly superior firepower was more than a match for the Overlord's forces, especially as the latter were already weakened by the Watchtower guards.]

As the Overlord's minions fled, the guards came forward and thanked the heroes.  They handed over a massive iron shield - the Shield of the Dark God - and asked the heroes to take it, as it was undoubtedly what had brought Belthir to Greystone.  The heroes had triumphed, not only depriving the Overlord of a relic, but also restoring the flow of silver to Arhynn and Baron Greigory's coffers!  [As the victors, the heroes received the Shield of the Dark God relic.  As an aside, I'm curious if the Hero/Overlord versions of this relic got their names mixed up, as the Overlord version (the Shield of Zorek's Favor) sounds much more benign than the Shield of the Dark God.]


As the Overlord, I found this to be an incredibly difficult mission, due to the sheer power levels the heroes have reached at this stage.  Monsters rarely survive a round of combat with the heroes, and they're equally adept at taking out single tough foes or a horde of lesser creatures.

Encounter 1
The mandatory cave spiders are useful for two reasons:  the master's Web ability (which slows heroes' movement, as listed above) and the spiders' ability to move over boulders without penalty.  The Overlord only gets one open group, and I decided to go with the merriod as I had not yet used it and the Immobilize ability seemed useful in a quest where I was trying to delay the heroes.  Overall, this quest went fairly well, as I moved to engage the heroes as soon as possible with both monster groups.  I started by blocking off the two Canyon spaces leading to the exit, and then dropping boulders to interfere with movement along the Canyon.  However, Grisban's high Might value allowed him to easily dispose of the boulders, and I had no hope of getting all ten boulder tokens on the map at once.  The heroes played a smart game, and avoided getting crowded together at any point.

Encounter 2
With only Belthir and two open groups, I knew this was going to go south quickly.  Even if the guards didn't fight back, I don't think I could've won this.  The elemental did some impressive damage, but relied on first strike, as the heroes quickly destroyed it in their turn.  I chose an ettin for my open group, which I thought would be tough enough to survive the guards' attack and put them down quickly.  Unfortunately, neither was the case and the ettin was half dead by the time the heroes reached it (and that was only from two of the guards!).  I think this Encounter was poorly balanced, as the Overlord needs at least one more monster group to have any chance of success.  The guards in the Cabin never even got activated!  Next time I may try sending Belthir after one group of guards and the open group monsters after the other guards, though that's risky for Belthir (his defeat end the quest in victory for the heroes).  An alternative would be to move the elemental up to engage guards as well, and just ignore the heroes.  I think replacing the ettin with goblins archers or cave spiders might work better and provide higher potential damage output on the guards.