Now that I've thoroughly impressed my readers with my ability not only to open a Dungeons of Dread starter set and booster pack, I've also had you on the edge of your seat while I constructed an actual warband from the miniatures that fell out of said boxes, as clearly evinced in my last article.
But little did you know that the fun is just beginning, for now it's time to find out what these bad little pieces of attitude-laden plastic can do (and what they did, for that matter). While past Internal League match reports have often laid things out blow-by-blow, the fact that the games for this League are only 100-point matches on half-maps means that, for the most part, they flew by very quickly*, so I decided early on that Steve Winter's old "Round by Round" format might not be quite the right way to present these matches. Rather, I'll be presenting my matches from the Dungeons of Dread League in highly summarized groups of three (which, consequently, is how many matches participants in the League were allowed to report on each of the handy-dandy cards flung at us by Organized Play before claiming prizes and, religious connotations notwithstanding, three is just a highly theatrical and enjoyable number). Since much of the point of this League was for the players to learn the new rules, each individual match report will include the major thing I learned from that particular game as well as any issues or questions that arose and how they were solved.
Let the battles begin!
* Before I go any further, I'd like to state quite clearly that I loved the format of this League. 100-point games are tons of fun, a nice change of pace, and a great way to learn the new rules. So go play a 100-point game. Pronto. You'll be glad that you did.
Match 1: First Blood
(starring Mike Mearls as Sylvester Stallone)
Mike Mearls, RPG Developer Extraordinaire, rules guru, and the DM of a highly enjoyable D&D 4E game going on at lunch here at WOTC every Tuesday and Thursday (a game that I, unfortunately, only intermittently attend thanks to the ferocity and chaos of the Finance department), is always fun to play, and he and I try to lock horns at least once every League if we can. Mike is a careful tactician, a quick thinker, and an encyclopedia of rules info -- everything you don't want sitting on the opposite side of the table if you harbor any hopes of winning. (As usual, I bore no such delusions, so I came to this first game well prepared.)
I approached the game with some reservation, as I knew for a fact that Mike had drawn the dreaded Tomb Guardian, a piece that, when played properly and backed up with a bit of luck, can absolutely dominate Limited play. Luckily for me, Mike prefers playing 'real warbands' much as I do. What he ended up fielding, while not nearly so intimidating as a band featuring a Guardian, would still prove to be a challenging team to face:
As a refresher, my warband consisted of the following:
Dwarf Battlemaster (31 pts, Champion 3)
Everfrost Ranger (31 pts)
Gnoll Marauder (18 pts)
Human Sellsword (11 pts)
Kobold Archer (6 pts)
Total = 97 pts, 5 activations
Cleric of Pelor (32 pts, CR 3)
Dwarf Battlemaster (31 pts, CR 3)
Human Sellsword (14 pts)
Elf Warlock (11 pts)
Iron Defender (8 pts)
Total = 96 pts, 5 Activations
While Mike lacked some of the sheer melee hitting power that my band possessed, he more than made up for it with the healing capabilities of the Cleric of Pelor, who could easily keep the Dwarf and Sellsword in the battle long enough to cause me serious trouble. All in all, though, I was excited about the similar bands and the relatively even matchup, because it meant we'd both have a good opportunity to test the rules.
As expected, this turned out to be a close contest. One thing that I learned right away was that melee was starting on round 2 whether I liked it or not, and despite the various areas that one could go and hide on the Dwarf Outpost map, the intense battle would occur right near the center of the map, just south of the central forest area, whether I liked it or not.
After a failed attempt by my Everfrost to capitalize on some turn 1 damage on Mike's Battlemaster, Mike aggressively advanced with his Iron Defender which, as I'd hoped, wound up overextended and dismantled by my array of melee hitters. Our Sellswords promptly slaughtered one another. Then, while my Everfrost and Gnoll's combined efforts should have eliminated Mike's Battlemaster, the healing abilities of that confounded Cleric of Pelor kept the Dwarf going much longer than he had any right to. Meanwhile, Mike's Warlock gobbled up victory points, and my Kobold Archer continued to land surprising hits in spite of his low attack bonuses.
The game came down to just a handful of figures left standing, in part thanks to swinging dice luck. I had started with most of the good rolls, but Mike stole that luck as the game progressed. At the last, my Dwarf Battlemaster and Gnoll Marauder were swinging against Mike's Cleric of Pelor and Elf Warlock, and after a couple of lucky hits, I managed to eliminate the Cleric and secure the win.
What I Learned: This was a great introductory battle. Both warbands had interesting special abilities and effects to demonstrate how the DDM 2.0 rules work, and battling on the Dwarven Outpost turned out to be a good choice. That map has just enough different features that we got to test all of them. I have subsequently learned that any and all dice luck I achieve against Mike Mearls is returned upon me twofold when he DMs, as my hapless tiefling warlock, Lucan Keth, has discovered over these past few weeks.
Match 2: Me and My Shadow
(starring John Schindehette as the cast of "Time Bandits")
My second match was against John Schindehette of the Online Media Design team, a newcomer (new-returner, actually) to Wizards and, with this League, a newcomer to DDM 2.0. John's enthusiasm was infectious, and I was pleased to hear that he was experimenting wildly between each game, incorporating every new piece he'd earned into his warband at least once. That said, what he brought to bear against me looked like this:
Shadow Demon (42 pts)
Everfrost Ranger (31 pts)
Defiant Rake (15 pts)
Iron Defender (8 pts)
Total = 96 pts, 4 activations
In what I predicted (correctly) would be a rare occurrence in this League, I actually had my opponent out-activated, as well as out … eh … 'championed'. Unfortunately, the downside was that between the Shadow Demon and the Everfrost Ranger, John had a great deal of potential damage output, and the Insubstantial ability of the Demon was going to prove to be quite a challenge to overcome.
I did my best to avoid the Shadow Demon for as long as possible, concentrating instead on removing the rest of John's activations. Our Everfrost Rangers exchanged some deadly blows from afar, but thanks to my array of hitters, I was able to cut John's forces down to size without losing too much of my power. As much as I tried to avoid it, though, eventually I had to contend with the Shadow. That proved to be as lengthy an undertaking as I'd feared. Lucky for me, my forces hit fairly consistently, and even though I lost both my Everfrost Ranger and my Human Sellsword, my Gnoll Marauder displayed his excessively stud-like nature by scoring the finishing, critical hit that eliminated the Shadow Demon and won the match.
What I Learned: Insubstantial was a nice fix for the headaches caused by Incorporeal in previous versions. While it still took a while to cut through all of the half-damage, it wasn't near as frustrating as the feeling of utter futility that came from missing Incorporeal rolls.
Match 3: A Tale of Two Steves
(starring Steve Winter as Steven Montano)
At last, an all-Steve match! Steve Winter and I have been amiable rivals ever since I started playing DDM 854 years ago in the Angelfire internal league. Our games are always lots of fun, primarily because a) neither of us is excessively competitive and really just play for the fun of it, b) we're pretty evenly matched in terms of skill and rules familiarity, and c) we're both named Steve. What more could you want?
Dwarf Battlemaster (31 pts, CR 3)
Bugbear Headreaver (24 pts)
Yuan-Ti Swiftscale (22 pts)
Giant Centipede (9 pts)
Orc Raider (8 pts)
Elf Archer (5 pts)
Total = 99 pts, 6 activations
And this, ladies and germs, is a wonderful example of just how much a string of unfortunate rolls can affect your game. Both Steves moved up fairly aggressively, with Steve (Winter) launching right into melee after my Everfrost put down some early ranged damage to rob the Bugbear of a few hit points. While the Bugbear went down quickly, Steve (Winter)'s Swiftscale proved to be a real party crasher, repeatedly getting into prime positions to make use of its Zehir's Eye ability, with which it rarely missed. Both of our dice seemed to be out to get us for the first few rounds of the game, but the scales of luck finally tipped in Steve (Winter)'s favor when I rolled three natural 1s over the course of a single round, missing a pair of important attacks that might have tipped the balance in my favor. In the end, Steve (Winter)'s dice luck held up better than mine, and he mopped up the rest of my pieces even though I'd managed to eliminate his Yuan-Ti Swiftscale and Bugbear Headreaver.
All in all, I played a bit too aggressively in this match, as it appeared early on that I'd secured something of a lead thanks to my early elimination of the Headreaver. In retrospect, I might have hung back a bit and tried to do more damage from afar, but I'm not sure this would have helped much. Steve (Winter) played a solid game, and ill luck notwithstanding, pretty much from the point that his Swiftscale scored its third consecutive hit, I knew that it was going to be hard for me to turn this one around.
What I learned: Forests do not function the same as they did in the original rules! Where before, forest squares provided cover from all manner of attack, post-modern forest provides cover from ranged attacks only, which is a significant change. "Well, der-hey," you might say, and I'd agree, but even though I've read through the new rules a few times now, this is one of those subtle changes that it's easy to overlook until it rears its ugly head in the middle of a match.
Interlude: My Opinion So Far
I like it. Overall, play moves much faster under these rules than with "old school" DDM. There are a tremendous number of tactical options to consider during a match. When a confusing rules issue arises, things don't seem to be nearly so complicated as they used to be -- common sense can often be used to sort out questions. I look forward to future games!
Next: Shriek in horror as Steve (Montano) tries too hard to be cool! Revel in his glory as he defeats an artist! Bask in his power as he slays the wicked witch!
About the Author
Steven Montano gave up his dreams of becoming a kung fu action star in favor of becoming a financial accountant for Wizards of the Coast. Little did he dream how similar those two professions would end up being.