Enter The Dungeon

Enter The Dungeon

by Rick Miles Dungeons, Dungeons & Dragons, Forgotten Realms, Magic, MTG Leave a comment

Hey folks, I know you were expecting a full review of D&D Dark Alliance, but due to some technical issues that have caused me problems while trying to play I am not ready to give my full opinions yet. Rest assured I am still having fun, and will be getting the review up, but not today.Instead lets discuss the new mechanics in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.... well new mechanic. The dungeon! First off, this is a pretty unique type of card, as it doesn't take up a slot in your deck or your sideboard. There are only 3 different Dungeon cards being printed, so basically everyone will have access to any of them throughout the matches they play. Dungeon is a weird mechanic, as it actually encompasses three different mechanics within it. First is "Venturing into the Dungeon", some cards in the set will instruct you to Venture into the Dungeon when certain things happen, whether that is when the card enters the battlefield or when it attacks. Venturing into the Dungeon has two distinct effects depending on whether or not you currently have a Dungeon in play. If you have no Dungeon in play you can choose which Dungeon to venture into, and place that card into your Command Zone, then put a marker on the first room of the dungeon and do the effect it directs you to. You cannot venture into a second dungeon while you are in a dungeon, and as far as we can tell there is no way to remove the dungeon from play without completing it, so you will want to think carefully on which dungeon is right to venture into at this point in the game. If you already have a dungeon in play, Venturing into the Dungeon allows you to move to the next room of the dungeon, which will sometimes involve choices, some of which will only effect things in this moment, other choices will affect the way future choices are presented. After you complete the last room in the Dungeon you remove the card from the game, and when next you venture into the dungeon you will be able to choose another dungeon, either starting the same dungeon from the first room again or a different one. The second mini-mechanic on the Dungeons is that the Dungeon rooms each have different effects. The third and one of the more interesting mini-mechanics that dungeons have is the "if you have completed a dungeon" effect. This is a binaray state that you can't lose, which is interesting, and the effects seem reasonably big whether that is an anthem effect giving all other creatures +1/+1 on a 3 mana creature, or Double Strike on a three mana 2/3.These abilities provide an interesting tension to the game and your choice of Dungeon to enter, do you want to enter the Dungeon of the Mad Mage which has the most powerful effect at the end of the dungeon and only benefecial things throughout it but does take seven trips into the dungeon to complete it, or is speed running the Tomb of Annihilation in 3 activations of venture going to be worth the fairly hefty cost of discarding a card, sacrificing a land, a creature and an artifact, as well as losing one life. There is a lot to think about depending on the game state, knowing whether or not you are likely to have time for the relevent effects, or maybe even to finish the dungeon entirely. I've heard gripes saying we should have access to more Dungeon cards, and it is true I think the number could be raised slightly, but certainly not by too many. These are cards that we are assumed to basically have at will, so there really can't be a reasonable rarity issue to them (I'm guessing that they will find themselves in a token slot, but maybe I'll be wrong and they will burn a card slot from our packs) and since there is no additional cost to add them to your pool of available resources the more of them there are will add to the complexity of your decisions regarding which one to pull out when you are venturing into a dungeon, enough to cause a game to bog down if one is trying for the perfect plays. I might have printed as many as double the number that Wizards went with, and then printed them front and back so you'd still only need to carry three additional cards, but have the options of 6. As it is there is a definite feel of Speed Vs Power with a mid tier option as well. It'll be interesting to see how these new additions to Magic end up playing out, right now I think they are reasonably well balanced and won't be too disruptive to games, but I'm dying to actually see them played, and to hear your opinions on them. Feel free to leave a comment below to tell me what you think.Rick Miles

Secret Lairs and Universes Beyond

Secret Lairs and Universes Beyond

by Rick Miles Dragons, Dungeons, Magic, Secret Lair, Universes Beyond Leave a comment

Hey folks, I know this particular write up probably should have come out a week or two ago, but hey I'm getting to it now. One of these days I'll have my writing schedule set up and develop the discipline to keep to that schedule.Some things have come up in the world of Magic, and I feel that I should probably voice my opinion about them. First off, and most importantly, Wizards has stated a month or two back that they are going to be doing "Universes Beyond", crossovers with Magic with many other properties. The first of these is retroactively put into that camp, The Walking Dead, and the next one has been announced to be Stranger Things. When The Walking Dead came up as a Secret Lair I was very much against it for a few reasons, it is available for a very limited time, has restrictive availability globally, shipping is prohibitively expensive, and the cards are mechanically unique so what happens if one of these cards becomes important to an archetype in Legacy, say Humans. Wizards has announced a change to how they are handling the Universes Beyond stuff going forward (though it appears to sadly not include The Walking Dead product in this move), first the product will be available for a full month, reducing limitations based on time, second the countries that are available to be shipped to are being expanded. The big change though is that going forward, any mechanically unique cards from these Secret Lairs will be reprinted approximately six months later as a Magic flavoured card and added to the List. The cards will be overprinted on the list compared to other cards that are there, and will stay there until the desire for them is played out. This isn't good for value on those Secret Lairs, but it does make it so those unique cards don't become an impossible to find necessary piece to your next Vintage deck. By printing them as a Magic flavoured card they are also opening up the possibility that these cards could see reprint in a future set of Magic. We'll never see Rick printed in a Magic set, but maybe we'll get lucky and they'll print a white Thraben Constable with the same stats and abilities... All told this extra availability does fix a lot of the complaints I've had about The Walking Dead Secret Lair, and am hopeful that going forward these cards will be a cool way to show your personality in your deck.Second and far less important, it appears that Wizards has finally found the Secret Lairs that may cause even I to actually shell out and buy them. The All Natural Totally Refreshing Superdrop is pretty impressive. The Superdrop has been active since the 21st of June and will be available until July 23, and includes such hits as a Secret Lair with artwork from the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and if you've never gotten to a dungeon by riding a rollercoaster you are missing out, a Mark Poole series revisiting some classic works by an original artist of Magic, the Phyrexian Praetors Compleat Secret Lair with all 5 Praetors from New Phyrexia with their text written in Phyrexian script, Jin Gitaxias be praised, and two different Secret Lairs covering the Signets, one in allied colours and one in enemy colours, and these are beautiful, but from Dan Frazier that is pretty much expected. I have to admit I thought when they first started doing Secret Lairs that I'd never bother, I'm happy to be proven wrong if I get things I find this cool.Next week we will start talking about Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.Stay WeirdRick Miles

First Impression of Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

First Impression of Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

by Rick Miles Bruenor, Cattie-Brie, Dark Alliance, Dragons, Drizzt, Dungeons, Dungeons & Dragons, Icewind, PC, Playstation, Video Games, Wulfgar, XBox Leave a comment

Hey Folks, last night at midnight a game was supposed to drop on Xbox, PC, and Playstation, Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance. As per the twitter account for the game, there were minor delays on a couple of platforms, and I was doing the irresponsible thing and staying up with too many energy drinks until I'd gotten some experience with the game. Full disclosure here, Wizards of the Coast is a large part of my life, for a few years I made y living judging Magic tournaments, and before that I played in many of those same tournaments, heck I've been playing Magic since 1994, and I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1992. I have gone through every iteration of the game except 4th edition because it felt too much like a video game for me. Yes I like my video games, yes I like my role playing games, but they should each feel different, what feels good at the table in pen and paper just doesn't always translate well to digital formats. I also read the Drizzt books starting in the 90s, I am not a huge fan of Drizzt himself, as I find he is a character that tends to get overdone, but whatever. Ok, now you know my biases and starting point here, these are my first impressions of Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance.I had an interesting experience before the game even started, my son and I were both going to be playing, him on PC and me on XBox One (launch system). Both of us had predownloaded the game and so we clicked begin within about 30 seconds of each other, me with the slight headstart. By the time my opening cinematic had loaded and started to play his was already finished, and this is not a short cinematic. This seems like a fairly significant selling point on a newer XBox because these load speeds are terrible. We had wanted to see if the crossplay that some XBox sites had spoken of as being possible PC-XBox would work so Alex and I each chose a different character, he went Drizzt and I went with Wulfgar because big honkin hammer, what more can I say. Once the game loaded it pointed out that we were both in an Offline instance, and showed us the button to hit to alter that. I hit the button and was given three options: Open, Friends Only, or Invite Only. Now this being an alteration from my closed environment at the moment I didn't think anything of it, as I could back out and nothing would change, but I would discover in a moment there was a problem here, there is no option to go back to offline mode without restarting the session. Unfortunately Alex was unable to go online, I'm going to experiment tonight to see if that was because he was playing the game on my Game Pass Ultimate but his account which doesn't have Game Pass or not, we may need to figure out something different if that is the case. As he was unable to load though, we decided to each play single player for a little, starting with the tutorial. Interestingly the tutorial missions lock if you are in an online instance, and since I had set to Invite Only to try and getAlex into my game a few minutes before I couldn't go to the tutorial and had to restart my session. This may sound like not a very big deal, but remember I'm on an original XBox One, and every time I need to load it takes forever. Anyways, delays aside OFF TO THE TUTORIALTutorial: Don't click the Tutorial if you can avoid it. This is a long grindy session of checking off a list in order. Most of the things you are going to do here seem to have a tutorial pop up the first time it is relevant in game, and if they don't they are likely not mentioned in the tutorial either. On top of this being a long, grindy, redundant waste of time, there is no reward for going through the slog. The video we watched last week with Jemaine Clement seemed to suggest that you could do missions in any order, but the first mission at least is set in stone. You get to watch a video of goblins taking over the dwarf hold, and the return of Icewind herself, the mate of the dragon Icingdeath. As you play the level a couple of things of note, Red is important. If you see something that is red, it probably deserves more examination. This is frequently a place where you are meant to jump across or jump up to a different level, and sometimes there are explodey containers thatare always worth throwing things at (you won't always damage anyone, but blowing them when you are not near them is much better than them blowing up while you are beside them). Sometimes there will be red on a wagon or other breakable, and this sees to signify that there are goodies that direction just out of sight. One thing that no pop up tells you is that the areas with spikey ice on the ground will do massive damage to you. Alex fell a couple of times to the ice. I thought maybe it was the sharp bit of the spikey, but no, it turns out it is the cold that is damaging you, kind of like in Breath of the Wild, the way to get past these sections is to stand near a fire until you are warm, then run through the ice. This needed a tutorial pop up. Each level is broken down with rest points along the way, like five or so of them. These points allow you to rest, which respawns the enemies you have already killed, but sets a checkpoint so if you die you come back here, it also refills your health and consumables. You are however given the option to skip a rest point, and instead get a bonus on loot rarity. This provides a really interesting "push your luck" mechanic into the game, trying to decide if I still have enough potions to make the next rest point and reward myself with better loot at the risk of having to redo more of the level if I mess up. Alex tells me in Slay the Spire if you have to rest at a campfire you are losing already, but I still found I only skipped a couple of the rests. First time playthrough I was being more conservative than I needed, and if I knew that potions were possible treasure drops I would likely have skipped at least one more, if not two.After finishing the level I went to check out my loot, and I do like the concept of "Set" pieces not being entirely specific. Each set piece can appear it seems in any rarity and value, so after the first level I am running around with three parts of the Tundra Hunter set which gives a 5% chance of any enemy I kill dropping a health pickup. You then can head to the merchant to sell what you don't need, and purchase consumable abilities. These are the items that restock at the rest points, and seem reasonably costed. I picked up the potion to refill my stamina, as well as one that adds to my Ultimate meter. I then saw that gaining moves costs gold as well, so the potions are competing for the resource with the moves you can use, and those are a fair bit more expensive. I scoured the level pretty thoroughly, and ended up with enough gold to get two moves, but instead ended up with a move and two potions.So far I'm having fun, there are glitches, and there are things I don't like (The lock on mechanic is really bad) but there is a lot of potential there, and I'm looking forward to having even more fun as we go and get into multiplayer.Rick Miles

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