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My custom hero contest entry

Posted June 28th, 2008 at 02:55 AM by Just_a_Bill
Updated August 26th, 2008 at 12:11 AM by Just_a_Bill
The following is a custom hero built entirely from spare Heroscape parts, and intended for Taeblewalker's custom hero design contest. It was originally presented here so that a limited number of individuals could comment on the design and presentation.

Sonlen's Dragon

Crappy photo - sorry.

Crappy photo - sorry.

Draft #1

(Most of the comments below are based on this version, but it's now out of date.)

Click army card to enlarge it in a new window.


Range 1. Attack 1.
Choose a figure to attack. The chosen figure cannot roll more than 1 defense die. After this attack, Sonlen’s Dragon may continue moving if it has any Move spaces remaining.

When counting spaces for Sonlen’s Dragon’s movement, ignore elevations. Sonlen’s Dragon may fly over water without stopping, pass over figures without becoming engaged, and fly over obstacles such as ruins. When Sonlen’s Dragon starts to fly, if it is engaged it will not take any leaving engagement attacks.

Sonlen’s Dragon cannot start the game on the battlefield if Sonlen is in your army. When that Sonlen is destroyed, place Sonlen’s Dragon within 6 clear sight spaces of Sonlen’s last position. If Sonlen’s Dragon uses Swoop Special Attack against any figure who has the same species or class, and the same controlling player, as the figure who destroyed Sonlen, roll 3 attack dice instead of 1.

Draft #2

Click army card to enlarge it in a new window.


Range 1. Attack 1.
If Sonlen is in your army: Instead of placing Sonlen’s Dragon on the battlefield, place 3 blue Vengeance Markers on this army card. Whenever the Sonlen you control is wounded or destroyed, you may transfer any number of your Vengeance Markers from any army card(s) to the responsible army card. If the Sonlen you control was destroyed, place Sonlen’s Dragon within 6 clear sight spaces of his last position.

Range 1. Attack 1 + Special.
Add 1 to Sonlen's Dragon's attack dice for each of your Vengeance Markers on the targeted figure's army card. The targeted figure cannot roll more than 1 defense die. After Swoop Special Attack, Sonlen’s Dragon may continue moving if it has any Move spaces remaining.

When counting spaces for Sonlen’s Dragon’s movement, ignore elevations. Sonlen’s Dragon may fly over water without stopping, pass over figures without becoming engaged, and fly over obstacles such as ruins. When Sonlen’s Dragon starts to fly, if it is engaged it will not take any leaving engagement attacks.

Design Notes for Sonlen's Dragon

(Again, these were written with the draft #1 in mind, so they may not always make a lot of sense in the context of draft #2.)

Sometimes new game releases are accompanied by Design Notes that give a glimpse into the development process. For those who like such things, here are the optional notes for Sonlen's Dragon. They are way too long-winded, but perhaps somebody who's thinking about making his first custom and looking for a tidbit or two of design philosophy may find something here to embrace (or ridicule).
  • Background — This unit's main goals were to avoid having to repaint too much and to convince my co-designer and silent partner that it's possible to make an interesting custom that doesn't seem out of place in Valhalla, either thematically or aesthetically. I also wanted it to have a different silhouette than any existing figure and to push the gameplay envelope just a tad without increasing the game's rules footprint.

    (If there's sufficient interest, I'm contemplating using my blog to make a recurring column along the lines of "customs for people who don't like customs". In it, I would yammer on and on about these and other design principles that might be helpful in making customs that complement official Heroscape without altering its character.)

    I should probably note here that I'm pretty ignorant about the rich variety of customs out there. I'm not aware of any existing designs that are similar to this one in form or in gameplay — but if somebody has already created something similar, please let me know and I will be happy to acknowledge the "prior art". We certainly don't intend to plagiarize.

  • Figure Concept — Malevolently eyeing my bag of duplicate heroes the way Dr. Frankenstein's henchman Igor might survey a 12-car freeway pileup, I wondered if performing a meatball-surgery dragonectomy on Sonlen could perhaps yield something familiar yet new.

    The concept, of course, would be that when Sonlen fell in battle, the Dragon would escape destruction and live on to keep fighting. It seemed reasonable that an enemy would target the Elf before the dragon (bigger target, bigger threat), and that when its master went down, the dragon would fly off to safety. In a similar vein, falling damage would be expected to kill only the non-flying member of the team.

    We wanted the Dragon in isolation to not be too radically different from its representation in the original combined figure — just angrier and more focused. For example, SWOOP SPECIAL ATTACK, in its final form, is about as mathematically equivalent to the original DRAGON SWOOP as we could get (more on this below).

  • Materials — Sonlen's Dragon is constructed entirely of GHP — Genuine Hasbro Plastic (plus a negligible amount of third-party adhesives to preserve freshness).

    Originally, the plan was to carefully extract Sonlen's wooden staff and mount the dragon on that, but it wasn't feasible to attach the staff to the figure base in a stable way.

    Next, we considered leaving the dragon attached to Sonlen, hacking the poor elf down to his torso, and then resculpting the torso to look like a rock. But it was hard to envision this having a satisfying result, and we only wanted to destroy the elf sculpt as a last resort.

    After that, I proposed stationing the dragon atop a modified Eckels Bonsai Branch — this would've looked great, but also would've thwarted the goal of using all GHP.

    The breakthrough came, of course, when we noticed that the top of one particular column of a ruin looked like it had exactly the right shape to accommodate the dragon's feet positions. This offered stability and looked great (not that you can tell from my lousy photos!), and we were hooked.

  • Title — Unique heroes deserve an actual name rather than just a description. The only official u-hero who lacks a real name is the Venoc Warlord (which is one of the reasons some folks like to call him Mittens). My original working-title name for the dragon was Swoop, but that never sat well with my co-designer. (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that Swoop was a shortened form of his full hip-hop name, Swoop Draggy Dragg.) Furthermore, I knew that at some point I was going to have to make sure Hasbro hadn't already provided a name in any known backstory. A search of background material (thanks, Annerios and the Compendium!) turned up nothing, but then a reexamination of Sonlen's army card revealed the surprising answer: Hasbro had indeed already named the character "Sonlen's Dragon" (as evidenced by the capitalized word Dragon in the text of DRAGON HEALING). It's not the most exciting name, but it avoids the problem of a made-up name not "sounding right" and it's canonical — which makes me happy.

  • Sex — To avoid wrongly assigning a sex to an official Heroscape character, I used the pronoun "it". Although a bit unconventional, I think it's acceptable in the case of a non-humanoid creature. We call our dogs "he" and "she", but plenty of folks around us say "it". (Note to those who thought I should've used the word "gender" instead: I'm mindful of maintaining the family-friendly mood here, but I also want to use correct terminology. Animals don't have a gender; words do.)

  • Cost — Initially, the possibility of requiring Sonlen to be in your army and to die before you could use the dragon implied that the unit's cost would have to be low. Even after we decided that we wanted the figure to be able to stand on its own without the archmage, the cheap-dragon idea sort of stuck and it seemed like a good opportunity to make a low-cost filler.

  • Stats — I examined the existing 10- and 20-point heroes, and looked especially to Isamu for inspiration: cheap, powerful, potentially an ongoing nuisance, but also potentially a cardboard warrior who falls quickly. Compared to the official fillers, Sonlen's Dragon has slightly better-than-average Life, but falls somewhat short in Attack.

    LIFE 2 — See the Defense 2 section below.

    MOVE 6 — Initially the Move was set at 8, because the official version of the dragon can (conceptually) fly out and back 4 clear sight spaces in each direction during a DRAGON SWOOP. This created two problems: (1) it made the unit too fast, too flexible, and nigh-uncatchable, and (2) it was highly inconsistent with the other dragons in the game, none of whom have a Move above 6 and all of whom are enormous compared to this little baby flier. The resolution came when I realized my dumb math blunder: Swooping a figure 4 hexes away only requires six spaces for the round trip; you don't need to sit on the target's hex, but rather just get adjacent to it. Of course, there was no need (other than obeying my OCD) to be this literal, but I'm glad it worked out.

    RANGE 1 — This was pretty much a no-brainer. We did consider using Range 4 to represent the ability to fly out and back during an attack, but didn't want to allow any Range enhancers to apply. Also, there was just too much thematic satisfaction to be had by using Range 1 and a move-after-attack special power that allows the escape. Finally, this implementation probably avoids some frustration on the part of players who just got their shiny new Ticalla Jungle sets but wouldn't be able to use the foliage's +1 defense against SWOOP SPECIAL ATTACK. (They still can't use their +1 in the final implementation, but because it's an adjacent attack they also won't have the expectation. Sometimes it's all about perception.)

    ATTACK 1 — This was essentially predetermined by the earlier decision to avoid unnecessarily messing with the dragon's math. The original version could only ever inflict one wound, and this also kept the restriction on the target's defense dice in the special attack text from becoming too complicated.

    DEFENSE 2 — Gut feeling. Seemed to work out. There's your science on that one.

  • Special Powers — As you might expect, the new special powers went through many design iterations before the concept and the wording both "felt right". Balancing the competing goals of brevity and clarity is an interesting challenge, and although we had other versions that were more concise in some ways, inevitably it made the most sense to follow Hasbro's wording conventions established by precedent units such as the Airborne Elite ("choose a figure to attack", "Airborne Elite do not start the game on the battlefield"). I'm still not quite happy with the text for AVENGE MY MASTER, mostly because of the repetitive appearances of the name Sonlen. Initially there were a few more pronouns in there to break up the monotony, but clarity and consistency won out.

    So let's start with the easy ones:

    DRAGON HEAL (deleted) — Between the anger/revenge approach and the absence of Sonlen himself (who presumably was the one who would direct the dragon to heal allies and strangers), there was plenty of good reason to eliminate this healing ability in favor of different and more interesting special powers. This also helps protect Sonlen's value as one of the very few field medics in Heroscape.

    STEALTH FLYING — This may be the most boring part of the design, as it seems so obvious. However, note the many benefits of this special power: it allows the move-after-attack part of SWOOP SPECIAL ATTACK to be used safely; it ensures that Range 6 is sufficient for a four-clear-sight-space round trip, regardless of terrain blockers and elevation changes; and in circumventing elevation changes, it obviates the need to waste space on something like CLIMB X3. Storywise, the stealth aspect also helps explain how the dragon escaped the same fate as Sonlen in the first place.

    SWOOP SPECIAL ATTACK — The official DRAGON SWOOP ability has a 30% chance to score an unblockable wound; this increases to 35% with the Glyph of Lodin. Trying to remain as faithful to that effect as possible, SWOOP SPECIAL ATTACK, in its final form, has a base 33% chance to wound. This increases to 50% if you're attacking a Defense 0 figure (Venoc Vipers), or drops to 0% against a figure with Tough (Gorillinators, Hatamoto Taro). Note that height advantage is moot either way, due to this being a special attack that explicitly restricts Defense dice (although I suppose a defending Venoc with height would get to throw a blue cube).

    From a story perspective, you could say that the one-die restriction represents the impact on your defensive abilities of having to deal with a ticked-off dragon that's flapping and crapping all around your head — but in reality it was designed simply to keep the math in the ballpark and give ol' Swoop a chance to kill a couple of bad guys before he bites the plastic dust.

    Here is the first version of the ability that we tried:
    When attacking a figure that was at least 3 clear sight spaces away from Sonlen’s Dragon at any time during this turn, Sonlen’s Dragon receives 2 additional attack dice and may use its remaining Move (if any) after defense dice are rolled.
    The idea there was that you would literally move the dragon away from its target and then bring it back in again, conceptually picking up speed so you could really thwack the bad guy upside the head and then use your momentum to move away (potentially out of range of a return attack). It was an interesting game mechanic, but the back-and-forth movement seemed like a lot of unnecessary physical manipulation for story purposes that, in most cases, would have no gameplay value. In reality, players would probably agree to just subtract the appropriate amount of Move and assume that the dragon was swooping around, while secretly dissing the designer under their breath for being so self-indulgent. I don't like having to put up with game designers' indulgences, and I don't like being dissed — so I changed it.

    AVENGE MY MASTER — This special power originally had a very different benefit:
    If Sonlen is in your army, Sonlen’s Dragon comes into play only to replace him, once per game, just as he is destroyed. If Sonlen’s Dragon destroys any figure belonging to the Army Card that destroyed Sonlen, bring Sonlen back into play, half-wounded, to replace Sonlen’s Dragon. Replacements go on the same, or nearest habitable, space.
    This function seemed pretty exciting to us, but it had a number of problems. First, the storyline was weak. It was relying on a theorized but undefined relationship between an archmage and a magical dragon to explain why executing the elf's murderer — or, even more inexplicably, one of the murderer's cavemates — would not only bring Sonlen back to life but also teleport him to the dragon's location. Lots of imagination and suspension of disbelief required there.

    Second, the earliest draft assumed a direct, in-situ exchange of figures and thus did not include the final sentence about where to position the replacements, so there was initially the problem that the hex where Sonlen died might be lethal to the dragon (Molten Lava) or it might be already occupied (by, say, a stomping Tor-Kul-Na, a freshly-risen Zombie, or a pouncing Wolf of Badru). Later tacking on that final sentence didn't improve things much either, as explained in the next paragraph.

    Third, there were just too many new phrases and unexplained terms. The phrase "any figure belonging to the Army Card that destroyed Sonlen" held the potential for misinterpretation, or at least rules-lawyering. Similarly, there was no rules precedent for terms such as "nearest" (counting elevation? what about ties?), "habitable" (is a water tile in some ways less habitable than grass?) and "half-wounded" (should three wounds be half- or thrice-wounded?).

    Trying to address some of these concerns (and others) led to the following revisions:
    Sonlen’s Dragon cannot enter play while you control Sonlen. Once per game, if that Sonlen is destroyed, place Sonlen’s Dragon within 8 clear sight spaces of his last position. If Sonlen’s Dragon destroys any figure belonging to the Army Card that destroyed Sonlen, replace Sonlen’s Dragon with Sonlen. Sonlen has 3 wounds.
    This was a little better, but introduced some new goofiness: "Sonlen has 3 wounds" was not really an instruction on what to do, but rather just a weird statement that was likely to be false. (Note also that the figure's Move was still 8 at this stage of development, and we tried to keep that consistent in the special power.) Next iteration:
    Sonlen’s Dragon cannot enter play while you control Sonlen. Once per game, if that Sonlen is destroyed, place Sonlen’s Dragon within 6 clear sight spaces of his last position. If Sonlen’s Dragon destroys any opponent’s figure who has the same class or species as the one who destroyed Sonlen, replace Sonlen’s Dragon with Sonlen, and give him exactly 3 wounds.
    Finally we got rid of that "same army card" wackiness. I was reluctant to kill the multiple-target aspect altogether, because it seemed weak if you could only kill the exact same figure that killed Sonlen (especially since, at this stage, SWOOP SPECIAL ATTACK had not yet attained its final form, and the dragon had little or no chance of successfully taking out a lot of the stronger potential Sonlen-slayers). Widening this out to make the dragon start hating the entire class and species of the murderer made it easier to understand and also more broadly applicable. (And we didn't think the ACLU would actually sue a dragon for playing the race card.)

    However, one of the original problems remained: the resurrection storyline was still weak, and didn't really fit the title of the special power. I had already fallen in love become infatuated with AVENGE MY MASTER as a title and concept, but this function seemed to be less about vengeance and more about ... oh, I don't know, some weird, mystical man-animal bond that turns a payback killing into a Miracle Max resuscitation of a mostly-dead Dread Archmage Roberts. Or something.

    Anyway, ultimately we decided to just turn it into a true payback function where the dragon goes apecrap and starts clawing and biting everything in sight that reminds him of the six-fingered Marro that killed his father. Or something.

    Now, if I'd had my wits about me, I would have realized earlier in the process that the resuscitation was a Really Bad Idea™, for an even more important reason. Those of you who've read rdhight's outstanding Embrace the Suck article are probably way ahead of me here. That insightful analysis is one of the most important attitude-shaping pieces of literature on this site. If you haven't read it, you should.

    Right now.

    No, seriously — just click your pointer doodad on those underliny wordy things and go read it; rdhight's article is vastly more important than our goofy little dragon custom. (Go ahead ... we'll wait for you right here.)

    Hey, nice to see you again! Now, let's consider a passage from that article you just read in which the author concisely articulates an opinion that I now accept as an axiom:

    Originally Posted by rdhight
    [Some] units need a little price bump because of their potential to slow down the game ... Abilities that speed up play and lead to heavy casualties, like bonding, disengagement, and anything that involves friendly fire or intentional sacrifice, should be cheaper than effects that lengthen games, like healing, blocking, and coming back from the dead.
    If you accept this premise as wisdom, then it logically follows that low-cost units should not slow down the game and should definitely not turn back time. Once I remembered my wise friend's words, it cemented in place the decision to abandon un-killing the archmage in favor of going apecrap on the clan of his murderer.

    One last thing. As I mentioned earlier, we don't want to expand the game's (custom) rules footprint or create an implied FAQ entry. This special attack flirts with that line, by breaking the rule that "special attacks can never be modified by ... other special powers". However, in this case it should be very clear what the intent is, because (a) the two powers are on the same army card, and (b) expandable games that progressively add new text-bearing units can pretty much always break a rule, even a rule that says "never", if the wording is specific enough to make it abundantly clear what is being modified. From a practical standpoint, "never" almost always ends up meaning "never — until we specifically say otherwise." The history of Cosmic Encounter and CCGs has shown that "never" rules inevitably seem to attract exceptions.
So there you go ... more than you ever wanted to know about Sonlen's Dragon. Drop me a PM if you liked it, disliked it, want to encourage me to pursue the "customs for people who don't like customs" column, or want to threaten me not to do any such ridiculous thing. I appreciate all honest feedback, even when it's negative.

Posted in Customs
Comments 12
Total Comments 12


Revdyer's Avatar
Bill, the visual of the little dragon is great, and a very fine construction. You're right, too, that the Avenge my Master is the most difficult/iffy part of the card. I'm not at all sure what to advise, but it's still a bit "clunky" at this point.

Good luck!

Bill replies:
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Rev. Glad you liked the visual, and it's great to have your help in honing in on the weakest parts. Since you're not a customs kinda guy, I appreciate you going the extra mile.
Posted June 28th, 2008 at 09:51 AM by Revdyer Revdyer is offline
Updated June 28th, 2008 at 03:43 PM by Just_a_Bill
InfinityMax's Avatar
That Avenge My Master is cool, but tough to track. What if it went more like this:

(After the placement bit)... Place a vengeance marker on the card of the figure that destroyed Sonlen. When Sonlen's Dragon uses Swoop Special Attack on any figure from that card, roll 3 attack dice instead of 1.

Also, I would make the range on the Swoop 3 or 4, so that it's not a melee attack, and make the dragon cost 15.

Bill replies:
Crikey, I forgot about that — we had tried a vengeance marker early on, but I think it was hard to fit it in without making the font even smaller. However, things are a little less tight now, so I'll give it another shot. I really do want to get rid of that race-hate business.

As for the melee attack, I'm a bit hesitant to change that, but I would love to hear more from you on this. What do you see as the main benefits of a ranged Swoop and a cost of 15?
Posted June 28th, 2008 at 10:01 AM by InfinityMax InfinityMax is offline
Updated June 28th, 2008 at 03:56 PM by Just_a_Bill
1Mmirg's Avatar
Nice work here, Bill. I'm impressed with the concept and the work put into this--love the sculpt's look and the idea behind the card.

So, you know I am that really mean harsh-grading professor and here comes the painful part . Seriously, I love the ideas, but here are a few comments:

Bill replies:
Excellent! I was counting on Professor Cranky showing up.
First, perhaps only a ticky OCD thing, but it bothers me that this figure (the sculpt itself) does not appear to be near 2 hexes high. I love the look of the piece (and the use of the craggy rock/broken wall), but in terms of game mechanics I am a bit worried (bothered) about things like adjacency with this unit. Technically, as I understand the rules, if I have a unit higher than your unit equal to or more than your height we are not engaged--on the board this is going to look odd given how tall this sculpt appears to be. (Maybe I am wrong and this really isn't taller than a Fyorling Spider, but I'm guessing not so.)

As no other unit has ever been boosted up (lifts, anyone?) on awesome looking rocky crags, I'm not sure what to suggest. We can just ignore this height thing and have the game play a little bit off, or we can consider making the unit height 3, though this is obviously incorrect in its own way as well... Not sure. Perhaps a smaller rock crag piece? Worth it? No idea. I live this one to you.
That was kind of bothering me too; you hit the nail on the head in noting that there's no precedent for a character mounted on a fixed platform. In fact, I also worried about the goofiness of the dragon carrying two massive granite blocks around the battlefield, but I got over that. Even without the platform, though, the problem would still exist due to the animal's tail.

I think you are correct on the rules interpretation. I didn't do a good job of mentally separating size (the conceptual storyline bigness of the unit) from height (gameplay tallness for determining adjacency). So it would seem that SMALL does what I want it to do for story purposes, but I need to increase the height.

The discrepancy is actually worse than you suspected, due to my blurry photo and its lack of "character references" (hah). I've actually made two Sonlen's Dragons, and they aren't even the same size:

I now think I should have chopped the ruins down to the bone:

The question is, can I get away with height 3? Probably not. Looks to me like those digitally hacked dragons are both height 4. I guess I'll just have to live with that. I don't really want to modify the tail — it lays onto the ruin so beautifully.
On the whole Avenge My Master concept/dilemma: I wonder if giving a simple +1 attack to all units in the army that defeated Sonlen would work? I like IMax's idea of a token to represent the actual unit/squad--that is I think a great way to simplify this ability/mechanic. But it also takes further from the power of the unit. (I am not a fan of the whole race/type/class thing--seems awkward and a bit unnecessary, to me, anyway.)
And potentially offensive to some.
A simple +1 against all units of the army that killed Sonlen (we can work on the wording) would also simplify things tremendously, avoid the most tricky part of the wording, and give the dragon a bit more value. (But the +1 seems sufficient, since the power is already taking away all but one defense die.)

So, I either agree with IMax or offer another idea. I think either are good. And I'd love to hear your thoughts. (Just seems unnecessarily confusing in the wording and to the power itself, as it is, to me.)
I don't mind the +1 to all units of the same army, but in every two-player game this would boil down to a +1 against every opposing unit. I guess what I'm thinking is that the concept of "every unit from the same army" might seem a little weird to a player who has never played a multiplayer game, and also has the potential to be misinterpreted as "every unit from the same general". Maybe I'm just looking for trouble here.

Another possibility is to create three Vengeance Markers and say you put them on the killer's army card plus any two other opposing army cards. Thus you can decide for yourself whom you also want to blame for your master's death, and your opponent now has to consider not only which unit he wants to try to kill Sonlen with, but also the impact on other vulnerable units he has in the area. So maybe your archmage was smashed by Krug and you don't feel like spending the next six turns pumping up the troll one wound at a time, but his Life-1 Deathwalkers are looking rather tasty!
I like IMax's idea of a 15 point unit--that would be excellent! A great niche filled. But how to justify it? If I ever play this figure without a Sonlen, it just isn't going to be worth 15 points. No Avenge My Master = not worth the points. Maybe that is the point--don't play the dragon without Sonlen.
Everything else you guys are saying seems workable, but if this unit is going to essentially require Sonlen, I'd rather just say so and make its cost 0 — it's cooler that way. But actually, I really like the fact that I can use it without him if I want to, and I'd like to preserve that if possible.

Now, tell me why 15 points appeals to you guys. I can't seem to shake the image of an MKSentinel post in the Book of Sonlen's Dragon that goes "Not a bad unit; shame it wasn't a nickel cheaper. B–."
Last comment, I would love to make the little dragon harder to kill, but your card is already full up. My thought was for an Evasive ability that makes the dragon hard to shoot down, but adjacency takes him/her/it out fairly easily... Oh well, you can only do so much.

You could add one to the defense (Otonashi has 3 def and is 10 points), maybe that would justify 15 points, but it seems high for a tiny dragon (unless it is built into the back story).
I was hoping the combination of Stealth Flying plus move-after-you-attack would make it harder to kill him. In fact, we just finished a playtest about an hour ago in which the dragon could fly out three spaces over a fortress wall, attack, then fly back inside the fortress — it was striking with impunity. I started to wonder if that was a bit too good.
Alright, I've jabbered enough here. Long and short is great unit! Hope some of these comments help a bit. Love to chat with you more on any of this. Hope you get some Hot Lava Death for your efforts .
From your lips to Taeblewalker's ears! That is the goal. Thanks for you excellent comments. I'll do some rework this evening and post a revision.
Posted June 28th, 2008 at 02:31 PM by 1Mmirg 1Mmirg is offline
Updated June 28th, 2008 at 07:40 PM by Just_a_Bill
Just_a_Bill's Avatar
Haven't tried to fit this on the card in Photoshop yet, but try this rewrite on for size:
If Sonlen is in your army: Instead of placing Sonlen’s Dragon on the battlefield, place 3 orange Vengeance Markers on this army card. Whenever the Sonlen you control is wounded or destroyed, you may transfer any number of your Vengeance Markers from any army card(s) to the responsible army card. If the Sonlen you control was destroyed, place Sonlen’s Dragon within 6 clear sight spaces of his last position.

Range 1. Attack 1 + Special.
Add 1 to Sonlen's Dragon's attack dice for each of your Vengeance Markers on the targeted figure's army card. The targeted figure cannot roll more than 1 defense die. After Swoop Special Attack, Sonlen’s Dragon may continue moving if it has any Move spaces remaining.

When counting spaces for Sonlen’s Dragon’s movement, ignore elevations. Sonlen’s Dragon may fly over water without stopping, pass over figures without becoming engaged, and fly over obstacles such as ruins. When Sonlen’s Dragon starts to fly, if it is engaged it will not take any leaving engagement attacks.
I like this a whole lot better.
  • Cleans up most or all of the iffiness.
  • Uses the markers that we all seem to like.
  • Gives me lots of interesting decisions to make about when and how many markers to transfer, and from whom.
  • Allows me to dial up my own risk/reward mix by choosing a big hit against one guy or medium hits against two or three.
  • Lets me impose vengeance risk on all kinds of things, via the flexibility of the phrase "the responsible army card": passing swipes, Counter Strike, Chomp, Stomp, using a Glyph to destroy Sonlen or summon him onto molten lava, etc.
It's weird: I looked at historic and recent special attacks that use "Attack __ + Special" to see what the wording template should be, and they were all over the map. Sometimes they start with unnecessary phrases like "Choose a figure to attack", "When Chardris attacks with Fire Strike Special Attack", "When attacking with Autoload Special Attack", etc. (Certainly Warden 816's spartan Evisceraxe text seems to imply that those phrases are often superfluous.) I chose to omit all manner of space-wasters.

Anybody else excited about this version?
Posted June 29th, 2008 at 04:20 AM by Just_a_Bill Just_a_Bill is offline
1Mmirg's Avatar
Wow--the dragon is bigger than I remembered! With tail, it is pretty tall, though it is also clearly small. I think a Small 3 would work fine (with the shorter sculpt, which I think is a good choice). It isn't perfect, but it is close enough (the dragon can duck when it is next to someone...).

Bill replies:
Yeah, I think I'm comfortable with that little "cheat".
I think the 3 vengeance tokens, plus all the different ways to hand them out makes the dragon pretty tough. Also, I had forgotten the wording of the Swoop (the movement afterwards option). This is a tough little bugger!
That's what I'm after. Think Isamu: I want it to look broken on first glance, but in reality it's sometimes overpowerful and sometimes almost pointless (other than psychological value).
The reason 15 excites me is that no other unit fits that point value. That by itself makes it cool and exciting--to me. But it isn't a huge deal. You have to try to balance it as best you can with the actual game mechanics.
I think I can live with the 15 if the horsepower is there to make it exciting.
I'm not completely convinced of the Avenge My Master verbage, but I like the new direction of this idea much better. Let me look at it a bit more closely here:

If Sonlen is in your army: Instead of placing Sonlen’s Dragon on the battlefield, place 3 black? [we all have these and they aren't being used for much else... just a thought] ...
That's a great thought, and I would probably do it in a heartbeat if I wasn't trying to win my daughter some HLD. But I've made the assumption that the more work we put into creating an actual fully-realized unit, the better our chances are. I'm pretty sure Hasbro/WotC would not release a unit with new markers in a color we've already seen, and one of my self-imposed design constraints is to go for 100% pausible authenticity.
... Vengeance Markers on this army card. Whenever the Sonlen you control is wounded or destroyed, you may transfer any number of your Vengeance Markers from any army card(s) to the responsible army card. [This power seems to basically say: First time you get wounded, put all your markers on that army card, then any other time he is wounded redistribute from that army card to others, if you want to--is this what you want?
I'd say just move one token to the army card that wounds him, if you want to--that way you can choose to save a token for a later more significant opponent, and you can always save your last token for whoever gets in the death shot. I'm just concerned there is too much power in the amount of control you are suggesting here...]

You could easily be spot on here. But I think I really need the flexibility to counterbalance the fact that my opponent has 100% control over whom I can use this ability against (and indeed whether I can use it at all). I'm no expert on Heroscape psychology, but I do know that CCG players are reluctant to use units (cards) whose functions are dependent upon the opponent's "cooperation". We always had to make those things very powerful or they wouldn't have legs.
If the Sonlen you control is destroyed, place Sonlen’s Dragon within 6 clear sight spaces of his last position. [This doesn't address the whole what good is the dragon without Sonlen--with 3 markers involved, I'd say that playing without Sonlen just doesn't ever make sense...]
If that's true, then I have missed the mark. Certainly you need Sonlen if you want to get the sexy, but I want you to be able to use this without the archmage and still get the useful. In fact, this comment makes me feel like maybe I should go back to 10 points. I wouldn't want every build to want the dragon, but I would want people once in a while to say "what the heck, let's fill in with Swoopy this time instead of Isamu".
Couple of other thoughts: I wonder if mixed with the only one def dice thing, if this is going to be too tough. 3 tokens to move around and as you say the possibility of putting these on a Deathwalker or even all on a Major--ouch!
But, the only way I can do that is if you use the Major to attack Sonlen. You control it. In fact, it's possible that the dragon's real value is not in the attack but in the discouragement. On my old design team, we would say "the threat is stronger than the execution". I'd almost bet real money that within a month of this unit's "release", some player will be lamenting that "I waited all game for my opponent to attack Sonlen and he never did — this thing is useless!!!"
I really don't like the idea of being able to move them all on to one unit as a group--one per wound/kill seems more than sufficient to me. Also, I might recant a bit and wonder if a single marker is enough (but at +2) and just for the card that kills Sonlen (that way the opponent gets to choose, to some degree, how he bakes his cake...). I like either of these, but not so much the way it is. Just my 2 cents...
Originally this thing only worked against the card that killed Sonlen, but I started thinking about how unexciting and underpowered it would be for you when your Sonlen gets knocked down to 1 or 2 life by my Krug or a Major and then finished off by some cheap, disposable unit like a Viper (or worse, a DW7K self-destruct). I already controlled so much of your destiny with this unit, that it seemed like you needed at least a little bit of tactical flexibility in how you apply it. And you still have the burden of accurately predicting which opposing unit(s) will still be alive and you'll most need to pound on after Sonlen falls.
Another thought is perhaps to put in "rolls half of their allowed defense dice, rounded down"--then the ability seems a bit more balanced and I am less concerned with a few extra tokens floating around.
Your comments led me to another interesting thought (which eliminates the rounding, still gives me a chance against big baddies, and better aligns to the original DRAGON SWOOP function): "The targeted figure cannot roll more defense dice than your attack dice." I worry that this is too weak, but if the possibility of 4 Attack against 1 Defense is just plain broken, then this would be a clean way to rein it back in. Does that accomplish the same kind of goal from your perspective?

I'm not sure that rolling 4 vs. 4 is actually a better deal for me than rolling 1 vs. 1 — if my statistics muscles aren't completely atrophied here, the expected result is probably the same (0.33 wounds), but I would guess that the possibility of multiple wounds has to be offset by a greater chance of no wounds.
Sorry to take you around in circles here. I will honestly say that I'm just not sure. You have a lot of new things in here--all very cool--but the more possibilities I imagine the more I begin to second guess myself. Sorry for that. Hope some of this helps.
More than you know, my friend. I appreciate the time you're putting into this, and your willingness to put it on the line even when you aren't quite sure yet where you think it should go. It is exactly this kind of "creative conflict" that leads to excellence. Thank you very much.
Posted June 29th, 2008 at 10:18 AM by 1Mmirg 1Mmirg is offline
Updated July 1st, 2008 at 01:11 PM by Just_a_Bill
bad_calvin's Avatar
I like your idea a lot. Others have already posted my thoughts as far as rules go. I just wanted to say I like the concept and you did a good job putting it all together. Nice work man.

Bill replies:
Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. It does seem like a fun concept, and if we can get all the gameplay balanced right then I'm hopeful it may have some legs.
Posted June 30th, 2008 at 08:20 AM by bad_calvin bad_calvin is offline
Updated July 1st, 2008 at 01:14 PM by Just_a_Bill
1Mmirg's Avatar
Let me add (in case Prof. Cranky got away from me ), that I really do love your idea--very good--and I think the last iteration is quite good. Just a few last ticky things to consider. Good luck in the contest!

Bill replies:
Professor Cranky is always welcome here. Thanks again for the encouragement and the criticism.
Posted June 30th, 2008 at 03:39 PM by 1Mmirg 1Mmirg is offline
Updated July 1st, 2008 at 01:15 PM by Just_a_Bill
hextr1p's Avatar
JAB, are you planning to release a tutorial on how to go about building the fig? I noticed you listed the materials above. However, I am VERY interested in the process so as to make one of these for myself.

Bill replies:
Yeah, when the contest is over I'd like to do a tute. I didn't take pictures as I went along, but I do have one last Sonlen left that I can chop up, so I'll probably do this one more time and document the process. No promises on how long it will take me to get there, though.
Also, you mentioned you had thought about using Sonlen's staff in the build early on, but then decided against it. As a possible addition to the fig (not that it needs it), you could lean the staff against the pillars. Or perhaps in front, on the ground at the base of the pillars.
I tried that a few days ago and just couldn't get it to look like it belonged there naturally (and it would probably have to be chopped down), so I abandoned the idea. Perhaps I'll give it another shot if I have time.
Just a thought. But this is a brilliant mod. Nice work all around.
Posted June 30th, 2008 at 07:48 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
Updated July 1st, 2008 at 01:18 PM by Just_a_Bill
nyys's Avatar
Oh man, I completely forgot to check in on this, the original PM got buried amongst the pile I've been meaning to delete.


Bill replies:
No worries ... there's still time to chime in if you have some thoughts on this.
Posted July 6th, 2008 at 10:21 AM by nyys nyys is offline
Updated July 6th, 2008 at 10:15 PM by Just_a_Bill
rihnoswirl's Avatar
what if sonlen is killed by lava?
Posted December 10th, 2010 at 11:12 AM by rihnoswirl rihnoswirl is offline
Originally Posted by rihnoswirl
what if sonlen is killed by lava?
This is over two years old.
Posted December 11th, 2010 at 07:04 PM by Fen_Hydra Fen_Hydra is offline
AliasQTip's Avatar
He dies?

Did I get it right?
Posted December 11th, 2010 at 09:14 PM by AliasQTip AliasQTip is offline
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