Talking recently about the Battle and Siege keywords I had a sudden thought on how they might have been done somewhat differently. I considered just throwing the idea out on Twitter, Facebook and Discord and see what other people thought, but figured it would be better to give context for the idea before opening the debate.
Ultimately the biggest strike against Battle and Siege is that they tend to pretty much demand custom deck-building for quests which use them, since all willpower becomes completely useless. Which makes them perhaps worse than other quests which tend to want custom building, because it eliminates the usefulness of a huge portion of the card pool.
It seems that this may have strained the design of those quests as well, because as things actually transpired the designers seem to have tried to jump through some hoops to use the keywords without invalidating willpower (stage 3 of Peril in Pelargir going back to willpower, for example) and they didn’t see so much use in the cycle quests as the deluxe. The thing is, this doesn’t in practice do much to alleviate the aforementioned problem, it just makes the task of custom building for them that much more difficult. One instance of course is Druadan Forest switching to Siege at stage 3 but having you attack with willpower, but this then just moves the problem by making attack redundant instead of willpower.
The end result of this is that the keywords were mostly abandoned after the Against the Shadow cycle; they tend to serve as deterrents to play those particular quests; the starting active location making the quest a Battle can be one of the biggest problems with playing Battle of Carn Dum (and thus is once again a deterrent to playing it); and Delay the Enemy is probably the least popular side-quest in large part because of it forcing you to Battle quest instead of using willpower like normal. Siege I think hasn’t reappeared at all since Against the Shadow.
And in a way that’s something of a shame, since mixing up the questing mechanics can be interesting, and thematically Battle and Siege certainly have the potential to make things interesting, but eliminating the usefulness of one of the stats for all your characters is too big a shift to be easily palatable.
So now we come to my interesting hypothetical. If the big problem with Battle and Siege is that they render willpower useless, what if instead of replacing the questing stat they merely added an option to it? So instead of being forced to quest solely with attack or defence, you could quest with both willpower *and* whichever combat stat was relevant? So a Battle quest would let you quest with willpower and attack, a Siege quest you’d quest with willpower and defence.
Now, the idea is not without its problems. Keeping track of different characters committing different stats to your questing strength would be awkward. Of course one could alternatively sum the two and then increase quest point values to compensate – indeed even if each character is only committing one questing stat it might be worth increasing quest point values. That way players would be more encouraged to actually use their combat stats on the quest as well as their willpower instead of playing it like a normal quest. It’d still be susceptible to some of the ways of getting excessive willpower numbers, but then what isn’t?
If we really want to encourage the use of the combat questing an alternative albeit complicated idea could be to set a cap on how much willpower could be committed to the quest, but no such cap on attack/defence, or to allow willpower to count against the threat in the staging area but require attack/defence to actually place progress on the quest (perhaps still allow willpower to clear active locations).
Playing the keywords like this in the existing quests which use them would probably work out weirdly. It’s the sort of thing which should be designed around from the start (cards which change the type of questing wouldn’t make so much sense in this version for instance), but if it were, I think it could make for some interesting questing.
It would avoid the problem of invalidating one of the stats on each character. Depending on the particular way of handling it it could make a lot more sense of the fact Delay the Enemy has the most quest points of any side-quest which otherwise has always bothered me. It could still change the feel of the quest towards a combat focus without blocking so many standard setups, since most decks/fellowships will bring attack and defence as well as willpower.
Now it’s not necessarily without its problems either – one way or another it might well complicate the maths of questing if nothing else. Personally I’m not bothered by that but some people might be. And it must be noted that there are other ways of representing the sort of situations Battle and Siege were made for – the LotR campaign has given us the Defence and Assault keywords which worked admirably for the purpose without needing to turn traditional deckbuilding on its head. On the other hand, I think there’s plenty of room in the game for multiple means of portraying roughly the same concept, and the different takes could possibly even be combined.
So following on from that explanation, I’d very much like to open the discussion on this idea with anyone who wants to weigh in on here, Discord, Facebook or Twitter. Do you think you’d prefer some variation on these hypothetical versions of Battle/Siege to the ones we actually got? Do you think it’s worthwhile trying to rehabilitate Battle and Siege or would you rather just forget about them? If you think it’s worthwhile, would you like to see future (custom) quests using ideas along these lines? Do you think I should march on FFG and demand Caleb implement my ideas in the actual game? (Regardless of what you say I will not actually do this, FYI)