Challenging out NPCs in KS games

First I wanted to post this into the KS-Questions thread, but then I thought it would be worth an own topic. Challenging out NPCs before they are recruited has been a strategy in many of the KS games I have played so far, mostly in grudge games because it takes a good level of team communication. To say it frankly: I hate it. It kills the flavour of the game and it kills game options for both sides. MEGames has addressed this issue by upping the challenge rank of NPCs by a certain margin, but a dedicated team can easily pile artefacts on a NPC-killer.
One has to say that the DS have a greater disadvantage from this since their best NPCs have much lower challenge ranks than the FP ones. Namely, Khamul, Ji and Shelob are much easier to challenge out than Saruman, Gandalf and Radagast. The more as Quendi starts with much better challengers than any other nation. Main argument for challenging out Ji Indur would be that he can give + 10 K/AS to his nation, which makes Morlaen a real monster.
I have the following solution for this: impose a house rule in grudge games as follows: no challenging of NPCs until turn 10, no + 10 K/AS SNA on Ji Indur.
What do others think?

If I was playing in a grudge match against you, and my side was Loyalist, I would agree to the house rule. I understand your points and it does look a bit unbalanced. But I can imagine others thinking: Wait a minute! You agree that such a strategy “takes a good level of team communication” and coordination. Imagine the amount of orders it would take to learn Reveal Character True, move to transfer artifacts to the “buffed” character, move to the Ji Indur location, etc. Some would say that’s a big investment just to take one NPC out of the game. Taking out another NPC would require even more orders.

I know that NPCs are a big part of the KS game. “Good” aligned NPCs can be harder to recruit in the sense that the loyalist emissary should have a very high emissary rank around turns 1 and 2. So, NPCs like Gandalf are harder for the DS to kill in the way that the Loyalists can kill Ren, Ji, Shelob. But those NPCs are also be harder to recruit unless loyalist nations spend nation set up points on maxing out emissary ranks. In a normal game, the DS could have an easier shot at recruiting their NPCs.

I’m loving my KS games so far. I’m still learning about NPCs and other aspects of this scenario. I don’t play in any KS grudge games, but it does sound attractive. In terms of game design and balance, the appealing aspect about NPCs seems to involve calculated risks. You can spend a lot of orders and design points trying to get them, but a case could also be made that SOME nations that totally ignore them and don’t invest the resources to recruit them could get off to a “faster” start. They could make those “NPC-focused” nations lose ground in the early stages, ground that they possibly are never able to make up. Something to consider.

I think it needs to be clarified that there are several setup options where you can buy the location or the artefact info of a NPC of the other side. Dont have the files handy but I think Quendi can do that. Then Elrond can pretty much challenge out any DS NPC he likes. The DS have a harder time to do this, but with pre-aligned Khazad, Murazor can get one or two Dwarven rings of power quickly to challenge the Istari. So the orders and the effort is limited.
Plus it is wrong that good-aligned NPCs are harder to recruit. Elrond can easily be made em 70, the horselords can build an em 70, too. Most others can do 60s. You need a very bad roll to fail on Gandalf or Saruman with that. Saruman himself is also em 70, both Istari have emmy artefacts + 20. You get my drift…
NPC info is absurdly cheap to buy in a setup. There is no reason not to go after NPCs and I would not recommend to ignore them. Their SNAs are as valuable as those you can buy in the setup, and at least you can get a powerful, multiclassed champion and good artefacts. NPCs enable a fast start, not the other way round.

Just checked the Table N for Quendi: 009 is 500 gold, “Discover the location of a specified NPC.” So you’re right, there. That’s pretty cheap and open to whatever NPC they want to target. Otherwise, they are limited to Cirdan, Losspindel, Feamirie, Sulkano, and Gandalf.

If I was playing the Quendi, I wouldn’t necessarily choose an enemy NPC to go after. Some might think it’s better to target Saruman or Tom B.

Regardless, I beg to differ that getting Elrond to 70 emissary is cheap. Table F, 003, “A specified character with emissary skill gains 10 emissary rank.” 2500 gold. In a grudge match, the scenario you mentioned, Eldacar could also gift 10 emis rank to Elrond, but it’s not exactly cheap. In a gunboat game, maybe things are more balanced regarding NPCs and those kinds of early, hunt-kill tactics?

In a gunboat scenario, if Ji Indur ends up starting at, say, hex 3931, that would take Elrond two turns to get there, perhaps too late before the DS beat him to the punch. In that case, the Quendi player would have wasted 500 gold learning Ji Indur’s starting location. And he would have wasted the movement orders to get there and any opportunity to learn Saruman’s starting location.

Perhaps bumping up the challenge ranks of npc’s by +100, instead of +50 might give players pause to go around challenging the npcs.

Movan,

You are missing the point when you say that the Quendi should locate Saruman instead of ji indur. You have teamates that can locate those characters instead. If you have no communication with your teammates and you are trying to beat your teammate to Saruman now you are competing with your own team for the same NPC.

I promise you without the rule of no killing NPC’s for the first ten turns especially in a grudge game where I have coordinated teammates I am going to prioritize killing enemy NPC’s. I do like the idea of bumping the challenge rank for these characters by something like plus 200 to reduce this option. But you can still load a mage with over 200 mage artifacts and get your challenge to 300plus if you want. or easier just have the NPC’s refuse challenge every turn until recruited, or until turn 10. Or make the agreed upon rule of you aren’t allowed to kill them for the first ten turns.

Anyway, I am in favor of creating this rule, otherwise I will always challenge out enemy NPC’s as I would expect my opponent to do the same.

Tim

Hi Tim,

Good points! I agreed with the original post the it MIGHT be an issue in KS grudge matches. If enough players (sizable majority) come to the consensus that Loyalists have an advantage in killing NPCs in turns 1-10, and if the deaths of those NPCs, like Ji Indur, will always represent a critical set back for the Usurpers, then I’d be in favor of a house-rule forbidding that “move” in such a game.

I pointed out above that in Gunboat games that kind of coordination wouldn’t be possible. Thus, locating Saruman instead of Ji Indur might be a better fit.

Actually, I was going to post a call to arms soon for my kind of dream scenario Kin-strife grudge match. I think it would be really fun to take the randomness of a “pick up game” out of the mix and organize the players on both sides beforehand. I would want the neutral nations to start pre-aligned. I would want every player to know their nation beforehand. Part of my reason for this is selfish–I want to play the Rebels. But I want to play the Rebels under certain circumstances: all the players are experienced, “top” KS players; they all have their ideas on what it would take to win; and they are willing to play as a team, confident that if they do so, they will win.

Since a decent game might take over a year to fill and play, it would be disappointing to think of a cool strategy for the Rebels of Ered Luin, only to have the game filled with relatively inexperienced Castamir and Elendin players. They might make some blunders in set up design or with ill-conceived opening moves and doom their chances of victory. To win because the opposition isn’t up to par is a keen disappointment, is it not?

Ji Indur is really difficult to kill, especially now that he has a plus 50 to his challenge. He is usually down south and you don’t have anyone in range of him.

Even in an uncoordinated game, I wouldn’t spend set up points locating Saruman. If your teammate didn’t elect that option work on locating him via his artifacts and hope your research artifact determines his artifacts. Spend the 500 setup points on something else. Quendi are always challenged on setup as they have so many really good options. You can’t take them all.

Tim

Dont the Quendi have access to a teleport artifact? That would cut down travel time.