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Volcano Looming High - Playtester Question/Tips?

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robb8888
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Volcano Looming High - Playtester Question/Tips?

Looking for strategy/ideas/tips from playtesters for using Volcano Looming High.  Over the holidays I took the proxy I made of Volcano Looming High (https://docdro.id/ArliIKE) out for a test drive, and left feeling a little frustrated.  After a couple of test games (against England Lvl 4), it simply felt too restrictive:

  • Despite the great range (+4) on adding presence via his third growth option, it seemed to make no sense to spread presence all over the island, since his real value comes from a big "blow-off," and you need lots of presence (6+) in one place to make that effective.  Yes, I know Volcano has an innate that allows him to move Presence, but (a) it occurs in Slow, which means you need to plan at least one turn ahead to be able to use it, and (b) it requires 4 Earth and 4 Fire, which absent a lot of help from other Spirits, Volcano won't achieve until Turn 4 at the very earliest (Use Growth Option 2 3X, taking Presence off of the card play track every time to get to 3 cards, then reclaim on Turn 4 to have the cards in hand able to play).  
  • I spent most of the games adding presence via growth option #2...which left me stuck in one place on the board with nothing but Volcano's base cards, which are somewhat underwhelming -- they're all Slow and only one of them deals any real damage.  Yes, adding Presence via Growth Option #3 gives you more powers/+1 card play, but (a) it's a crap shoot -- if you don't draw fire/earth cards every time, the new powers don't really help, and (b) adding Presence half as fast builds up your Explosive Eruption potential half as much; by Turn 4 you'll only be doing 4 Damage with Explosive Eruption. 
  • We played on the thematic map, which really seemed like a "damned if you do/don't situation":  If the Invaders explored in the mountains early, the only way for Volcano to deal with them was to waste 2 Presence in an early Explosive Eruption, which stunted his growth/potential for the rest of the game.  If the explorers didn't explore in the mountains early, Volcano had to try to build up to a 4-6 Presence Explosive Eruption to try to have the range to reach them, and by the time he was able to do that, we were so far behind the Invaders that 4-6 Damage wasn't going to do us much good.  Maybe that was a function of playing against city-heavy England, but I have to think you'd have similar problems against other difficult Adversaries.
  • To do a really effective Explosive Eruption you need to have 6 Presence in one place ready to be destroyed, which will take you at least three turns to achieve.  But against Invaders of any appreciable difficulty level waiting three entire turns to be able to do something productive is a killer.  Even Serpent (traditionally the slowest of the spirits) can have an immediate effect with Elemental Aegis -- as early as Turn 2, Serpent can defend 3 in a large number of territories.  None of Volcano's starting cards is nearly as effective as Elemental Aegis.
  • More rhetorical than anything, but how is anybody *ever* going to be able to do a top-tier Explosive Eruption, which requires the destruction of 10 Presence?  Unless you have the other two Spirits gifting you Presence every turn, it will take you at least 5 turns to build up 10 Presence in one land, and you'll be doing little else of consequence in the meantime.  

To any people out there who have playtested Volcano effectively, any ideas/tips?   I know he is a slow-grow spirit, but even Serpent (the slowest growing spirit up until now) gives you decent defense and so-so attack right out of the gate with out having to sacrifice Presence to do it, and can spread over the island quickly.  Volcano just seems too restricted to one place and too slow to reach his potential to be effective against any but the easiest-level Invaders.

dpt
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It's unfortunately hard for playtesters to give strategy advice like that. The current version of Volcano in playtesting has changed since the preview was released, and it's a little difficult to get back in the frame of the earlier version. And at least some of your concerns have already been adressed in revisions.

Let me try, though.

  • It's absolutely the intention to steer you to one big central stack and not spread out much. But there are also different ways to play the spirit; not everyone focuses on the big eruptions, and you can be effective with that third growth.
  • I take it that the power card gain from Powered by the Furnace of the Earth was insufficient?
  • I occasionally explode for 1, just for the damage. But it's also true that Volcano is a late-game spirit, and you just have to try to hang on long enough. I have not tried it on the thematic map
  • I'll typically do several early-game eruptions, counting on getting the presence back with the first level of Powered by the Furnace of the Earth
  • Elemental Aegis was probably under-costed, it's not really a good comparison. Are you remembering the +1 range you get on almost every power? That helps, including with the starting powers.
  • I've seen that top-tier explosion happen! It's awesome when it does, but definitely isn't every game, like the top tier of Serpent Rousing in Anger. I'm not sure how feasible it is with that preview version.
robb8888
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dpt wrote:

It's unfortunately hard for playtesters to give strategy advice like that. The current version of Volcano in playtesting has changed since the preview was released, and it's a little difficult to get back in the frame of the earlier version. And at least some of your concerns have already been adressed in revisions.

Yeah -- I realize that these are all all "works in progress," and it's reassuring to hear that some of the points I raised have been addressed -- gives me a little reassurance that part of it is the spirit and just incompetence/poor play on my part.

 

dpt wrote:

Let me try, though.

It's absolutely the intention to steer you to one big central stack and not spread out much. But there are also different ways to play the spirit; not everyone focuses on the big eruptions, and you can be effective with that third growth.
I take it that the power card gain from Powered by the Furnace of the Earth was insufficient?

Nope.  The various levels of Powered by the Furnace require at least three Fire or Earth, but the GenCon/PAX/preview version of Mountain starts with just 1 energy and 1 card play.  You need to take three Presence off of the Card Play track to get the bare minimum of card-play-plus-extra-fire element to trigger Powered by the Furnace....which means you're taking all of your Presence off of card play...which means you're low on energy, and Powered by the Furnace requires at least 2 to purchase a new card.   "But what about Boon of the Mountain's Fire?," you might ask.  I thought of that, too, but with just 1 or 2 card plays, Boon of the Mountain's Fire means you're *not* playing a damage or pushing card, and that makes it really hard to keep up with England's massive town- and city-building.   So, I concentrated on damage cards, and as a result, I was often left with insufficient energy to keep any of the card draw from Powered. 

 

And maybe this was just bad luck, but when I *did* have the energy, I rarely got a truly useful card.  Volcano needs cards that give both Fire *and* Earth, because his best innates use both, and he doesn't have enough card play to waste an "extra" card on one that gives just Fire or Earth, and the odds of drawing a Fire+Earth card from the Minor deck aren't favorable. 

 

In short, in three test games, I think I ended up only twice having both the energy and the card-draw luck to get a decent extra card from Powered by the Furnace. 

 

dpt wrote:

I'll typically do several early-game eruptions, counting on getting the presence back with the first level of Powered by the Furnace of the Earth

I thought that getting Presence back with Powered would be the answer as well.  But a series of 1- and 2-damage eruptions doesn't do much when Lvl 4 England is spreading towns and cities all over the board, and waiting to get my Presence back usually meant that the game was lost by the time I had a 6- or 7-damage eruption ready to go.  Plus, if you spend that Presence on eruptions, that makes it harder to use the +1 Range bonus from Volcanic Peaks Tower.

dpt wrote:
 

Elemental Aegis was probably under-costed, it's not really a good comparison. Are you remembering the +1 range you get on almost every power? That helps, including with the starting powers.

The +1 range didn't help much, for a couple of reasons:

(a) You need three Presence in a land to gain that range bonus.  For me, that meant piling up Presence on one spot tucked away on the thematic board (we had three Spirits, so it was that weird quasi-V-/L-shaped arrangement, rather than the nice round-triangle shape you get on the non-thematic board).  Since I wasn't expanding, I couldn't help out any other Spirits on their boards -- the +1 range extension simply wasn't enough.

(b) The "you need three Presence" meant that if I did the little early mini-eruption, I didn't have enough Presence left to trigger the range extension, and had to slowly build it back up again.

(c)  At least on the thematic boards, the really bad invaders are all far away from Mountains.  On the NorthEast board, England starts with *2* cities in Land #1...which is two spaces away from the nearest Mountain.  On the East board, the agglomeration of cities/towns is all in the Wetlands down in the corner.  And on the West board, the bad guys congregate in the Jungle in the corner opposite the Mountains.  

(d) The +1 range doesn't apply to Volcano's best damaging power:  Explosive Eruption.  But against England, you need to kill or move cities early, and even with a +1 range extension, Volcano's starting cards aren't up to the task.  Only two of them do damage, both in Slow, and of those one (Lava Flows) does just a single point, at the huge cost of not putting down Badlands/Wilds.  Pyroclastic Bombardment spreads its damage among cities and towns, meaning that another Spirit had to expend Presence/reach all the way over to the far corner of my board (ignoring threats on his own) to finish off cities/towns.

dpt wrote:
 

I've seen that top-tier explosion happen! It's awesome when it does, but definitely isn't every game, like the top tier of Serpent Rousing in Anger. I'm not sure how feasible it is with that preview version.

Then I'll look forward to the new-and-improved version of the Volcano. :)   Thanks for answering, in any event!

Azure
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I tried solo against england level 2 (granted how the game played out they could've been 4 and not a single thing would've changed), and won very handedly in one of very few full board wipes I've ever gotten. I had some good RNG (Pyroclastic flow picked up as a major) some bad RNG (first major pick was a wash picked pent-up calamity but had no use for anything other than the elements)(coastal topdecked as first lvl 2 invade) but just cycling between the tier 2 growth and small erruptions felt absolutely phenominal. I've never killed two cities and a town so easily so early on into a game (turn 2 fast phase), and the badlands token turn 1 meant I could kill both a city+town with just 4 presence sacrificed.

I might need to try with a worse board (B is nutty), but I think part of playing volcano is going to involve your team giving you the best starting board possible to succeed. Additionally the thematic board is not balanced, which will be a nightmare for spirits with stricter land requirements. I don't know if it's reasonable to expect mountain to succeed on such a board.

Strategically going for the big explosions at least initially to me feels like more harm than good. Just a cycle of 2/4-presence erruptions gives you fast-track growth and 2 or even 4 damage in the fast phase if there are invaders in your volcano. The blight caused by the higher thresholds means your entire volcano would need to be surrounded to feel worthwhile, which you can already easily mitigate through small erruptions...

You need some luck with majors sure, but you have plenty of pretty awful unique powers to burn away in your pursuit of a major that suits your needs, and beefy track-growth and energy-gain to focus on majors too. Other spirits usually sacrifice a lot to spam double energy placement. Volcano instead is STRONGER when you do it.