I played the Challenge Dungeon last night for the first time. I spent a few hours grinding away at it. A significant amount of that time was me saying "Why do I have to kill deer? There must be a way around this." Before I critique the Challenge Dungeon, I want to say a few things first. 1. I'm not spoiling anything for anyone. If you can't tell by the title, I'm going to talk about "the challenge dungeon". This doesn't require a "spoiler" tag, or anything else. It requires common sense. If you opened this thread and thought "I hope he doesn't talk about the Challenge Dungeon", that's on you. 2. Only after playing the Challenge Dungeon could you know and understand why the development team made it. It's not a quest, it's not really even much of a challenge for players (although it's very challenging and I have yet to complete it!). The Challenge Dungeon is a challenge for the devs. It's designed to test Min/Maxing against their current build of combat. It's smart on their part, very smart. They've create a controlled environment where players can't hide on top of furniture or use their buddies to tank (at least, I assume the dungeon doesn't allow groups). It's a place where players MUST min/max the glyph system in order to advance. There's no way around it, the odds are just too stacked against you. And that's why I don't like it. For all its genius and ability to provide the developers with good data they can use to further balance the combat system, it assumes that Min/Maxing is an appropriate style of play. Now before someone writes, it doesn't matter if it's appropriate or not, people will still do it! Understand that this is a roleplaying game. This is not a power gaming action adventure. That means that when someone wears Plate Armor and uses a two-handed battle axe, the system should not be encouraging them to "swap their deck" in the middle of combat so that when it's convenient they're now wearing leather armor, shooting a bow and throwing magic down on their enemies. Yet, that's what it does. As players progress through the Challenge Dungeon, they're attacked by several groups of animals and monsters. First Deer that can't attack players, then other progressively more dangerous monsters. Each attack is performed in a new room that is locked off preventing the player from escape. Upon death, the player must start from the beginning. I'm not sure how long this goes on, I have only made it Five rooms deep and regardless of the build I'm using I can't seem to get through that 5th one because the builds I'm using can't do enough damage to the main "boss" while also absorbing enough damage. Which is really all combat is about. How much damage can you throw on someone else and how much can you take yourself. It's really very unsophisticated, leads players to create "best builds" and the end result is that all players then need to be some kind of hybrid mage deck swapping idiot in order to "compete" at the highest level. Now my guess is that the Challenge Dungeon was created to help identify whatever the "best builds" are in the game, because they're the only ones that are going to make it through that dungeon successfully. But here's my problem with that, as I said above this assumes that the MIN/MAX style of play is appropriate. My conclusion is that instead of designing a game to "handle" min/maxing, we should be designing a game to make min/maxing irrelevant. I've written exhaustively about this in other posts, PM's, and even spoken some in a Community Hangout about it. But although I know the developers are listening, I'm not seeing a lot of steps towards improving in this area. In closing, here are a number of questions everyone should be asking themselves about combat. 1. Does combat require Damage and Cool Downs? I would suggest no, combat does not require this. It may be widely expected, but it's not required and the end result of using that model is that MIN/MAXing becomes a horrible reality in your gaming world. 2. Why can't I block attacks? The combat system needs ACTIVE COUNTER MEASURES that allow players to BLOCK (completely) "damage" that is being thrown at them. 3. Why is the combat system so heavy on tactics (in the moment) and so light on strategy (planning)? When a player creates a deck, he or she is building a strategy, sure. But what they're really doing is building the SAME strategy as everyone else. MINimize damage taken, MAXimize damage given. There's absolutely nothing else going on in this system. 4. How does combat impact roleplaying? This is really the most important question to ask. Shroud of the Avatar is a roleplaying game. It's supposed to be about roleplaying, even when you're fighting other players, even when you're grinding mobs, even when you're "just having fun". It doesn't stop being a roleplaying game when that happens. But the current tools for roleplayers are very lacking in the combat system. It's very fast and requires a great deal of focus on the bottom of the screen. As mentioned before it requires Min/Maxing to be good at it and lacks any real sophistication outside of hack and slashing your way to ownage. It encourages people to be odd non-traditional assortments of hybrids taking combat to the lowest common denominator. So I don't like the Challenge Dungeon. Not because I don't appreciate it for the intelligent tool that it is, but because I don't enjoy the direction it tells me we're going. P.S. I plan to write another post specifically about the combat system and various observations I've made about it (while ignoring my disagreement with the overall direction and assuming that this is the direction we're going so why not make it better if we can).