"Welcome to the Downwood" was always intended from a fan’s perspective for other fans. And this specific preview aims to epitomize exactly that purpose. In the Ditty preview, I asked whether anybody had any specific wishes to be previewed and also went back to past articles in order to gather what you like to read about. Accordingly, I did not focus on a single element of Downwood Tales in this preview and tried to give everybody who had any wishes some glimpse of what awesomeness you can preorder after GenCon.
Let's have another sneak peek, shall we?
Let's not forget our trusted heroes of old
In my gaming experience, expansions are often double-edged swords. While they introduce amazing new game elements and new heroes to play with, they can make older gaming elements feel redundant and risk for established characters to be outdone by the newcomers. I am happy to report that this is not the case with Downwood Tales. Backwards compatibility was of high priority; new elements add to the game, rather than superseding older ones; and despite all attention on new heroes, our beloved saviours of Barksburg were not forgotten. One of these heroes, Tilda, has a well-earned reputation as party-saving miracle worker. However, she also gets really angry when her friends are hurt, and the new Healer ability in Downwood Tales perfectly captures this theme.
Couchman, lildrummahboi34 and champrjk, I hope the delayed preview of the ability you wanted to read about was worth the wait. It certainly became an instant favourite with my wife, although it showed some concerning character development – I’m not sure whether on the player’s or mouse’s part. From the compassionate healer who would spend all her cheese whenever any mouse would lose a single whisker, Tilda suddenly tried to convince us that a molox bite wasn’t too dangerous.
An angry mace-swinging Tilda is already a concerning sight for any of Vanestra’s minions. But Tilda mastering to channel her wrath into a devastating, magical attack is on a different level. Roderic Cliche, I’m sure your Tilda-loving girlfriend will appreciate the extra set of dice included in Downwood Tales – she’ll need it.
One of the many new ability cards for ‘old’ heroes
You met the sheriff, but you haven’t met the deputy
Mew3692002, although I can’t elaborate any more on the Sheriff’s Warren previewed in the Headfall Hollow article, I’d like to give you my thoughts on one of its frequent visitors. As you may have guessed from Sheriff McReedy’s artwork, the squirrel is not in the best shape of his life and requires a helper with all the day-to-day business in Headfall Hollow. Malodor is his man, err rat. If your mice should ever accidentally break the law and meet him as an adversary in combat, you will quickly realise that the big rat is a formidable opponent. With great reflexes, a natural toughness and strong arms, Malodor is a challenge for any mouse.
Fortunately in this instance, the integrity of Headfall Hollow’s political system is somewhat questionable. I found Malodor’s willingness to take a bribe absolutely fantastic from a player’s perspective. It’s highly thematic and offers the party a choice: will we take him on and risk some injury or being captured and locked up? Or will we hand over some precious cheese? In addition to being a great mechanical addition, I loved how it encouraged players to see the situation from their own mice’s perspective. When I played Filch, I wouldn’t hesitate to bribe Malodor – it’s a normal thing to do, right? When I played Ansel, I would refrain from such an action as I thought Ansel would deem it not honourable. Whatever you do when you encounter Malodor, I’m sure you’ll remember this keeper of the peace in Headfall Hollow for a long time!
The night is dark and full of danger
Roderic Cliche, after writing something your girlfriend might enjoy, it’s time to address your question about the new nightfall mechanic. The Downwood is a mystical forest in which the time of the day can change faster than expected. Nightfall is a new keyword found on encounter cards, similar to mouse traps and ambush in Sorrow and Remembrance.
When the mice explore a tile during the darkness of night, specific rules can apply to many individual tiles. For instance, Olga the Owl might patrol the skies and add another element of danger to your party.
The moon token serves as reminder that any nightfall effects are in play
However, the cover of darkness also brings opportunities! I previewed an ability card only usable during nightfall previously. In addition, sometimes your mice may shake off pursuing minions. Other times, your heroes may sneak past any minions and avoid combat. It’s a dangerous undertaking that can get your heart pounding. Roll a ‘1’ on the movement die, and your mouse steps on a twig or otherwise alarms the minions! As such, it’s great to have a local who can guide your steps.
Having somebody who can conjure darkness whenever it suits your party is certainly not a disadvantage, either.
"The fearies! The fearies are coming!"
With his wish to read more about fearies, TomoRobo reminded me of one of the most feared minions in the Downwood. I leave the fun of exploring their nature and social structure to you and will only mention what a terror they are when faced with in combat. One difficulty with fearies is their remarkable mobility and versatility. Since fearies can fly, you won't be able to get away easily. And even if you do, the mysterious, insectoid humanoids simply engage in ranged combat. I was very glad to see these critters weakened in their final versions! During initial playtesting, their defense value was 2, and encounter cards listed them at an earlier page number. Nevertheless, never underestimate the fearies! Having a cursed mouse will be one of the most feared effects for any player of the Downwood Tales!
The butterfly next to battle and defense value marks a flying creature
No mouse gets captured on his watch!
I will conclude this preview with a very brief introduction of our third hero, Ansel. I think Ansel deserves an entire preview article that does him justice in the near future. However, I simply had to include some info about him for many players asking about this warden of the Downwood – particularly Atsur, who even voted for an Ansel preview when the options were limited to other content and expressed his interest in this character before my fan previews even started.
To me, Ansel represents the shining beacon in the Downwood. He is the honourable warden of the region, a noble warrior who would sacrifice his own mouse body so others can live, a fierce combatant who strikes terror in the heart of any evil rat, and a fearless guardian who would not back down when facing a charging boar. One of this hero’s abilities is actually detrimental to him. Ansel simply refuses help as long as others are in need thereof. Don’t worry if you think that playing Ansel means you will be captured multiple times each chapter! The warden comes with a unique way to forget any injuries! On top of that, Downwood Tales includes many warden and warrior ability cards that allow Ansel to protect other mice and deliver powerful strikes with his signature weapon and shield. One of my favourite Ansel cards is actually one that can only be played when the warden is not in play. Even when he is not fighting next to you, be assured that Ansel is watching over any good-hearted creatures in the Downwood!
I hope you enjoyed this fifth fan preview of the Downwood Tales. The one preview wish I did not include was – with apologies to Casper - Hesster. Similarly to Ansel, I think that he deserves an entire article dedicated to him, and as opposed to Ansel, I couldn’t think of a meaningful way to include a mini-preview of this fearsome villain.