heuristically_alone wrote:How many different roles are there?
Six, although one of them (the Cave) you can't play solo. The idea is that each role plays very differently - different win conditions and different play rules. Which is cool, and it's the reason I wanted it, but it's also a hindrance to learning the game because you essentially need to learn 6 different rulesets.
The base game comes with 5 roles - Knight, Goblins, Dragon, Cave, Thief. There's an expansion that adds a further 3 roles - Ghost, Ghoul, Unicorn - each of which can either be played as an additional role (allowing up to 7 players total - the independent Unicorn is strictly an NPC role) or replace a specific existing role (Cave, Goblins, Dragon respectively). The rules for the expansion do recommend that you avoid going above 5 players in order to keep play time from increasing yet further.
Each of the 11 possible roles has its own rules, and mechanics, so the whole thing is a lot to wrap your head around, particularly since several roles' default victory condition involves another specific role, and if the latter role isn't in the game, then that victory condition changes.
Just in the base game:
The Knight explores the cave to gain "Grit" (experience) to unlock more points to allocate to three stats (move, encounter, strength) or to spend to activate special items (all points spent reset at the start of her next turn). She uses an encounter whenever she explores a "dark" (face-down) tile, or interacts with anything on a tile (including other players' pieces). Looting treasure gets her more items (though she can opt to take more Grit instead), and she has a supply of sidequests, each of which earns her Grit when she completes it. Her default victory condition is to slay the Dragon. She's pretty conventional in her play.
The Goblins player controls 3 tribes of Goblins, each with its own special ability. They gain population (and combat strength) each turn, and can also be supported by tame monsters and secret powers (drawn each turn) - at the start of each turn, they draw some cards and pick one to determine how much each tribe grows, and how many monsters/secrets they draw that turn. Population, monsters and secrets are all capped, and if at least one tribe would break the population cap on a given turn, then one tribe has to be scattered - reduced by 2 population, removed from the map, and they lose any tame monster they have too. The tribes all start off the map, and it takes a tribe's entire turn to appear on the map (or to disappear off it) - each tribe gets a turn in whichever order they choose. While on the map, they can move freely through dark tiles, but lose population as they move through lit (face-up) tiles. They have to emerge into lit tiles in order to attack the Knight - killing her is their default victory condition - but any combat scatters the tribe. The Goblins player is constantly managing their resources, avoiding overpopulation, while making sure tribes have enough population to attack the Knight successfully, and also balancing their Rage - which I haven't mentioned - which controls how many cards they choose from at the start of their turn, and is changed by various actions.
The Dragon has a long-term goal of building power so it can awaken, surface, and escape the cave. They have a list of abilities powered by various combinations of symbols, and a hand of cards, each of which has one of those symbols. Those abilities allow the Dragon to move about (initially below the cave, letting him ignore walls) and interact with things within the cave. The dragon builds power by digesting Goblins, by collecting treasure, or by showing off in various ways - each turn, he can move one cube from each of those three categories to his "wakefulness" track. As cubes accumulate on that track, the Dragon gets stronger, and eventually awakens. An awakened Dragon can surface by ending their turn on a particular type of tile. Once surfaced, the Dragon can no longer enter dark tiles, is limited by walls, and is easier for the Knight to attack (though not necessarily easier to damage). At the end of each turn, the Dragon discards any unused cards, reshuffles the deck, and draws a new hand to start planning his next turn.
The Cave player doesn't have a piece to move around the map - instead they are the map. On their turn, the Cave first draws "Omen tokens" based on how many treasures and crystals are on the board. They have a list of omens - special abilities - each of which can be activated by spending appropriate Omen tokens. A typical omen will accept half the types of Omen token, and require 1-3 such tokens to be spent, with some omens increasing in cost each time they're used during a single Cave turn. Unlike the Dragon, any unspent Omen tokens carry over for future turns. Once they're done spending Omen tokens (or sooner, if it chooses), the Cave adds a new dark tile to the board, and places a treasure on an empty dark tile of its choice. The Cave constantly holds a hand of 3 cave tiles, and any time a lit tile has exposed non-wall edges, as well as during its turn, the Cave chooses one of those tiles to fill that gap. The dark sides of tiles have the symbols of the 3 goblin tribes and control where the Goblins can appear on the map (each tribe can only appear on its own symbol), while the lit sides have various effects when they're revealed (usually by the Knight) - Goblin ambushes, random events, treasures or crystals. When the Knight encounters an event or claims a treasure, the Cave draws cards from the relevant deck and chooses one to give to the Knight. The cave tiles are also seeded, Pandemic style so that there are 3 crystal tiles in each third of the deck. Once the last tile is placed on the map, that triggers the Collapse. Starting from the Cave's next turn, rather than adding a tile to the map, the Cave removes 3 tiles from the edges of the map. Once five crystal tiles have been removed (there are other ways tiles can be removed - before the Collapse, non-crystals get added to the bottom of the deck, but removed crystal tiles still count) the Cave wins. The Cave acts as a clock for the game - its main strategic aim is to keep everyone else from winning until it can claim its inevitable victory.
The Thief starts each turn by assigning numbers to his three stats - Movement, Stealth, Thievery (actions) - then collecting a number of action cubes equal to his Thievery. He then moves (1 point per space) and spends his cubes on actions - looting treasure (1 cube), bypassing walls (2 cubes and the usual 1 movement), attacking or stealing from other players (1-3 cubes to determine the chance of success or effect, and only if Stealth is high enough), picking the lock on a treasure vault (1-3 cubes to determine chance of success - vaults are special tiles that get seeded into the cave deck when the Thief is playing), or making himself less rewarding to attack (by default, attacking the Thief successfully gets a 3-point reward - the Thief can spend cubes in advance to reduce the eventual reward down to 0). Looting, stealing, and picking locks get the Thief treasure - which reduces his Stealth while carrying it, but is also his path to victory. Whenever the Thief returns to the entrance tile, he "stashes" any treasure he's carrying, using it to upgrade his abilities, but also making him more rewarding to attack (reset to 3 points). If the Thief manages to stash a 6th treasure, he wins. Whenever the Thief is successfully attacked, he dies, dropping any treasure he was carrying, and respawning at the entrance on his next turn.
So: The Goblins want to kill the Knight, the Knight wants to kill the Dragon, the Dragon wants to eat Goblins and escape the Cave, the Cave wants to keep everyone else from winning until it can collapse on them, and the Thief just wants to stay out of the way long enough to loot the place. Every role has at least one way to interact with each other role.
The expansion roles are generally more like the Thief in that they treat all other roles broadly alike - in fact, the Thief plays like an in-box expansion to the core gameplay of the other 4 roles. There are specific rules for various role combinations - for example, with no Goblins, the Dragon gets some free Wakefulness to compensate for not being able to eat Goblins during the game - but for 3-5 player games with the Thief, the rules are basically "rules as the 2-4 player variant without the Thief, but with the Thief added" (there are a couple of tweaks to the Thief for 3 player games). And that carries over to the expansion roles - it's only the 4 core roles that have different tweaks depending on which other roles are around.