Dead End Alley

LOCATION - While in the Dead End Alley no Back Away cards may be played.

With the introduction of Watcher's Chronicles, we get a new type of dodge:
Evade.  With it, it's time to take a look at Dead End Alley, a Location that
relates to one's ability to dodge attacks.

Game-mechanic questions first.  There aren't a lot:  Dead End Alley is fairly
straight-forward.  You are only restricted by this Location as long as it is
in play.  At the beginning of your turn you may remove DEA (by playing another
Location, Illusory Terrain, Get Away..., etc.).  You are then free to play a
Back Away.

You may also play Back Away, and then a Dead End Alley.  And of course, you
can use Reconnaissance and ignore this Location entirely.

That's it.  So what can you do with it?

Well, first of all Dead End Alley stops Pistols.  Against many Kurgan decks,
that might be enough right there.  If an opponent can't Back Away, they can't
play Pistol.

This leads us to our next point:  Dead End Alley is the antithesis of Catwalk:
the former lets you play _any_ dodge except Back Away, the latter lets you
play _only_ Back Away as a dodge.  The more a Persona benefits from Catwalk,
the more they are hurt by Dead End Alley, and vice versa.

In any game where you're playing a "agile" Persona and using Dead End Alley,
while your opponent uses a "clumsy" Persona with Catwalk, you can expect a
constant back-and-forth as you move from the street-level Alley to the heights
of a Catwalk, and back again.

With Dead End Alley, as with many Locations, you are best off waiting to play
it until one of two things happens:  you have more than one in your hand, or
you need to avoid the hazardous effects of your opponent's Location by
removing it.

Why wait?  Because if you only have one Dead End Alley in your hand, your
opponent may then play one on his turn.  Presto - you've got no Locations left
to remove his.  If he's using a Catwalk, you're trapped with nothing you can
do but Back Away until you draw another DEA.

Of course, if your choice is saving your Location, or playing it to avoid a
damaging attack, by all means play the Location.  Also play it ASAP if its
part of a combo and you're ready to cut loose.  But otherwise a conservative
strategy is generally best.

There are two cards you may want to use if you use Dead End Alley.  The first,
oddly, is Back Away.  You can always dump it with a Dojo or Master's
Stratagem, or discard it to Master's Advance, if you don't need it, or if you
want the extra nine-grid coverage.

The second card is Reconnaissance, which is almost always playable.  You can
use it on your own Dead End Alley whether you want to play Back Away or not,
if nothing else.

We'll look at who should use Dead End Alley below.  However, _why_ you should
use it is important.  Keeping your opponent from playing Back Aways is
important only if they have some reason to _want_ to play Back Aways.

There are three major reasons why to play it.  The first is multi-area
attacks.  While horizontal and vertical Slashes can be stopped by Guards,
Connor's and Duncan's diagonal Slashes can not.  Annie's nine-grid Master's
Attack is also difficult to stop.  Eliminate your opponent's ability to play
Back Away, and you've eliminated potentially _all_ of his ways to play
defenses against these attacks.  Master's Attack/Unblockable is also not bad
here.  Stick Slan in the Alley and he can't dodge this either.  However, that
Master's Attack can be targeted by Alertness/Block, so it's not as sure a
thing.

The second reason is Power Blow.  Note that most of the Power Blow types (see
below) are those who only have Back Away.  So they're not going to want to use
Dead End Alley unless they want to rely on Reconnaissance.  However, Duncan
and Connor are also strong Power Blow types because of their Persona
abilities.  An opponent restricted in his ability to dodge will have to deal
with your Power Blows.

The third reason is Hidden attacks.  If your opponent can't see that attack,
they're going to want as much defensive coverage as possible.  Dead End Alley
cuts into that by removing Back Away from the equation.

Who should use Dead End Alley?  To determine this, let's look at the various
Personas and see how "agile" they are.

Dead End Alley's main impact is on those who only have Back Away as a dodge.
This currently includes Slan, the Kurgan, Kern, and Kalas.  Lock them in the
Dead End Alley, and they lose their one and only unassisted way to play a
nine-grid defense, or to dodge.  This leaves them with less options against
Hidden attacks.  Of course, these Personas are prone to making Power Blows and
dealing with Hidden attacks, so that may not be as big a handicap as you might
wish.

The Alley has a lesser impact on two new Personas:  Fitzcairn and Annie.  They
don't have a nine-grid dodge other than Back Away.  They do have Evade, but
this is somewhat limited for protection against Hidden attacks.

Fitzcairn does have Master's Block, which can cover all nine grid-areas.
Annie has Duck, a six grid-area card.  It is more restrictive than Connor's or
Nakano's but still effective.

The next echelon of dodge/agility is Personas who have Back Away and Dodge.
This includes Richie, Luther, Nefertiri, Xavier, Khan, Katana, and Kastagir.
They lose access to half of their dodge arsenal due to Dead End Alley, but can
still play a nine-grid Dodge.

At the next level we find Connor and Nakano.  They have Back Away and Dodge,
and also Duck.  This six grid-area card not only gives them good coverage, but
provides a Hidden attack.  Of course, with Connor the issue of coverage
against Hidden attacks is a moot point.  He also has Master's Dodge, giving
him a potential three more dodges.

Next we find the often-overlooked Generic persona.  With Watcher's Chronicles,
this "persona" becomes far more agile.  Currently, they can have six Dodges,
six Back Aways, four Evades (two each from Fitzcairn and Annie), four Ducks
(Connor, Nakano, Duncan, Annie), two Jumps (Duncan and Amanda), and two Side
Steps (Amanda).  This gives them 24 dodges, compared to Nakano's 18 and
Connor's 21.  This number will rise further with the release of The Gathering.

And at the very top of the dodge/agility ladder are Amanda and Duncan.  Back
Away is only a small fraction of their total dodge cards.  Between them, they
can use Dodge, Duck, Jump, Master's Dodge, Distract, and Left/Right Side
Steps.  This gives Amanda 30 dodges, of which only six are Back Away.  Duncan
gains a potential 27.  Neither are going to be seriously hurt by Dead End
Alley.

Examining our list of agility rankings, and the reasons stated above, it
becomes obvious that three Personas should use Dead End Alley:  Duncan,
Connor, and Amanda.  They can all make Hidden attacks fairly easily.  They can
all play multi-area attacks easily.  Duncan and Connor can make Power Blows at
an advantage.

Annie Devlin may also wish to use this Location.  She can rely on Duck and
Evade for dodging.  If her opponent can't deal with her Dead End Alley,
they'll be in trouble if she unleashes multiple Hidden attacks or Power Blows
via Run Through or Battle Rage, respectively.

Dead End Alley is actually one of a Generic's strongest Locations.  Nakano can
also gain a strong advantage.  Fitzcairn, Richie, and Katana have Master's
Block, which can give them some extra coverage when restricted in their
ability to Back Away.

For the other Personas with Back Away and Dodge only, Dead End Alley is no
worse a choice than Catwalk - both render half of their dodges unusable.  Dead
End Alley does help them avoid Ranged Attacks by preventing an opponent from
playing them.

For Back Away-only Personas, Dead End Alley should not even be considered.

So overall, Steve gives Dead End Alley a _7_.  It should always be your
default Location choice when using Duncan or Amanda.  If you don't have a
specific Location strategy for them, use DEA.  Several other Personas can
benefit from Dead End Alley as well.  Properly applied, it can cripple the
dodge ability of Back Away-only Personas - a number that will probably
increase as the game expands.

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Well, this is my least favorite of any Location.  It's very narrow, and
only tends to matter if your opponent is unlucky enough to only draw Back Away
or is playing a Persona whose only dodges are Back Away.  Even then, you have
to keep the Location down and hope he doesn't have Recons.  Me, I can't see
using it with any of the current personas; there always seem to be better
choices.

Rick - Abstain

Hank - Back Away has become the dodge of choice in many decks expecting
Catwalks galore.  I've used Dead End Alley in my Amanda decks, and I'd use it
in any dodge-heavy deck that doesn't use Back Away.  It's useful and balanced.

Alan - Good Location for those Personas with many dodges, but really only
useful against those with Back Away.  Not one of my favorite Locations; there
are more useful ones I would rather use, particularly with the release of
Watcher's Chronicles.

Jim - An excellent Location for dodge-intensive attack decks that can generate
a decent number of Hidden attacks.  This is one of Duncan's preferred
Locations.

Wayne - A very powerful location.  Since many Immortals do not have dodges,
the value of this card has gone up.  It would benefit Conner and Duncan the
most - but I prefer Mountain Cave over this card.

Prodipto - This Location is great for Amanda or Duncan.  It can also be useful
to Connor or Nakano.  It's particularly good if you're making a lot of Hidden
attacks or Power Blows, especially against big bruisers like Slan, Kurgan or
Kern, who only have Back Aways for dodges.  It is also great for limiting
Dodge-heavy cheese decks (although not as good as Catwalk).

Allen - A good Location for nimble dodge decks, especially when facing those
big bruisers with only Back Away (or anyone trying to use Catwalk).  Use it to
prevent your opponents from avoiding the consequences of their power blows,
which you easily dodge and then make a (hidden) counterstrike.  There is
nothing very subtle here, but it is effective.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   7
Jeff                    4
Rick                  N/A
Hank                    7
Alan                    3
Jim                     7
Wayne                   7
Prodipto                7
Allen                   7

Average:                6.13

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