I managed to have my first game of D&D 4e that involved Essentials this weekend past, and it was really rather entertaining.
The party had reached the Keep on the Shadowfell, and received some new characters thanks to a combination of a new player, a lost character sheet and a dead PC. I took the opportunity to put together a Rogue (Thief) Elf and run around dealing out huge amounts of sneak attack damage.
I really liked having a couple of powerful encounter powers (Backstab, offering a bonus to hit and extra damage and Elven Accuracy, offering a reroll) and At Will powers that let me maneuver into and out of tricky spots (for flanking and getting out of Dodge) and get combat advantage (Escape Artist’s Trick and Ambush Trick respectively).
The trade off was that I didn’t get a daily power. This was a terrible shame as it completely removed the question of “Do I burn it on this encounter? Are we going to take a long rest afterwards? Is it worth it?”.
The rest of the party were using the PHBs. Sam and Louise took on roles that stopped us being swamped while Mickey played a Fighter who benefited from enemies clumping together (a good balance as I benefited from enemies staying apart).
Declan took on the role of Warlord and provided some useful maneuvering at the start of each encounter, the ability to trigger healing surges with a bonus (which probably saved the lives of both front line melee combatants at some point) but largely stayed out of the way so he could use his power to make us do extra basic melee attacks.
I think one round saw a monster take four hits with sneak attack damage turn thanks to the use of that power and some action points.
This section, at least, of Keep on the Shadowfell has a distinct lack of roleplaying and lots of tactical miniature combat. I’m not sure if it was due to the party being built to work better as a team, or if it was me finding a class that I liked, some other factor or (most likely) a combination of all of the above, but I enjoyed it more than any other game of D&D 4e that I’ve been involved in.
Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to find out if it as good an RPG as it is a tactical miniature game at some point soon!
(BTW, Troll in the Corner is running a competition in which you can grab a copy of the Essentials kit, so take a look if you want to try it yourself.)