I really don't like the combat stack, particularly its use for death blows - it seems like a misguided attempt to add some influence between one round and the next without much thought about what part of combat it might be representing. The rule-book claims this represents "players manoeuvring for a stronger attack", but why is this stronger attack being directed by which losing attacks were made in the past... and even by your past opponent's losing attacks?
Respecting the need to not slow combat any more, I developed some rule amendments - they seem to work well:
- losing cards and cards from a stalemate are returned to the bottom of the deck not the combat stack
- the combat stack, now representative of "environmental opportunity", is populated by turning cards face up from the deck at the end of the combat round to maintain a total of 3 face-up cards. These may be used in the same way as before for so called "death blows", although that's a misnomer as death is likely but not certain.
- the winning player from the previous round draws replacement cards first
Drawn cards may be taken from the visible "opportunity stack" or from the deck. If taken from the opportunity stack, both players will know what they are.
A further simple enhancement to represent reinforced/renewed attack:
The attacking player may add more cards of the same type from his hand against a counter attack made by his opponent. So may the counter-attacker, in any order.
A further enhancement to represent exhaustion:
Players may only draw up to 3 cards a round to renew their hand. Hence their hand may contain less than 5 cards.
I also think monsters need to carry treasure (who works for free these days!) - otherwise the encounter is purely punitive. It's easy to add a treasure card draw for a kill.
Up to 2 other players are going to be bored by combat not involving them, so to me it looks like the game should be recommended for two players.