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Subject: Doom vs. Descent - The Ultimate Showdown rss

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Ok. Not really. But I liked the title!

Descent is Dooms big fat baby cry

A few people on the geek have often referred players playing one game to the other to resolve one issue or another that one might have with each game.

As a player of both games, I enjoy each for very different reasons. I thought to then create a review to compare both systems.

Both games were designed by the same designer, one a derivative work of the other. Unfortunately, Doom never saw the success of Descent and only received a single game expansion.

What is the same:

Tactical Strategy Game

This sub-genre of role-playing game principally refers to games which incorporate elements from strategy games as an alternative to traditional RPG systems. Like standard RPGs, the player controls a finite party and battles a similar number of enemies. And like other RPGs, death is usually temporary. But this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement on an isometric grid.

Command System

Both systems share nearly identical command/movement/action systems. Each player turn, a character can either run (double their movement), move and attack, move and perform a command or attack twice.

Both games share similar sets of commands: an action interrupt, a rest/heal,a dodge and an aim (re-roll attacks).

Non Standard Dice Combat

Both games have a diced based combat system with equipment/weapons for each character to make use of. Dependent on what weapons is equipped, heroes will be able to various combinations of dice. The dice provide the amount of damage that is done and a range amount for the attack (plus a few other things to be discussed in the differences). If the range amount equals the # of squares the marine/hero is away from the invader/monster, the hit is a success. The amount of damage is determined by the difference between the armor rating of the monster and the amount of damage done.

Modular Board

Both Doom and Descent are a modular board system. Tiles are used to construct dungeons/installations, doors to block off ares, terrain tiles to denote obstacles, traps and other interactive pieces of the board. The modular boards provide a grid system to allow for Monster/Invader and Hero/Marine movement.

Senario Based

Doom and Descent come with a plethora of missions as well as both games have decent support with similar scenario/map editor tools to allow players to author their own levels. Support of Descent, again, is much better than that of Doom.

Games are run by a "DM" Player

In both Descent and Doom on player acts as an Overlord/Invader in the same as as a "DM" (Dungeon Master) as in D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). They facilitate the game experience for the other players, while at the same time have their own options/goals to attempt to impeded the other players from succeeding.

In both games, the "DM" has a deck of cards to either create more monsters, assist their monster or attack/impede the other players in some fashion.

The "DM" player wins when they kill the hero's a certain number of times to trigger then end of the game.

Components: Models and Chits.. lots and lots of chits

Both games share the same extremely high production value. Lots of great, highly detailed models are provided along with a plethora of chits to act as counters for anything and everything. Descent outstrips Doom in this sense as there are many more monsters and chits to represent anything and everything in the game. In this sense, Descent really requires more sophisticated storage system other than baggies. You can get away from this with Doom as the game just requires less components.

Random Character Cards

Each game provides a method to customize each character. Descent has a much more complicated system (which I will discuss below), but both have the same idea. Each player draws a random set of cards before each game to select their specialty skills to help differentiate their character from the others.

Now How Are they Different?

Theme

The theme is the most obvious of differences. Descent being one of a traditional tolkein-esque 'Fantasy' setting and Doom one of Horror/Science-Fiction.

I find games of Dooom are very tight with a lot tensions, befitting of the horror setting. I have never played a game of Descent where I thought that the Overlord player was going to win.

Character Creation and Progression

When in selecting a character in Descent and Doom, Descent provides a high level of variety and customization.

In Doom, there is a very limited set of skills to draw from for each marine. Each marine character has identical statistics as well. In this sense, each marine varies very little.

The goal of Descent was to address this and quiet successfully so. Of the pre-canned characters, there are 3 different tracks of skills (close combat, ranged and magic) for each character to select skill cards from.
On top of this, each of the pre-canned characters has a varying of statistics as well as a special character specific trait/skill.

Doom has no sense of character progression during the course of the game. New equipment can be found, but this does not change the basic properties of the character.

This is what Descent addresses to some extent. During the course of the game, hero characters can collect money to buy more skills, find a great variety of items that scale during the course of the game (i.e. copper/silver/gold), as well as they can purchase modifiers to their base skills.

Scalability

Doom handles scalability is only one way, increasing the effectiveness of the Invader Player or decreasing the effectiveness of the Marine players. Invaders (the monsters) never change in statistics, but increase in number per map per number of marines. This really clogs the board up in some cases and is not the best way to scale the game.

Descent takes the opposite approach. Each monster has as set of cards with statistics that scale in strength dependent on the number of players. This is a good thing as the table will not clog with monsters like it might in Doom. Also Descent provides an additional two levels of monsters. Master Monsters (improved stats and skills) and Names Monsters (master monsters with additional modifications on a per scenario basis).

Combat System

Doom is very much about trying to complete a level with a very limited set of resources (this adds to the atmosphere of the game). With this is the concept of Ammo. Ammo is consumed by the marines every time they roll a 'bullet symbol' on a die.

In Descent, they introduced the concept of power dice. Power dice either provide a bonus of either a damage or a range and or possibly 'Surges'. Surges are used to fuel the special abilities on items or skills that the character might posses. For instance, characters might increase their attack range with a Surges, damage, reduce the armor rating of a monster or apply some sort of other status affect.

Due to this, combat in Descent is MUCH more complicated than that of Doom. This greatly increases the length of play for each of the hero characters turns just by the sheer number of options available. More options can be more fun, or it can just drag the game play.

"DM" Options and Strength

In Doom, as the Invader player can play 1 summons card a turn as well as many other cards that they have in hand to assist their monsters. Its a fixed standard set of cards.

In Descent, the Overlord is provided with a greater set of cards with much more variety. There are permanent 'skill' type cards for the Overload plus many other options. In descent, there is also a card cost system to play the cards. These 'points' are generated in a few ways and is used to fuel the cards in the Overlords hand. The overlord can also fuel these cards by discarding these cards from their hand.

In Doom, i find that the odds are stacked in the favour of the Overlord player. In Descent, its much more so in favour of the heroes. It often gets to a point where the heros will kills monsters in single attacks (which sucks). In Doom its much easier to overcome the marines

In either case, its just fun being the evil guy

Game Pace
Descent, takes much much much longer to play. The game pace is much slower as there are so many options for the Heroes.

Doom is a much streamlined system. Turns don't take as long, and with the nature of the limited resources available, the marine players must take a 'run and gun' approach to the game to succeed. Trying to clear out an entire level is just not feasible, where in Descent it is.

Game Weight

Descent, has many more options for everyone from equipment, to cards, to monsters and heroes. Because of this, Descent is a much heavier game.

Common Complaints Where that One Game Mitigates Over the Other

Game play length in Descent is much longer than that of Doom. As from what I have stated above, there are just many more options available in Descent then in Doom.

Descent does have the advantage that the board bet set up in it entirety in advance, something that you do room by room in Doom. There is some time savings there.

Difficulty for the marines/heroes. In Descent, the odds are stacked in favour of the heros, in Doom, in the favour of the Invader.

Descent provides a level of options and customization that Doom does not. This is something that might appeal to some players more than others. Doom is very cookie cutter in nature.

On top of this, Descent is a much better supported game than that of Doom. FFG has done a wonderful job with many expansions and an avid player community with player playtested and published scenarios.

Both games, though they share a similar system provide a very different game play experience in both atmosphere and execution.

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Mark Thomas
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I've not played Doom so I can't really comment on your analysis, but I can say that if you have never felt that the Overlord would win, you need a new Overlord.
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Ken Watson
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mwdalrymple wrote:
I have never played a game of Descent where I thought that the Overlord player was going to win.

In Descent, [balance is] much more so in favour of the heroes.


I don't own any of the Descent expansions (yet), but from everything I've read, I don't think it's going to be long for somebody who owns Altar of Despair or particularly Well of Doom to strongly disagree with these statements.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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mwdalrymple wrote:
Scalability

Doom handles scalability is only one way, increasing the effectiveness of the Invader Player or decreasing the effectiveness of the Marine players. Invaders (the monsters) never change in statistics, but increase in number per map per number of marines. This really clogs the board up in some cases and is not the best way to scale the game.

Descent takes the opposite approach. Each monster has as set of cards with statistics that scale in strength dependent on the number of players. This is a good thing as the table will not clog with monsters like it might in Doom. Also Descent provides an additional two levels of monsters. Master Monsters (improved stats and skills) and Names Monsters (master monsters with additional modifications on a per scenario basis).

I've always thought that the Descent scaling mechanism is clever in principle but deeply flawed in implementation; in forum discussions, people all seem to agree that the scaling doesn't work at all (resulting in much harder games for smaller parties of heroes). I went so far as to rebalance the game myself in order to try and fix the scaling issues (I also made the monsters take more hits to kill--you might like it).

Despite clogging up the board, does the Doom scaling system keep difficulty consistent across different numbers of players? I seem to recall someone suggesting in one post that in Doom, the game gets harder for the marines the more of them are present, because they need to kill more monsters with the same amount of ammunition. There's also definitely potential damage scaling issues if Doom uses something similar to Descent's conquest system.
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Antistone wrote:

I've always thought that the Descent scaling mechanism is clever in principle but deeply flawed in implementation; in forum discussions, people all seem to agree that the scaling doesn't work at all (resulting in much harder games for smaller parties of heroes). I went so far as to rebalance the game myself in order to try and fix the scaling issues (I also made the monsters take more hits to kill--you might like it).

Despite clogging up the board, does the Doom scaling system keep difficulty consistent across different numbers of players? I seem to recall someone suggesting in one post that in Doom, the game gets harder for the marines the more of them are present, because they need to kill more monsters with the same amount of ammunition. There's also definitely potential damage scaling issues if Doom uses something similar to Descent's conquest system.


Doom scales the game by adding more monsters and reducing the strength of the characters.

In an attempt to adjust the difficulty further, FFG released on their website a set of 'difficulty-settings' as you would find in the board game. These further tweak Marine starting health, armor and equipment as well as the Invader (overlords) starting cards and options.

I found the games of Descent I played to really favour the Heroes, especially in the first few senarios where there are many many chests. Add in a strong combination of skills, it makes it exceedingly difficult in Descent for many monsters to last longer than one hit. Not that this isn't the case with tier1 monsters in Doom, its just that the higher tier monsters tend to stick around.

This is due to a weapon, at any level of monster, for any number of players, being just as effective. So in that sense they are balanced well. I just have found in my experience in Descent that if the heroes get a really good set starting skills, and a good chest drop or two, its much more difficult to slow them down.

In Doom, its much much easier to slow down the progression of the marines. Forcing them to waste their ammo really weakens them with copious spawns. There is much less spawning in descent.

You don't have that luxury in descent. With the Surge system (which is really brillant), if you get a decent combo as a hero (i.e. say with +5 surges on top of what you role) and then some sort of damage/range adjusting weapons/runes, it really doesn't take much to obliderate master monsters in one go.
 
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Beau Bailey
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mwdalrymple wrote:
I have never played a game of Descent where I thought that the Overlord player was going to win.

In Descent, [balance is] much more so in favour of the heroes.


Then your Overlord is not very talented. Yes, there are a couple of quests extremely in favor of the heroes, but for the most part the Overlord should have a shot at winning. The main guy I play against is a very talented and experienced hero player, yet I never feel like I am going to lose from the beginning. He may feel otherwise, but I always feel like I have a shot at winning (which I often do).

Edit: Good comparison by the way, I just disagree on the one point.
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btw, I am usually the Overlord! cry

I guess I maybe go to easy on them after mopping the floor in Doom.

 
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Beau Bailey
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mwdalrymple wrote:
btw, I am usually the Overlord! cry

I guess I maybe go to easy on them after mopping the floor in Doom.



Well, that might have some effect on it .

Some of the base game quests are definitely weighted towards the heroes, while the expansions swing it way to the Overlord's favor.

I haven't played Doom, so maybe your strategy is colored some by your experience with it. I'm not sure how comparable the Overlord's position is between the two games.

If they are that different, I might need to pick up Doom and try it out.
 
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badweasel wrote:


Well, that might have some effect on it .

Some of the base game quests are definitely weighted towards the heroes, while the expansions swing it way to the Overlord's favor.

I haven't played Doom, so maybe your strategy is colored some by your experience with it. I'm not sure how comparable the Overlord's position is between the two games.

If they are that different, I might need to pick up Doom and try it out.


The Overlords positions is much different between the two games I find. Its just much easier to be mean in Doom and is generally very challenging. Its a very different game experience for the marines as well. There is just a lot more tension in the game in general. Its a very different game play experience on both sides


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José Agüero
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I have both games, however I've only managed to played Doom due to it's easier/shorter nature.

It's a great game and I'm sorry they only released one expansion, I wish we could see a new expansion.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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mwdalrymple wrote:
This is due to a weapon, at any level of monster, for any number of players, being just as effective. So in that sense they are balanced well.

No, that's the opposite of true. If you're fighting the same monsters in a larger game, but you have more people and more weapons, then it is unbalanced if it takes the same number of attacks from the same weapon to kill a given monster.

mwdalrymple wrote:
You don't have that luxury in descent. With the Surge system (which is really brillant), if you get a decent combo as a hero (i.e. say with +5 surges on top of what you role) and then some sort of damage/range adjusting weapons/runes, it really doesn't take much to obliderate master monsters in one go.

Getting +5 surges added to your roll is virtually impossible in Descent; it requires stacking at least three separate bonuses, all of which are rare. To call that a "decent" combo is wildly unrepresentative.

And whether monsters are easy to kill or not has nothing to do with the surge system, it has to do with the final damage output of weapons compared to monster health. Descent combat is really deadly and lots of monsters die in one hit, but that's just because Descent combat is really deadly, not because of any particular combat subsystem. As my mod proves, you can use all the same basic rules, but adjust the weapon and monster stats, and end up with monsters that are much harder to kill.

And lots of people report finding Descent to be fairly balanced, or even to favor the overlord, despite the fact that monsters all die really easily. Though it depends a lot on the game size, the expansions used, and the quest being played--large parties, base game only, the first few quests are about as easy as it gets for the heroes.



And none of this actually answers my question, which not about how hard Doom is relative to Descent, but about whether the difficulty of Doom remains consistent when you vary the number of players, or whether it gets easier or harder for large parties of marines compared to small ones.
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Antistone wrote:

And none of this actually answers my question, which not about how hard Doom is relative to Descent, but about whether the difficulty of Doom remains consistent when you vary the number of players, or whether it gets easier or harder for large parties of marines compared to small ones.


In Doom you have 3 marines and 3 sets of invaders (demons, monsters, aliens whatever you want to call them). Each Senario has 4 sets of colours of monters.

1) White that is always there
2) Red,Green and Blue

As the Invader you always play White monsters and then the coloured monsters of marine colour type.

Yes, the game gets easier to some extent with more players, but this is balanced out with marines have less skills and less health, making it much easier for them to die and to allow the Invader player rack of Frags.

I find that its slightly more difficult when its a single marine just b/c you can't set up actions such as one marine opening the door and the second marine set to then blaze his guns and things like that. But that is more from a tactical stand point, not so much as in an ease of killing monsters.

The difference between 2 and 3 marines is nil in my opinion. The additional monsters more than makes up for it. Also note that the ammo supply isn't varied for each scenario so you will burn through ammo much quicker than say with a single marine having the advantage of being able to pick up all the ammo. Same number of weapons, more users, but less to go around.

The depending on the players, you can tweak the difficulty even more with the difficulty setting cards that adjust various games settings further. I highly recommend using these difficulty cards. Then you can adjust things as marines skill levels improve.
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Jan Colpaert
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TheGelatinousCube wrote:
I've not played Doom so I can't really comment on your analysis, but I can say that if you have never felt that the Overlord would win, you need a new Overlord.



Hi Mark,

Should be interesting to see if your "Descent quest"-system would work for Doom as well. Maybe a new challenge?

 
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Ben Kuhn
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mwdalrymple wrote:
In both Descent and Doom on player acts as an Overlord/Invader in the same as as a "DM" (Dungeon Master) as in D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). They facilitate the game experience for the other players, while at the same time have their own options/goals to attempt to impeded the other players from succeeding.



In my opinion, this is your big mistake:

The OL is NOT a DM!! Against Heroes who understand the basics of the game (and why would you play with any others?), the OverLord is out for BLOOD!! You goal is not to "facilitate" ANYTHING! Your only goal, which every move you make must lead you towards, is to KILL the HEROES. No mercy, No Honor, No holding back to give them hope, or because you feel bad for kickin' butt, JUST THEIR DEATHS!!!! The only exceptions to this rule are the moves you make to complete a plot that will win the game for you. In either case, your role with the Heroes, as OL, is ALWAYS adversarial!! A Hero is your Enemy, not your Protege, NOT your Responsibility!

This is my opinion. I could be wrong.
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Mark Thomas
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neo.colpaert wrote:

Hi Mark,

Should be interesting to see if your "Descent quest"-system would work for Doom as well. Maybe a new challenge?



I'm sure it would, but I don't have the game, so I can't really create that. I did see that The Warp, who made my cards, created a co-op system for it that uses the pre-configured scenarios. It looks pretty cool.
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Sean Shaw
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I've played both and I'd say that Doom is more in favor of the Overlord and Descent is more in favor of the players comparatively.

In otherwords, if you have the players having a tough time in a scenario in Descent where the Overlord is winning...the similar situation in Doom would have them murdered in turn one. Doom is a LOT harder in the default base game setting for the players. It's so slanted that there were complaints of it being broken at first from players. However if you play with the expansion and play with easier difficulty levels they could be comparable.

The counter to someone claiming that perhaps they are just an awesome overlord in Descent would be maybe their players just aren't that good?

Descent has scenarios which are very easy for the OL to win to tell the truth, but overall Descent is easier on the players then Doom is at it's base game level.

However, Descent at the base game up through Altar of Despair was just bleh for me and didn't really hold my attention. I actually even gave it away (believe it or not!). Doom on the otherhand kept my attention. It wasn't until Descent Road to Legend (which is not easier on players per se, as it's much harder on them at the beginning of the campaign, easier near the end) that I got back into descent and loved the new campaign system (ala WHQ, but in my opinion it's actually better).

All in my opinion obviously.
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Emivaldo Sousa
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I think DOOM is a better game - it is more streamlined, more tense, scales well with the difficulty settings and it really assumes that the invader is the adversary to be beaten - the odds are against the marines.

Descent is a more immersive experience - more options, more gear, more monsters, more expansions, but, as a game, I think it really is a work in progress. Each expansion comes with its own lot of errata and unbalances and the scenarios are really everywhere in terms of difficulty (although most of them used to favor the Overlord, the feat system, introduced with Tomb of Ice, changed some of them. I think part of the charm of the game is its mutating and ever expanding nature.

I like them both. And go to Doom when I want a challenging game and to Descent when I want a fun experience.
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GreyLord wrote:
I've played both and I'd say that Doom is more in favor of the Overlord and Descent is more in favor of the players comparatively.


I've played both. I agree with Sean mostly on this part. Except that I have always like Descent. One of my favorite games. I agree that Doom is harder on the players than Descent, but that doesn't mean that Descent is easy by any means. The last 6 games of Descent we have played, the Overlord has won. We have gotten into the Well expansion, and we find the scenarios extremely challenging. Some players are beginning to baulk at the game, stating that it is too hard. We'll continue to play, but I don't see any huge wins for the party any time soon.
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Aaron Gelb
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Another great aspect to Doom is the Player vs. Player death match or Capture the flag!
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Robert Gardunia
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mwdalrymple wrote:
Ok. Not really. But I liked the title!

I have never played a game of Descent where I thought that the Overlord player was going to win.



Chant with me... traps and beastmen, traps and beastmen, traps and beastmen. You will now feel how ridiculously easy it can be to kill heroes in Descent.

devil
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