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Subject: A new layer for the Descent cake rss

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Jason Jullie
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Descent: The Well of Darkness is an expansion to Descent: Journeys in the Dark. That being the case, my review will assume that you have a grasp of the base game and will only tackle what this expansion adds. I will address each addition with it's own section.

New Heroes


Well, the first thing you generally do for a game of Descent is pick your heroes. And Well of Darkness (WoD) gives you 6 new heroes to take into the dungeon against the hordes of the Overlord. Each of these heroes is rather unique as the designers have found interesting ways to make "fresh" character abilities (while at the same time avoiding making them over/under powered). For example, there is a barbarian who can't wear any armor but gains "armor" for each melee trait bonus he has (very themey). Each character makes you want to choose them and play a quest right there and then; from the teleporting wizard, to the archer who can change her targets after rolling the dice, all the way to the stumpy dwarf who is slow but always gets to move two spaces regardles of what action he takes (great for a battle action when you are within a step or two of some enemies).

Of course, these new heroes were accompanied by corresponding models on par with the ones that came with the base set. In my opinion, the new heroes are a great addition and exceeded my expectations. Like I said, each one is unique and brings something new to the table that the base set heroes did not.

New Monsters

The other pile of plastic you recieve is for the new monsters the overlord has at his command. Three new minions are made available with WoD: Kobolds, Ferrox, and Golem. Kobolds take their seat at the very bottom of the monster food chain. They are very weak, but come in large numbers. Each one has the swarm ability which adds black dice for each other monster having swarm adjacent to the target of an attack. This can actually start to add up and I have seen Kobolds take down a weakened hero (though this would be an exception to the rule as they are generally swatted away like flies by the heroes). The master kobolds also have the trickster ability which lowers the cost of traps played by the overlord as long as they are somewhere in the dungeon. This puts the heroes in an uncomfortable position as they try to decide if it's worth it to hunt down a little kobold or let him play in the shadows and make traps show up more often. Very fun.

Second up in the food chain is the Ferrox, which are basically beastmen are steroids. They are pretty well armored and have a decent ammount of hit points. Most importantly, they have the Bleed ability, which is quite nasty. After wounding a hero with an attack, the hero recieves a bleed token. At the start of the hero's turn, he rolls a white die for each bleed token and takes the corresponding damage with no reductions for armor. This can be quite powerful, as a hero low on health can die from a bleed token at the start of their turn and basically lose that turn. Additionally, the master ferrox have the leach ability which saps it's victims of fatigue while healing the master ferrox. It can be useful, but it's not quite as cool as bleed.

Finally we have the golem. He's a real tough monster that fits in fairly high on the monster food chain. His high armor and hit points should keep him around for a few attacks against bronze and silver treasures. His ironskin ability can really come in handy as it allows him to ignore a slew of special abilities, most importantly pierce.

Overall, the new monsters are great. The Kobold and the Ferrox add the most to the game as their abilities really spice up the action. The golem is really cool (and fun to spawn), but he doesn't change the dynamics of the game as much as the other two. That being said, it's nice to have a tougher monster out there that the heroes simply can't pop with one shot.

Overlord Cards

While the new heroes and monsters are great, I found that the most important addition to the game is the new overlord cards. Each quest now has a point system for three different categories: Event, Trap, and Monster. Before the game, the overlord spends these points to buy WoD cards for the corresponding categories. These cards replace overlord cards from the base game as the overlord player sees fit. Each of the WoD cards is more powerful than the base game overlord cards. For example, a beastman spawn card will now spawn an extra regular and master beastman. Other cards include more deadly traps, like scrything blades which cause bleed damage, to a posion dart feild, or even an Indian Jones styled rolling ball.

These cards make playing the overlord much more fun. It's great to customize your deck to play the style you like to play. Additionally, the simple fact that the heroes don't know what you have picked really keeps things fresh and keeps them on their toes. This single element added way more than I realized it would after reading the rules online. After playing the game and drawing the "Summon Golem" card, it's hard not to let out an evil laugh as you are now privy to some information and the heroes have to try and guess what you're cooking up for them.

Item/Skill/Replacement Cards

WoD also comes with a rather large stack of item, skill, and replacement cards. Item cards include new shop items and new treasures. The shop items are a welcome addition as they allow the heroes to outfit themselves with greater variety. Especially welcome are the new runes which open up more options for the magic users in the group. The new treasures are what you would expect: cool new toys to make opening chests even more fun (as if it wasn't fun enough).

The new skill cards also serve to keep things fresh. By expanding the possible skill combinations, heroes are likely to feel fresh and interesting everytime they are played. Again, this is a very welcome addition.

Least exciting in this category are the replacement cards. These simply fix mistakes, clarify wording, or adjust balance (making the shop Bow better or the skeletons a little more effective). Though they aren't as "cool" as new treasures, they do make welcome tweaks to the game that appear to feel "right".

Overall, the cards are very nice (albiet expected). My one complaint concerning the cards is that they seem to be cut from a different die than my base game. This makes them stick out a hair and can be problematic with shuffling. This is a problem when it comes to the overlord deck as you can tell when a "special" card is coming up. As a simple fix, I have put all my overlord cards in sleves and all is well.

Misc

Rounding out the rest of the box, you'll find more map tiles, tokens for a new effect (daze), new terrain tiles (mud and lava), a bolt template, and a rulebook full of fun new quests. All of these are done up to par with the original game. They all expand a little bit, but they really aren't "the meat" of the expansion and I don't consider them worth going into much. The new quests are probably the best of this bunch are they are varied and bring cool new problems for heroes to solve.

Conclusion (read: my opinion)

This expansion is very, very well done. The Well of Darkness has done wonders to keep my dungeon play sessions fresh and exiting. The new overlord deck has gone a long way to make playing the overlord more fun and "sinister-like". The overall balance of the game seems to be tilted more toward the ovelord with this expansion, as we find tougher monsters (ferrox), cool tricks (Overlord cards), and really tough quests. Anyone thinking that things were too easy for the heroes needs to give WoD a try. I've seen seasoned heroes get mopped up by a good overlord in many of the WoD quests.

Bottom line: Buy this expansion if you have the base game. It's an expansion that goes well beyond just giving you more "stuff". Sure, it gives you lots of "stuff", but the "stuff" is well thought out and backed up by intersting mechanics that change the game for the better.
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David Reeves
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Good review! Since our group normally plays Descent wtih 5 players, this expansion should balance the OL better with 4 heroes. Adding the extra goodies will just enrich the gameplay and re-playability. I cannot wait to get my copy!

What card sleeves do you use and is there a web site to order them? Thanks.
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Jason Jullie
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TeknoMerk wrote:

What card sleeves do you use and is there a web site to order them? Thanks.


I picked up basic black "Deck Protectors" from my local game store. You should be able to find them at any outlet that sells CCGs. I picked up a 100 pack for around $8.00. They are sold all over the web (you can do a google search for "card deck protector"). Here is a link to amazon that to give you an idea of what I used:

http://www.amazon.com/Ultra-Spectrum-Sleeve-Protector-Black/...
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David Reeves
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Thanks! They look like good card protectors, versus mediocre ones.
 
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Lance Gentile
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Hi,

Excellent review. My son and I play the original a bit. The only reason why we don't play it more often is the time that it requires!

Anyhow, I have one question:

Are the new scenarios built for a specific difficulty, as in, do they call for level 6+ heroes, expecting that you've conquered the original game? Or can you start new heroes and have a glimmer of hope getting somewhere?

My only real worry is that I'll have to either convince my daughter to play with us or I'll have to run more than the two heroes that I already do!

 
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Jason Jullie
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SubEffect wrote:

Are the new scenarios built for a specific difficulty, as in, do they call for level 6+ heroes, expecting that you've conquered the original game? Or can you start new heroes and have a glimmer of hope getting somewhere?


Well, like the base game, each scenerio is designed to be played with new characters everytime. I'm not sure what you mean by "level 6+", but my group has always played with new characters for each session regardless of which scenerio we are playing. The difficulty of all the scenerios seems on par with any of the quests in the second half of the base games book. My group has found them to be pretty tough, but a fun challenge.

Quote:

My only real worry is that I'll have to either convince my daughter to play with us or I'll have to run more than the two heroes that I already do!


All the games I have played with the new expansion have been with three heroes. We always found this to be the optimal number for balance issues. With the expansion, things have become tougher for the heroes. Depending on how tough you find playing only two heroes before the expansion, you may have to feild three heroes to get better balance. Very often, I play this game with only two people and have one player feild all three heroes. We haven't found any real problems controlling three heores at once.
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Lance Gentile
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Thanks for the reply.

My son and I have been playing like a "lite D&D" style game, where the heroes "level up" at the end of the original quests. So, when we try the next map (per original scenarios in the rule book), we have some gold, more HP, etc.. running two characters, this has worked out well and gives me (the hero player) a sense of accomplishment.

We've played Talisman for many years, and one thing I thought we'd change was the "start a new character each game" mentality, which was of course the way Talisman was designed. We wanted to develop lasting characters like you would in D&D.

I noticed the monsters tend to get more dangerous as the scenarios go, and the original rulebook leads you to believe that things are in a progression, so I naturally assumed you could play the game they way we are. Of course, you can tailor the game however you like, so it could support either style (progression or new characters each game).

After reading some more on this site, I found that most people play it the way you mentioned. I think playing it per map and reaching a true "end" can get stale, since the items you gain have little value once you're done. When you beat red_dragon_01, what use is the vorpal sword if the quest is over?

Anyhow, you basically answered my questions. We can likely continue the way we've been playing. My son likes to play DM and is very creative when it comes to design, so we can easily modify the difficulty to support my levelled-up characters. I assumed the expansion meant there were simply tougher challenges (and there is), but geared towards "levelled" players.

Feel free to comment on our playing style and any shortcomings it may have, long term. I think one of the things that makes the game so good is that you can tailor it to different playing styles...
 
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Marc Thompson
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Played as the dwarf the last time around.. the OV lord looked at my stats and then smirked saying "Well, we know where the traps are going" (refering to my crappy 8 health).

My initial cards were some kind of sprinty card for my range card which was very useful, Bear Tatoo, and Toughness. The other two characters were playing a range specialist and a mage. I kitted up with chain and a shield (and picked up plate shortly after) and basically "drew aggro" onto myself. Worked very well.

This game still needs a buff specialist and some good campaign rules :>
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Anders Gabrielsson
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SubEffect wrote:
My son and I have been playing like a "lite D&D" style game, where the heroes "level up" at the end of the original quests. So, when we try the next map (per original scenarios in the rule book), we have some gold, more HP, etc.. running two characters, this has worked out well and gives me (the hero player) a sense of accomplishment.


I think the expansion announced for release this summer would be a good fit for you, since it adds "campaign" play, with several linked scenarios (or something similar).
 
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mike jones
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Fantastic review! I think you've convinced me to buy this expansion in fact, although I do fear making things tougher for the oft challenged Heroes, oh well that's why they're the Heroes.... ninja

Thanks again and thumbs up on the work!
 
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