Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
13 Posts

Descent: Journeys in the Dark» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Descent: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Christopher Seguin
United States
Cleveland
Ohio
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Okay, I have played this game a few times now, and I think that I can finally make some educated and well-thought out comments about it at this point. If you have seen my other review related to BattleLore, you will most likely recognize the format here. It seems to work for the really big games that have a lot of things going on, and the format allows me to comment on various parts of the game in small snippets (is that a redundancy? Can you have a large snippet?). I digress.

To the review.

The Good:

The Quantity of Bits: There is a LOT of stuff in this box. Bits, chits, counters, markers, skill cards, treasure cards, the overlord cards, the monster cards, floor pieces, doors, dice, etc. etc. There is even a piece to represent the town for the characters to go to. Overall, there are a lot of things in this box, and the game will keep you busy the first time you open it punching, sorting, and organizing. I highly recommend a fishing-lure tackle box (Plano makes a great, multi-compartment tackle box) that will organize the pieces. The one that I have fits inside the box, and everything is compact and easy to find.

The Rulebook: This is a well-designed and concise rulebook. There are reference pages to help you remember a lot of the rules, and there are numerous instances in the rule book where one concept makes mention of another concept, and then tells you what page to actually find that new concept. Very helpful.

The Character Cards: Each character has their own data card, and there are 20 in the game. There is a good variety, with each character having both strengths and weaknesses. As a side note (without getting into a strategy article) there is minimal benefit to choosing a character with less than 3 points in a particular skill. If the person playing the Overlord allows the players to choose their characters (which I recommend against doing), then I highly suggest you choose one that has 3 points in one skill, rather than 2 in one and 1 in the other. Just my 2 cents.

The Artwork: Overall, the artwork adds a nice “Dungeon Diving” type of atmosphere (which is what the game is all about). The character cards are engaged in some sort of “Action Pose” related to their ability, and the monsters cards do a fine job of displaying the cards. What is nice is that the monster art looks like the monster pictures in the Quest Guide, which makes it easier to find when digging through the bits bags looking for an ogre or a giant.

The General Gameplay Concepts: There are a few things about this category that stand out to my liking. I like the variable turn taking. The players of the heroes can collectively decide amongst themselves the order that they will proceed in the game. This allows for some good interaction, and forces the players to cooperate. I like the fact that one player (the Overlord) is trying to WIN the game against the rest of the other players. I like the variable skill cards, which allow for the same character to behave in completely different ways from one playing to the next (which increases the replayability of the game immensely). And I like the Quest Book. There are 10 pre-written Quests that come with the game, and there are a tremendous number of Quests that appear online at the FFG website for you to download, print, then play. And I like the idea of Conquest Tokens. If the hero side still has one token left (they usually start with 5, gain more with treasure and monsters kills, and lose when they die), then there is still hope. Sometimes a player holding out in the last moment will be enough for the rest of the characters to resurrect in town and return just in time.

The Dice: The dice included in the game are very unusual, and add a lot of variability to the game. Each of the dice (at least the non-black ones) include variables for damage, attack range, and surges. The black dice add a nice twist, adding a choice of either range OR damage, and occasionally a surge – but never all three – which force you to make a decision about what to do with the dice results.

Teamwork: Again, this is a built-in game mechanism if the group is willing to do it. Because the group can decide the hero player order each turn, it allows for some good, planned teamwork and considerable communication between the players. With the exception of the Overlord, this is a team-oriented game. However, you can also play with only 2 players - one Overlord, and one players using two heros.

The Bad:

The Rulebook: Sometimes the rulebook gave me fits. Trying to always find the one concept can be daunting in a rulebook this size. The Quest Book has a nice collection of charts and game concepts summarized on the back page, but this doesn’t do you any good when you need the Quest Book open to the current quest. The rules summary charts would have been nicer on the back of the main rulebook, rather than an advertisement for the FFG game that Descent supposedly replaced (i.e. Doom).

The Artwork: Some of the pictures of the Hero’s are just butt-ugly! There are a few Hero cards that really stand out as high-quality artwork, and there are others that just scream “what were you thinking?” I am a guy who enjoys the work of a lot of the Magic: The Gathering artists from the days of Unlimited and Ice Age. This is not that. Not sure why, but I just don’t like some of the artwork on some of the cards.

Game Length: 4 hours. 240 minutes. 14,400 seconds. This game will take a long, long time to play through an entire adventure. Don’t get me wrong – I like the game. But just be prepared to set some time aside if you want to play the entire adventure. Unless the Overlord kills all of the characters outright and steals all of the conquest tokens before the heroes hit the third room, this game will last for quite a while. If you want a quicker game, I suggest Lost Cities.

The Ugly:

The Character Minis: Yes, I’m talking Ugly here. If there was one thing that FFG could have improved on, it would be the character minis. Trying to distinguish one gray, boring fighter from another gray, boring barbarian can be daunting. Even if they had, at a minimum, put the Hero’s name on the underneath of the mini, I would have been happy. Alas, they are small and gray, and very indistinguishable. Looks like I will be painting these miniatures just to keep them identifiable.

Conclusion:

Overall, a well done game. Lots of good stuff, great for a night of dungeon diving, and a well organized game. The extra benefit of downloading and playing other peoples adventures (or creating your own) on FFG’s website is just an extra bonus. This game deserves my initial 8 of 10 rating.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gone C. Profile
msg tools
Avatar
chrisnd wrote:
(Plano makes a great, multi-compartment tackle box) that will organize the pieces. The one that I have fits inside the box

What model, do you know?

(I was going to argue with you about your comments about the rulebook in the "good" section until I saw that you also had it in the "bad" section.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Universal Head
New Zealand
Nelson
flag msg tools
designer
Professional creative visual communication: www.universalhead.com
badge
Game summaries and reference sheets: www.headlesshollow.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think Descent's greatest problem is length. I'd play it a lot more if the games didn't average 4 or 5 hours plus. In fact, it's become a bit of a long-running joke with us to suddenly say, after a long night's gaming, or after coming home from the pub exhausted and ready to crash - "how about a game of Descent?"
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
flag msg tools
designer
Ramping up my reviewing.
badge
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yeah; I feel the same way about its length. Although, in our group, the joke is normally about Sid Meier's Civilisation or the World of Warcraft boardgame.

Cheers!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mika R.
Finland
Unspecified
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I agree. This should have been included in the original package: Lots of short, two area quests (with varying difficulty) alternating with the longer ones. Then one could go through the quest book using the short quests route, throwing occasional longer quests in the mix.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew DiGregorio
United States
West Babylon
New York
flag msg tools
badge
I'm a scary clown!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
couldnt agree more, with ALL your points. Thats why i even painted the minis, as well (i have alot of their pics up here on BGG)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bobb Beauchamp
United States
Volo
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Pretty spot-on review. Although I've never had any problem with diferentiating the hero minis, and none of my hero players have ever had issues with them, either. The mostly match the pose/art from the character cards, and I find that there is a good deal of variety among them.

They do seem to be a smaller scale than the monster figures, however, which is a bit bothersome...unless the skeleton minis are not meant to be human skeletons, but orc or something bigger than humans.

The game does run a long time, and I don't know that anything in the rulebook provides a warning to that effect. 4-5 hours should be set aside by the group, with plans in advance for when to call the game. While a few shorter quests provided in the book would help those groups looking for a less lengthy experience, I don't think that would help the overall game. As noted, FFG provides a free and easy to use tool that allows one to create custom quests. It's far better, in my mind, to use the published material (original game and expansions) for longer quests that present greater challenges, and allow each group to use the Quest tool to make smaller, quicker quests that suit them better.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mika R.
Finland
Unspecified
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
kingbobb wrote:
While a few shorter quests provided in the book would help those groups looking for a less lengthy experience, I don't think that would help the overall game. As noted, FFG provides a free and easy to use tool that allows one to create custom quests. It's far better, in my mind, to use the published material (original game and expansions) for longer quests that present greater challenges, and allow each group to use the Quest tool to make smaller, quicker quests that suit them better.


The difference between official and self-made quests is that the official ones are already play tested while you have to spend time, effort and motivation to tweak the self-made ones. The game was made to scratch that D&D itch in a compact package form. In general, I think shorter official quests would *most definitely* have made a better game. But that, of course, is based on experiences in my game group, which consists of approx. six 30 year old males with schedules.


1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Christopher Way
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
"What model, do you know?"

I use the Plano 3500, the pro-latch one.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
flag msg tools
designer
Ramping up my reviewing.
badge
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ced1106 wrote:
Hmm... Back in my old D&D days, we just stopped somewhere in the dungeon, or returned to town. Wouldn't this work with Descent?


Descent, as a boardgame, requires the exact positioning of the creatures and characters. Due to the spawning rules - new monsters have to be placed out of sight of the heroes - returning to town (which can be done) is something only done by one hero at a time.

If you can leave Descent set up between games, it's all good.

However, that explanation misses the real point of a boardgame like Descent: to actually be played and completed. It's sort of D&D for those who don't have the time for a full game of D&D. Having to stop it partway through makes you wonder why you just didn't play D&D!

Descent does need scenarios of different lengths, so it can be played in the time allotted to it.

Cheers,
Merric
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Reiners
United States
New York
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I'd add one more entry to the Ugly column:

The Erratta. There are way too many rules clarifications and changes for its own good.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Harley
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
this game also has terrible scaling - three vs four vs five is too inconsistent in length and challenge for both sides (with 3 heroes and one OL being the best combination)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.