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Subject: Descent or Arkham Horror? rss

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Mike Lee
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I haven't played a good dungeon crawl in ages. I used to play d&d as a teenager and I played some heroquest before that. Since then, the closest I've come has been World of Warcraft on the PC.

Nowadays, I mostly play games in the top 100 of bgg. My favorites are caylus, power grid, puerto rico.

I am now totally interested in reliving the dungeon crawl days and from this site, it seems like Descent or Arkham Horror would be the best fit.

My gaming group consists of myself and 2 - 4 good friends who are fairly into gaming as well.

What is your recommendation? Arkham Horror or Descent?
 
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Michael Potter
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I would have to vote for Arkham Horror. It is more of a 'edge of the seat' thriller than Descent. In the beginning turns of Arkham, you feel like there is no way you are going to steam the tide of monsters. It makes winning much more exciting.

I have found Descent to be skewed toward the players - especially in late game. If the players are smart, they will use the rules against the DM and have little difficulty beating the senerio. We had to modify the Death rules and remove an over powered item just to give the DM a fighting chance. I still have fun playing Descent - I just prefer Arkham.

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Mike Lee
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This probably leads into another question: How necessary are the expansions? Should I just buy the base game first or are the expansions good enough that I might as well buy them together (and save shipping!)
 
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Art Silverio

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I've played both games with and without expansions. Although I have to say I like Arkham Horror a little more than Descent. Only becuse if I wanted to play a quick game I could do it solo.

As for the Expansions for Arkham Horror. I'd start with just the base game to get all the mechanics down. If you find it too easy to defeat the Ancient One then you can get an expansion to make it more difficult.
 
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Olivier Lamontagne
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Two good games, I consider Descent more entertaining, as the ¨evil¨ is played by another player.
 
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Cadrian
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I'd also go with Arkham over Descent, and I too own both of them.

I only have the base set of Descent, and it seems a bit unblanced (either one way or the other) no matter which scenario/number of players we've attempted. Plus,it just seems to drag most of the time - too many spawns. And in our game group at least, people don't like the role of the aggressive Overlord - most are from old school RPG backgrounds, so they expected the OL to be a 'play aid'. While a few have got over this, others appear to have made up their minds, consequently the game probably won't get played much. It also feels a bit 'Vanilla' as far as fantasy settings go, it doesn't have much that makes the game world it's own (though this may be addressed in coming expansions?).

Everyone seems to like Arkham because it is a tense, cooperative game that doesn't drag (though it can still be a lengthy session with a few players). It also has a great atmosphere - it can really feel like your investigators are slowly going crackers in the face of overwhelming otherworldy odds... I have only invested in the Curse of the Dark Pharoe so far, but plan to get others soon.

Both games are a little fiddly to play, and both have several rules inconsistencies (or at least, it is tough to find out what is intended by the rules in some cases), but if you stick with it, both can be rewarding. For this reason alone, I would recommend sticking with the bases sets for the first few games, until you are au fait with the rules (and use some of the helpful files on BGG).

As stated above, Arkham is also good for solo play; which is nice.
 
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Marshall Miller
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I own both and to me, Arkham is much better. It is certainly better w/ two than descent. Plus, if its just you and a significant other, you both win or loose. Either way its a shared experience with a great theme and great components.
 
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Brian M
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Obviously, Descent is more of an actual "Dungeon Crawl", though I find that Arkham does fit nicely into the same category.

Arkham is much easier to just pick up and go. Set up, draw a random GOO, and you are ready to roll. For Descent, you'll need to pick an OL player, choose a scenario, and spend a while setting up the specific scenario board. And once you've played all the included scenarios, you'll need to either spend a ton of time making your own, replay scenarios and lose the exploration factor, or try your luck with the quest database and who knows what sort of quality.

Descent is much more visually impressive, with lots of minis and a nice modular board, where Arkham has mostly flat cardboard pieces.

Descent has direct player vs. team of players competition, while Arkham has all the players working on a team. Some people will prefer having an actual opponent, while others will enjoy the change of getting to play cooperatively.

I don't think Arkham plays well "out of the box". For me, it was fun for about 3 games, then we decided we were done with it unless we tweaked it. However, with all the players being on the same side its easier to tweak to taste. On the other hand, while Descent was fun at first, over time its flaws started becoming more and more apparent, and they are extremely hard to tweak to taste.

I really enjoy Arkham with 2 players, but think it slows down too much with more. Descent seems optimal with 4 players; having 4 heroes slants the game a bit too much toward the hero side. If you play with 2 or 3 people, you might want to give the heroes more than 2 total heroes anyway; some of the quests are barely playable with 2.
 
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Jonathan A.
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I own both and absolutely love them both.

If you and your group are strictly looking for a dungeon crawl, then Descent is the way to go. Arkham, while GREAT, isn't a dungeon crawl.

I suggest you buy Descent now, and while you're enjoying it for a few games, save to get Arkham Horror in a month or two.

 
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Brad Miller
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I will be the dissenting voice here. Arkam Horror was terrible. Dull, plodding play on the board. Move to the other world. Draw a card. Make a skill roll. Wait till your next turn. Move back from the other worlds. WAit for your next turn.

BLLLLEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRRRRGH!

Won't ever waste three hours on this one again.
 
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Michael Campbell
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mdpotter wrote:
I have found Descent to be skewed toward the players


I just picked up the expansions and it looks like the Overlord has picked up some cool "nasty tricks." Also the expansions contain replacement cards that toughen up some of the lower level monsters.

Also, the addition of prolonged actions seems to take the game closer to playing like an RPG. This allows players to do things like work a lever or find a secret door.

I would suggest you get Descent with the expansions. It's a very cool game.

Haven't played Arkham...so I can't comment.
 
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Casey Rogers
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I own Descent and the Well of Darkness expansion and have played about an equal number of Arkham Horror games and a few with the Dark Pharaoh Expansion.

If you really want a dungeon crawl in the vein of HeroQuest get Descent. If you're playing with some serious gamers/RPGers they will probably blow through Descent and at least one of the expansions will be necessary. Well of Darkness really give the Overlord player a lot more to work with and levels the playing field. I haven't played with Altar of Despair but there's also the Road to Legend campaign expansion to look forward to. Descent works best with 4 players (3 heroes, 1 overlord). Things are too easy with 4 heroes and pretty rough with 2.

Arkham Horror on the other hand is another really good game. It is more of an RPG lite type game. Everybody works together to beat the big, evil baddie while having a tough time doing it. I'll admit I think I've only ever lost one game of AH, but I wouldn't say that it is 'too easy.' The Dark Pharaoh expansion adds some twists in spells, items and encounters but I think you get a lot of mileage from the base set of the game. Don't know how much Dunwhich Horror adds to the game.

So it really comes down on what kind of game you want to play? A tactical dungeon crawl that focuses on planning out an attack on a dungeonful of critters or a horror-themed co-op? Arkham Horror does run a bit cheaper though. But both are great games and offer different enough gameplay it wouldn't hurt to have both in your collection.
 
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R S
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I own both games plus all expansions.

Dungeon Crawl = There is no better than Descent. The game is a blast and the expansions add to and enhance the fun but are not necessary.

Arkham Horror = Adventure/Thriller game. More of a cooperative adventure than a Dungeon Crawl. Like Arkham, the epansions are great but not necessary. This game gets played almost as much as A Game of Thrones.


BTW, while the expansions are not necessary, they are highly recommended for both games!
 
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The Dude
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If you are looking for a dungeon crawl, Descent is the logical choice. You mentioned that you liked Heroquest, and Descent is a more highly evolved HQ. I have played this many times, and I absolutely love the game. As for the other comments about it being to easy for the heroes, I must disagree. The OL in our sessions is does not fit the mold of the "story-telling" or "player-aid" DM. He is as ruthless as he is cunning. He wins much more often than the heroes do. Of course, we help him by playing more like a RPG adventure than a boardgame.

I also own Arkham Horror. Although it is an interesting game that I would like to get some more cracks at, I am not sure this is exactly what you are looking for. As described above, it is more move, draw a card, roll the dice, check for success, and repeat. However, unlike the poster above, I like the game, but it does not necessary satisfy my dungeon crawl needs. For me, it is a horror/Halloweenish type game.

As far as the expansions, I do not own any of the ones for AH, so I can not comment on those. I do own all the Descent expansions, and I think that they add a bunch to the game. They seemed to have increased the powers of the OL more than the heroes. They add OL deck customization, fiendish beasties, and gruesome traps. We still play base game scenarios, but the OL still has the expansion cards and mosters at his disposal.
 
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Robert Wilson
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Arkham horror

I never played Descent, but at the FLGS we have played 2 games of AH and they loved it, Descent they didnt like too much as it was too easy , they said they never felt threatened at all

AH on the other hand was nail-biting stuff
 
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Simon Dunkley
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Hi,
I own both games and I prefer descent as you can make your own story, design the play area as you want, it's more rpg-ish and campaign play is a great option. I would also recommend the two expansions more monsters more board sections and more tokens/cards it just gets better. In the games of descent I have played it is usually very close, the heroes certainly don't find it easy as spawning monsters can quickly become a real hand full. If you like to paint your minis as I do they look great on the board really bringing the whole experience to life.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/211424

Archam horror on the other hand is very different it is a good game, I am not knocking it. When playing I feel totally overwhelmed by the looming threat, I don't seem to have time to have a good look around the board visiting shops and so forth its more of a rush to the next gate to close it quick you are constantly under pressure.

good luck I am sure you will enjoy which ever one you choose.
 
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phil parvin
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Hi - I've got both both games and, for what it's worth, I think Descent wins hands down. Admittedly, I've only played AH a couple of times and both games were dominated by flicking through one of the worst rulebooks ever and staring paralysed at the baffling array of cards on the table trying to remember what we had to do next. And both times it took about an hour to set up!

Descent has its problems. In the basic game (I haven't yet played Well of Darkness, although I have it) the Overlord doesn't get to do very much except lay out the beasties and then watch them get killed. But the capacity to design your own scenarios gets around this problem quite a bit. But, on the whole, Descent has the 'fun' factor which AH simply doesn't. Which is a shame, because I'm a huge Lovecraft fan.
 
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Mike Miller
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Descent:

+ actual dungeon crawl
+ lots of plastic figures
+ emphasizes tactics
+ neat dice that speed up combat resolution
+ adversarial, if you like that kind of thing, with one player acting as a sort of hostile Dungeon Master
- way too long for what it is
- not much to do besides combat
- unbalanced
- death = shopping expedition
- low replay value unless you come up with your own scenarios
- generic fantasy theme

Arkham Horror:

+ excellent theme, not generic fantasy setting
+ some of the best-looking cardboard chits ever
+ cooperative, if you like that kind of thing
+ huge replay value, increased exponentially by each expansion
+ lots of things to besides fight monsters
+ some innovative rules (the sky; the outskirts of town; the terror track)
- difficult to win, if winning is important to your group
- potentially tedious endgame, only made interesting by the threat of actual elimination
- rules are kind of fiddly, but do enhance the theme
- base set alone becomes too easy once the players figure out the game, but adding even one expansion makes the game challenging again
 
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Rob "Bodhi" Wolff
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Descent, hands down.

I own both, I enjoy both, I appreciate both.

But if you're looking for a dungeon crawl, and that old-time gaming dungeon-busting adventure experience, then Descent is it.

Arkham Horror is a cooperative "we all bust the board together game", and is fun, but it isn't what you're looking for. I own it, I like it, I want to play it ... but it isn't Descent.
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Mike Lee
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Another question: In each game, how do you level up? Is there experience for killing each monster? In a typical session, how many times do you level up and what are examples of new abilities that you can learn?
 
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Olivier Lamontagne
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MikeyMike79 wrote:
Another question: In each game, how do you level up? Is there experience for killing each monster? In a typical session, how many times do you level up and what are examples of new abilities that you can learn?


In Descent, you can use your gold to have traing and buy new skills, but there is no level up.
 
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Robin Ashby
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Can I go off-topic with a different game recommendation?
I own Descent (with WoD), and find it much too unbalanced for my tastes, aside from the disparate OL and Hero goals creating an unsatisfying game experience.
Also, I'm currently deciding between AH and Betrayal at House on the Hill, but I digress.
I discovered this gem a while ago, and haven't looked back.
Dungeon Bash converts the D20 system (D&D 3.0/3.5) into a fantastic dungeon crawl experience. For about the cost of Descent, you get insane levels of character customization, challenges, loot, and sweet, well-thought-out DM-less play, all in a fast-paced 2-hour playtime.
No minis though, just counters, so that may be a turn-off, unless you provide your own.
 
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Rob "Bodhi" Wolff
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Levels, and Getting Stronger?

In Descent, you have various specialty dice included in the game, and the weapon cards show the dice used for that weapon. Each character also has an innate level of skill with a particular type of weapon (magic, missile, melee) and can add up to 3 extra Power dice with that type.

You can ...
a. Gain more skill with a weapon type, thus adding an extra power die to each roll, to a maximum of five -- the classic "level up"
b. Gain a new skill, which may add a modifier to every die roll (example "when making a missile attack, add 2 damage")
c. Gain a new weapon -- the principle form of gaining new power -- which starts to add more and more of the stronger dice, as well as new ways of channeling "surge" results from your innate abilities or from die rolls. Higher level treasures have more dice, and better abilities, and more surge uses.

Thus, you might start the game with a starter 2-handed axe, using a basic green damage die, and the ability to channel 2 surges into an extra point of damage.

You might find a copper treasure, a nice 2-handed axe, which uses a green and yellow die, and channels 2 surges into an extra point of damage and a bleed token, OR into a point of armour-piercing

Later, you find a silver treasure, a 2-handed axe, which uses 2 green dice, and channels each and every surge into extra damage and a bleed token OR a point of Pierce

At the gold level ... well, you get the picture. And that's just one line of weapon type, using one type of ability.

The game winds up playing differently each time, depending on how you spend your money on skills and abilities, and what weapons you find along your way. Adapting to what you find, changing your tactics, and learning to use the new items is part of the quest, since you need to be ready to go toe-to-toe with whatever you encounter in the final room.
 
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Josh

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To ask a question myself, as someone preparing to pick up both games, what number of players does each game play best with? I'm understanding that four is the magic number for Descent, but what about AH?
 
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Brian M
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Quote:
I'm understanding that four is the magic number for Descent, but what about AH?

I'd personally pass on playing AH with more than 4 total. Too much downtime, and the game doesn't scale very well. In fact, I far prefer it with just 2 players total.

Regarding Descent and skills: just to note, buying skills a pretty bad use of money in Descent; they are priced much too high for what they do. In the WoD quests, money is so skimpy and death so frequent you'll probably never get to buy a skill, which is a bummer because the skills are a lot of fun.
 
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