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Descent: The Well of Darkness» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Evil Overlord Wins...Once and For All? rss

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J Townsend
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Down here in sunny Florida our group has been meeting on the weekends, usually late Friday nights until the wee hours of Saturday morning, for about two years now exploring the limits of our collective geekdom. Since we play so late we have begun to gravitate towards shorter games, or at least games we’ve played before so we don’t have to learn new rules at midnight (while imbibing copious amounts of alcohol).

We had played Descent before several times with and without expansions, and while the games were entertaining, they always lasted way too long (5+ hours for the shorter sessions). The last time we attempted to play, we ran the Chaos Beast scenario from the Altar of Despair, which I picked because it seemed relatively short...3 consecutive 5 hour sessions later the players finally gave up (in despair). I should mention that I was the overlord, and the other players really did not enjoy losing after such an extended game. All agreed that the length was prohibitive, but that it would be fun if the game were shorter.

One guy in our group, Fippy_Darkpaw, swears (still) that Descent is broken because of monster spawning. For the Chaos Beast scenario I actually used my treachery almost exclusively for monster spawns, since I knew these guys would not be able to resist fighting every monster they found and the slow progress would mean an easy win for the overlord. Maybe that influenced his opinion, but to me the line of sight and monster spawning rules are the bread and butter of Descent…without those mechanics I think the experience would be very predictable and static.

Fast forward a year to last weekend. With the Road to Legend recently released, another of our players, Evilint, had been dropping hints about testing the Descent waters again, so I decided the time was right to spring the game on my unwitting buddies. I chose Quest 1: Buried Alive from the Well of Darkness expansion; the built in timer was perfect for a fast game, and would force the players into moving quickly instead of lolly-gagging. I was determined to make this our fastest game of Descent yet.

The plan was: choose the shortest scenario in the Well of Darkness, completely set up the game before anyone arrived, fashion my treachery selections and deck substitutions around traps and power instead of spawns, separate and box the to-be-revealed areas until they were needed, use online references to speed play, mark and label pages of interest in the rule book, and hit the ground running when everybody arrived. I had left the Altar of Despair cards in the overlord, store items, treasure, and skill decks…I figured it would even out.

As players started filing in, I let each of them select 3 characters at random and choose 1. Since we had 3 players and 1 overlord, I also allowed them to select a 4th communal character…they nabbed some choice characters: Ronan of the Wild, Nanuk of the Blade, Andira Runehand, and Mordrog the Orc. At this point the complaining began: nobody believed the game would go any faster than before, and I think Evilint was a little miffed that the game was sprung on him without warning. Ironically they spent the next hour agonizing over their limited character choices and item purchasing. Fippy started to go into his litany of how players should be allowed to select their skills, but was cut short when everybody actually drew really good skills.

Once the game started, it moved at a brisk pace and everyone was having a good time…the players made sure they were a step ahead of the cave-in, but only a step. They massacred every monster in the way in Areas 0 and 1, and were doing OK until they unveiled Area 2, the big room with an ogre waiting at the end, ready to knock players down a bottomless pit. I had used two monster spawns at this point, a beastman group and a ferrox tribe…otherwise I had saved my threat tokens and had a hand full of trap cards. I had an ogre spawn card waiting for area 2, but they ran in and line of sight prevented me from spawning the ogre near the door. No problem I thought, I’ll just spawn it next to the other ogre. I moved all the other monsters (beastmen, ferrox, and kobolds) up to clog the north hallway, and used a couple space traps on the heroes when they won past.

The players killed most of the monsters before they realized how close the cave-in was. They made a mad dash towards the ogre, who promptly knockback-ed Fippy’s Nanuk into the bottomless pit. At that point they had a turn left to kill the ogre(s) and get out of the room, but the players realized the futility of this and gave up on turn 8, about 2 hours after the 1st turn began. This game was definitely shorter, and in that regard I count it a success

Unfortunately the complaining began in earnest when they conceded; this time they focused on the crazy difficulty of the game. Fippy started going on about how unfair monster spawning is, and the others were really upset that they lost so badly, even with good characters, skills, and dice rolls.

It was hard for me to pinpoint where their strategy broke down…they would all cautiously gather a few steps away from doors and open them at the start of their next turn (to keep me from moving and spawning monsters on my turn), so that probably cost them a turn or so. They killed just about every monster they found, which probably cost another turn. Maybe I’m just a really good evil overlord? devil

Of course they didn’t buy it. Suggestions to move faster were met with: “I don’t want to play a game like that” or “you would have slaughtered us if we opened doors sooner” or "it's just too easy to win as the overlord." They didn't really bite when I offered to be a player next time, so we could try a new overlord. Fippy started going on about monster spawning, but everyone just ignored him since it didn't factor too heavily in this session. Long story short, the new complaint is difficulty rather than length, and it doesn’t seem like Descent will hit our table again for a long while, if ever again
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Matt Davis
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They're just wrong. Killing all the monsters that appear is not necessary to win this game. Nor is it particularly conducive to winning the game. They need to get the hell over that. Also, dear god...15 hours to finish a quest? I would have killed myself.
 
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Nathaniel GOUSSET
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Err, you DID set up the whole dungeon at start, right ? the only thing you reveal are the monsters and props...

Seems your players are suffering from the Dungeon syndroma. Descent is not the classical monster bash and should not be played that way. Time is of the essence. The heroes players are supposed to make their play as efficient and speedy as possible. No need to kill a speed 4 monster when you can easily outrun him by spending 1 fatigue. No need to grab everything that lie on the ground.

Shout the ogre before going close to him...

Focus on the goal, not the mobs.

Second time the heroes plays this one against me they really focus on moving fast. And they succeed.

Remember monsters cant jump over pits nor mud while the players can. Make it easy to outrun them.

Cover the L.O.S. monsters are one shot wonders that doesnt last when in heroes range. Their only use are to be spawned close to the heroes and make one attack before being killed/outrun. The heroes need to learn to control the LoS.. control the LoS = control the Spawn.

USE FATIGUE then REST or DRINK a potion or BOTH.

Have the heroes compute how far can their heroes go while running and drinking a fatigue potion... The slowest heroes can go 13!!! square the fastest 19, that is enormous. They need to understand this capability.
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Ben Foy
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For being such panzies, tell them they have to play Flowerpower next time.
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U Majuran
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Or if they keep going on about monster spawning, try using the spawning rules in Road to Legend in your main game (you gan get the rules online). Basically, you have the eyes counter (piece of cardboard with some eyes on one side). When playing a spawn card, flip it eyes down. You can't play another spawn card until it goes back upright (15 threat cost).

Also give em some tips re: covering lines of sight and how you can't spawn in areas that their characters can directly see
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Bobb Beauchamp
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It's your players, not the game. Not that they are bad players, but they are bad Descent players.

They're stuck in the RPG mentality...if it looks like an orc, smells like an orc, sounds like an orc, then it's probably made of xps and we should kill it.

But that's not Descent. Every quest has a stated goal...usually find and kill something specific. Everything else...and I mean everything...is a potential distraction preventing that goal from being accomplished. That includes coin piles, chests, and potions.

I think your players nailed the reason why they don't like Descent, because it is a game where hero speed equates to hero succees. RtL somewhat tempers this, but delaying still results in more accumulated power for the OL. But even in RtL, the portal exit open when the level leader(s) is killed, not when the last beastman, razorwing, or even dragon is killed. And in Descent, monsters aren't made of xps, or even coins, so there's nothing lost in leaving a few normal or even master monsters behind.

Descent is a great game, so long as you don't look to it to be something it's not. Get your players to buy in to the idea that Descent isn't just a table-top RPG, and understand what they need to do to actually succeed, and they'll have a blast.
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J Townsend
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IKerensky wrote:
Err, you DID set up the whole dungeon at start, right ? the only thing you reveal are the monsters and props...

shake
Actually I was revealing the areas only when the players opened the door...Oops! Thanks for pointing out my mistake! That would certainly make it a bit easier.
 
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J Townsend
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ced1106 wrote:
Wow, what a bunch of wh*ners. laugh

Ya, I couldn't believe it! Evilint has been going through some tough times lately though so he deserves some slack. Now I can reserve some whininess for the next time they try to make me play Elfenland or Bang!

kingbobb wrote:
They're stuck in the RPG mentality...if it looks like an orc, smells like an orc, sounds like an orc, then it's probably made of xps and we should kill it.

I think you nailed it, your majesty.
 
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Fippy Darkpaw
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Ehhh I'm still not convinced.

Descent could be the best game ever but the monster spawning mechanic is bad (imho obviously) and potentially drags scenarios on forever. First, there's the "Don't look away from the corners or the monsters will appear" aspect. Then there's the "Guys, just ignore the monster beating on you, because it will take a turn to kill him" aspect.

Success being dictated by the number of monsters you can manage to run past, rather than kill, makes the game 88% less fun.

"Just ignore the monsters" doesn't work anyway when they are packed in a hallway you must pass through. That's where they usually spawn as well, in out-of-LOS positions when you first reveal a room. Low armor casters get screwed by this mechanic, since even wimpy monsters have a good chance at hurting them pretty badly in the early game.

Besides, if you "ignore as many monsters as possible" they will just follow you through the dungeon, then you have to fight Uber Dungeon End Boss + the horde of monsters that followed you. Great idea.

The fatal flaw in Decent for me is that most of the maps are time-enforced affairs. Timed levels in games are generally considered the worst levels by players. Essentially turning the entire game into a timed level is bad.

Anyway, there's tons of house rules out there so I'm sure there's a way to make the game better.
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Fippy Darkpaw
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Oh yeah, the past few games we played we never enforced the 8-card OL limit. Maybe thats why 100 hordes of monsters spawned and the scenario took 15 hours.

Oh and to head off the "you guys are whiners" sentiment ... we have gotten our asses handed to us in other coop games like Arkham Horror many times, but nobody ever left the table disappointed with the game. In fact everyone wanted to play again. Not so with Descent.
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J Townsend
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Fippy_Darkpaw wrote:
Oh yeah, the past few games we played we never enforced the 8-card OL limit.


I'll own up to my mistakes, but that wasn't one of them. I kept it down to 8, I just never called it out to you guys before.
 
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Peter Folke
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I think a solution might be to let another guy be the overlord. Let them see things from your point of view, learn to know the overlord deck better.
Maybe you can teach them some tricks as a hero player.

In fact, I think the recommendation in the rulebook that the most experienced player should be the overlord is bad. Maybe it's a good idea for the first game, but I think it will be more enjoyable for everyone if you change overlord once in a while. Maybe every game.
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It's me, the fabulous
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Fippy_Darkpaw wrote:
Ehhh I'm still not convinced. :p

The fatal flaw in Decent for me is that most of the maps are time-enforced affairs. Timed levels in games are generally considered the worst levels by players. Essentially turning the entire game into a timed level is bad.

Anyway, there's tons of house rules out there so I'm sure there's a way to make the game better.


Wow. "I don't like long games but I get mad when the designers try to put a time limit on the levels." Are you listening to yourself?

It's obvious you guys don't have the group for this game. You want to play it like a "spatter the walls with monster blood, move forward cautiously and never die" D&D dungeon game. It's not. It's Descent, a game where the hero's occassional death can offer tactical advantages to the players!

I'll bet you've never had someone do a "death run" to a chest to open it and distribute the treasure before dying. I'll bet you get everyone in the "perfect" position before opening the door to the next area. Well guess what. While you are inching forward to prevent deaths the Overlord is drawing card after card and piling up those spawn cards you hate so much. Not forcing him to discard down to 8 cards is only exacerbating the problem.

A 15 hour sessions shows that you are playing the game wrong, pure and simple. That goes for both you and the overlord. It should not be possible to play for this long without having the Overlord run you out of conquest via deck-cycling or the heroes winning. Get a different game to play. There are other dungeon crawl games out there that might be more your speed.
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Simon K
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OOh boy, this game actually rewards the heroics of boldy venturing forwards trough a dungeon that will NEVER be cleared of monsters. The Heroes will always be in the thick of it, never be at ease to stroll around in these traps invested caves. You are in Overlord territory soldier! get your asses moving towards those goals and just don't die (too much).

I think spawning brings the awesome.
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Guido Gloor
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If they want a similar game where spawning actually is evil and the invader player actually has a really easy time winning, they should try Doom - where a few bad dice rolls can actually spell doom for even an efficient team of marines that doesn't want to kill every monster and doesn't lose turns on end.
 
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Curt Ligot
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This is a really interesting thread. I just got Doom (love it) but was trying to play it like a Dungeon Bash (kill all the enemies) and spent like 2 hours on the first room alone. I never really thought of trying to make a speed run and not kill everything in sight. Im getting Descent tomorrow so I'll have to try that approach.

Can anyone comment on how Descent compares to Doom difficulty wise?

 
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Bryann Turner
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I just ordered Doom, but it's my understanding that Doom is more difficult on the Marines than Descent is on the Heroes.

From my experiences in Descent, many quests seem to favor one side or the other but are still very winnable by either side.

I'm looking forward to Doom, though. (Thanks FFG Holiday Sale!!)
 
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