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Subject: Don't buy this game if... [#2] - Descent rss

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B. G. Kubacki
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Hello and welcome to another “Don’t buy this game if…” review. Since I already had my fair share of people being very unhappy with this form of a review, I will start with a disclaimer. Here it goes:

d10-0DISCLAIMER

I like this game. I believe it is a good game. Please, remember that while reading so that there will be no more ridiculous arguments like: “You write that you like the game at the end of your text, I didn’t get that far into it and I think you should not bash a good game like you do here”.
Please, take your time to read thorough the whole thing, before you post a negative comment under it.
Please, read other reviews before you read mine: it is designed as and addition to other, more positive approaches.
Please, take what I write with a pinch of salt and possibly with some sense of humour.

Thank you.

REVIEW

Although I decided to post this under the base game, I believe that my arguments are also valid with all expansions, except for Road to Legend. In the case of RtL some of them apply, and others don’t, due to the depth of the changes the expansion introduces.

d10-1 Don’t buy this game if you want a heavily themed adventure game. If you do, I would suggest Prophecy, Talisman or Runebound (which in fact takes place in the same world and even uses the same minis). This is by far not a game of frivolous adventures, although, the artwork and the components may lead you to believe otherwise. It is true that the game is fantasy themed and that you get to play a character (or a bunch of characters) with skills, stats and special abilities, gathering gold, finding new items and killing monsters. It is also true that you will get some backstory to every adventure you undertake. However, at its heart, Descent is a ruthless tactical game where the first mistake may very well be your last. You need to stay focused, you need to stay on your toes, you need to think ahead. Otherwise, you will lose. Horribly.

d10-2 Don’t buy this game if you want to roleplay. Well, perhaps this is not entirely true: Descent may be an “almost-RPG” played mainly on tabletop (which, as I understand is how you play D&D in America for example – I wouldn’t know, because we Poles rarely use miniatures and most of old roleplayers like myself were born and raised on the rainy roads of the Old World) only if the Overlord player will cut the characters some slack. Otherwise, the heroes of Terrinoth are nothing more than buzzard meat. Also, some roleplayers may get immensely frustrated that it is their character who the Overlord constantly targets (usually being the physically weaker and generally less valuable). I’ve seen a situation like that erupt into a regular quarrel between the Overlord and the Hero player.

d10-3 Don’t buy this game if you hate Ameritrash. For some time I actually tried (as, let’s say, an exercise in futility) to find anything in Descent that could remotely link it to a Eurogame. The only thing I found was cardboard. In fact I do believe that Descent is what the American games stand for: it is bulky, heavily themed, has millions of components, lots and lots of plastic and tons of rules, beautiful (pulp) artwork, theme, additional clarifications for different in-game situations, theme, countless doubts and FAQ’s. Oh, and some more theme.


d10-4 Don’t buy this game if you don’t play at home. I wrote a similar point in my Space Hulk: Don’t buy this game, if… review (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/439970) but Descent is even worse. It is big and heavy (it is actually difficult to put all of its components back in the box if you punch them out) and if you buy the expansions… well, you will need a car to take it anywhere. If you do play the game at home, be sure to have a big table around. Or a huge table, if you want to play the bigger dungeons with 4 characters involved.

d10-5 Don’t buy this game if you are not really good with alternative storing solutions. As I wrote in point 5, Descent takes helluva lot string space. This is not only due to how big the boxes are: it is also due to how many components they hold. When you start punching out the chits you will need to think of a clever way to store all of them. The game has a long setup time, but if you make a mistake of putting every single type of a component in a different zip-bag… you will not only have setup problems but will also waste a lot of time sifting through literally dozens of baggies, looking for the right one. If you make a mistake of just putting everything in the box… ever heard of Cinderella? All in all, you will need a good storing system if you want the setup, cleanup and the game itself to run smooth.

d10-6 Don’t buy this game if your group is bad with co-ops. Although Descent is not a cooperative game, it does pit one player (the evil Overlord) against a group of other (the goodie-goodie Heroes). This means that the hero players will have to work as a team. And the better the Overlord, the better the team has to be. So forget about playing this game with people who are not good team players. A lone ranger not only doesn’t stand a chance against the Overlord’s minions, but due to the nature of victory/loss conditions and the scalability of the game poses a serious threat to the rest of the heroes. A smart Overlord will use and ambitious, power-hungry player to bring the whole party down.

d10-7 Don’t buy this game if you don’t have much time to play or you don’t like long, involving games. Although I manage to squeeze some Descent quests into 2,5-3 hours, it is only because I did achieve the absolute storing Zen and have a step-by-step system for both cleanup and setup, I usually pick the smaller scenarios and, last but not least, I try to play with no more than two players. Actually, I believe that the game scales quite well, but if you go beyond the limit of 2 characters it does tend to get visibly longer, unless you have a really good team of players (still, the monsters do get tougher and even good teams take a little more time to kill them).

d10-8 Don’t buy this game if you hate fantasy, ‘cause you will not “get over it” with time. It’s Ameritrash, the theme never goes away. Better invest your money in Doom or Space Hulk.

d10-9 Don’t buy this game if you want to introduce it to new players every week, or if your players are too lazy to read the rules, because if you do, you will end up as the Overlord every single time. This happened to me, and I played as the Overlord so many times that I am just too good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I believe I am a formidable Hero player and as an Overlord I have been beaten a couple of times but… being the evil master of the dungeon, killing babies and housewives, sending beastmen into the meat grinder and eating puppies does tend to get old (and warp your psyche) after a time.

d10-1d10-0 Don’t buy this game if you love wood and hate plastic. There’s a ton of plastic minis it in the box and not a single wooden cube.

d10-1d10-1 Don’t buy this game if you are a collector and simply can’t avoid buying all the expansions and additions to the game. I am and I know how big a whole the game left (and, no doubt, will leave in the future) in my home budget. It is not only big, but also expensive.

d10-1d10-2 Don’t buy this game if you have kids. They will want to play with the marvellous minis, especially with the dragons, who may never be the same afterwards.

To wrap my review up I’d like to, once again, say that I do like the game. I also strongly encourage you to read some more (balanced) reviews.

On the other hand, if you can live with all of what I wrote in my 12 semi-negative points or even consider some of those advantages of the game be sure to check Descent out. There’s a big chance you will find it vastly satisfying and, just like me, the ultimate dungeon crawl easily available on the market.


PS. If you liked this review, check out my other Don’t buy this game if… reviews.
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
I'm not sure who would gripe about your cool style of reviews - I really enjoy them. Please keep writing these...you can learn a lot about a game from this very style of reviewing. GREAT JOB!

I quite enjoy Descent, actually, too.
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Alex Martinez
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
An excellent review. Just gets to the nuts and bolts of the game and lays it out. I enjoy Descent, too, but too many players seem to want it to be something it isn't. And your review explains that as clearly as any can. It's concise. It's clear. It's marvelously executed. Kudos.
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Scott Dresden
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Great review! Love your style. I guess some folks just like their truth with a coating of sugar.

Scott
 
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Karl
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Talisman is heavily themed?!?! Must be some very different game than I played. All versions I saw were a nice looking variant of pachisi. Roll and move, with the decision to go left or right. Woweeee! And yes, I dislike that game.
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Jeremy Lennert
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
I disagree about the game scaling; most people seem to recommend using 3-4 heroes even if you only have two players, and it doesn't take much number crunching or playtesting to see that the extra health monsters get in larger game sizes makes very little difference.

Other than that, this is a nice review.
 
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Luc VC
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Number 2 fits like a glove. (Don’t buy this game if you want to roleplay)
That's my main issue with the game.

Tactical - Check, Fantasy - Check, Roleplay - not really...
Biggest blasphemy I ever heard "It's kind of a boardgame version of Baldur's Gate". (No worries, he's still alive).

Anyway, I do think Road to Legend improves the game quite a bit.

Impressive review. Great style really!
I'm eager to read more, so keep 'em coming .
 
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Herc du Preez
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Damn Theme! I hate games with loads of theme! Ingenious for all!

Great review.
 
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The Mighty Greedo
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Don't read this review if...

You hate gimmicky reviews that make your head hurt when you try to read it.
 
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Tim Fiscus
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
kilrah wrote:
Talisman is heavily themed?!?! Must be some very different game than I played. All versions I saw were a nice looking variant of pachisi. Roll and move, with the decision to go left or right. Woweeee! And yes, I dislike that game.


Yeah, there wasn't even a theme. All there was was little wooden disks that you moved around a board with red and yellow spaces.

Oh, wait! That's Pachisi!

Talisman is the one where you move characters with names and skills around a board with pictures of various terrain and flip over cards with skills and pictures of monsters and rewards for beating those monsters and then try to get to the middle of the board which again has pictues of terrain - spooky, lava-filled terrain - and you get to race other players who also have characters with names and skills. And you get to add and subtract numbers from your die rolls depending on what cool weapon cards you are wielding and you might even get to play some cards that thematically represent spellcasting.

What the hell are you smoking? Talisman may not be all that great of a strategy game, but it is certainly themed, and heavily so. Sorry, had to call you on that one.

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Tim Fiscus
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Greedo wrote:
Don't read this review if...

You hate gimmicky reviews that make your head hurt when you try to read it.


That was unconstructive. And mean.

To the OP - I enjoyed both the review and the format!
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Neil Mason
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
First time I've read one of this series and I enjoyed it a lot. Nice and snappy and the humour is good.

Right I'm off to read the rest!
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Jeremy Lennert
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
HuckmanT wrote:
Talisman is the one where you move characters with names and skills around a board with pictures of various terrain and flip over cards with skills and pictures of monsters and rewards for beating those monsters and then try to get to the middle of the board which again has pictues of terrain - spooky, lava-filled terrain - and you get to race other players who also have characters with names and skills. And you get to add and subtract numbers from your die rolls depending on what cool weapon cards you are wielding and you might even get to play some cards that thematically represent spellcasting.

What the hell are you smoking? Talisman may not be all that great of a strategy game, but it is certainly themed, and heavily so. Sorry, had to call you on that one.

I can certainly understand someone using that as justification for saying the game is heavily themed, but not in comparison to Descent. Descent also has characters with names and skills and pictures of monsters and items and terrain and so forth.

(Note: I know nothing about Talisman other than what's been said in this thread. Just saying all the stuff you mentioned is also present in Descent.)
 
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Tim Fiscus
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Antistone wrote:
I can certainly understand someone using that as justification for saying the game is heavily themed, but not in comparison to Descent. Descent also has characters with names and skills and pictures of monsters and items and terrain and so forth.


I was commenting on the ridiculous statement above comparing the theme-ness of Pachisi and Talisman. Perhaps this was better placed in a different forum. I'm a huge Descent fan, but not a huge Talisman fan. Calling either "not heavily themed" is waaay off.
 
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Susan F.
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Quote:
However, at its heart, Descent is a ruthless tactical game where the first mistake may very well be your last. You need to stay focused, you need to stay on your toes, you need to think ahead. Otherwise, you will lose. Horribly.


Yep. Only played once, and we'd basically won. Just had a couple of minor baddies to kill off. Made one silly minor blunder and that was my character dead and the good guys' loss. 'Twas fun though.

Excellent review!
 
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Jason Brown
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Good review really. Honestly it sounds like something everyone in my group would enjoy, 'cept maybe the playtime, but that can happen with many of the games we play so they shouldn't have a problem. Thanks a lot.
 
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Alex Warner
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
I liked the concise and humorous style of this review. It quickly answered some basic questions I had about Descent, though I will peruse some more in depth reviews as well, as you recommended.

I do want to point out this point:
irondeav wrote:
Don’t buy this game if you want a heavily themed adventure game. If you do, I would suggest Prophecy, Talisman or Runebound (which in fact takes place in the same world and even uses the same minis). This is by far not a game of frivolous adventures, although, the artwork and the components may lead you to believe otherwise. It is true that the game is fantasy themed and that you get to play a character (or a bunch of characters) with skills, stats and special abilities, gathering gold, finding new items and killing monsters. It is also true that you will get some backstory to every adventure you undertake. However, at its heart, Descent is a ruthless tactical game where the first mistake may very well be your last. You need to stay focused, you need to stay on your toes, you need to think ahead. Otherwise, you will lose. Horribly.

As you may have noticed the comment about the themes appears to have caused a minor bit of confusion, while the heart of this point is that Descent is relatively unforgiving and tactically demanding.

This point might be better if restated to what I think you intended:
Descent is not a light-hearted fantasy themed adventure game like Prophecy, Talisman, or Runebound. Descent at its heart is a ruthless tactical game where the first mistake you make may very well be your last. You need to stay focused, you need to stay on your toes, you need to think ahead. Otherwise, you will lose. Horribly.

Otherwise though this was a great review, thank you very much.
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Shaun S
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Great Review, I would like to add one more:

13. Don't buy this game unless your wife/significant other is completely cool with you spending hours downstairs killing monsters with your friends. Otherwise, she will be coming downstairs over the course of many hours asking if you are done yet. ( as I experienced last night)shake

As a completely off-topic sidenote: All of you who have gamer wives/husbands, I hate you all and am totally jealous.
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Bess A.
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
moony29 wrote:
Great Review, I would like to add one more:

13. Don't buy this game unless your wife/significant other is completely cool with you spending hours downstairs killing monsters ... All of you who have gamer wives/husbands, I hate you all and am totally jealous.


I play Descent with my husband and in-laws. My mother-in-law is totally obsessed with it! It's really funny. But my father-in-law I think gets a little bored with it after a few hours... poor fella. I think he feels railroaded into it by everyone else's enthusiasm.

To the OP: this style of review rocks! I think for a game of this time/money investment it really helps to be forewarned of the potential downsides of the game. Your Space Hulk review was very helpful too!
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B. G. Kubacki
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
AlexWar wrote:
This point might be better if restated to what I think you intended:
Descent is not a light-hearted fantasy themed adventure game like Prophecy, Talisman, or Runebound. Descent at its heart is a ruthless tactical game where the first mistake you make may very well be your last. You need to stay focused, you need to stay on your toes, you need to think ahead. Otherwise, you will lose. Horribly.


Thank you for your kind words, Alex and thank you for your vigilance. I do not think, however, that it was what caused the stir. It was more about me calling Talisman "heavily themed". Your way of putting my point is absolutely accurate (just without pointing out some of the elements that may lead people to believe Descent to be more of an adventure than a tactical game) and if anyone has any problems with understanding my way of putting it, your edit will come in very handy. Thank you!

moony29 wrote:
13. Don't buy this game unless your wife/significant other is completely cool with you spending hours downstairs killing monsters with your friends. Otherwise, she will be coming downstairs over the course of many hours asking if you are done yet.


You're absolutely right! Then again, my girlfriend simply loves Desc... nevermind. I want to be loved, not hated

polycrafty wrote:
To the OP: this style of review rocks! I think for a game of this time/money investment it really helps to be forewarned of the potential downsides of the game. Your Space Hulk review was very helpful too!


It's sooo nice to rock. I also thank for the point that follows this lovely sentence (and my thanks to others, who posted similar reflections), because this is exatctly the reson I write these reviews. I feel encouraged to continue!
 
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Zubbus O'Really
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Yeah it's not just "negative points" or "style".
If I had very lose criteria for what I want, then I could have just picked up any of them and wouldn't know or care about the difference.

Only I hadn't. And "the difference" is what I spent 90% of my research time looking up and down for.

A review that tells you exactly who a game is for and who it is not for is just what I need when there are so many similar (at least in appearance) games out there. A review that tells you exactly which direction this particular game with take your boardgame experience towards is just what we need. We being those who knows which direction we want or do not want to go.

Still need to find another review that tells me how the game works though.
 
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Harmen Greven
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
I have no problems with moving my Descent.
You Chooese the mission, take all the creatures you need + dungeons and take them with you in an Descent expansion box.
 
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David Renaud
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Thank you for this critical, fair, and clear review. I'm considering buying this game in the future and I like to know problems with a game beforehand. My only question remaining is this: how luck-based is Descent?
 
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B. G. Kubacki
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Re: Descent: don’t buy this game if…
Zubbus wrote:

Still need to find another review that tells me how the game works though.


I'm sure you can download the manual from FFG's webside, so if you don't find a review that tells you how the game works in a more streamlined fashion, you can always check it out.

harmengreven wrote:
I have no problems with moving my Descent.
You Chooese the mission, take all the creatures you need + dungeons and take them with you in an Descent expansion box.


That's actually very clever! I never thought of that thumbsup

On the other hand: sometimes you just don't know how much time from the gaming night you want to devote to Descent. Someone might turn up with a new game everyone wants to try, and choosing a shorter (or less vicious) scenario using different tiles and/or monsters becomes the only way to squeeze both games within the time limit.

Still, very clever indeed!

Rathje wrote:
Thank you for this critical, fair, and clear review. I'm considering buying this game in the future and I like to know problems with a game beforehand. My only question remaining is this: how luck-based is Descent?


Well, I can tell you this: you need tactical thinking playing both as Heroes and as the Overlord (as Heroes more so). As the OL you have the option of tuning your deck, increasing your chances of getting the cards you need. But still, you have to accept that a card may not turn up in a game at all.

Also, I am absulutely sure that making bad decisions will screw you as any player, and no good dice-rollin' will save you from a bitter defeat. On the other hand: a string of terrible rolls (as I got to know some time ago, rolling "misses" on 9 - nine! - rolls straight) will fell even the best strategy. Overally I do not mind (even though it was frustrating as hell) but you can get the same thing during a poker night (unless you are a master of bluff), a game of Citadels (being murdered 6 times in a row - true story!), or even an abstract, bidding, tile-worker placement game like Vikings (where you can occasionally get almost screwed with the wrong tiles placed around the stone tables).

So, yes, Descent (as many other good Ameritrash games) needs a mixture of strategy (or tactical thinking in this case) and luck, with luck plaing the lesser roll. Well, until you ged to a string of terrible rolls, which you cannot do anything to counter.

Edit: added "the manual" in the first paragraph
 
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Scott Lewis
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Thanks for the fun review. I already have and enjoy the game, but this definitely was worth reading

irondeav wrote:
d10-1d10-2 Don’t buy this game if you have kids. They will want to play with the marvellous minis, especially with the dragons, who may never be the same afterwards.

Yeah, I learned this lesson a few years ago. My oldest daughter, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, was playing with the monsters in the box. I saw that she had them lined up in a circle, and asked them what was going on. She said the "doggy has a friend, their having a tea party."

Grrr, Hellhounds don't have TEA PARTIES!! sauron
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