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Subject: Descent: Journeys in the Dark - A Detailed Review rss

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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Image Courtesy of Livinus

Summary

Game Type - Adventure Game (Dungeon Crawl)
Play Time: 3-5 hours
Number of Players: 2 – 5
Mechanics - Dice Based Combat, Modular Board, Co-op/Competitive
Difficulty - Expert (Will take 4-5 plays to begin feeling comfortable with the rule set and strategy required. Errata and FAQs will be a constant necessity)
Components - Excellent ++
Release - 2005

Designer - Kevin Wilson (Android, Arkham Horror, Cosmic Encounter, Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd Ed., Doom: The Boardgame, Elder Sign, Fury of Dracula, A Game of Thrones 1st Ed., Sid Meier's Civilisation: The Board Game, Warcraft: The Board Game, Wiz-War 8th Ed.)

A Personal Comment – Why write this Review?

Like many of you reading this, I grew up reading Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, my first ‘fall in love with’ game was HeroQuest and games like Battletech, Shogun (Samurai Swords/Ikusa) and Titan followed in the years ahead.

For me a game like Descent is so ‘in my ballpark’ it isn’t funny.

With that background in mind it may come as no surprise that this review is a passionate thing for me. I almost feel like I’ve been waiting to write this particular review all my life. Does that mean this review will be a bit of fanboy nonsense? Well no, I actually get quite down on the game at times – passion will do that when a fan does not feel that the game is as good as it could have been.

So despite there already being 6 pages worth of reviews for Descent on BGG alone, here is my contribution. I’ve been patient, waiting some 6 years after buying the game to make sure I’ve played every scenario in the Quest Book, and some multiple times. I understand the game now after 17 plays – I hope you find it worth the read.

Overview and Theme

So what kind of game is Descent: Journeys in the Dark? Well it’s a fantasy Dungeon Crawler, a game where a bunch of heroes are up against an Overlord who will throw monsters and traps at the heroes in the hope that they will never see the light of day again.

But what does that mean? In an age where fantasy games and indeed dungeon crawlers have been designed again and again, the term Dungeon Crawl can be bandied about but actually look quite different from one game to the next.

Whilst Descent is indeed the spiritual successor to HeroQuest, the two are quite different beasts. HeroQuest was pretty much a straight up Dungeon Crawler with its roll and move engine and it was all about wading knee deep into a nest of baddies and killing them one by one before grabbing their loot. Whilst that last part (loot) may apply to Descent as well, it is anything but straight up. The reality is that Descent is a tactical miniatures game. Anyone trying to kill every creature they see will likely fall foul of the Overlord. Descent requires speed, it’s about reaching that next objective in a timely fashion before the odds overwhelm the party and at times the difference one square can make is that of ‘Game on’ or ‘Game over…man!’

The reality is that Descent has more in common with Doom: The Boardgame (which was released a year before Descent) and Space Hulk than it does HeroQuest, but thematically HQ and Descent are brothers…from different mothers.

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The Components

I would have loved to hear the conversations that were held in the FFG offices back in the days when Descent was being conceived. I imagine it would have gone something like this.

Kevin – “I want to design the ultimate Dungeon Crawling Fantasy Romp game.”
Christian – “Sounds great. I want FFG to be known for our great components and have so many that gamers wet their pants.”

6 months later…

Kevin – “Well here’s the prototype Christian – what do you think?”
Christian – “Looks great but I only count 60 component pieces. (Slaps Kevin). Quadruple it dammit and we have a game! laugh

In summary – Descent offers a lot of stuff and is worth the admission price alone.

d10-1 Modular Tiles – In all there are 61 map pieces to create all manner of official and custom dungeon designs. Initially the interlocking connectors are a little stiff but after a half dozen plays or so they loosen up and work beautifully.

Artistically the tiles are a little bland looking but I do like that they are darkish and brooding rather than all gaudy in colour. But at the end of the day they are of a nice thickness and are far superior to the game using a fixed board design.


Image Courtesy of lmyrick


d10-2 Miniatures – Descent offers up a whopping 60 monsters that come in either white or red to separate the standard units from the Master units. But these are no ordinary run of the mill 25mm scale minis. Descent offers up large scale creatures that have enough detail to allow them to look amazing when painted. For more examples of great paint jobs check out the bestiary at the end of this review.


Image Courtesy of cheetoe


d10-3 Character Sheets – Descent offers up a diverse 20 heroes to choose from and each one comes with a generously sized reference sheet and miniature. Each character sheet outlines a hero’s base attributes, combat strengths, special ability, skill sets and an artistic rendering. In the bottom left corner is also a value that denotes how many Conquest Points the heroes will lose if the character is killed. These sheets are probably the best implementation of this component I have seen from any FFG game as they are so functional but also help to make each character feel truly unique.


Image Courtesy of Foolish_Dog


d10-4 Cards, Cards and more Cards – In all Descent offers up 180 cards that represent skills, equipment, treasure, relics, Overlord cards and monster reference cards. Most cards feature some very nice artwork to elicit the theme whilst the skill and Overlord cards simply feature text to outline their effect on the game.

Sometimes size does matter and in the case of Descent – more is a good thing.


Image Courtesy of Ryhesling


d10-5 Dice – In all Descent offers a total of 12 custom dice. The way in which they are implemented is really cool with their many and varied symbols. I won’t go too much into how they work here as I outline that later.



Image Courtesy of KevinW


d10-6 Doors – Descent may not feature the physical furniture of HeroQuest but it certainly makes use of doors that stand up and I suspect this may have been something of a homage to the classic 80s dungeon crawl. These are by no means a necessity but they are a nice touch and 3 special doors feature a blue, red and yellow rune symbol to signify that they require a key to be opened.



Image Courtesy of ktina83


d10-7 Death by Tokens – Many people are honoured when they pass from this world by having something thrown in with their coffin. In my opinion Kevin Wilson should have his coffin showered in tokens. Descent offers up literally hundreds of tokens to represent wounds, fatigue, Conquest, potions, gold, money, Orders, Chests and a heap of different lingering effects like poison, being stunned, webs and the like. At well over 200 tokens Descent simply makes your eyes water at the chrome in this game. It also makes you wince at the thought of the set-up and pack-up. surprise



Image Courtesy of Siromist


d10-8 Rulebook & Quest Book – Then there is these two books. Both are illustrated very nicely and help to evoke the theme. The Rulebook though for all its visual examples and the like is really a bit of a disaster when you consider the number of misprints and rules errata that is required to make Descent work properly (well better). Perhaps a game with this many rules and situational possibilities is impossible to get 100% right…but I’m sure it could have been done better than it was.

I can't recommend the Player Aids released by UniversalHead enough. They will prove invaluable and can be found here -

Rules Summary and Reference Sheets

The Quest Book is well done and includes 9 Quests, which may not seem like a whole lot but given the games play length it is very good indeed. Each Quest features a well laid out map and makes good use of icons to tell the Overlord what everything is and where it should go. A considerable amount of text explains the specific rules for each quest and contains ample flavor text to help the Overlord set the tone for the game and elicit the theme. All good stuff really.



Image Courtesy of geekhype


d10-9 Box Insert – I am usually a stickler for keeping my games in as pristine a condition as possible and this includes keeping gamebox inserts. Descent features a decent insert and it is entirely possible to store many of the components under the insert. But you will in all likelihood be throwing your insert away for Descent. There is just too much stuff to store here and the insert becomes more of a hindrance than a help.

Overall I couldn’t be happier with the components of Descent unless the miniatures came pre-painted. Really great stuff.


Image Courtesy of HelenofTroy


Set-up

The Set-up and indeed pack up can be a bitch…purely on account of the fact that there is so much stuff. I mean it can easily take 20-30 minutes to unpack and pack up a game of Descent. So if you plan on playing Descent regularly you really want to think carefully about how you organize your components…this is not a game you want to baggy! Ideally what you want is to have a series of containers that allow you to simply remove a lid and they are good to go. I can’t tell you how many hours this will save you over multiple plays.

Ok so setting the game up itself. The Overlord will need to select the quest and set-up the dungeon map. They will also need to shuffle the Overlord Cards, put the Threat Tokens somewhere handy and flip the Monster Reference Cards to the side showing the number of players. The heroes will need to select their character. Some people prefer random selections but if you have a skilled Overlord or are playing a tougher scenario, random selections can prove rather difficult. Our playgroup has tried a few different options (random, open choice) and now we have decided to deal each player 3 characters and they can choose from those options.

Once a hero is selected by each player they will need to shuffle up the Skill Decks and draw the skill cards required and then spend their 300 starting gold on a range of weapons, armour and potions. Each hero also gets a set of 4 Order Tokens and the party receives a number of Conquest Tokens as directed by the quest (usually 5).

Once the heroes select their starting positions around the glyph in the starting area, he has drawn 3 Overlord Cards and read the opening flavour text, the game is ready to begin.

The Game Play

Image Courtesy of RPoutney


If I was to outline the rules of this game in full, I’d be writing around 20,000 words and be wasting your time and mine. So my approach will be to outline the core mechanics and systems that make up the game of Descent and then I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the game.

d10-1 The Turn to Turn Flow – The Game always begins with the human team taking their turn first and they must complete all of their moves and actions before the Overlord can have their turn.

The humans are of course killing foul creatures, maneuvering themselves into desirable positions and picking up treasure and other loot strewn around the dungeon.

The Overlord is really only trying to do two things; kill the heroes with the creatures and traps at his disposal and as monsters die he can spawn new ones to keep the heroes on their toes.

d10-2 Exploration: What Lurks Around the Corner – 16 years before Descent was conceived, HeroQuest was doing the Dungeon Romp thing very well and it used a fixed map to represent the dungeon. But whilst the board was fixed, each dungeon’s layout could be different based on where doors were positioned and the combination of solid walls and rubble helped to block off certain sections of the dungeon. In this way the heroes never really knew what they would encounter around the next corner and dead ends were entirely possible.

Descent takes a very different approach. The most obvious difference is that Descent uses modular tiles that can be put together in any formation and avoids the limitations of a fixed map – this is more akin to Advanced HeroQuest. But then it does something that is a little disappointing. The Overlord is required to build the entire dungeon map during the setup of the game! This means the heroes know right from the start where they may need to go, that fear of the unknown is in large part taken away from the heroes. Sure they still won’t know what lurks behind every corner as new sections won’t be revealed until a door is opened to that area, but this only makes the monsters a mystery and as any good adventuring fan will tell you…it is the exploration that is 80% of the fun.

d10-3 The Leveling System – Descent does indeed use a leveling system of sorts but it does not require experience points and levels like Runebound and other titles. Instead the leveling is really present in the threat of the dungeon and the loot that is attainable by the heroes.

Like a good movie, each dungeon in Descent is built in such a way that the heroes will encounter new areas that ramp up the threat present in the form of monsters. Sometimes it will simply feature more monsters than the last section but most times the size and threat of the monsters will increase. Most commonly the heroes will find themselves up against Skeletons, Beastmen and Bane Spiders early on and towards the climax of the adventure they will be facing Giants, Demons, Dragons and Manticores.

To help the heroes rise to these challenges they will find treasure and chests that contain weapons, armour and items of great power. Descent uses three levels of chests; Copper, Silver and Gold and each one contains items of increasingly formidable power to help the heroes hack and slash their way to a successful end game. Whenever a chest is opened by any one hero, any items found within are given to all heroes. This is in effect the leveling system implemented in Descent.

d10-4 Dice that Multi-Task – The majority of Dungeon Crawl fans also tend to be Ameritrash fans and if there is one component we adore above all others it has to be dice. One of the first things you notice about Descent is that its dice are not your standard d6 with their one numerical value…no…Descent makes its dice work hard as each roll is used to represent many of the systems in play.

The first notion that needs to be thrown out in Descent is that dice are used to represent movement. This is no roll and move game, movement is simply a character stat and that is that. The dice in Descent are all about combat (and occasionally to resolve trap results or to shake off the effects of being stunned for example) but mostly they are about combat.

In all there are 4 systems or pieces of information that each dice can represent –

Numerical numbers are used to represent Range. If a hero/monster attacks with a ranged or magic attack they will need to roll the distance to their target if they hope to hit it.

Heart icons represent the amount of force the attacker has unleashed with their attack. How much of this becomes actual damage will depend on the armour rating of the target.

Power Surges (lightning bolt symbols) are like a D&D critical hit. They don’t deal damage or offer range but they can be spent by a hero to trigger a special power of a weapon or item to add to the damage or range of an attack.

Blank faces and X icons are the D&D critical fail results in Descent. An X will result in an attack missing its target entirely and have a hero’s companions shaking their head and wondering why they brought the n00b along in the first place. shake A blank will add no range or damage to an attack but at least the other dice are not affected.

The other thing to note about Descent is that not all dice are made equal. In all there are 12 custom dice and they come in red, green, blue, yellow, white and black. Each dice has a specific purpose and each weapon will only allow certain dice to be rolled. In this way the relative strengths of a weapon or monster attack can be more thematically accurate and help the game to feel less ‘generic’ and random than those that have come before.

For example the red and green dice are the death dealing dice, offering up to 3 and 4 hearts (wounds) on some faces. Whilst the blue and yellow dice offer comparatively little damage they do feature higher Range values. Hence the red and green dice are more likely to feature on weapons such as double handed battle axes and broadswords and the blue and yellow dice are more likely to feature on bows and magical runes. This is all very neat really. cool

It should be noted that the black dice are referred to as Power Dice and each character will receive a certain number of these for each of their attack types that they are skilled at (melee, ranged magic). Some weapons will also offer black dice. Whilst Power Dice are not particularly powerful on any given side, they do offer a hero options. One face offers either 1 range or 1 damage and the Power Surges can be very damaging indeed if a character holds a weapon that can offer +1 or +2 damage per Power Surge rolled.

d10-5 Combat –

Image Courtesy of Elyt007
So now we get to combat, which really is not that complicated. Once a hero is ready to attack they simply need to select the appropriate dice. This is done by taking all dice listed on the weapon that they are using and adding any black dice afforded to them by the attack type they are using (which represents their skill in that form of combat). A warrior is likely to have 3 black dice for melee attacks whilst a magic user is likely to have 0 black dice for melee.

Once the correct dice have been taken they are simply rolled. If an X is rolled then the attack fails and you look to the heavens for divine intervention. Thankfully only 3 dice in Descent feature a single X on one of their faces, but such is the clever design of the game, every single weapon will ensure that only 1 of these dice is present at the most, so there is always a 1 in 6 chance of failure.

If no X is rolled then the range must be calculated (for ranged or magic attacks). If the total range rolled is less than the distance to the target, then the attack failed to hit its mark. Of course for a melee attack this is irrelevant.

If all of the above hurdles have been passed then it is a simple matter of counting up the hearts (potential damage) and subtracting the armour rating of the target from that total. Whatever is left is the damage or wounds inflicted on the target. If this total equals or exceeds the remaining health of the target then they are vanquished. If not then wound markers are placed on the target and they live to face another attack or prepare to tear the hero a new hole! devil

Combat has never been so thematic and yet relatively simple with a little experience. cool

d10-6 Actions, Order Tokens and Fatigue – This is where Descent really starts to show its tactical miniatures qualities. In Dungeon Crawlers of the past the play was really driven by a roll and move, then attack type mentality. This is not the case in Descent.

Actions

With each turn a hero has 3 possible actions that they can take.

Advance – The classic action is advance, which simply allows a hero to move their movement allowance and make a single attack.

Running –
Allows a hero to move double their movement allowance but they cannot attack. This can be crucial to reach that next glyph, open that door or treasure chest.

Battle –
Allows a hero to attack twice in a turn but they cannot move. This can be crucial when the heroes are being overwhelmed and need to clear the halls.

Ready Action –
The most intricate of actions is the Ready action, which allows a hero to either move or attack and to then make a special maneuver by placing an Order token of which there are 4.

Orders

Aim – This represents a hero focusing on their next attack and will allow a hero to re-roll any dice in combat that are not desirable.

Dodge – This represents a hero focusing on their defence and it will allow a hero to force the Overlord to re-roll any dice in combat that are not desirable to the hero. Multiple dodges can be made in the Overlord’s turn.

Guard –
This represents a hero being hyper-vigilant and allows them to interrupt the Overlord’s turn by making an attack on a creature when they move. This order can be lost if a hero takes a wound.

Rest – This represents a hero taking some down time to restore their fatigue levels and allows all fatigue to be removed. It can be lost if the hero takes a wound and must be in play at the start of their next turn to take effect.

Fatigue

If all of these options were not enough, Descent then uses a character statistic called Fatigue, which really serves as the glue to make so many subtle options available. It really puts the ‘tact’ into the tactical element of Descent.

Fatigue can be used in many ways, often to pay for a hero’s special ability or to use a skill that a hero has. But fatigue can also be used to supplement a hero’s movement. For each point of fatigue spent a hero can move an additional square. This can be crucial in key moments of the game. For example a hero may just fall short of reaching that Master Manticore and the hero is only capable of melee combat. If she is the last hero to act before the Overlord’s turn then that hero is going to wish that she had stayed back at the tavern for one more ale.

In another situation the heroes may be badly outnumbered with no real chance of running from the situation. In this case the monsters may be bunched up enough that several can be attacked in a single turn. By using fatigue to move 1 or 2 spaces, the hero can declare a battle action and attack twice with the meat cleaver of death to help thin the halls and coat it a new shade of red.

What fatigue does so well as a mechanic is to dovetail with the possible actions of the hero players to make for a truly interesting set of decisions. Hence the positioning of heroes and the importance that one or two squares can make becomes apparent. This is why I believe that Descent earns the tag of a tactical miniatures game.

d10-7 The Overlord: A Growing Threat – But fear not Overlord players for all is not doom and gloom. Those pesky heroes are not unbeatable for you have one factor on your side, that of Time! In Descent the Overlord player acquires cards and Threat Tokens with each Overlord turn. Cards represent options and this is something that previous games of the genre have not really afforded the ‘bad guy’ player. Threat Tokens are the means for paying for those cards and the Overlord earns 1 per turn for each hero they are up against.

The Overlord deck has 3 types of cards – Spawn cards, which allow new monsters to be added to the dungeon, Trap cards and Power cards. Whilst new monsters are important and traps are a great way to wound heroes as they tend to ignore Armour, it is the Power Cards that hold the real key to a possible Overlord victory. Unlike all other Overlord cards, which are one use wonders, Power Cards remain in play and give ongoing benefits to the Overlord. These benefits can be additional creatures when a new area is revealed, the drawing of additional cards each turn or extra Power Dice whenever an attack is made with a creature just to name a few.

d10-8 Spawning: It Came from the Dark – Spawning is an important trick up the Overlords sleeve simply because it allows new monsters to be added to the dungeon. Sometimes these will pose a real threat to the lifespan of the heroes whilst other times it is simply a ruse to buy the Overlord the time needed to acquire more Threat Tokens and card options.

But spawning cannot be done just ‘willy nilly’. For whatever reason the Overlord doesn’t like his creatures simply appearing in plain view of the heroes. It’s almost like he is a magician and he cannot allow the audience to see how he does his tricks.

So the Overlord can only spawn in locations that are not within line of sight of any hero. This then lends the game another tactical edge as the heroes can deliberately position themselves to minimise unseen corners as much as possible. This in turn makes the layout of each dungeon quite important and thematically it represents the danger that darkness and the ‘unknown’ can represent in the deep. cool

d10-9 Threat Tokens – Then there is the importance of Threat Tokens for the Overlord. Threat is very much the currency of Descent as it is required to pay for any cards that the Overlord wants to play. Spawn cards may cost 3-5 Threat Tokens and Traps around the 6-12 mark. But those all important Power Cards will cost anywhere from 15-25 Threat. This is why time and slowing the heroes down is so important for the Overlord. Thankfully the Overlord can discard any number of cards at any point in time to earn additional Threat Tokens (listed on each card) and this is another example of how the Overlord player is given meaningful decisions.

d10-1d10-0 Success/Failure and Conquest Tokens – Finally (and rather oddly) I have left the Conquest Tokens, which actually determine the success/failure rate of the heroes, to the end. With each scenario the heroes will start with a number of Conquest Tokens (usually 5). More can be earned by activating Teleportation Glyphs and some (most) chests will also offer 1 or more Conquest Tokens.

For the Overlord Conquest Tokens also serve as their main aim. If the Overlord can reduce the heroic party to 0 Conquest Tokens then they have fallen to his dungeon and the monsters earn themselves a celebratory bonfire party.

The Overlord takes Conquest Tokens away from the heroes by simply killing them. Each hero is worth a number of Conquest Tokens that roughly falls in line with their level of starting health and armour and each hero is worth between 2 and 4 Conquest Tokens for a kill.

How do the heroes win? Well they must complete the Quest Goals as outlined in the introduction of each quest – usually vanquish some menacing creature or find an important relic.

The Strengths of the Game

Image Courtesy of ChadderCheese


d10-1 Dripping with Theme – Whilst Descent may not have the furniture of HeroQuest it has everything else. This really is the fantasy fanboy’s wet dream from a thematical perspective. Everything you could conceivably want in a base game is pretty much here and whatever may not have made the cut (from a purely logistical standpoint I imagine) was surely added in subsequent expansions.

Much of that detailed theme comes from the special abilities of the monsters that can have lingering effects on the heroes. Our mighty heroes can be poisoned, stunned, caught in webs, burned, knocked into pits by powerful attacks and held in a vice like grip by Nagas…just to name a few. There is much more here than simply rolling, applying armour and taking damage.

d10-2 Variety – For me Descent does what some of their (FFG) more recent releases are failing to do, it offers lots of variety right out of the box (rather than holding it back for the next 3 expansions). Four hero choices? I don’t think so. Descent offers up a whopping 20 heroes, 36 skills to customize those heroes, 9 Quests, 56 Treasure Cards, 12 different Monsters, 19 Special Abilities…the list goes on. No two games of Descent will ever play the same…ever!

d10-3 Value for Money – Descent really delivers here on both the component level and the quality time vs investment level. FFG is known for its ‘knock you dead’ number of components and their quality. For me Descent was the title that really earned them this label. The artwork also looks great from the box cover to the rulebook to the cards themselves.

But in addition Descent offers its players somewhere between 27-45 hours of game play and that is only if you play each Quest once, which is unlikely. There really is a lifetimes worth of enjoyment here.

d10-4 Real Heroic Decisions – As good as a game like HeroQuest was in its day, the options available to the heroes was always fairly straight forward. Heroes would stick together, wait before opening that next door and advance forth or hold back based on their character and equipment.

Descent changes all that. The Heroes really need to weigh up the need to reduce spawning attempts but not get so spaced out that they are vulnerable. They need to work out which creatures they need to slow down for and vanquish versus the need for speed in order to reduce the Threat Tokens and Cards available to the Overlord.

And then there are the highly tactical decisions such as which order to choose each turn, when is it best to use fatigue, how can we use overlapping Orders to our best advantage and when must we make a sprint for that Chest or Teleporting Glyph to earn Conquest Tokens or return to the safety of town.

It really is all very engaging.

d10-5 Remember Me? + Town Hopping! – In a major departure from predecessors like HeroQuest, Descent does not punish a player for dying by removing them from the game. Instead the Overlord will be able to take away a certain number of Conquest Tokens from the hero party when they kill a hero. This is an essential rule in a game that takes 3+ hours to complete. It would only take a couple of 40 minute kills to convince your friends (who would have to wait around 2 hours for you all to finish) that Descent sucks the big one and they would never play it again. So when a hero dies they return to town, lose some money (but none of their gear) and they can teleport back into the action on the next hero turn. I agree that thematically this seems a little odd but it is a necessary evil I think and I guess it simulates the constant stream of heroes that are always trying to thwart your evil plans.

Now to town hopping. Throughout every dungeon the heroes will find teleportation glyphs. Once activated a glyph will earn the party 3 additional Conquest Tokens, which are very important. But in addition they also allow the heroes to return to town where they can buy new gear and most importantly, healing potions to try and repair that infected wound. For the Overlord these glyphs can be a real pain in the neck as heroes may well be constantly popping in and out of your dungeon just before you can inflict that fatal attack.

But the reality is that the glyph to town mechanic lends the game another level of decision making and tactical play. This is because whilst leaving the dungeon may offer them some personal respite, it does somewhat expose the heroes left behind. They have less protection, the Overlord’s forces can more easily target the weakest link and there is more chance that the Overlord’s forces will not be wiped out entirely ad benefit from one more attack that they might otherwise not have had.

In fact glyphs are so important to the heroes that it is also in the best interests of the Overlord to try and block a movement path to an important glyph with large (4 square) monsters.

d10-6 Allowing the Overlord to use their IQ – One of the biggest problems with predecessors to Descent was that the ‘bad guy’ player was really nothing more than a facilitator for the game, with very few options…all they could really do was react to the hero players with move and attack options. This sucked terribly for a person that likely paid out for the game in the first place and 90% of the time took on this role.

Thankfully Descent gives the Overlord player a wealth of interesting decisions, finally we have a chance to really have an impact on the play of each Quest and most importantly it is highly rewarding to kill a hero or see your dungeon claim another set of foolhardy ‘could have beens’. sauron

One of the trickiest decisions required of an Overlord is how best to use their cards. This is because every card can be paid for to offer an ability or cards can be discarded to earn additional Threat Tokens to pay for more expensive (but more powerful) cards. It's deliciously difficult at times to decide.

d10-7 Scalability – I don’t feel entirely credentialed to talk on this point because I have only ever played the game with the full complement of 4 heroes. From what I’ve read though 3 heroes offers a good challenge, 2 heroes is fairly difficult and 1 hero is for the insane. This is because the game scales in 2 main ways. Firstly the monsters all have slightly different stats based on the number of players, although they always roll the same dice and have the same abilities (it is simply their health + armour stats that are lowered with fewer players…but not by that much).

The 2nd way the game scales is that the Overlord receives 1 Threat Token per hero player in the game, so with fewer players they receive less Threat and that means it is that much harder to pay for more powerful cards that can cause the heroes real grief.

The one thing that doesn’t scale though is simply the amount of monsters present in each Quest. This I think presents the main problem because if the heroes have a reduced ability to kill monsters then that will result in the Overlord getting more shots at them and in the end Descent is something of a numbers game.

So does the game scale well or is it in fact as weakness? I would suggest that this element has a foot in both camps…but I wouldn’t want to be playing with less than 3 heroes. Of course a single player can play with more than one hero.

d10-8 That Buzz Factor – For a fan at least there is something just so exciting about Descent. For some it will simply be having a fleshed out 3-dimensional character such as a Ranger with a familiar, the skill to fire arrows by ducking around corners and a magical cloak that gives him better than average cover.

Others will revel in the tactical nature of the game and enjoy the challenge posed by the need to eliminate threats without getting bogged down. They will enjoy the challenge of the map layout and using the Order system to balance the parties close range and long range capabilities.

And the Overlord player will totally enjoy the dilemma of wanting to throw every immediate trap and creature at the heroes versus the need to hold some things back in order to get that Power Card into play, which could see the heroes fall at the final hurdle. The Overlord will delight at every slash that finds its mark from the claws of a Beastman to the poison that ails a hero at the mandibles of a Bane Spider.

If you allow yourself to become immersed in the world of Descent you will enjoy the experience.

The Weaknesses of the Game

Image Courtesy of zuggzugg


Ok so what isn’t so good?

d10-1 Length – This is the most obvious criticism of Descent…it is damn long. Those early couple of plays will take you somewhere around the 4-5 hour mark as you struggle with the set-up and go hunting in the rulebook for rules queries when anomalies rear their head.

Once the initial learning curve is overcome you will still be looking at a good 3-3.5 hours if the hero party can go the distance and reach somewhere near the end of a Quest. Of course if you have a skilled Overlord then the heroes may well meet their doom in around 2-2.5 hours.

But regardless of how you slice it, Descent takes a heck of a long time. Now back in the 80s and even early 90s this would have been almost the norm. But our hobby in its modern guise has almost conditioned us to look for a game that takes no more than 2 hours at the most. For many Descent will just not deliver enough for the time it takes to go the journey. This may well be the rationale behind the announcement of Descent 2.0. FFG know they have a winning formula and a ready market but in its current form Descent may fail to make enough gamers pull the trigger on a purchase.

d10-2 Pacing and Power Creep – But the length is not the game’s greatest weakness. No, the reality is that Descent can suffer from some real pacing problems. A good film will gradually build the tension and eventually reach a climax that should be thematic and tense. Descent does not always manage to do this and it is generally due to the presence of Power Creep. Those early parts of any Descent Quest are quite often the most exciting as the heroes are largely green in terms of the gear they are carrying. This gives even the most rudimentary of monsters the potential to inflict some wounds and although they will usually get killed, the Overlord can at least feel like they achieved something.

But once the heroes begin to open chests, they start to resemble overpowered super beings. Copper level items aren’t too bad, but once Silver and especially Gold gear is handed out, the Overlord is on a hiding to nothing. There really is no fun to be had in the final battle when your special Giant with awesome stats barely has the time to raise his eyes from his wine glass before some would be demi-god comes striding in and takes off his head with ‘The Hammer of Thor’! We all know that a Superhero without a weakness is no fun at all. Sometimes Descent forgets this law.

One final point to note here is that in terms of Power Creep not all heroes are made equal right from the get go. The term ‘tank’ refers to characters that are really tough due to high health levels, good armour and usually a nasty weapon. Descent certainly features tanks and for the Overlord they are simply not worth the investment of resources to kill. So what tends to happen is that the tanks get largely ignored for the entire Quest, which of course does two things. The game can become incredibly dull for the tank player(s) as they never really experience any personal danger (although they may feel the tension of the group as a whole). The second thing that happens is that the players controlling the light to mid strength characters can start to get frustrated by being constantly targeted and dying multiple times.

The hero group have to work very hard to protect those weaker links because the Overlord simply must target them if they are to stand any chance.

d10-3 Farseeing and OCD Dungeon Design – I alluded to it earlier in this review but my greatest disappointment with Descent was my first impression…’Really, the whole map is built and visible to the heroes from the very start?’ One of the coolest things about HeroQuest for me was the suspense and tension created by not knowing where the exit was located, that the next room could well spell my doom. Descent is really robbed of that quality by showing the exact layout from the first turn. There are probably two reasons why the design team chose to go down this path. The first I suspect was simply a time saving device. Given the game’s already considerable length it would not be all that desirable to have to halt play at key moments to build new sections. The 2nd reason is most likely that if the players know the rough layout of the dungeon it affords them the opportunity to plan ahead, discuss their options and all of this supports the tactical nature of the game. I guess I am free to build it section by section but I fear I would mess with this last element too much.

Then there is the lesser issue, more of an oddity really, that almost every dungeon is symmetrical in its layout. Was this really necessary? It just seems so odd for every map to appear in mirror image and it doesn’t stop there. Quite often even the placement of monsters and gear like healing potions and treasure is mirrored on both sides of a dungeon. It is just odd…like the level designers were needing to save some time to get the game to market.

d10-4 The Learning Curve and Balance – With its many rules, variety of skills and gear that need to be understood and the endless pages of errata and FAQ’s, Descent has a learning curve that will test many a gamer. A solid 15-20 hours with the game (4-6 sessions) will see you overcome the odds and discover a wonderful game…but let’s be honest…not everyone is cut out to put in that kind of effort and even if YOU are, you need to find a playgroup that will also go along for the ride.

Then there is the balance issue and this is an interesting point. For me Descent in some ways mirrors the challenge faced by Abstract Games. The person (or in this case side) with the greater skill will win more often than they lose. This is absolutely true for Descent. In those early plays the odds are stacked firmly in favour of the Heroes. This is partly due to Quest Design (the 1st Quest is almost impossible for the Overlord with its layout and wealth of Conquest giving Glyphs and godlike item giving Chests). But the Heroes are really favoured to win because it takes great skill to play as the Overlord. The Overlord really needs to know their Overlord Deck, recognise the value of certain cards and understand the advantages and weaknesses of their monsters. On top of all that they need to be ruthless and learn to target the weakest link over and over again (even if this makes them cry). This takes time to master.

By the mid Quests the Overlord has a much better handle on the game and suddenly the odds start to turn in the Overlord’s favour. The heroes can get sloppy as they have been able to pretty much ‘hack and slash’ every monster in their path up to now. But those mid-level dungeons feature more challenging map designs that allow the Overlord to spawn with greater ease and the number of glyphs and chests are not quite so numerous. Suddenly the Overlord can go on a 2-3 quest hero slaughter-fest and suddenly the heroes are moaning that the game is too hard.

It is only in those last 2-3 Quests that the Heroes tend to realise the need for speed, that they have to start using those Order Tokens and actually think their way through the mission. Now you have a great game, a battle of wits at last…but it has taken you somewhere between 22-30 hours to get to that point. I suspect that the percentage of gamers to try Descent and never reach that critical level is somewhat high. soblue

d10-5 Cost – Whilst the game is awesome on so many levels it is a damn pricey box to have sitting on the shelf. Many would argue that cost is relative to value and value is determined by the enjoyment it gives and the playtime a game gets on the table. I have no arguments with this line of thinking and I personally feel that I have gotten more than my value for money and then some.

But by modern day standards and given the financial pressures we all have to contend with, Descent is asking a lot of gamers. It is yet another reason I think FFG have decided to release a scaled down 2.0 edition.

d10-6 Fancy some Calculations Professor? – This may be a small point but it will annoy some. Whilst Descent is awesome for its combination of hero abilities, additional skills and multiple forms of equipment and weapons it can result in some serious calculations being required to actually make an attack and then determine the results. First you have to work out how many dice you have to roll. Once the dice are rolled you have to determine if the range requirement was met and this may require deciding how many of the +1 range / +1 damage dice you need to assign to either attribute. Then you need to count up the total damage rolled and then count up the number of surge icons rolled and decide how you will use these to power your weapons, hero abilities or skill cards. Once the final damage has been determined the defender must then factor in how much damage is reduced by Armour before applying the final number of wounds. Even then the Overlord may have a card to affect a Dodge, resulting in multiple dice needing to be re-rolled in which case the calculations need to be re-done and the heroes can do the same if they had a Dodge Order in place.

This may look complicated but in truth it is all done rather quickly by seasoned players. But of course that won’t be the case for new players and then there is the reality that the above scenario will be required about 50 odd times in a single game of Descent. For some this will feel more like work than play. But like they say, “With great depth and variety comes great calculation!”

d10-7 The Owner’s Curse – This issue works on three levels for me. The first one is the most obvious – the owner of the game usually ends up being the Overlord. Sure you desperately want to play the hero for once but you’ve also forked out a heck of a lot of money for the game and your friends are as excited as heck to play it so you end up being the Overlord just to make sure it gets to the table.

And then the 2nd issue kicks in. Even if a friend was happy to give the Overlord a try, they really will struggle to play the Overlord well because it does take a very good understanding of the rules to play the Overlord and use little nuances to their advantage. This is where Descent’s rule set (both its detail and its poorly written rules) can hurt it.

The final curse of the owner is that the onus is really on you to know every single rule and how it needs to be applied, at least in those first 5-6 plays. You will be helping with the calculations, reaching for the FaQ, checking a rule clarification on BGG. And you are doing all this whilst trying to play as the Overlord to your best ability. Try sustaining this over a 3-4 hour playtime and I can assure you that the chances of getting a headache or at the very least, feeling drained is about 92%.

But it does get easier and if you have a regular playgroup they will begin to learn the rules themselves and learn to apply their own calculations.

d10-8 Redundancy –

Image Courtesy of Konwacht
This is my final weakness and possibly a trivial one but I think it deserves mentioning. Whilst Descent offers up an amazing amount of equipment to help customise and specialise each character, the truth of the matter is that a lot of that gear is really quite redundant. In each class (melee, ranged, magic and armour) there will always be the one or two uber weapons that on pure statistics alone will be superior to all other items of the same class. So whilst the game appears to offer up a world of options, the reality is that given the choice, a player will likely take the same weapon time and again that best matches his character’s strengths. Over time this repetition could become a bit much to handle.

The Final Word

Eight strengths and eight potential weaknesses – that should keep the fanboy taunts at bay. So what do I personally think?

Well for me Descent: Journeys in the Dark is an utter triumph. It is not perfect but damn there is just so much to love here for fans of the genre that you should be slapped for complaining about it. I mean come on, if someone were to travel back in time to visit your 1986 self and tell you that a game like Descent would be designed in 20 years time you would have wet your 14 year old pants! Be honest…you would have. But of course if this style of game is not really your cup of tea then you should stay well clear.

I don’t give that praise lightly either. Our playgroup had periods where we seriously doubted the game’s ability to offer up a balanced conflict. But our persistence has paid off and having experienced a truly amazing final Quest, we now ready ourselves with gleeful anticipation for the first expansion, The Well of Darkness. I am truly excited about it too because for the first time I will be playing as a hero. cool

Descent is every bit the Journey, from the title of the game to the time spent as a group to uncover its secrets and possibilities. Until next we meet may all your arrows fly true, your magic burn the forsaken and your blades sink deep into Beastman flesh.

Links

For a full list of my 500+ reviews in a search-able Geeklist -

My Review Geeklist for Easy Reference

Here are some direct links to several other fantasy adventure games that you may find interesting -

HeroQuest - A Retro Review

Claustrophobia - A Detailed Review

Runebound 2nd Ed. - A Detailed Review

World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game - A Detailed Review

Descent Expansions -

Descent: The Well of Darkness - A Detailed Review

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An Overlord’s Guide to the Bestiary of Descent

This little addition is meant to serve as a guide to help budding new Overlord’s come to grips with the forces at their disposal. Because each creature can be slightly different based on the number of players (it’s how the game tries to address scaling), I’ll discuss the relative merits of each creature in more general terms.

Bane Spiders

Bane Spiders seem like a cool idea but in truth they are pretty much rubbish. This is mainly due to the fact that they are so easy to kill as they have next to no armour and relatively small health stats. Their Poison ability seems like a useful attack but the dice they roll in combat will often not be substantial enough to get through a hero’s armour and thus no poison is inflicted. Sure you can try to keep them at range to avoid being attacked but they also have trouble generating the range needed to see their attacks land.

Master Bane Spiders are slightly better as they also have the web ability and if these find there mark then they can help you reduce the hero parties ability to maneuver and use actions such as Battle by simply staying out of a webbed hero’s melee range. This can allow you to more easily target weaker links (if the tank is webbed). devil

 

Image Courtesy of Styfen


Beastman

The Beastman on the other hand is the Overlords ‘go to’ foot soldier. Whilst their movement is not great if these guys can close to melee range they will tear a new hole in many a hero more often than not. This is because they roll a red and green dice, otherwise known as dice of death, and they have the Damage 1 ability (+1 damage)! Beastman will not likely survive more than 1 attack from a hero but they are all about the pack. Get them in a group and they can take a light to mid strength hero down with ease. If they are supported by a Master Beastman with their Command ability then even tank heroes should be fearful. devil

One of the best ways to make the most use of Beastmen is to spawn them in those little nooks and crannies just behind the hero party. Quite often these locations will be within range of at least one hero and it also creates a situation whereby the heroes now have enemies both in front and behind them. This helps to slow them down and earn you additional cards and Threat Tokens.

Another great tactic is to use the heroes supposed intelligence against them. As hero players become more experienced they will begin to know the movement stats of the monsters very well. This will cause them to make grand assumptions about who can and cannot reach them each turn. By playing the Charge card, a Beastman can double its movement and close in on a hero to tear him a new one!


Image Courtesy of jhocar


Demon

As their name suggests, Demons should be feared by any hero. They have the 2nd highest health + armour total in the game and they can attack from range with magic attacks and can apply Sorcery 2 to help with range requirements or inflict greater damage. They are also protected somewhat from Melee attacks with their Aura and Fear 1 abilities.

But the reality is that Demons can often be a disappointment and this is due to the Power Creep problem that Descent often has. Demons tend to be found at the climax of many Quests and by this point the heroes often have Gold level gear. So they have big damage weapons and often they include big Pierce stats, so all of a sudden a hero can be doing 12-16 damage in an attack and your Demon is feeling more like a Chihuaha than a denizen of hell.

Master Demons are slightly better but still have the same issues.


Image Courtesy of Uthoroc


Dragon

Dragons are something of a thematical anomaly in Descent in that they only come 3rd in the total number of health + armour statistics, but I still rate them higher than Demons. This is because they have Pierce 5, which will render most hero’s armour completely useless. sauron They also have the Breath ability, which allows them to target multiple heroes at once and their Burn ability means that a successful hit may see heroes lose additional wounds in subsequent turns.

But like the Demon, the Dragon will tend to be found in the endgame, when the heroes are demi-gods. All the Overlord can really do is try to position other monsters in front of a Dragon to block line of sight and in doing so you will hopefully earn at least 1 to 2 turns to reduce those pesky heroes to burnt toast.


Image Courtesy of panzer-attack


Giant

The Giant offers the best health + armour total of any creature in Descent. Combine this with the fact that Giants can be seen in more situations than just the end game and your Giants actually stand a chance of taking a hit without being killed. This is a good thing because Giants roll some death dealing dice with 1 red, 2 green and a yellow (standard Giants). But their true value is in their Stun ability. Stunning heroes severely reduces their options on future turns as it reduces them to a half action.

The Master Giant is even better as the added Sweep ability allows multiple heroes to be hit at once. There is nothing more satisfying than crunching multiple heroes and crying out in a booming voice, “MULTIIBAAAAAALLLLLLLL!”


Image Courtesy of roberious


Hell Hound

After Beastmen the Hellhound is probably the next most effective foot soldier. Its health + armour total is fairly rubbish but the combination of its Breath attack and Pierce 3 make it highly dangerous. For this reason the heroes are likely to target a Hellhound as soon as they see it so expect to not get much more than 1 attack.


Image Courtesy of jhocar


Manticore

The Manticore is a high quality mid strength unit. Its health + armour total is respectable but it is highly valued for its Quick Shot ability (which allows it to attack twice) and Pierce 2.

The Master Manticore is a weapon indeed as it also has Poison and Pierce 3. Being able to inflict a hero with 5-6 poison tokens will make them very vulnerable as those pesky Healing Potions will need to remove the poison tokens first. This can buy you enough time to get the kill and bring you one step closer to victory.

A great card to play when you have Manticores is the Rage card as this can give a Manticore 4 attacks in a single turn. Bwahahahahahaha!


Image Courtesy of Cleitus the Black


Naga

Nagas are not quite as handy as Manticores but they can be useful. They have the Grapple ability, which stops a hero from leaving the space they are in when they are adjacent to a Naga. So the tactic with Nagas is really to get in close to the enemy and Grapple them. If other monsters can then separate the other heroes in the party from the hero engaged with the Naga, they have a chance to do some real damage with their additional Sorcery 1 ability.

Master Nagas are even better value because they have Sorcery 2 and the Command ability. For this reason (Command) it is best to keep them in close proximity to other monsters to help them deal additional damage.


Image Courtesy of UniversalHead


Ogre

Ogres have a decent health + armour rating that should see them survive more than 1 attack and then they have a very useful skill if used properly. The Knockback ability will see a hero moved up to 3 spaces in any direction. So a great tactic can be to advance an Ogre to engage the nearest hero and then knock them back behind the Ogre where they can be reached by the waiting hordes in the rear. devil

Heroes can also be knocked into pits and suffer damage and I think my most satisfying kill in all 9 Quests of the base game was when my Master Ogre knocked the Minotaur tank Steelhorns into a pit to inflict the final wound to finish him. Oh good times.

Master Ogres are even more awesome as they have the Undying ability, which gives them a 1 in 3 chance of coming back from a fatal blow.

It should also be noted that Ogres do some meaty damage as they roll 1 green and 2 red dice.


Image Courtesy of refinery


Razorwing

Razorwings are something of a mixed bag. Their greatest asset is their speed as all too often the heroes will manage to kill your pets from range before they have the chance to close to melee distance. Thanks to their speed Razorwings usually manage to engage the pesky heroes and their health + armour rating often sees them survive more than 1 attack in the early game.

Their weakness though is that their attack is pretty weak with only 1 red and 1 yellow dice.

Master Razorwings do have the Stun ability though and this allows you to use the Razorwings in order to stun the enemy and then use other units to really press home your advantage.


Image Courtesy of andywatkins1963


Skeleton

We all love Skeletons…they are just so thematically cool. Unfortunately they are pretty much the gimps of the Descent universe. A gentle breeze is all it takes to kill them and their combat dice won’t do much more than scratch a hero here or there. The only thing going for them is their Pierce and Range bonuses but they really don’t help all that much.

Master Skeletons at least have Undying.


Image Courtesy of refinery


Sorcerer

Finally the Sorcerers. I really like these guys and rate them up there with the Beastmen in regards to the lower level rank and file villains. Whilst their health + armour ratings are not awesome (7 and 9 respectively for standard and master units) they have Sorcery 3. Provided that range is rolled this 3 extra damage can be really nasty to an 8 or 12 health hero.

The Master Sorcerers are even better with Sorcery 4 and Undying. The key to Sorcerers is to shield them from the heroes as long as possible so they can get 2-3 attacks per unit. This will cause the heroes no end of trouble.


Image Courtesy of arsthanea


EDIT - Added Claustrophobia to the links section.

EDIT - Updated the visual formatting and url links
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Frank Franco
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A couple of points:
Skeletons are actually quite good (you are useing the eratted skeletons found in Well of Darkness/ the FAQ aren't you?)
Several of your issues such as power creep is addressed in the expansions. This is more of a quest design issue than anything else.
The scalability of the game is, frankly, fucking crap. 4 heroes always has a much easier time than 2, and frankly once you hit the expansions 4 heroes is a must. Scaling never seems to work in a dungeoncrawl.

But overall this is a real blow away review that puts most others to shame. Well done, I'd love to read your opinion on the expansions.
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X Topher
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Nice review! ...albeit 'salt in the wound' for those who didn't jump on this game earlier. shake Let's hope for positive things in 2.0.
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Tyler Durden
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enders got a new nick? :-D

Very Nice review, one of the best i read on this page in the last time

i should put that much effort in my reviews as you did.

very well done !
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Mr Skeletor wrote:
A couple of points:
Skeletons are actually quite good (you are useing the eratted skeletons found in Well of Darkness/ the FAQ aren't you?)
Several of your issues such as power creep is addressed in the expansions. This is more of a quest design issue than anything else.
The scalability of the game is, frankly, fucking crap. 4 heroes always has a much easier time than 2, and frankly once you hit the expansions 4 heroes is a must. Scaling never seems to work in a dungeoncrawl.

But overall this is a real blow away review that puts most others to shame. Well done, I'd love to read your opinion on the expansions.

Cheers Frank.

Yeah we used the errated Skeletons but I never seemed to do well with them. May have just been my poor rolling though.

You can be sure that I'll be reviewing each of the expansions as I have all 1.0 items now. We start Well of Darkness in 3 weeks and we should be through that by early in 2012 as we play every 2nd Friday night.
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toerck wrote:
enders got a new nick? :-D

Very Nice review, one of the best i read on this page in the last time

i should put that much effort in my reviews as you did.

very well done !

Funny you should mention that as Enders approached me several years ago to ask if I'd mind if he borrowed some of my approaches to reviewing.

Given the quality of his work these days I find that rather humbling.
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Wonderful review! My brother wants to buy this game for me as a gift, and based on price alone I've been trying to talk him out of it. But now that I've read that the game takes so long to learn that might be another determining factor...I don't have a regular group and I forsee this game as being probably difficult for two people to play. :/
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It works 2 player as long as the player who has the heroes doesn't mind playing 2, 3 or even 4 heroes. Most of our games have been 2 player. It also speeds up the game a bit, as there is no (long) discussions to plan the heroes turn. We started with 2 heroes for the first few quests of the base game and then went to using 3 and 4 heroes as the quests got more difficult.
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Brian McCormick
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What a fantastic review/overview! Descent isn't my cuppa, but you should be commended for your hard work on this review. thumbsup
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A fantastic review Neil - thoroughly enjoyable as always!
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My eleven year old son and I are preparing for a RtL-campaign, because he doesn't like to begin every game with "clean" characters (he easily controls 4).

That's what careful nurturing, conditioning and brainwashing can accomplish.

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Jan Tuijp wrote:

My eleven year old son and I are preparing for a RtL-campaign, because he doesn't like to begin every game with "clean" characters (he easily controls 4).

That's what careful nurturing, conditioning and brainwashing can accomplish.


Be glad to hear you get on with this. I just bought a copy of RtL on-line a couple of days back for playing with my 10 year old daughter. I got her descent for last Christmas and she absolutely loves it. We have played the majority of scens from the vanilla expansions either with the two of us or with visiting older cousins. I've wanted to try her with the Advanced campaign for a while now and was delighted to find a copy of RtL. I think she wants to play as OL first time through, but I hope it sees a lot of use. I think playing for a campaign either as OL or player party controller will be very good for her.

The game should arrive in the next week, I hope, she's terribly excited

Regards - Chris

ps Just rememebred why I initally logged on (doh) : Great review !
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Jan Tuijp
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Quote:
I just bought a copy of RtL on-line a couple of days back for playing with my 10 year old daughter.
I also have a daughter. She's almost four. With my extensive experience on aforementioned techniques she will have no more than give or take three years before she'll grow pale, whither away and eventually succumb to Descent, Arkham Horror and all the other monstrosities I have in store...

<evil laughter/> goo

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Jan Tuijp wrote:

Quote:
I just bought a copy of RtL on-line a couple of days back for playing with my 10 year old daughter.
I also have a daughter. She's almost four. With my extensive experience on aforementioned techniques she will have no more than give or take three years before she'll grow pale, whither away and eventually succumb to Descent, Arkham Horror and all the other monstrosities I have in store...

<evil laughter/> goo


Arkham Horror was one of rachel's earlier games too, she saw it set up and was desperate to play. I think the first real grown up game that was hers though was the Lord of the Rings co-op which we still break out for a play now and then. Haven't played Arkham Horro in a while, but did squeeze in a couple of goes of Nomad Gods (a real blast from my past) during the school holidays devil

- Chris
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Neil Thomson wrote:
I don’t give that praise lightly either. Our playgroup had periods where we seriously doubted the game’s ability to offer up a balanced conflict. But our persistence has paid off and having experienced a truly amazing final Quest, we now ready ourselves with gleeful anticipation for the first expansion, The Well of Darkness. I am truly excited about it too because for the first time I will be playing as a hero. cool
Indeed it was a great final quest (failing only at the final room), though admittedly you inadvertently giving us those gold items for the copper chest might have helped a bit. whistle

Great review Neil, and looking forward to playing the expansions with you in a couple of weeks.
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davwj wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
I don’t give that praise lightly either. Our playgroup had periods where we seriously doubted the game’s ability to offer up a balanced conflict. But our persistence has paid off and having experienced a truly amazing final Quest, we now ready ourselves with gleeful anticipation for the first expansion, The Well of Darkness. I am truly excited about it too because for the first time I will be playing as a hero. cool
Indeed it was a great final quest (failing only at the final room), though admittedly you inadvertently giving us those gold items for the copper chest might have helped a bit. whistle

Great review Neil, and looking forward to playing the expansions with you in a couple of weeks.

Yeah note to self - be sure to check the Treasure decks carefully to make sure that a Gold card hasn't snuck into the Bronze deck where it may be missed due to poor light. blush
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Wade Nelson
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Damn fine review. One of the longest reviews I've managed to finish because it kept me interested and had just the right amount of information.

Fantastic review.
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Jack Burton
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Wow fantastic review - thank you for taking the time to write it. I will keep this bookmarked for anyone that I know that asks about Descent.

You made some excellent points and really adds positive momentum to the idea of Descent 2.0 I am old school gamer myself and I was shocked to realize that I am in that 2 hour camp as well. I guess its the sign of the times with computers changing the way we expect things delivered. Its that or we can blame fast food and Fedex/UPS? lol

Lastly, I have always wondered why they did not go with the Warhammer Quest route for dungeon tiles. I really enjoy the unknown quality and the random dungeon layouts. Its fun to look back at a completed quest run and see how it unfolded.

I am hoping in Descent 2.0 it will do the random with set piece rooms. On top of that you can still do the locked themes where tile placement and quest pacing is really important.

Overall I am really glad that FFG is here to give us all this tasty gaming goodness like Descent where you only need a nice big table, good food, good friends, and oh a few hours of uninterrupted time. laugh
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Ethan Van Vorst
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Hey Neil, when can we expect a good Battletech review? whistle
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Stig Morten
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Thunder Alley: Crew Chief Expansion - Coming soon to Kickstarter!
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Great review, Neil.

Thor approves of the "Hammer of Thor" reference.
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ShepparCon was a Blast!
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Thank You to all those that attended BorderCon this year and made it special again!!!
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Thanks everyone for the positive response. I have had some time off work of late and this review very much helped me get through the boredom of the last week.

It took a fair chunk of 2 full days and in the end I was worried that its length would kill it for most people.

@Ethan - Battletech - boy was that a flame of mine from the ages of 15-19. I still have 3-4 tech readouts in the loft and half a dozen map packs (some still in shrink I believe). Perhaps this coming summer it is time that the 11 year old learns how much fun it can be to maneuver giant mechs around forests and hills and giggle with glee as those missiles pepper the enemy whilst another losses their head to a gauze cannon attack.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathon Lethem
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Great review, Neil, and I mean that sincerely.

Neil Thomson wrote:
I mean come on, if someone were to travel back in time to visit your 1986 self and tell you that a game like Descent would be designed in 20 years time you would have wet your 14 year old pants!
In 1986 I'd have bought it to play with my kids (my oldest was already a teenager). Then again, I probably did have 14 year old pants.
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Sphere wrote:
Great review, Neil, and I mean that sincerely.

Neil Thomson wrote:
I mean come on, if someone were to travel back in time to visit your 1986 self and tell you that a game like Descent would be designed in 20 years time you would have wet your 14 year old pants!
In 1986 I'd have bought it to play with my kids (my oldest was already a teenager). Then again, I probably did have 14 year old pants.

My boys are 11, 9 and 8. Whilst they played a scenario a couple of years ago - they were not quite ready.

I have really dragged my feet of late in playing HeroQuest with them...but the days of Descent with them are not too far around the corner. Should be great times.
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Frank Franco
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Wait, so you haven't played with WoD yet?
Ok, 2 warnings:

1) The quests are harder. Much much much harder. I recomend playing with the negative conquest variant and using some sort of spawn limiting rules.

2) The quests are longer. Much much much longer. If possible set it up somewhere where it can be left setup and thus played over 2 session (the glory of a games room.) If you don't have this luxury then you may need to come up with some sort of pack up/continue system in play, otherwise you will be up for really long sessions.
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Mr Skeletor wrote:
Wait, so you haven't played with WoD yet?
Ok, 2 warnings:

1) The quests are harder. Much much much harder. I recomend playing with the negative conquest variant and using some sort of spawn limiting rules.

2) The quests are longer. Much much much longer. If possible set it up somewhere where it can be left setup and thus played over 2 session (the glory of a games room.) If you don't have this luxury then you may need to come up with some sort of pack up/continue system in play, otherwise you will be up for really long sessions.

Oh wow really? Thanks for the heads up Frank. Sounds like we might need to move our Descent Friday nights to a Saturday where we can crack out 6 hours if we need to and have a short break in the middle.

I have the luxury of a loft and a swimming pool. So as we head into the summer we can just take a cool dip to refresh ourselves before heading back up to finish off a quest. cool

As much as I would like to go with a variant I do like to play a game as written the 1st time around so I can review it on those merits. But I concede that I have been warned.
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