Paul Craig
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I'm very new to the 'other' world of board games. In my youth I dabbled with D&D and a bit of Warhammer, but then I became a Father and I put away such things to concentrate on Ludo instead.

Now with the aid of Descent, I'm returning, and I thought I'd report from a Dad's perspective.

The reason I pre-orded Descent was on recommendation from a friend. My objective was to find something that had fantasy characters, but wasn't as complicated or free-form as D&D or Warhammer, and that stood a chance of being a hit with the kids. Getting my two boys to co-operate over something would be a rare but welcome bonus.

First, I think for this kind of game there should be two recommended ages - a supervised play age and an unsupervised play age. The FFG recommended age for this game is 14 and up. 14 might be a reasonable average age for a group of children playing this without the support of elders (adults or even older children), but for supervised play the age could be much lower.

My children are seven years, and ten years. While a few of their friends would still have trouble with Snakes & Ladders, the majority of their peers are on a par so I think they are reasonably representative. Both are good readers and we regularly play more mainstream board games as a family. Also, both are chess players, which may well be an advantage. Descent deconstructed is essentially chess on acid (a lot of acid)… with teammates and monsters. The relatively free movement (admittedly semi-constrained by the nature of the quest maps and scenarios) is liberating, and individual hero/monster movement limits become very significant.

By the time we had got through the 'First Blood' learning experience, the younger one had already taken on the role of master strategist, negotiating quest objectives and special rules to create a workable plan for us on 'A Fat Goblin'. Both had got into the Descent world and were easily imagining the action represented by the miniatures and the game mechanics. My eldest has Asperger's Syndrome, and this kind of team-play is fantastic as he can get the hero to be the team member on his behalf - sort of team-play-by-proxy. However, he wanted to play as Overlord on 'A Fat Goblin' because the role of evil overseer is already his chosen career path (either that or a vet), so it's basically work experience.

I have a spot of advice for anybody new to this kind of gaming, as I am. While a run-through of 'First Blood' is enough for most people to grasp the rules and the basic game mechanics, it should be a guided run-through. If a group of people new to the game - especially children - sat down together, planning learn as they went, it's unlikely they'd ever get Descent out of the cupboard again. The time involved would have most children climbing the walls out of sheer frustration, and most adults would be well into the third bottle before it was time to do battle.

Thankfully, I did two things that I think kept the game from coming to rest in the family archives. First, I read the rules several times before the game had even arrived. This precaution is good for a basic understanding, but when you open the box and a whole world of special quest rules, cards, miniatures and dice explode all over your kitchen table, you realise there is still another hill beyond. So, a wise parent hoping to compete with the Playstation and DS will wait until the little darlings have gone to bed, play a game solo, and thus assert themselves as the family's D2e arbiter, facilitator, and Entertainments Officer.

It's strange, but a 28 page rule book is necessary to make the game so straight forward. That is, it's not a difficult game to play because the rules are so very explicit, and much of the monster/ability/condition/quest-specific detail is reduced to bite-sized chunks on the cards, which you read as required. After all the preparation, I probably referred to the main rule book maybe five times during First Blood, and maybe two or three times during A Fat Goblin.

The other thing to note is that I think the quests make the game. The interesting and challenging objectives based on great little mini-stories bring it to life. I can safely say that an hour of rolling dice for no good reason would also have spelt the death of this game in our house. Thankfully, this is not that game. The children responded to the quests brilliantly - planning their moves, empathising with the characters, and turning themselves into heroes when monsters were slain and objectives were reached.

Things to watch out for include the work that the Overlord has to put in. My eldest did a good job, but it's very easy to forget, for example, that you have the option of playing some Overlord cards while the heroes are playing. In other words, there's no rest for the wicked. I did point out that jumping around the living room pretending to slay imaginary heroes probably counted as serious neglect of evil duties, for which the naughty step was the only option. That did the trick.

Also, there are quite a number of relatively delicate miniatures and bendable cards. For adults, that's fine - they at least have some control over their limbs. Children need to exercise a little restraint and naturally need reminding of that. I'm not sure I'm relishing the idea of other people's children joining in - the risks of losing an important card or an important (plastic) limb amongst that melee are very real… No, actually I'm looking forward to it. My children, with their friends, inside, where I can keep my eye on the little criminals… that's fine.

I'd hope that FFG can help me maintain my children's interest in this game. For us newbies the conversion kit is a strange thing. The appeal is adding new monsters (what child doesn't want to collect monsters), but without easy access to appropriate miniatures? The hobbyist/enthusiast outlook on this is that they can start collecting proxy miniatures, or call on their already extensive collection of minis. As a serial hobbyist myself, I can see the attraction, though as a Dad who has to weigh the cost of games against petrol, food, and children's clothes – and get leisure items past the Chief Financial Officer (and sometimes her Mum as well) – the sound of 100 miniatures marching over the horizon has a foreboding 'boom' in its mix: Another devourer of time and money. I accept, of course, that the conversion kit is called that because it's aimed at someone else, but it does get you thinking...

What would we (my children and I) like? If FFG started releasing a series of small packs, maybe each with one monster group and the appropriate act 1 and act 2 cards, that would be several birthday and Christmas items sorted right away. The open group system immediately grabbed my children (what overlord wouldn't get excited at the prospect of choosing their own monsters?), so frequent augmentations to that choice would help keep interest burning. It might even manage to distract some pocket money. The bigger gestures, like new campaigns etc will obviously be appealing a little way down the road.

I'm not going to go into the details of the game itself. There's enough of that already floating around the internet. Just don't be put off by the already burgeoning debates over rules and regulations. If you've actually read the rules and played through the game you'll realise that some of these are simple cases of 'RTFM', some are people preferring the rules of other games or being unable to resist fiddling, some are spectacular moments of pedantry (with or without the aid of novelty spectacles)…. And the rest are perfectly valid.

I love this game, and so far, the children love it too. You have to commit time to it, which I personally think is a massive bonus. Too often these days I look up and realise that with the Playstation, a DS, a family computer, and my laptop, four people in the same room might as well be on different continents. WIth the aid of Descent, at least you can all be in the same dungeon.

Paul.
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Good to see your kids are strategizing. That's more than I can say for some adults! laugh

For kids and cards, I'd recommend sleeves. Sleeves won't prevent intentional damage, but they provide some protection against damage. I don't know any D2E cards that need to be in undamaged condition to play (vs. "select a hidden role" games like Citadels).

Since you have miniatures, you and the kids can also make your own monsters. Kids have that creativity that adults sadly replace with inability to play beyond what the publisher provides.

You can also create your own adventures if the kids are less interested in tactics than roleplaying.
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Mark Thompson
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Your review made me laugh. Well done.
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Very nice review and I relate to being a gamer Dad. My urchins are girls, however, and now teens so the challenges are decidedly different.

I'm curious why you landed on Decent rather than hold out for Mice and Mystics? Perhaps you hadn't heard of it or wanted a game 'now' rather than in the sweet-by-and-by. On the chance that you had considered MM or other games, I'd be interested in hearing your thinking.
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Very interesting read. I am looking forward to playing this with my two sons (7 and 5, although the younger is pretty well guided by his elder brother). The eldest is already quite a decent Descent 1 Overlord - the monsters seem to be easier than the heroes for him to strategise. I have been pleasantly surprised by his capabilities in the game, so I expect that v2 should work well for us. he also watches the adults play the game, so has seemed to pick up a bit there.

And since the years roll by at a brisk pace, I expect soon both of them will be thrashing me regularly.

Both the boys are quite careful with cards, but I've had a few bent or crushed by their friends, most of whom appear never to have seen a game more complicated than snakes and ladders.

I also highly recommend Catacombs for small boys (and probably girls). I've found it to be a big hit, and accessible for the non-gaming friends of the kids.
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Paul Craig
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Sam and Max wrote:

For kids and cards, I'd recommend sleeves. Sleeves won't prevent intentional damage, but they provide some protection against damage. I don't know any D2E cards that need to be in undamaged condition to play (vs. "select a hidden role" games like Citadels).


Thanks for that. Yes, I think I will be investigating sleeves, especially as the longer games will probably involve drinks on the tables and chocolate biscuits.


Sam and Max wrote:
Since you have miniatures, you and the kids can also make your own monsters. Kids have that creativity that adults sadly replace with inability to play beyond what the publisher provides.

You can also create your own adventures if the kids are less interested in tactics than roleplaying.


All good points. They've already asked if they can make up their own maps, and I think the older one is working on rules for Descent rugby.
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Paul Craig
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adamw wrote:
I'm curious why you landed on Decent rather than hold out for Mice and Mystics? Perhaps you hadn't heard of it or wanted a game 'now' rather than in the sweet-by-and-by. On the chance that you had considered MM or other games, I'd be interested in hearing your thinking.


I chose Descent simply by giving the boys the choice. I did offer Mansions Of Madness, though I hadn't heard of Mice & Mystics at the stage (Descent and Mansions were my friend's recommendations). To be honest, I think they would still have chosen Descent, simply because of the classic fantasy theme. The Lord Of The Rings films (they haven't got to the books yet), Dragon Quest on the DS, and other things like that probably informed the choice. Mice & Mystics looks a bit like an 'alternative or sideways view on classic fantasy and I'm not sure they're familiar enough with the foundations to understand the alternative. Also, I'd be concerned that M&M might be a novelty rather than a longer term favourite, and that Mice aren't really 'cool' for a ten year old boy to like (whereas zombies...). Descent was the safe choice… £50 is a big enough risk to take on a board game, without that.
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Deodand wrote:
Very interesting read. I am looking forward to playing this with my two sons (7 and 5, although the younger is pretty well guided by his elder brother). The eldest is already quite a decent Descent 1 Overlord - the monsters seem to be easier than the heroes for him to strategise. I have been pleasantly surprised by his capabilities in the game, so I expect that v2 should work well for us. he also watches the adults play the game, so has seemed to pick up a bit there.


I'm certain they will be fine, especially with guidance. I think my younger one, at 5, would probably have simply enjoyed deciding what to do and would have been happy for others to do the maths.

Also, for the younger ones, the idea of not dying but simply being knocked out is much easier to take. It's an important point I forgot to mention in the review.

Deodand wrote:
I also highly recommend Catacombs for small boys (and probably girls). I've found it to be a big hit, and accessible for the non-gaming friends of the kids.


Thanks, I'll have a look at Catacombs.

I think I'll be on the look out of a 'quick-play' alternative to Descent pretty soon. On weekday evenings, between scouts, athletics, homework, dinner etc we can't commit to a game of D2e - I'd like to be able to say "No, but what about this?" instead of just "No."
 
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Tycalt wrote:
Your review made me laugh. Well done.


Thank you. I don't often do the review thing, but I feel that Descent is such a great game that other parents should be aware.
 
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Great review. Looking forward to trying it with my son and his friends.
 
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Great review.

Anyone have any thoughts on how Descent compares to the D&D board games (e.g., Drzzzzzzt) and whether one or the other is better for kids in the 6, 8 and 10 range (all girls)?
 
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A great review and a good read.

I just had the chance to play the introductory quest with my girlfriend and a friend last weekend. We had a good time but stumble on a few rules here and there. Can't wait for our next session. laugh

macdaddy256 wrote:
Too often these days I look up and realise that with the Playstation, a DS, a family computer, and my laptop, four people in the same room might as well be on different continents. WIth the aid of Descent, at least you can all be in the same dungeon.


I couldn't agree more. Sometimes it's not the game that you enjoy the most, it's the company and the interactions during the game that makes it nice and memorable. meeple
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Kalii wrote:
Anyone have any thoughts on how Descent compares to the D&D board games (e.g., Drzzzzzzt) and whether one or the other is better for kids in the 6, 8 and 10 range (all girls)?


Well, I have D&D: Legend of Drzzzzzzt(LoD) laugh in my collection. Played a couple of times with my friends, we seem to have mixed feelings for it. Sometimes, it can be very challenging and fun but it can be very straight forward and repetitive. We like the quest that has a pre-built map and the one that involves escaping the caverns becuase it's more exciting. However, you can always spice up the game with all the custom add-ons from the BGG community (kudos to all them).

As for Descent 2.0, I can't really comment much but the first impression it gave me is there are more things to do and the quest is more interesting as compare to D&D: LoD (not sure about Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon). Definitely more dice rolling which is me and my friends kind of enjoy and more customization option for the heroes as well (in terms of class, abilities and equipments). Of course, once in awhile being the evil bad guy that schemes the demise of the heroes ain't a bad thing... devil

Overall: If you're looking for an easier game which have a straight forward gameplay that the kids can picked up easily then D&D: LoD would be a good choice as a kickstarter. However, if your kids prefer a slight (just need to spend a little bit more on the rule reading) more complex gameplay in terms of more option in customizing their characters then Descent 2.0 would be a very nice game for them and not forgetting about being the big bad guy... laugh

I hope my feedback helps you in some way. meeple
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Thx
 
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macdaddy256 wrote:
First, I think for this kind of game there should be two recommended ages - a supervised play age and an unsupervised play age. The FFG recommended age for this game is 14 and up. 14 might be a reasonable average age for a group of children playing this without the support of elders (adults or even older children), but for supervised play the age could be much lower.
The "14 and up" mention is mostly a way not to be bothered by parental association advice (or censorship) about theme and contents.
You find that limit in many games with fantasy, scifi and/or combat themes.
I do also consider that younger children can play Descent.

BTW, thank you for the nice review.
 
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Great review! Thanks!
 
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macdaddy256 wrote:
However, he wanted to play as Overlord on 'A Fat Goblin' because the role of evil overseer is already his chosen career path (either that or a vet), so it's basically work experience.


Priceless! Plus a fine review with an interesting perspective.
 
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Thanks for a great review. I have two kids, one teen, one tweener. They have played all sorts of boardgames with me, including Mansions of Madness. In that game, to my surprise, they eventually preferred being the dungeonmaster.

I'm expecting to get Descent 2 as a gift next week. I was planning to start as the Overlord, to let them team up against me. Is this a good idea? I think they are more likely to enjoy the game if they have some initial successes -- that is, if they don't lose horribly in their first go.
 
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Paul Craig
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Grotius wrote:
I was planning to start as the Overlord, to let them team up against me. Is this a good idea? I think they are more likely to enjoy the game if they have some initial successes


I'd say yes. For me, the main reason for starting as Overlord was that my boys were new to this game - and this genre of game - and I wanted to make sure they enjoyed the first play. Also, they were forced to work together (against me) which is big bonus as far as I'm concerned. They don't always work well together, but the chance to beat Dad at something trumps that.

I prepared and made sure I knew what I was doing before-hand so I could feed them their options at each stage. This way you suffer far fewer pauses for reference to the rulebook - a real enjoyment-killer for children. Also, I could have held back at the appropriate time if it turned out the heroes were finding things a bit tough. In the end, this wasn't necessary.

Paul.
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macdaddy256 wrote:

I think I'll be on the look out of a 'quick-play' alternative to Descent pretty soon. On weekday evenings, between scouts, athletics, homework, dinner etc we can't commit to a game of D2e - I'd like to be able to say "No, but what about this?" instead of just "No."


I find myself in almost exactly the same situation... I too have boys 5 and 7 and am looking for something beyond "Dungeon" and "Castle Panic". I had thought Descent might be too complex and was thinking of maybe "DungeonQuest" or "Claustrophobia"? Maybe I should think again. But did you find a quick-play alternative?
 
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I have played 3 encounter with my daughter (5) and son (7). They seem to like it.

So far we are playing without class cards (except equipment), hero abilities, heroic feats and overlord cards. This in my mind keeps the complexity, language dependency and playing time down to a manageable level while still leaving the game interesting and somewhat balanced.
I am of course hoping to introduce some of those features later, when they get older or just more familiar with the game.
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i love this game from a father stand point as well my two ewoks are 3 and 6. so getting them to sit still and cooperate and read and do math all at the same time while we all enjoy the game is a real plus. Gabe my 6yr old reads the turn activation card the rumors and the fluff text out of the OL quest guide. we then have to assemble the dungeon, Nate my 3 yr old is up to bat about finding the correct pieces and assembling what we need and then we begin play. read the turn card take gabe's turn nate's turn repeat and they dont even realize they are doing math. Both will add up the hearts then subtract out the shields and see if the moster dies or as the put it "splat all over the walls" we are now getting into using surges which changes their math a little but they understand the game so its not overly complicated but it can be when I play with my gaming buddies. Just my two cents this game is worth every penny.

Now that Gabe is learning to write he writes very short stories about this game which he calls Dungeons and the lego world of Chima so the stories are always interesting but i am glad he is using his imagination instead of sitting in front of the idiot box all day
 
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