LONG LIVE SAMMY!
Have you read the Psion series?
To give you a bit of info on my Descent background, I've played the entire vanilla quests plus several others, including fan made quests. All said, I've probably crawled the dungeons of 1st Ed about 20 times. So I'm no noob but I'm not among the most seasoned of players. I own all the expansions but haven't played much of them.
Before I played 2nd Ed, I bagged all the big cards. I haven't bagged the smaller cards yet, and I haven't laminated the hero cards yet (will tomorrow.) In bagging the larger cards I noticed that these newer cards seem to be of a cheaper stock than the 1st Ed. They bent a little more, more pliant, if you will, but they also felt very springy. The hero cards also feel a little thinner, but that may be b/c I've been playing with laminated cards for quite a while. On the other hand, I was very impressed with the miniatures. They're very nice, made of good plastic, and had great detail. Only one of pieces had a problem, a portion of an elemental's base was bent out of shape. Not a huge deal.
I read through the rule book twice to make sure I had a good understanding of the rules. My group and I have played over 10 quests together, so we felt very comfortable w/ the 1 ed rules. I briefly explained the changes to the rules which took about 15 minutes. I played the overlord (I always do) and we had 3 heroes instead of our usual four. One of us had an anniversary and seemed to think that celebrating was more important. Idiot.
We played with all new heroes, deciding to forego any conversion guys for this round. Keep it simple. The set up was quick, about 15 minutes or a little longer, perhaps. First time and all. We started playing and very soon sunk into the new way of playing with very little looking into the rule book. Most things were just to check how the new way was done.
The game lasted no more than an hour. The heroes had my ettin down to his last heart when I "ran" my goblin archer into the exit and won. The heroes probably could have chased him down, but instead decided to go for the win. It was a gutsier move, and they paid for it. All in all, despite the shorter length, it was just as thrilling a match as any I've played in the 4 hr variety.
While I missed some of the more complexities of 1 ed, I enjoyed this as well and felt right at home playing it. The simplicity is sure to help us play it more often, while knowing we can still go back and play 1 ed any time we want. I'm excited to introduce new people to this newer version and think it's a great game and worth the wait and dollars.