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Subject: On the fence... rss

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Eric
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I have been on the fence about getting this game or not. I have a solid gaming group and was considering purchasing this game for weekly Sunday Descent sessions.

I have scoured over countless reviews and read this forum extensively. The more I read the more I am second guessing what at first was an automatic buy. I am looking for a solid dungeon crawl experience. Part of the appeal was the self contained campaign/story. I have played Drizzt and I own Dungeon Run.

My main concern is all this stuff I am reading about balancing issues for the various encounters and people "gaming" the system as the OL and throwing the first encounter. Also the fact that each encounter can be accomplished by just running to the objective.

I am not sure if I am being misguided by all the negativity that surrounds this game but I really want to enjoy it if/when I do purchase the game. Are these "issues" people have with the game exaggerated?

Does a well balanced, story driven, dungeon crawl experience exist outside of D&D? If so what should I check out.
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Geki
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I own descent 2nd ed. I love it. I found it far more refined of the first edition. I loved that one as well.
With this game, and with many heavily thematic game as well, you need to play with decent (although competitive) people.
I am having a blast with our 3rd campaign, although we certainly noticed balance problems.
THe point is: what's the aim? Yeah, winning second encounter is more important for the campaign, but per se the people I play with are still interested in winning, be it the intro, the first encounter of a quest, the finale, etc.
I read some excellent house rules addressing most of the problems (e.g.: after 1st encounter, ol discards down to x+1 cards, where X=number of heroes) yet I never implemented any. And I play with the heroes, lose 60% of quests and lost both campaigns so far. And you know what? we complain during the game (Xs hate me!) but when it's over we cannot wait to play again.
I still play D&D, but this is a different beast. And totally worth it. Too bad you live just a little too much north, otherwise I would gladly invite you over to try it.
Best
Geki


eveator wrote:
I have been on the fence about getting this game or not. I have a solid gaming group and was considering purchasing this game for weekly Sunday Descent sessions.

I have scoured over countless reviews and read this forum extensively. The more I read the more I am second guessing what at first was an automatic buy. I am looking for a solid dungeon crawl experience. Part of the appeal was the self contained campaign/story. I have played Drizzt and I own Dungeon Run.

My main concern is all this stuff I am reading about balancing issues for the various encounters and people "gaming" the system as the OL and throwing the first encounter. Also the fact that each encounter can be accomplished by just running to the objective.

I am not sure if I am being misguided by all the negativity that surrounds this game but I really want to enjoy it if/when I do purchase the game. Are these "issues" people have with the game exaggerated?

Does a well balanced, story driven, dungeon crawl experience exist outside of D&D? If so what should I check out.
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Jacob Søgaard
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I love Descent 2nd Edition, so my opinion is a little biased. :]

I'll give you my 2 cents about your concerns though:

eveator wrote:
My main concern is all this stuff I am reading about balancing issues for the various encounters and people "gaming" the system as the OL and throwing the first encounter. Also the fact that each encounter can be accomplished by just running to the objective.


Descent depends on so many variables that you can't really say whether it's imbalanced overall or not. In my experience it's rarely a problem and I think Descent offers challenge and enjoyment for both the Heroes and the OL. The two sides feel a lot different to play. That said, it will happen sometimes, that one side will have a very clear advantage and that the other side mostly just tries to minimize the damage (when playing the campaign). But this can also be a result of bad/good play earlier (many loss/wins in the campaign).

I only think it pays off just to concentrate on the second encounter as the OL. Sometimes I've saved my cards for the second encounter as the OL, but that's mostly the case when I can see that the first encounter is already lost and then it also counter as a timer such that the Heroes doesn't stall (and e.g. loot everything). I don't see this as a problem.

If you can accomplish an encounter by simply running to the objective your opponent(s) are doing something wrong.

Edit: Also +1 to pretty much all the things Geki stated.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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It's got its warts, but you may like it.

Now's the time to buy: Amazon.com has it for $39.99 http://www.amazon.com/Descent-Journeys-Second-Edition-Board/...

-shnar
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JH
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I got it kind of on impulse when it was on sale at CSI, and then it became the game I was most looking forward to playing. We've had a lot of fun with it so far and are excited to play again. Haven't played enough to comment much on balance issues, but I figure a game that has posts complaining about both sides being overpowered and underpowered is probably balanced pretty well — and there are enough variables in the game that losing could hinge on lack of preparation or a non-optimal choice of monster or ability rather than an inherent imbalance.
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eveator wrote:
Does a well balanced, story driven, dungeon crawl experience exist outside of D&D? If so what should I check out.


D2e has a story, but the problem I find is that if you are playing this game once a week, or biweekly, the story loses focus. Playing the campaign, we honestly forget elements of the story, so I have to say I don't find it too central to the game. YMMV, but one thing you can do is have the OL or another player keep a "log" of the events that have thus transpired to keep a more flowing story.

As others have mentioned, its hard to talk about balance, as there's just too many variables.

Lastly, its not really a true dungeon crawl. You mentioned Dungeon Run, which has random encounters and dungeons. D2e does not have this Monster groups (except the Open Groups that the Overlord is free to select at his choosing) and dungeons are pre-made. So in that sense, Dungeon Run has a leg up over D2e. On the other hand, D2e is a lot less random than Dungeon Run, and is way more heavy on tactics and item/weapon selection. For me, that was the deciding factor in choosing between these two games; although I craved random dungeons, I didn't want something as luck based as Dungeon Run (though it is cool how you can assign dice to damage or defense).

If you're cool with all of this, or want to try something like this, I say go for it. $40 on amazon is a steal for this game. I should have video'd the box opening. When I bought Descent, I was so pleased with the amount and quality of components. Its easy to see that plenty of thought and care went into this game's production, in terms of both components and quest design. You'll get lots of replay out of this, for sure.
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Curtis Sutherland
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the story is weak, plain and simple. Mice and Mystics is better for story and theme, but its not as variable or complex.

What Descent has is competitive play, This gives it its own nitch in the dungeon game world. Its one of a kind that way, and because of that its a diferent kind of dungeon experience.

Its like playing through an adventure path in an RPG, but the DM gets to try and win and there is no roleplaying between fights, and the whole experience is simplified and streamlined.

Worth buying.
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Stephen Williams
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eveator wrote:

I have scoured over countless reviews and read this forum extensively. The more I read the more I am second guessing what at first was an automatic buy. I am looking for a solid dungeon crawl experience. Part of the appeal was the self contained campaign/story. I have played Drizzt and I own Dungeon Run.


D2E is a solid dungeon crawl, albiet one where the Overlord has a reasonable chance of winning. The heroes will have to actually try in order to win this adverture, but in my opinion that jus tmakes the victory so much better.

The story is present, though not central. You can play it without the story if you don't care, or you can get really into reading the story bits in character and have a ball with it. FWIW, the story in 2E is much better than it was in 1E, not that that probably matters to you if you never played 1E.

eveator wrote:

My main concern is all this stuff I am reading about balancing issues for the various encounters


I think Descent is relatively well balanced from my (admittedly few) plays. There are a few things you need to keep in mind when discussing balance with Descent:

1) First and foremost, as a scenario-driven game, the balance depends heavily on the quest you're playing. Some quests have easier goals for the heroes, others have easier goals for the OL. I think it's close enough that both sides CAN win any quest, but there are certainly some that lean one way or the other.

2) Player experience. Particularly hero player experience. Descent is an asymmetric game and the fact is that the OL has an easier learning curve than the heroes. Once everybody knows how it works, things level off.

eveator wrote:

people "gaming" the system as the OL and throwing the first encounter.


This is one of the more serious flaws with D2E, IMHO. There's no getting around that. The good news is, whether or not it impacts your games depends entirely on your OL player. If everyone at the table agrees this is a cheesy play and nobody does it as OL, then it doesn't really matter that it can be done.

As a competitive game where both sides have a fair shot at victory, Descent does tend to get bogged down with rules debates, at least online. D1E was terrible for this. D2E is better about it, but the questions still arise. However, it has never been a problem at my table, for either edition. Being calm and rational adults, we can usually talk out these situations and come to an agreed ruling. If we can't, we flip a coin and figure out the right answer later.

eveator wrote:

Also the fact that each encounter can be accomplished by just running to the objective.


Keeping your objective in mind is an important part of the strategy in Descent. If the heroes go around trying to clear every room of monsters and search every corner for loot, they're going to lose. That's not quite the same thing as "just running tot he objective" though (at least not in my books.) The heroes can still discuss and strategize, try to find a way to make room for grabbing as many search tokens as possible. As long as they don't completely ignore their objective (and the OL's), it still works.

eveator wrote:

I am not sure if I am being misguided by all the negativity that surrounds this game but I really want to enjoy it if/when I do purchase the game. Are these "issues" people have with the game exaggerated?


I think that depends on your group. Nothing you've mentioned above is wrong, per se, but a lot of it can mitigated by mature behaviour and perhaps a few house rules. If your crew is teh type to min/max every little detail and argue about the meaning of a sentence on a card until 4AM, then Descent might be a nightmare for you. If they're solid role-players (or otherwise good gamers), then you'll probably have a ball.

eveator wrote:

Does a well balanced, story driven, dungeon crawl experience exist outside of D&D? If so what should I check out.


I don't know about that, to be honest. I will say this, however: much like D&D, the level of impact the story has in Descent depends on how willing your group is to accept it. The game can be pure combat, or it can be highly story-driven. Like D&D, it's about how you play the game.
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Brenton Harman
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Let me preface this by saying, my group is loving this game - we play it every week and cannot wait for the expansion.

On the subject of story:

My of my group's complaints of this game was that they felt like the story had no cohesion. We would play one quest (or in some cases one encounter) per week, which meant that the urgency of the story within the game is lost. As the Overlord, I would read the three paragraph flavor text before each quest, and being that I can't read worth a damn, it would pull my friends out of the story rather than into it.

I figured we needed a dose of roleplaying to fix this (and I needed a dose of preparation). I know the game, so in my free time I got the game out, made the travel deck, and drew the three cards the heros required to get to the next quest. I looked that the encounters, stripped the flavor text from them and formed my own story. I described the heroes and gave them little quirks. Then instead of them just having to make a random skill check, I had them interact with an NPC and they earned their consequences. I even gave them a chance to haggle for another item.

Their reaction was very positive. And I think this might be a good, albeit labor intensive, way to add a bit of story into the game.

I also feel like I should mention, I have no experience with roleplaying, at all.
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Eric
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Thank you all for the feedback it was very helpful!

I think you guys have sold me and I will definitely be picking this up for my group!
 
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Assalander
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I'm a bit in the same situation than the OP.

I own Descent 1ed but never played it much, mainly because I didn't like the fact that the OL was able to pound the heroes at first but that if they'd survive, they would at the end be unstoppable with gold items allowing to one-shot the final boss. Also the constant respawning vs. having to watch for LOS felt really tedious (and I'm saying this as someone who played the OL most of the time).

So I'm very interested in 2ed with its "less but tougher monsters" approach, and other improvements (quest-specific objectives, built-in campaign, character classes...).

My main concern is with this whole "don't spend too much time fighting monsters or exploring, go for the objective" thing. Does this strategy flow naturally in the game, or is it rather counter-intuitive? I'm afraid a dungeon crawler where you can't take the time to kill stuff and collect loot but instead are constantly running by monsters and letting them shoot at you without responding because you're too busy with the quest objective, may feel a bit frustrating.
 
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It's not a dungeon crawl like many people have a schema about dungeon crawl games. Story&objective driven adventure game would describe the game better. You have a certain mission and you are there to complete it. If you let something divert you from your mission then it's your own failure.
 
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Assalander
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Your last sentence makes me afraid. I love the objective-based quests, but not at the cost of everything else. Is the game generally a race for the objectives, ignoring monsters as much as possible because the OL will spawn new ones anyway, or do successfull players tend to kill MOST of the monsters and flip MOST of the search tokens, just not ALL of them (which is fine)?
 
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Dustin Whitmire
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Mage de Taverne wrote:
Your last sentence makes me afraid. I love the objective-based quests, but not at the cost of everything else. Is the game generally a race for the objectives, ignoring monsters as much as possible because the OL will spawn new ones anyway, or do successfull players tend to kill MOST of the monsters and flip MOST of the search tokens, just not ALL of them (which is fine)?


If what you are worried about is that the game isn't full of combat, than don't worry. You will absolutely have to kill a bunch of stuff, yet you will have to weigh your actions; is doing "X" going to ultimately prevent me from winning the objective. Certain quests lend themselves to more combat than others; mostly due to choke points and the OL reinforcement rules - if the overlord gets back a monster from each of his 3 monster groups at the beginning of his turn - well, you probably are going to downgrade the worth of killing monsters as opposed to searching and pursuing the encounter objective.
 
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Mage de Taverne wrote:
Your last sentence makes me afraid. I love the objective-based quests, but not at the cost of everything else. Is the game generally a race for the objectives, ignoring monsters as much as possible because the OL will spawn new ones anyway, or do successfull players tend to kill MOST of the monsters and flip MOST of the search tokens, just not ALL of them (which is fine)?

Depends on the quest. If killing a monster doesn't help your cause then you might do something more useful. If a monster is blocking you then you have to kill it. If there are no spawns for the OL then of course every kill is good but you have to evaluate how much it helps you situation. Of course you usually kill what is in your way or near you. The monsters hurt you. It's not like you can ignore them and run past them the whole encounter but if there are monsters at the other end of the map then there is no incentive to just go there and kill them for fun. Usually there is a rush and the pressure is more on the heroes. The quests can't last forever, there is usually some sort of trigger that ends the game if either side is actually playing the game.

Most search tokens, usually all or one less.

Monsters that try to stop you from accomplishing your mission or who are in position that can sevely hinder you advance towards the goal are worth killing. Of course you have different jobs for every hero and some heroes may be better at killing monsters. Depends on the quest, weapons, monsters etc.

It's not randomly wandering and clearing dungeons, there are other games for that. You do what you need to do to accomplish the mission. I think it all makes to me rationally and thematically.

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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Mage de Taverne wrote:
My main concern is with this whole "don't spend too much time fighting monsters or exploring, go for the objective" thing. Does this strategy flow naturally in the game, or is it rather counter-intuitive?

Very counter-intuitive, so much that my group refuses to play this game anymore. Depending on the monster group, as heroes you are effectively punished for killing monsters (you gain no rewards for doing so, you waste actions to do so, and that detracts from your ability to complete objectives). Probably the worst thing about 2nd Ed, and honestly, I'm not sure how you can address it without reworking the whole game...

-shnar
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Rafal Areinu
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shnar wrote:
Mage de Taverne wrote:
My main concern is with this whole "don't spend too much time fighting monsters or exploring, go for the objective" thing. Does this strategy flow naturally in the game, or is it rather counter-intuitive?

Very counter-intuitive, so much that my group refuses to play this game anymore. Depending on the monster group, as heroes you are effectively punished for killing monsters (you gain no rewards for doing so, you waste actions to do so, and that detracts from your ability to complete objectives). Probably the worst thing about 2nd Ed, and honestly, I'm not sure how you can address it without reworking the whole game...

-shnar


I disagree. None at my group felt it to be counter intuitive - and that's because there's actually story explaining why you're doing what you're doing. Killing monsters is useful, just as long as you don't get distracted by them and forget why you're killing them.

If you start killing ferroxes for fun when goblins are stealing crops, poor farmers are crying "help us", and you ignore them and still pick up on poor ferroxes then it's not counter intuitive to lose.

And there are rewards for killing heroes - the monsters won't block you anymore, won't immobilize/stun you, and won't knock you down. That's a lot of prizes here! And in some quests killing them will let you also save guests or crops.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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That's why I said in most cases. If you use large monster, that effort spent to kill that Shadow Dragon not only distracted you from lighting the beacons, but also the dragon came right back during the Overlord's turn and was Dashed back to exactly where you just killed him.

-shnar
 
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Not always having to kill monsters and the importance of focusing upon your objective is not "counterintuitive". It is playing coherently.
Of course, if players are looking for a bloodbath, by heaping dead monsters,they won't like Descent 2nd ed.
This is a game about tactical challenges, with varied objectives.
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Descent is less of a dungeon crawler and more of a fantasy-themed tactical game. Each quest usually has two encounters, and you're trying to fulfill objectives in each. The first encounter largely determines how the 2nd plays out. Its not always necessary to win the 1st, but fulfilling certain conditions usually makes it easier for you in the 2nd. The 2nd encounter is what nets you prizes for winning, like extra XP, gold, and sometimes special items (relics).

The other thing about Descent is that its best played as a campaign, and as such, there is an overarching goal to do as well as you can overall. You may not win every quest, but you take your losses in stride and do as best as you can. For instance, if you know you're going to lose a quest, now might be the time to ditch the objectives and focus solely on searching.

I can understand your apprehension, but I think Descent plays out better than it sounds to you. Let me give you an example, the Intro quest. In this quest, the Heroes are trying to destroy an Ettin to win, while the Overlord is trying to get 5 goblin archers over to the exit to win. In a sense its a race to who can accomplish their objective first, but as you can see its done in such a way as to facilitate combat.
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OK, thank you all for your input. I think I'll let myself be tempted, since the majority says that killing nearby monsters is generally useful (and I guess it's also the OL's job to place them in such a way that the heroes have to take the time to kill them).

But are there really quests where the OL can spawn a shadow dragon every turn???

I've read the rules, but spawning and monster groups apparently depend on the quest, and of course I haven't access to the quest book, so this whole part is rather obscure to me.
 
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Jacob Søgaard
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Mage de Taverne wrote:
OK, thank you all for your input. I think I'll let myself be tempted, since the majority says that killing nearby monsters is generally useful (and I guess it's also the OL's job to place them in such a way that the heroes have to take the time to kill them).


Exactly.

Mage de Taverne wrote:
But are there really quests where the OL can spawn a shadow dragon every turn???


Yes, if the heroes keep killing a shadow dragon every turn, I'm pretty sure it can happen in some scenarios. That said, the reinforcements are usually pretty "thematic" and doesn't feel absurd.
 
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Chubby wrote:
Yes, if the heroes keep killing a shadow dragon every turn, I'm pretty sure it can happen in some scenarios. That said, the reinforcements are usually pretty "thematic" and doesn't feel absurd.

To you. My group finds it so frustrating, they simply won't play the game anymore.

Here's what most people don't recognize right of the bad. Every figure has 2 actions they can do per turn. That is the real resource in this game: Actions. What do you do with your actions? To win the game, you need to focus on the objectives. Most of the encounters the objectives are not to kill the monsters, but to do something else, such as rescue/defend NPCs, save items, search for things, etc. Most of those objectives require actions to complete. Since actions are your primary resource, using them to kill monsters distracts the heroes from winning the game. The kicker, when you kill monsters they can be reinforced that turn, and in most encounters, used right away that turn. Depending on the cards the Overlord has, and due to the small sized maps, this newly reinforced monster may be right back in action, as though he was never killed in the first place. The kicker to all of this is that there is very little in-game incentive to killing a monster. You don't gain experience, money, etc to destroying that evil creature, instead you waste Actions and there's a chance he'll come right back.

Now, when dealing with smaller monsters, say Kobolds or Goblins, this doesn't seem quite so prevalent. Also, later in the game it may not seem so bad since the heroes have skills that allow them to do attacks with other actions, like say movement, so it doesn't seem like they've wasted a precious Action to get to their objectives (this is why I tend to play a Knight and *always* get the Advance skill first). And finally, in 4 hero games it's a bit lessened (this seems the biggest issue in 2 hero games) but not by much. There are still many occasions when a hero will, well, act non-heroic and just bypass monsters.

That's why it seems counter-intuitive. It seems non-heroic.

-shnar
 
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shnar wrote:
It seems non-heroic.

If you think heroic is a synonym for murderous psychopath ...

If it moves, kill it! Oops, was that a party member? Blame it on Dark Charm ... whistle
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Yeah, one of the things I prefer about this one is that it isn't all about killing monsters — that there are objectives and goals for which monsters present obstacles (or assistance, if you're the OL).

As for story cohesion, I don't know how they could have done better with the quest structure as it is. The quests come in sets of three (1 Act I, 2 Act II), and the results of Act I quests inform which corresponding quests are available in Act II. These sets are related, so for instance you'll hear of Frederick in A Fat Goblin, and if you lose he'll be imprisoned in the related Act II quest rather than free in its counterpart. But there's only so much direct relation any given quest can have to the Finale and Interlude (which is where the main plot line, such as it is, lies). FFG could have made a game with a stronger plot line, but I think it would have reduced the variability (and thus the replayability) of the campaign, and that's one of its key strengths IMO.

I think of the campaign as similar to a semi-serialized show like The X-Files — you have your monster-of-the-week episodes with some recurring characters, punctuated by shorter stretches that contribute to the overall story arc.
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