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Descent: Journeys in the Dark» Forums » General

Subject: General question: how fun is this for the GM? rss

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Andrew Smith
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I'm seriously thinking of buying this only I'd like to have an idea of how much fun this is for the GM/DM.

I already have Doom. It's OK, but I spent most of my time as the GM trying to fiddle things so that it was hard enough to give the players a challenge, yet they did not die unless they deserved it.

I'd rather have a game that is a bit more entertaining all round.

Comment welcome!

Battlepuppy
 
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Ryan Johnson
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If that is your view of Doom... you will hate how hard you have to work as the DM in Descent... just to make it 'not' a cake walk for the heroes... After 4 games as Overlord, I am looking to get rid of this one.
 
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Daniel Kearns
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It seems it depends on how many players you have. I've only played Descent with two players, one DM and one player with 2 heroes. In this case, I think it is a little easy for the overlord to win if they play aggressively. But in general, I still have fun struggling with the heroes, scenario 2 being the exception.

It seems like most people here think that 3 players is the balancing point, it is a challenge for both the GM and the heroes. I can see where this would be true.

General consensus seems to be that 4 heroes is a breeze for the good guys. I can see where this would be true also. Probably on the frustrating side for the GM

So with descent, it seems you are buying three completely different games depending on the number of players. I can imagine the fact that the scaling is all out of whack could be annoying for some. For me, Descent will probably only ever be a 2 player game, so for now, it doesn't bother me. How many players do you expect to have?
 
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Ben Newell
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One point I'd like to make about playing the overlord in this game as opposed to the invader in Doom... The process of setting up each new room was a major source of down-time in Doom. There were tricks you could pull to reduce that, but it was still a headache. In Descent, I think laying out the rooms is a little more straightforward, as the entire map gets laid out before gameplay starts, with only the contents of the rooms being revealed. Also, you don't have to determine which figures do and don't get placed based on the number/color of players, so the scenario book is a little less cluttered. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that I also have had a dozen games worth of experience setting these rooms up in Doom.
 
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Michael Gibbs
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MrSkeletor wrote:
The biggest irony of DOOM and Descent is that they got the wrong scaling.

With it's divisable combat system and ammo restrictions, the Descent scaling model (where monsters get more Hitpoints per hero) would have worked great in DOOM.
On the other hand, with its addition combat system and each hero gets a treasure every chest rule, the DOOM scaling model (more heroes = more monsters on the board) would have worked a treat.

If only it were easy to swap them over!


I think Descent works in the more heroes = more monsters. The more heros you have, the more markers you get per turn to use on cards, so they collect really quick. Add that to discarding for more markers, you can have an 18 power or better very quickly that starts piling the monsters up per area.

Mike
 
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Bobb Beauchamp
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The number of heroes is not the only factor in Descent: the Conquest Value of those heroes matters as well. A 4 hero party composed of all 2 value heroes is going to suffer a lot of deaths, and without access to any high-damage melee items, and only a few pierce capable magic/ranged items, it's going to be rough for 4 heroes to take down the toughest of monsters. On the other hand, 2 4 CV heroes, decked out with max armor and big axes, will have to get close and personal with the monsters, but will wreck havoc once they do, and take very little damage getting close. With a starting armor of 4, the only damage those 2 heroes are going to be taking in the beginning are from beastment under the influence of a master beastman that manage to get close enough to make an attack, and then they won't last more than one round. Spiders MAY get a few hits in, but not likely, and good luck getting 5 wounds with a skeleton.

I play with my wife, currently we just finished the 4th quest (Spoiled Brat). Her first crack at it, she popped the dragon room without getting a single gold chest, and the dragon pasted everyone. With 9 armor, she didn't stand a chance of hurting it. The second time, she did grab one of the gold chests, and took the dragon out in 2 rounds. I rolled a lot of misses during the game, and she didn't, so I missed a lot of opportunities for kills. In fact, my first kill was when I Dark Charmed her warrior, Varakis, who proceeded to chop Sillouette down in a single blow.

I don't know where the balance between heroes and Overlord is. With the 4 heroes my wife plays (Astarra and Ronan, in addition to Varakis and Sillouette), she struggles at the beginning, but by the end is literally chopping up whole rooms of giants, ogres, and nagas. It's fun for me, even though I lose more than I win. When I want a more even game, I'll only take on a party of three heroes.

When I play the heroes, and my wife (or someone else) tries the Overlord roll, I'll take 2 or 3 heroes, but I'll select them for balance. I think having a party of 2 heroes, and having less than 6 CV between the 2 of them, would be nigh impossible. arrrh
 
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Brent Lloyd
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MrSkeletor wrote:
The biggest irony of DOOM and Descent is that they got the wrong scaling.

With it's divisable combat system and ammo restrictions, the Descent scaling model (where monsters get more Hitpoints per hero) would have worked great in DOOM.
On the other hand, with its addition combat system and each hero gets a treasure every chest rule, the DOOM scaling model (more heroes = more monsters on the board) would have worked a treat.

If only it were easy to swap them over!


This is so true. I came to the same conclusions myself a couple scenarios ago.

But to answer the topic question: Descent is a lot more work for the Overlord than Doom. However there is a huge fun factor for me, because there is a lot of tactical decisions to be made. Most of the monsters in Descent will not stand up to more than a hit or two from your heroes (barring X rolls) so you have to use guerilla tactics. "Balloons with swords" is one description I have heard, and its true.

I have a ton of fun playing as the OL.

Peace
 
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Brian Rock
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I've played a couple of sessions as Overlord now, and I've got some mixed feelings about it.

So far, I've come to some of the same conclusions as other people here - if four players survive early on, the game goes downhill quickly. Before the player's pick up any treasure, the game seems very well balanced. The players can kill the monsters, but run a risk of dying (especially with a little bad luck on their part, or good luck on the Overlord's part). Once they get some good loot (especially gold and silver, but even bronze if the monsters are week)... it goes downhill quick.

Some of my gripes (and reasons I don't like being the overlord)...

The treasure is over-powered. The ability to use power surges to do improve attacks (even with a basic weapon, like an axe) is far superior to getting 0.5 threat tokens per surge. The massive abilities of some weapons (+2 damage/surge, +1 damage/surge, Blast, stackable Pierce) quickly overwhelm the abilities of the monsters. It also makes most of the Overlord's cards useless after a certain point. What good is a spawn, when the players can wipe it out before it can do any damage?

The Overlord is always on the defensive. This is especially bad later on, when the players get powerful weapons. With four players, and/or a mix of abilities and weapons that can kill multiple enemies, players can clear a room in one shot. The combination of powerful attacks by characters (which can kill many monsters in one shot) with the ability to attack multiple enemies, leave the Overlord with no chance to retaliate. I have often looked at the map, looking forward to the monsters in the coming room, only to be disappointed when all but one (or sometimes all of them!) were killed before I got a turn.

On a related note, the tactical choices of the Overlord are severely restricted. Although trap cards and spawn cards allow for some wiggle room, you cannot do anything but advance with your monsters. The inability to run makes you overly susceptible to range attacks, and the inability to battle makes you overly susceptible to melee. At the very least, the named monsters and master monsters should have more choices (including guard!).

Another related note is that many of the monsters are too slow. Without the ability to run (which, in the case of spawns, would make it much easier to actually get _to_ the combat), I think even a four speed is slow. You cannot double that speed (running) or add to it with fatigue, so it is easy for the players to keep just out of your range. Why Ogres and Giants move only three squares, I will never know. Someone with ginormous legs should run... very fast! When combined with all of the above points (overly strong treasure, abilities that allow multiple attacks, inability to interrupt the players, and inability to run/burn fatigue), Giants and Ogres are often useless against an intelligent group of players.

Finally, the game is too random, and in order to be fair... it must be random. Many of the skills and treasures are vastly over-powered. If players were allowed to choose these items, they could create god-like characters. Instead of including balanced skills, the game includes several very unbalanced possibilities and relies on randomness to prevent them from happening. But when a player does draw a broken combination (like the one mentioned elsewhere on this forum, giving a player +5 range and +1 damage to all ranged/magic attacks), you can just sit there and shake your head in sorrow.

However, I'm just venting a bit. I just got done with a session tonight (in which my players won handily), so I'm a little bitter. The game is fun, as long as you can accept defeat gracefully. There are clearly balance issues, and these can be resolved, but it takes a lot of house rules (and a lot of cooperation from the players, who might be hesitant about helping the Overlord out).

- Walkere
 
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