Descent: Journeys in the Dark
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Across the land, courageous heroes delve into shadowed dungeons, journey to lost cities, and explore forgotten ruins. In the darkest corners of the world, these heroes confront deadly and terrifying monster, including Skeletons, Hell Hounds, Giants, Demons, and Dragons. For those few who survive, the rewards are many. Victorious heroes return from the treacherous dungeons with ancient magics, bags of gold, and powerful weapons and artifacts.
In Descent: Journeys in the Dark, you play on of these daring adventurers. Armed with mighty weapons and powerful abilities, you venture into the dungeon to battle monsters, escape deadly traps, discover lost treasures, and ultimately, confront and defeat the evil masters that dwell in the hidden place. Can you survive the dark?
In his series The Dice Tower Audio Reviews, noted reviewer Tom Vasel provides short audio (mp3) reviews of both new and old games. Tom knows games, and these audio reviews are a great way to find out more!
- 1 quest guide
- 20 hero sheets
- 20 plastic heroes
- 60 plastic monsters
- 12 custom dice
- 180 cards
- 1 compass rose token
- 1 town marker
- 61 map pieces
- 49 prop markers
- 55 wound tokens
- 24 fatigue tokens
- 32 threat tokens
- 24 conquest tokens
- 1 breath template
- 1 rule book
- 4 hero turn tokens
- 12 training tokens
- 6 miscellaneous markers
- 10 door markers
- 52 coin tokens
- 10 plastic door stands
- 39 treasure markers
- 16 hero order tokens
- 55 effect tokens
Average Rating: 3.8 in 3 reviews
So I bought descent on a whim... an expensive whim, but a whim none the less (my girl is still kicking me). Three things entered my mind as I purchased the fairly large package. A: I enjoyed playing other dungeon crawl classics like Milton Bradley's "Hero Quest", Games Workshop's "Warhammer Quest" and GW's classic terror ridden starship-crawl "Space Hulk". B: FFG is becoming a solid brand name for board games; I rather enjoy "Runebound". C: I finally got to buy the biggest board game I could find, just like my dad when he was my age, playing "Squad Leader", "Third Reich" and all those other bookshelf games.
So with all my background, I can honestly say this game meets all the above standerds. There have been definite changes to the genre, but most are for the better.
For starters: I enjoy the dice system. It is slightly reminiscent of "Hero Quest" with its customized D6s and skewed probabilities. The colors coded base dice separate the damages of range, melee and magic attacks even more so then other systems; not to mention that magic is a straight attack now instead of over stereotyped spells. The power dice are an interesting risk which gives the possibility of wasting fatigue points, but those are easy enough to get back.
In the other reviews, there is talk of "skewed balance". I agree whole heartedly, the game mechanics favor the overlord, but this is a good thing. Remember that this is not a zero-sum game like Chess where the sides are completely balanced. This is a dungeon crawl; though there is a quest to finish, the ultimate goal is to survive the longest. Half the fun is listening to your overlord explain how the giants club knocks your head off your shoulders like a golf ball, with your spine in tow. If anything, this game is "easier" on the players. In "Warhammer Quest" you had 1 life, there was no ressurection most of the time. The weakest goblin could kick a barbarian's butt to begin with. In "Descent", the gameplay is more in tune with "Diablo" where your character comes back to life in town every time. All you lose is a few measly Conquest Tokens. Also, the treasure equipment can super charge a player and really tip the scales.
Time wise, the game is about average for the genre. New gamers have been spoiled by electronic games and fast paced hack and slash sessions. The true Crawl is not for the reckless. If nothing else, this is one of those games you put on an extra table you normally don't use and play two or three turns a night. That's what my girl and I do. When she gets home, its straight to the board for a few relaxing turns of blood letting.
Now that I'm done being Devil's Advocate, I do have a couple of complaints. Like other dungeon crawls, Descent lacks for equipment choices. True, most equipment is replaced with treasure cards, but I would like to see more variety in the shop items that shows a little more comprehension for medieval arms and armor. I mean, lets see a claymore, some laminated armor, pole arms lie Glaives and Spetums! Give two or three varieties of bows and crossbows like a hand arbolist or reversed-arm bow. The rules will compensate. Constant Damages and Ranges, endowed abilities like "spend 2 fatigue for an extra shot". I've actually already started writing up an alternate shop list for my players.
Either way, thats my review for now. I haven't bought the expansions yet, but I'll probably yap about those for a few pages too.
Descent is a fairly complex game, with a pretty steep learning curve. While it took me roughly two or three hours to read the rulebook and run scenarios in my head of how all the mechanics work, it's still hard to keep track of without the reference page on the back.
Descent honestly sat around collecting dust for a good part of a week or two before I got the chance to introduce it to my girlfriend and gaming buddy. I had to be the overlord for the game since I didn't want to bother explaining how the overlord can move. I started to explain the basic rules to them, before I started to get head shakes from my buddy of mine, that looked almost disgusted by the sheer amount of things to remember. It was one of those headshakes that simply meant, "Oh gosh, this is soo dorky, why am I playing this".
After explaining most of the rules, away we went, first quest scenario, and things went fairly well; I'm not going to explain how the quest played out, because you can read a dozen of them at board game geek. Anywho, to sum things up, my girl friend and my buddy got smashed by the giant at the end.
When everything was done and finished, I got a few remarks for the game such as "wasn't very balanced for two players and a overlord", and "it was okie, but the game took kind'a long" about two hours or so, etc.
Overall, I thought the game was fairly enjoyable, I don't want to explain the rules to anyone else, since it took about 10-15 minutes, and I was all out of breathe at the end, but I'd give it another go, as a hero perhaps, or overlord. My only pet peeve is the massive amounts of dice rolling involved, eck.
Descent is a fairly fun dungeon crawl game that suffers from a long playing time, a skewed balance equation and somewhat complex rules.
I really like Runebound, and given the link between this game and that one, I decided to get Descent. Overall, it has all the flavor and themes of a good dungeon crawl, as well as great components and beautiful art. It is a well-crafted game, but with several shortcomings.
After I got it, I tried playing it with my brother. It took so much time to set the game up, that we only had an hour to play the first room of that particular dungeon.
So it sat in my closet for almost a year, until two nephews came for Christmas. Over 10 days of vacation, we managed to play the game three times. Each time took 4 to 6 hours to play. It is not a short game. Set-up generally takes at least 30 minutes. It took us at least one game to hammer out the rules.
The balance is skewed. In the beginning, the heroes are at a disadvantage. However, after the first chest--assuming the players get some usable equipment -- the game is much more even. After the second chest, it generally skews toward the players. All three games, the Overlord player beat the characters in the first room. We decided to keep playing, and the players handily won at the end.
In the end, I gave the game to my nephews because they have far more time to play it then I do.