Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
Delve all the Dungeons!
Gregg Explains Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
This game is sort of a revival of the “Dungeons and Dragons Lite” style of board game. Descent plays through a campaign of various maps as a story unfolds. Initially you are trying to learn the identity of a mysterious villain called The Overlord and what exactly he is plotting. A campaign can be quite different each time through, as the order, who wins or loses, and which character or class combos used can change how things play out.
Now, this game campaign was started before Across the Board Games was started up, so some of the opening details aren’t as well documented. I may revisit this game as the campaign progresses, but for now I want to go over my experience so far in an interesting game.
This is a five player game, with one person being The Overlord, and four others being the adventuring party. The Overlord plays pretty much as the Dungeon Master/ Storyteller/ Game Master, or whatever you want to call them. However, the Overlord seems to be incredibly antagonistic compared to the moderator or referee to most role-playing games. The other five players have to pick a party of heroes that cover all the core roles in fantasy role-playing games. For your fighter types, you have a dwarven berserker, and a sword-and-shield knight. With the healers, you’ve got a super healing cleric, and an elven druid that focuses on managing crowds of enemies. In the rogue department, you’ve got a sneaky gnome who can be near impossible to hit while standing next to allies, as well as a mobility focused scout. With the arcane spell casters, there is an orc shaman who can hit multiple targets from a distance, or a sword wizard who performs well in the thick of things.
In this game, Derek “Why Don’t You?” picked Grisban The Thirsty, the dwarven rager, and selected the Berserker class to go with him. Travis “Buuut Anyway” selected Widow Tauha, the orc shaman, with the Runemaster class. Dave “You’re On Maps” selected Jain Fairwood, the mobile scout, with the Thief class. Myself, “The Explainer,” picked Ashirian, the elven druid, with the Spirit Speaker class.
Depending on who wins or loses in the previous scenario, determines which scenario is picked afterwards. Later, in Act Two, which scenarios were picked determines which options are available in that second half. Since Matt “The Favorite” pulled a win at the end of the previous game, he selected the scenario called Castle Darion. So far, all the maps seem to favor speed, and co-ordination for either side to win. In fact I’d say that if the adventurers are too slow, it helps the Overlord win. However if the adventurers over reach, they can be crushed hard in retaliation. In this map, The Overlord is trying to kill a set of peasants before the heroes can light four signal fires. Choke points, line of sight, and timing your character’s Feats or other resources are key. There definitely is an element of luck, but you can plan your actions to increase the effectiveness of your side’s turn.
Eventually, the heroes won the opening map, lighting all the signal fires before all the peasants were killed. However, our bruised and battered heroes didn’t get to rest and recover much, as we leaped into the second half of the Castle Darion scenario. Inside, depending on how many peasants live, the heroes now gain some helping minions who can bring in some extra attacks to help mitigate and turn the tide against the Overlord’s minions. However, each killed peasant in the previous map gives a free zombie minion that the Overlord controls, in addition to the other monsters under their command. The victory conditions to this particular map is if the Overlord’s minions kill the aged and ailing paladin who lives in Castle Darion, they win. If the heroes can fend off the Overlords minions long enough for the paladin to successfully rally support five times, then the heroes win.
The second map we were getting a bit more in our stride. However, the paladin can easily take a beating, and can’t be healed to counter the progress made by the Overlord. The heroes did swiftly setup a blockade to prevent the nastiest monsters from being able to crush the paladin, but eventually the stationary non-player character was picked off. Technically, we lasted a number of total turns that if the paladin had rallied allies successfully every turn, the heroes would have won. However, one of the turns he failed, and that was enough to give the Overlord enough turns to slip in the last few bits of damage to finish the paladin off.
The game is interesting so far, but the second half of a scenario seems incredibly stacked against the heroes. Even if they can manage to do a “perfect” run of the lead-in map in the scenario. A comment made by Matt was that his opinion of the game is in the beginning, the Overlord is going to win quite a bit, but the heroes seem to have the ability to overpower and probably eventually win the later half of the campaign with some ease. Still, even in defeat, our group was steadily growing more powerful, but so too was the Overlord.
This is definitely a perfect game for a regular group of friends who like other role playing games similar to Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a very simplified game, everything you need is in the box, and the encounters are pretty fun. In fact, this campaign style reminds me of another product made by Alderac Entertainment Group, Warlord: Saga of the Storm. Their campaign book has a similar mechanic, where depending on what happened in each adventure, it made changes on the story path you’d follow.
By the end of this session, many of us were contemplating changing Matt’s nickname. This was voiced again later that night, when we finally played the much desired “Six Player” Battle Star Galactica.