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Descent (Read 7039 times)
Biff
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Descent
01/18/06 at 1:49pm
 
So I got my copy of Descent: Journeys in the Dark yesterday morning, read the rules, and later on in the day we played a game.

A few first impressions:

The first thing I always look at when I get a new game is the figures.  Namely, the good guy figures.  Not impressed.  They're kinda flat, medium detail, and much lower scale than anything else I play, so making substitutions for my own miniatures would require me to substitute everything.  The figures are pretty uninteresting.  Some of the characters have a nice bit of detail on their character sheets, but the actual figure is pretty bland in comparison.

The monster figures are much better.  Just like in Doom, they have some nice big figures.  and some normal sized ones.  Two of the figures I got were snapped off their bases, and one Skeleton Archer is aiming at the floor.  The plastic they used for the monsters is much higher quality, allowing for more detail.  Some of the figures don't have much detail (like the Manticore), and some are just silly looking (like the Ogre).  For a game that retails for 80 bucks, they could have put a bit more thought into the figures.  It's a miniatures game for shit's sake, pay attention to the miniatures.

Again, like Doom, it has some very nice modular board pieces, but that's not to say they're without their problems.  The first thing I noticed was the stark white lines that separate each space on the board.  They're so bold in contrast to the artwork behind it that at a glance you only see the grid and none of the detail.  While games like HeroQuest had the grid "built-in" to the artwork, the rooms and corridors in Descent aren't tiled.  For example, one of the middle sized rooms are just covered in dirt and moss, with some mushrooms growing in the corner.  There's no 'natural' tiles, so the need for a superimposed grid was there.  The grid just takes away all the prettiness of the tiles, so that was a bit disappointing.  It did come with plenty of tiles, however, and I think if you mixed the game with Doom, you'd have a pretty cool dungeon to make.

One thing that really pissed me off was that some of the pieces don't snap together quite well.  I had to force about 6 or 7 pieces of the first dungeon together.  Not cool, especially since all of Doom's pieces fit together very well.

One of my very first impressions, however, was the box size.  Fantasy Flight Games was kind enough to double the box size so you can actually fit everything in there without feeling like you're playing Tetris.  This was a good thing, although after putting the game away once and opening it back up, I dedided that the cardboard insert needed to be flipped upside down in order for it to work properly, otherwise it doesn't really organize anything;  everything gets mixed up anyway.

The game comes with a LOT of counters and tiles.  Fantasy Flight seems to think that people aren't fond of using a paper and pencil.  Everything in the game is kept track of will counters and cards.  While this is a good thing, the bad part is that half of your table will be taken up by huge stacks of counters.  Not cool.  Also, it took my brother 14 minutes total to separate counters into their proper stacks, after which I helped him for about 8 minutes, so it took a combined total of 22 minutes just to separate all the tiles and counters.  Sure, counters may speed up gameplay, but having to sort them out just drags things on horribly.  If they had included a simple cardboard tray to organize all the tiles and counters would have made life very easy.  Right now I have them all neatly stacked in a small box they included, but if the box is shaken a little too much, I'm gonna have to live with the fact that next time I want to play, it's gonna be another 22 minutes of piece sorting.

Well, on to the game.

We played a one on one game, so the one player gets 2 Heroes.  One thing I thought was really clever was the fact that you pick Heroes at random (out of 20 Heroes).  My brother got a lucky draw, I think, because he got a sorceror guy who was straight-up sorcery man, and a warrior who was a straight up warrior guy.  So for two characters, he had his bases well covered.

Another thing we thought was cool was that each Hero gains 3 random skills as well as the one printed on his Hero card.  So you get 2 random Heroes, each with random Skills.  I'm not sure why, but I really liked this aspect of the game.  Gave it a good dynamic feel.

So our first game took like 3 hours to complete, but that was with looking everything up the first time we came to it.  If they included a centralized cheat sheet that has all the turn phases and a brief description of what everything was, gameplay would have been a bit faster.  They do include a cheat sheet, but it's at the back of the SCENARIO GUIDE.  The back of the rulebook?  An ad for Doom.  Hi, who made this decision?  You have to have the scenario guide open the whole time to see what's in the dungeon.  And I had to keep the rule book open the whole time to look at rules.  Wouldn't it have made more sense to put the cheat sheet of the rules in the back of the RULE BOOK?!  Yes, it would have.

However, gameplay was smooth once we ironed out the kinks.  Once we learned how to do combat, we didn't have to look at the combat rules again.  You learn things very quick in this game, making it very accessible to all types of gamers.

All of the game mechanics were pretty fluid, and the game was a blast to play.  We thought that treasure was thrown around a bit too much, though, but it made sense because the scenario grows in difficulty with each room you enter.  This leads us to... The Campaign Mode!

Once again, I'm very disappointed in Campaign rules.  Quite bland.  I don't know if anyone remembers, but this was my  biggest disappointment with Doom (which led me to create my own Campaign rules in that game).  The second thing I checked after getting this game was the Campaign mode.  Basically, between Quests, you don't keep anything other than the Skills you started with.  You lose all gold, equipment, potions, etc.  But you gain levels based on how many Quests you've completed, and those levels give you extra Gold to start with.  It's safe to say that they didn't spend much time with Campaign rules because they're all explained in a couple of short paragraphs and one table.  However the game seems more of a board game than an adventure game, so this is fine.  After playing our one Quest, we came up with a few good ideas of how we could make a pretty good Campaign mode, and I'll be writing up some short rules for that if anyone's interested.

Playing the part of the Overlord was actually fun for me, because you actually have an active role in the game.  You gain Threat tokens (again, more tokens!) every turn, and you use these to play nasty things on the Heroes, such as spawning more Monsters, hitting the Heroes with traps, and augmenting your own powers (For instance, I had a card out that made every one of my monsters stronger by one die).  So in this game, the bad guy doesn't just populate the dungeon and move the monsters around.  He has other things to do in his turn, which made it very enjoyable for me.

The dice in Descent are pretty much the same as the Doom dice.  One die will tell you your range, damage, and also give you power surges, which allow you to augment your attacks and such.  This is pretty cool cause each die roll tells you all you need to know about your attack.

There's a lot of card decks in the game.  There's two sets of monster decks, with 4 difficulties.  Basically, the Monsters get harder depending on how many Heroes are in the game.  This was a good idea, since it's easy to separate these cards and lay out the ones you need.  There's three treasure chest decks, for the three different kinds of treasure chests.  One treasure deck gives you the bottom-rung equipment, another gives your middle quality, and the last gives you the best quality stuff.  There's the overlord deck that has all the little traps and tricks that the overlord can play.  There's the shop deck, which you use to buy your weapons and armor and such.  Then there's the three Skill decks, which were Melee, Subterfuge, and Magic skills.  It wasn't too complicated to keep track of all the different decks, so it was a good thing.

A couple of problems with the first Quest.  The final room calls for 2 red Manticores, but the game only came with 1.  Also, one of the Monsters was placed outside the game board.  What's up with that?  How does that happen?  I also found one grammatical error in the rule book.  Smiley

So my overall opinion of the game is excellent.  Pros:  Cool characters and character creation scheme, nice looking dungeon layouts, easy, fun, streamlined game mechanics, fun to play as the bad guy.  Cons:  Mediocre figures, dungeon tiles artwork is blasted out by the white grid, some pieces don't snap together well, and there's just too many tokens, and not a built-in solution for keeping them organized.

I'm really looking forward to our next game, which I'll be using the Heroes and my brother will be the overlord.  It's an excellent game, and I recommend it to anyone who likes dungeon crawlers.  If you're looking for a good campaign mode, either look elsewhere, or make up your own rules, or download some (I'll be posting a link to mine when I get them done).  But for a good, quick pick-up-and-play game, this is definitely worth it.

I got the game at http://www.thoughthammer.com for about 52 bucks, which is a good 30 bucks off the game's retail price.
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Re: Descent
Reply #1 - 01/18/06 at 2:06pm
 
For anyone interested in my Doom expansion, it's here:

http://oldscratch.smackwell.com/files/Doom-BountyHunters.pdf

It's unfinished (only 1 scenario), and only lightly tested on a sesame seed bun.
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Re: Descent
Reply #2 - 01/18/06 at 4:46pm
 
Im my absence, i completly missed everything about this game... is there an official site to check out the contents or something?
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Re: Descent
Reply #3 - 01/18/06 at 10:48pm
 
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Re: Descent
Reply #4 - 01/19/06 at 1:35am
 
Good report Scratch.

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Re: Descent
Reply #5 - 06/13/06 at 11:40am
 
Yes a great review there scratch, that is pretty close to what I thought of the game.  The hero minis definately need painting because it took us ages to figure out who was who, not sure how easy they are going to be to paint though as they seem extra small and fiddly (especially compared to the monsters).

I have played this game as a two-player and four-player game (i.e. 2 heroes and 3 heroes respectively) and we found it pretty tough for the heroes, they havnt won yet.  I was playing the overlord - pretty competitively (is that even a word?!) and I have had a bit of practice with Doom, I liked the threat token idea - do you sell of your cards to get more threat tokens to play a hellish card or just keep pumping out whatever you can afford at the time?  Lots of possibilities.  When I play it again I will probably be a bit less harsh on the heroes until they appreciate the difference between this game and typical pen and paper RPGs, or start rotating the overlord role so everyone gets the idea  Wink

Overall a fun game, the only problem I really have with it at the moment is that it takes a long time to play, which puts my fella off, and the table I used to leave games set up on is currently covered with my painting stuff!

@ Biff I saw on one of the FFG rants that the campaign rules will come with the SECOND expansion (or am I getting that mixed up with doom?)
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Re: Descent
Reply #6 - 06/13/06 at 11:46pm
 
Revised campaign rules I'm sure will come with the first expansion.  I think for the German version they have the new rules.

I made my own campaign rules that you can check out here:  http://oldscratch.smackwell.com/files/DescentCampaigns.pdf

Also, after playing Descent, reading some reviews about how long the game takes and all that stuff, I changed Dungeon Crawl a lot so that games don't take anywhere near as long.  A typical game of DC now lasts 45min to 2 hours, tops, usually falling around one and a half hours.  A lot of people don't want to invest six hours into a game.  That's like all freaking night.
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Re: Descent
Reply #7 - 06/14/06 at 5:03am
 
That looks cool, just had a quick look, didnt read all the scenario details.  

When you say the heroes only start with one skill do they actually get to choose what it is rather than draw randomly?  I am guessing you also let heroes choose their character rather than random draw?

Impressed as usual with your presentation.  Did you generate all maps yourself or use a tileset or what?  I havnt really checked out the Descent forum at FFG properly yet because I want to play a few more games first, but I see people have put tile sets on the Doom forum there.

Edit - oh and good call on reducing play-time for your game, after all you can always play another game straight after!
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Re: Descent
Reply #8 - 06/14/06 at 9:21pm
 
Mike Zebrowski (on the forums) made a map generator, it's very easy to use and provides Descent-quality maps.  Pretty cool.

I was thinking that people could pick their heroes but the skill draw was random.  I did like the random aspect of the game.

And yeah, that was kinda my goal with DC, make it short and sweet, and if you have time, play more.  I figure playing three small quests is better than playing one big one and having to split gameplay between a couple of days.
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Re: Descent
Reply #9 - 06/15/06 at 2:01am
 
That is the best way to pay. I've tried coming back to games that are split over a weekend and it always takes awhile to get your bearings back.
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Re: Descent
Reply #10 - 12/13/08 at 9:57pm
 
Good report , Biffster ! Grin Grin Grin 8)
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Re: Descent
Reply #11 - 12/14/08 at 12:36am
 
john wrote on 12/13/08 at 9:57pm:
Good report , Biffster ! Grin Grin Grin 8)


TWO YEARS LATER.  Cheesy
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Re: Descent
Reply #12 - 12/14/08 at 6:05am
 
ha ha ha  Grin

Glad to see I am not the only one reading through the older posts at the moment!

Have you played much descent recently Biff - or anyone?  Did you get any of the expansions?  I got the first expansion but have not played it yet.  I really like the game but it takes way too long to play so it puts my fella off.  If I manage to convince him to play anything it is usually FFG Call of Cthulu - a great co-op game, you can adjust the playing time quite easily by choosing the right old one (bad guy).  It is quite weird actually - I am a board game geek that loves games with miniatures and the game I play the most doesn't have any!  (mind you it does have lots of counters and cards)
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Re: Descent
Reply #13 - 12/14/08 at 10:52am
 
I have all the expansions and recently started a RtL campaign. I get to play this every month or two on average. I'm actually checking the Forum while the wash on my Trolls dries...
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Re: Descent
Reply #14 - 12/15/08 at 7:24am
 
I have the base game, no expansions.  Don't ever get to play it though.  I hope to get a HeroQuest group going at the start of the new year so maybe we'll change it up with Descent once in a while.  That is if I ever get the group going...
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Re: Descent
Reply #15 - 12/15/08 at 3:15pm
 
I don't play it at all.  We got to play it just the one time, I think.  I don't have many people to play with, so usually when I get a game, I get to play it once or twice and then it's gone.

However, that usually works for me at least in one respect; I play a lot of these games to see what they did wrong and what they did right so that I can refine my game better.  The best thing for me that came out of Descent was to make my gameplay a lot faster in Dungeon Crawl.  I don't think any of my Adventures take over an hour to play.  Because this damn game took us like six hours!
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Re: Descent
Reply #16 - 12/16/08 at 10:12pm
 
We are still playing our Road to Legend Campaign and I am getting the Tomb of Ice expansion for Christmas. We'll probably play a bunch over the holidays along with Andriod and hopefully the Brood Wars expansion for Starcraft.

Roberious
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Re: Descent
Reply #17 - 12/17/08 at 12:53pm
 
ToI is loads of fun. It turned up the day before I started my RtL campaign.
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