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Subject: Descent ~ a (too?) high-paced rush of Monster Bashing rss

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Simon Lundström
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Descent ~ a (too?) high-paced adrenaline rush of Monster Bashing
or "is killing 50 monsters in 4 hours better quality than killing 10?"
a review from a dungeon crawl addict

Edit: This turned out to be a lot longer than I thought at first. For those familiar with dungeon crawls and just want to find out what Descent is about, scroll down to "Game system". For those already familiar with Descent, scroll down to "Actual Gaming".

For most reviews, it's good to know the reviewer, in order to get some sort of idea about from what perspective the review was written. So I'd better start with saying that I am a nut for dungeon crawls. Although I am 34 years old, and an omnivore when it comes to board games, enjoying almost every kind of board game as long as they're not taken too seriously, I've realised that it's figurines on the board, doors and caverns, some monsters here and there and heroes, some swinging swords, some hiding in the shadows and some wielding spells that really and truly sets me off into this "ooh… OOOOH… OOOOOH!" kind of mood.

I bought Descent after having decided to give myself something, some really boy-ish board game, some expensive something. I had never heard of it, but I took one look at the cover, checked the back illustrations and realised that This is It, I can't be disappointed. It had all: hero figurines, spells, corridors, rooms, doors and huge creatures. Wow. I can't wait setting up some huge adventure where you battle dragons!

So I got home, read the rules, tested it with myself and was thrilled. This might be the best thing ever invented in the genre, I thought. It was dungeon-master run (something that in most cases is a drawback in my notebook) but the system for the dungeon master was really well done, integrating the dungeon master as a participant in the game more than being just a walkthrough guide like in the others I'd tried (Dragon Fire, Dungeon & Dragons boardgame et al).

After one play with my game group, I felt baptized into this most modern of all dungeon crawls, but I found I looked at the D&D boardgame box with new eyes, rather fondly, not being really sure of why. And after two more days (a month apart) of Descent I feel this review had ripened enough. It was time to explain.

DM-mastered dungeon crawls and their inherent problems.
Most readers of this will know what a Dungeon Master-mastered dungeon crawl is. For those who don't, it's a cooperative game where all players except one do the heroes, taking turns moving their miniatures around the board, exploring room after room, whacking monsters, collecting treasure, trying to "complete the mission" which usually means kill everything on the board. Combat is resolved by rolling a set of special dice to determine hit or miss and damage done to the creatures. All characters usually have special abilities, some might be good at fighting whereas others might be better at unlocking doors, finding traps or casting spells.
The last player (most often the owner of the game) takes the role of the Dungeon Master, who controls all the monsters, sets up the board, explains what new surprise just jumped onto the heroes, at most times following a pre-written scenario which can be found in the rulebook.

Now, there is an inherent problem with this. Some people really enjoy being the Dungeon Master, but he sits in a rather strange gaming position. He is the one revealing the secrets, the rooms and the new monsters, but he never gets the surprise. He tells the tale but doesn't get to play it. His "role" in the game is to "hinder" the heroes, but slaughtering without mercy, concentrating all the evils of the dungeon onto the most fragile character, throwing him out of the game prematurely, in the sole purpose of "winning", doesn't make a fun game for the group. Following a preset scenario, only the Dungeon Master knows the monsters' strengths and special abilities, where the traps lie and what the secrets are. The Dungeon Master IS the Rules, but must still obey them. Shortly, you're sitting with the power of God, having the mission to Give the Heroes a Good Match and every ability in the world to bend the rules, but you still have to hold back. This makes the DM only partly a participating gamer, and mostly the role of a sort of benevolent yet punishing parent.

This is where Descent differs from all other dungeon crawls, making the role of Dungeon Master (here called Overlord) slightly different. This is where Descent shines. Let me explain.

The game system
Heroes
As in most other dungeon crawls, the hero players select a hero, all having their special traits. Apart from the normal traits speed, armour, health and "exertion points" (read: mana/points used for special abilities), the heroes in Descent also have 3 skills, in a combination from three types: Combat, Subterfuge and Magic (combat). These skills are drawn at random from respective card decks. The combat skill card deck contains mostly skills concering close combat, like more armour, bonus damage, ability to use 2 exertion for making an extra attack or whatever. The Subterfuge deck contains skills about ranged attacks and sneaky skills, like improved speed, ability to get Line of Sight through objects, and the Magic deck are skills concerning Magic combat (which, essentially, is just another type of ranged combat). The cards are drawn at random, but how many cards to draw from which deck is preset for all characters.
Lastly, all characters have a number of bonus dice (1, 2 or 3) for the three different types of combat (close combat, ranged combat and magic combat). Some have 3 bonus dice for ranged combat only, others have 2 on close combat and 1 on magic combat, etcetera. This system, plus the special abilities each character has, makes up for a wide array of possible combinations, and there are 18 different heroes to choose from.
All heroes get the opportunity to shop some basic items, and they're off into the dungeon.

Combat
All combat is resolved by rolling the number and type of dice shown on the weapon card, and adding any bonus dice from the character's trait. The dice are constructed so that all types of variables - hit/miss, damage, range and any special effects - are decided within the same dice roll. One roll with all indicated dice and it's very easy to see the result. A cross means miss whatever the other dice show, the numbers indicate the range of the attack, and the number of hearts is damage done. The number of lightning icons are used for any special effects the weapon might have (noted on the weapon card). Quick and easy. Especially this use of "surges" (lightning icons) makes for a system where attacks can have a very wide and easily balanced variety of effects.

The overlord
As mentioned earlier, where Descent really shines is the Dungeon Master system. Like in other games, he sets up the dungeon and controls the monsters. But instead of having only set traps and set monsters, he also has a card deck of Evil from which he draws cards every turn: Trap cards, event cards and spawn cards to kill the heroes with. Each card costs a number of Threat tokens to play, and each turn the Overlord gains an amount of Threat equal to the number of heroes, thus giving him more power the more heroes there are. This system of rule-binding the DM's powers does a huge effect of making him more of a "player" than just a god. He is not so much the rulebook as "the monster guy".

A battle of points
There is more, "fixing" the situation for the Dungeon Master role: Conquest points, the system that decides victor and loser. The group of heroes start out with a fixed number of these points. If a hero dies, the group loses points, but the dead hero is immediately revived and can teleport back into the dungeon instantly. The only way the heroes can lose is if they run out of Conquest points, and this is also the only way for the Overlord to win. And as the heroes advance into the dungeon, they gain more and more of these points, so killing off heroes is not only a much more "excusable" act (as it punishes not the individual, but the whole group of heroes), but the only, sole and single purpose of the Overlord. The scenarios presented in the rule book are not so much of a "Guide to giving the players a good adventure" as a "This is your arsenal, try stop them if you can, and you'd better give it all you've got from turn 1, because otherwise it'll be too late".

These two combined: The Overlord getting Threat tokens and new cards every single round, and the heroes gaining more and more Conquest Points the further they advance, create a raging battle against the clock for both parts. Heroes being slow and cautious, sometimes waiting for one slow hero? Overlord will overwhelm them with his Threat points and new cards. Overlord being a bit gentle in the start? Heroes end up getting a major amount of Conquest points, gaining a virtually unlimited supply of extra lives. One scenario can easily contain up to 20-25 Conquest points, and killing a hero takes away 2-4 points. Thus, to win, the Overlord must kill a hero at least 10 times.

And it's not only the Conquest tokens that the heroes share. All money and treasure found is instantly evenly divided among all heroes. One hero opens a silver treasure chest, and bam, all heroes suddenly have a silver treasure in their pack.

Actual gaming - atmosphere, balance issues and whatever
So, the game is set, the heroes are off, the rooms fill up with monsters, treasures, potions, rubble, doors, waters, pits, you name it. How does it play?

The first thing that comes to mind is that the monsters are made of glass. In about four times out of five, the monsters are one-shotted, and this effect lasts even when the monsters get stronger, as the heroes get a lot stronger aswell. The second thing that comes to mind is that there are many monsters: The spawn cards for the Overlord are dead cheap. The Overlord is limited to one spawn card per turn, and can only spawn in places that are out of Line of Sight for the heroes, but each spawn card contains two or three monsters.

One might argue that the fragility of the monsters is made up for by their number, but when playing the Overlord, I was a bit bothered with this evenso. The heroes open a door, and I get to place out this huge ogre miniature, feeling like "hah, whaddaya think o'THAT, eh?", but before I even get my turn, the next hero just walks in and whacks him to kingdom come with one sweep of his sword. Neeeext!

The heroes aren't as vulnerable, mostly having a combination of skills and items protecting them (some heroes+skills are practically unkillable, having 15 health and absorbing 6 damage every hit), but there is usually one or two more killable than the others. Concentrating all attacks on this single one character is the only way of getting anything done for the Overlord. He won't one-shot the heroes, but three or four monsters all making successful attacks on one character usually kills him. Dividing attacks between heroes only gives them time to drink potions to restore themselves.

This is the third thing that hits you: the relentless speed in the game in terms of killing, dying, resurrecting and restoring. Monsters can hit hard but are weak. If the Overlord fails to kill a hero in a concentrated attack, he won't get a second chance. The hero will be far gone, fully restored, maybe back in town fully loaded with new potions (that are very cheap), and all the monsters in the attack will be killed off by the other heroes. If the Overlord succeeds in killing the hero, he is back in business, fully healed and restored without so much as a time delay.

Shortly, the game is balancing on a sharp tip. One careless end-of-turn for the heroes can result in the Overlord having a lovely respawn spot, from which to utterly zerg the hero in the back, and causing a time delay as the other heroes usually need to kill them off. One bad die roll with a powerful monster that does NOT web/stun a hero, or one wrong Line of Sight calculation and the monster is insta-killed before the Overlord can blink.

Speed is also a term that comes to mind when looking upon the goodies the heroes get. If the heroes start out one-shotting the first monsters, they end up with items to one-shot the final boss. In the scenarios, there are treasure chests in almost every room, and the improvement each level of treasure makes is almost ridiculous. At the start, heroes might make some 6 in damage per hit plus some bonuses (this one-shots the starting monsters, having some 1-2 in armour and about 4-5 in health), and at the end, I've seen attacks doing three times that or more, without counting insane amounts of armour piercing effects, stun effects, or whatever. (This usually one-shots the final bosses who can have some 6 or 7 in armour and some 15 in health). In some cases, we've been content with rolling only the main attack die, which in 1 time out of 6 shows a miss - that's all that makes any difference.

This goes on until the heroes have either run out of Conquest points, in which case the Overlord is declared the winner, or completed the mission (normally killing the final boss), declaring the heroes the winners. One session takes about four hours.

Verdict
I have had trouble forming an opinion about this game. It's right up my alley, really, and I like it. A lot. But as I mentioned, it's almost as if it has made me look upon the Dungeon & Dragons boardgame box with new eyes, with a feeling of fondness in my gut that wasn't really there before.

Shortly, Descent is a wonderful dungeon crawl, with elegant rules to incorporate the Dungeon Master into the competition. Its pretty balanced, I've won about half time as Overlord, and lost about half. And he game's fast. It's hasty. It's very highly paced. It's exciting. There's new stuff behind every door. New treasures. More dangers. More new treasures. Even better treasures. Huger monsters. Goodies for everyone in a non-stop race against the clock.

And that is the problem.

It's, frankly spoken, a little bit too much. This kind of fast pace when the sessions take four hours is just that: A Little Bit Too Much. When I start the game I'm 100% excited, but after three or even just two hours of 5 monsters dying every single turn and new treasures dished out every half hour, I'm actually getting fed up. Like one player noted: A Sensory Input Overflow. It's like getting your fifth electric car track for Christmas. It's like the waiter carrying in the tenth dessert. It feels as if the designers have taken all the joy of new shinies from World of Warcraft the online game level 1-60, and packed it into 4 hours of play. "Staggering" is the word that comes to mind. I've game mastered on hours without end in my time, but each time I've played Overlord in Descent, I've almost refrained from spawning creatures after 3 hours because I can't take anymore and just want the whole thing to finish.

The game tends to be a bit one-sided for the Overlord, too. There is just one thing to do: Be Evil against the most vulnerable player. Stuff him/her with monsters, traps and whatever. With such a finely tuned system as Descent has, I'd wish for a system that awarded the Overlord for sometimes hitting the armour-clad tank aswell. As is, the tanks are worth more Conquest points to kill, but it's rarely enough if you just can't damage them.

And there is one, very personal yet applicable, last aspect that pulls the game down for me. One of the wonders of this kind of dungeon crawls for me is the inspiring effect they have, for building my own adventures and characters, adjusting, adding, subtracting, inventing. But the sense of unstable balance in Descent hampers my imagination and thrill for the concept of making own adventures. Firstly, thought it's technically possible, there is scarcely time for anything else than just combat when playing. You're not in the mood for buttons to push, problems to solve and nuts to crack when each turn is dangerous. Secondly, as the Conquest points are the victory or the failure, one single treasure chest (may contain 2 points) might tip the whole balance for a session. One unthought-of skill and the heroes might prove unbeatable. I've seen combinations of heroes and skills and quests that are virtually incompatible. It's not a system to fiddle with. And although that for most players probably is the sign of a perfect game, I found this inspiration-damping effect in a dungeon crawl rather disappointing.

This was the reason my eyes upon D&D boardgame changed. Something inside me missed and longed for that relaxed pace of room exploring, where monsters were tough when living but dead when they were dead. Where one hit point on a hero really mattered. Where you could wait for the thief while he fixed the lock on the door. Where magic spells weren't just Generic Magic Arrows, but healing and buffing. Where sessions took 2 hours and during which the heroes had killed a total of ten monsters.

Make no mistake: Descent is probably the most well-made DM-against-the-heroes dungeon crawl out there. But for me personally, it's just a tad bit too competitive, a little too delicately balanced and simply a Bit Too Much.
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Bobb Beauchamp
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I skipped over all but your Verdict...apologies, but it appeared to go into details of the How and What, and I know those.

Your verdict is pretty spot on. I think the game does, within each quest, attempt to capture the WoW 0-60 progression. Or at least, quests that contain a progression of chests and monsters does. That's not to say that a series of quests couldn't be designed that slows that pace. But that's not a fault of the game, but of the design of the quests.

And I'd say that's not even a fault. It may not be to the taste of every player, but for those without the ability to commit to an ongoing RPG campaign, Descent scratches that RPG itch pretty nicely. Being able to take a hero from town-outfitted noob to gold-wielding powerhouse in a matter of hours...as opposed to days of actual time...is a nice compromise.

As for the OL targetting the lowest armor/health hero, well, that's one tactic. And it's up to the heroes to make that difficult for the OL to accomplish. It's one of the better tactical matches in the game...the heroes have to spend some effort protecting the weaker members while still advancing. And the OL has to decide if he's going to spend the extra effort to get to that hero.

Descent is a great game...but it's not for everyone. If you don't have the stamina or attention span to dedicate 4+ hours, it's better not to play (or wait for Road to Legend, which allows the game to be played in smaller chunks of time).
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Charles Hasegawa
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In addition, you may find the game plays more quickly once all the players are experienced - you'll find you know the rules and abilities and what's happening. Each game is likely to start a bit slower as each player familiarizes themselves with their character and their skills/equipment, but after the first couple of fights everyone should be able to look at the dice and tell quickly what the results were - that alone will speed things up.

As far as the Overlord only going after the weakest guy - yes, that is one tactic, but the right situation can allow for the Overlord to pile on one of the tougher heroes and gain more of the conquest tokens back. Always going after the weakest character may mean many more kills. Depending on the group makeup, traps may be the way to go, with monsters just being a slow down tool, or it could be the other way if the players are having a tough time with certain monsters.

The length is still an issue for me, but I still enjoy this game.
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Mike Fassio
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Excellent review! I have had my eye on this for a while and your comments really answer a lot of my questions about the game. Have you tried playing with the expansion? I hear that it totally changes the way the game plays.
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Brian Kelley
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Tatsu wrote:

As far as the Overlord only going after the weakest guy - yes, that is one tactic, but the right situation can allow for the Overlord to pile on one of the tougher heroes and gain more of the conquest tokens back. Always going after the weakest character may mean many more kills. Depending on the group makeup, traps may be the way to go, with monsters just being a slow down tool, or it could be the other way if the players are having a tough time with certain monsters.

The length is still an issue for me, but I still enjoy this game.


My strategy as an Overlord player changes. If they are all pretty balanced, I go after whichever hero I can put the most hits on at the time (concentration of fire). It may not take 'em down, but it seriously weakens 'em and makes 'em a target for strategy #2. That's the lion hunting on the savannahs strategy. Whichever player is weakest and most likely to go down, or segregated from the rest of the group where he/she can't get help, surround and attack.

Keeping creatures upright is a difficult endeavor, so I typically attack in swarms, when I can build them up. All the better when such swarms are backed with command, such as with master beastmen. In addition, if I can get the Doom overlord card played (one extra power die), I play it as soon as is reasonably possible.

The other thing, as someone mentioned, is the strategic use of traps. The spiked pit or falling block trap changes the terrain. These can create strangle points that limit the effectiveness of the heroes because their maneuverability is compromised. Here, proper maneuvering with monsters such as hell hounds can mean multiple hits against a single hero.
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Simon Lundström
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Naturally, I'm changing my tactics as needed, mostly using "which hero am I most likely to be able to hurt the most at this given time?" but the choice is almost always rather easy. Putting a block trap early to create a spawn spot is also an intriguing method. Normally, a well placed Beastman spawn card is enough to get one kill done on a medium character (at least in the beginning) And I'm varying my tactics depending on what cards I get, too. But as said, my biggest issue is that the game system is a wee bit too hectic considering the length of the game. After half a session, I'm tired of all things that happen and I find myself getting irritable, wanting some rest.
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Mike Betzel
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I've all but given up on the quests that come with the game. They are, in my experience, generally far too long and not well balanced. I now make my own scenarios, which works well as we maybe play the game once every few months. If you are at all familiar with the game and how the system works it's really not that difficult to make a scenario that is quite balanced. I tend keep my scenarios limited to two or three areas and toss a fun twist of some sort in there. That way you keep the length down and reduce the repetition while hopefully adding at least one fun little aspect for the heroes to deal with.

I also play with a few house rules in the name of fun and brevity. Heroes can freely distribute treasures when a chest is opened, for example... all that mucking about of exchanging items drags things down too much. I also have made it so status effects only apply if the target takes actual damage... it helps make effects like web far less frustrating. Go ahead and play with the system a bit.

You say that the system is so complex you're afraid to mess with it. My take is that there is so much complexity in the system that you'll rarely get consistent results so why not play around a bit and see what happens I also think that balance is actually fairly obtainable, it just really falls on solid scenario design.
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I like the game. I like being OL and one or two of my friends like it too.

I disagree with this statement from your review:

"His "role" in the game is to "hinder" the heroes, but slaughtering without mercy, concentrating all the evils of the dungeon onto the most fragile character, throwing him out of the game prematurely, in the sole purpose of "winning", doesn't make a fun game for the group."

It is fun. I enjoy killing a hero every chance I get. I guess my group is competitive. After I won as overlord our first two games, on our third game I let them pick 3 heroes and keep one instead of randomly drawing just 1 each. I ended up losing that one and one of my friends commented that he didn't like that system either. So next game it will be back to randomly drawing a hero each game.

All players need to know that this game is a contest between the OL and the heroes. Like any game me and my friends play, we all play to win. I do go after the weakest characters, again, and again, and again. If they are smart they protect him as best they can, give him heal potions and good equipment. If not, then he dies...often, and I win!


My only complaint with the game is the amount it takes to play it. Usually 7 hours or so. The time goes by so quick though. I am always looking out for another chance to play it.

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Simon Lundström
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tibbs2 wrote:
I disagree with this statement from your review:

"His "role" in the game is to "hinder" the heroes, but slaughtering without mercy, concentrating all the evils of the dungeon onto the most fragile character, throwing him out of the game prematurely, in the sole purpose of "winning", doesn't make a fun game for the group."

It is fun. I enjoy killing a hero every chance I get.

That statement was not about Descent, but about the general inherent problem with playing a dungeon master. If you as the DM throws out the player you kill, assigning him to reading a book while the rest of you game on, I assure you you're not as liable to do so. One of my points is Descent working around this problem, mainly because the system is so forgiving. Maybe a bit too forgiving.
 
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Brian Kelley
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Zimeon wrote:
But as said, my biggest issue is that the game system is a wee bit too hectic considering the length of the game. After half a session, I'm tired of all things that happen and I find myself getting irritable, wanting some rest.


That is one thing I don't tend to like about the quests, either. They seem to take a lot longer than they ought to. We pretty much start in the afternoon and block out the rest of the evening when we play. Because of that time requirement, I don't play it very often, though I do enjoy when I do.
 
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Zimeon wrote:
That statement was not about Descent, but about the general inherent problem with playing a dungeon master. If you as the DM throws out the player you kill, assigning him to reading a book while the rest of you game on, I assure you you're not as liable to do so. One of my points is Descent working around this problem, mainly because the system is so forgiving. Maybe a bit too forgiving.


This is a good point, and I've seen it used as a strategy. One session, I had an experienced wargamer and RPGer realize that the consequences for dying were light, especially if you had just activated a glyph and gotten the victory points from it. So he intentionally made a suicide run to secure a chest, knowing he would be surrounded and killed. However, it got the players the contents of that silver chest and unlocked silver treasures for the group. That quickly turned the game into an inevitable march to hero victory.
 
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Roberto Arbelaez
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Zimeon wrote:
Descent is probably the most well-made DM-against-the-heroes dungeon crawl out there. But for me personally, it's just a tad bit too competitive, a little too delicately balanced and simply a Bit Too Much.


You should try Doom, lots of people prefer it... It's not such a milk-run for the players.
 
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Hugh G. Rection
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Zimeon wrote:
This turned out to be a lot longer than I thought at first.


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Matthew M
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rarbelaez wrote:
Zimeon wrote:
Descent is probably the most well-made DM-against-the-heroes dungeon crawl out there. But for me personally, it's just a tad bit too competitive, a little too delicately balanced and simply a Bit Too Much.


You should try Doom, lots of people prefer it... It's not such a milk-run for the players.


Perhaps "lots" is accurate, depending on how you define it, but I'd still say many many more prefer Descent. Descent is by no means a milk-run once you get past the first few adventures.

Besides, reading what you've quoted, it doesn't sound like "milk-run" is his issue.

-MMM
 
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Mike Betzel
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Toothpick the Ferret wrote:
This is a good point, and I've seen it used as a strategy. One session, I had an experienced wargamer and RPGer realize that the consequences for dying were light, especially if you had just activated a glyph and gotten the victory points from it. So he intentionally made a suicide run to secure a chest, knowing he would be surrounded and killed. However, it got the players the contents of that silver chest and unlocked silver treasures for the group. That quickly turned the game into an inevitable march to hero victory.


That's why, as overlord, you anticipate those suicide runs and use traps, spawns, whatever you have to try and keep the heroes from succeeding at getting to the chest
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Tony Ackroyd
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Excellent review and responses. I have Doom and really enjoyed playing it. My game group are RPGers, so Dungeoncrawls are good for them and I've been thinking about Descent for a while. Sounds like the game length may be an issue as we don't usually have 4-7 hours to play nowadays.

Have you seen this geeklist I did of Dungeoncrawl games? Maybe there are some others here you'll like more than Descent?
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/23477
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Simon Lundström
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Hadn't seen that, no. I have to admit that the Hot One for me as of now is (as mentioned) the D&D boardgame that happens to sit in my shelf and that is the current target for a massive rule re-crunch to satisfy my thirst. The game is vastly inferior to Descent, both in quality of the components and the slickness of the rules, yet I find some base value in there that I want to capture.
 
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Eric Imken
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Good review. There are times I feel like the game is too much nonstop kill, kill, kill even though that's what I think they were going for. It reminds me of the Diablo computer game, and I think that's what they were going for.

My advice for making a game where the Overlord has a more equal chance of winning is to do the following:

-Use traps. The first few times I played, I decided I'd rather use my money to spawn monsters non-stop, and while I got a couple of heroes here and there, I realized in later games that the cost and effectiveness of traps is actually pretty good.

-Make the players pick heroes at random. This is suggested in the rulebook I believe, and it works wonders. When you have a balanced party because the players plan who is covering what, you don't have any real weaknesses to exploit. Making everyone pick randomly adds a ton of fun because the player who usually picks a melee character might find him or herself thrust into a magic ranged role in a character unable to last in close quarters. We always go random, and wouldn't have it any other way. It takes some real strategy among the group to win whenever each player is a sort of the same.

-Go with the idea that the Overlord player isn't out to make the game fun and interesting like with most RPGs. FFG has already done that. You're goal is to win. Be ruthless. Single out the weakest hero, and crush him or her over and over. It'll be part of the player strategy to protect the weakest person also. This usually fixes itself in our group by having the other players give the weakest one the best of the loot in order to have to do less babysitting. This brings the player up to the level of the other players, and also keeps the group from becoming too powerful. Of course I've also had a group use the strategy of donating everything to the uber character, and letting him go forward while they supported.

-Don't allow the players to follow the campaign rules without modifying each of the dungeons to become more powerful to make up for the fact that the characters are becoming more powerful themselves.

Hope this helps!
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Sean Shaw
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You had some of the problems with the game I did when I first played Descent. The problem is that you approach it as an RPG. The first thing you need to remove from your mind is that Descent is an RPG, or anything like an RPG...it's not (at least currently, we'll see what the Legends box does).

It's a fantasy tactical combat game. The heroes are one team, the OL is the other. There is no role playing, it's straight up tactics and combat. Hence if looking at it from an RPG perspective, most will probably be disappointed.

With a mindshift to looking at it as a purely tactical combat game I think your attitude changes, I know mine did. You can see it for what it is, instead of what one was hoping it was.

The problem is that most who see it, and look at how it works at first DO think of it as a sort of RPG type game, instead of squad based tactics vs. bigger squad based tactics.
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Simon Lundström
Sweden
Täby
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Johnny Sailor wrote:
My advice for making a game where the Overlord has a more equal chance of winning is to do the following:

Thanks for the advice, but that wasn't my main problem. I do use traps, mostly even Trapmaster, I make the players pick players at random, and I am always out for killing, killing, killing heroes. And I believe that's what the game is for. That sounds like the issue I have with Descent, but it yet isn't. Frankly, I like the idea that my role is to bash them to hell and beyond. I've discovered it's not an RPG, but just a fantasy version of Doom (although that might change with the Road to Legend)

My issue with the game is that there is too much of the goodies. Too many monsters that are too fragile. Too many cool treasures that are too soon replaces with even cooler treasures. Everything is so fast. The accelerations of all things tend to wear me down. Sensory Input Overflow. The system itself is nicely done, delicately balanced and all, but there's just too much of everything.

And I know perfectly that a lot of people like it that way. It's just that I have a little problem that deters the fun.
 
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Brian Kelley
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Columbia
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Zimeon wrote:
My issue with the game is that there is too much of the goodies. Too many monsters that are too fragile. Too many cool treasures that are too soon replaces with even cooler treasures. Everything is so fast. The accelerations of all things tend to wear me down. Sensory Input Overflow. The system itself is nicely done, delicately balanced and all, but there's just too much of everything.


You could always design customized scenarios which beef up the monsters and reduce the treasure. It may take a couple of sessions to figure out the right balance, but that is one of the nice things about Descent.
 
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Simon Lundström
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Yep, that's wholly and totally true. One of the best things with dungeoncrawls like this is that it's very customizable, down to the core bone. I mean, if you want to play an RPG-style dungeon crawl instead, you could scrap the whole stuff with threat tokens, Overlord cards and completely redefine all monsters, and design whole new adventures and re-form all monsters abilities. Then again, what you get then isn't really Descent (except the combat dice system).
 
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marc paladini
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Thank you - this is exactly the review I was looking for. I have been looking for a game that gives a bit of the old D&D flavor and I have been going back and forth on this game for months. I think your reasons for liking/disliking the game make it clear to me that it is not what I am looking for to take care of that craving. Not that I think it looks like a bad game, just not for me.

Thanks again!!!
 
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Michael Sims
United States
San Jose
California
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Why not just give each monster +1 hp? I found that most monsters were very close to single-hit kill, to where even a +1 would tip them to requiring that 2nd hit, and thereby cutting the pace of monster deaths drastically. Then it requires more player interaction to kill them off, instead of one guy knocking them out two by two.

Give the Overlord that... even just +1 and see how much harder it would be to win!
 
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