Into the Dark With Descent
Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS, and other Pen and Paper RPGs are tons of fun, but sometimes people don’t have hours upon hours, week after week, to invest in them. It was with that in mind that I decided to try to get a board game that’d let me introduce people to PnPRPGs without having to ask them to make characters, read rulebooks, and spend four months or more playing a campaign; I ended up going for Descent: Journeys in the Dark.
Descent is a dungeon-delving board game, where a band of heroes compete against a malevolent Overlord, who actively tries to destroy the heroes. Up to four players can play as Heroes, with an extra person playing as the Overlord. Play sessions are split up into adventures, which don’t necessarily form a coherent storyline. The objective of each adventure is usually to travel to the end of a dungeon and kill a boss monster without dying too many times or taking too long.
Descent has a fairly shallow learning curve, but like most games of its nature, the real challenge comes with developing and executing tactics with your teammates. Pre-made character sheets explain almost everything you need to know about your character.
Each player is given a degree of control over their character, however, through the use of skill cards and the ability to buy equipment. Equipment is largely the balancing element to the game; characters will either roll through a dungeon with superior equipment, or languish with inferior load-outs.
Characters make attacks by rolling the dice indicated on a weapon’s card, then adding special “power die” depending on which type of attack you’re making, and the character itself. If you do enough damage to overcome the enemy’s armour value, then you do damage. When making a ranged or magic attack, the attacker has to worry about rolling enough “range” on their die.
Different maps are used in each adventure. The only problem is that these maps tend to have repetitive sections.
Gameplay tends to be long and repetitive at times, and the balance tends to shift throughout the game. Early on, it’s very easy to get in over your head. As the game progresses, the characters are far better equipped to deal with the terrors the OL can inflict upon the Heroes. Too often though, an adventure will end prematurely when a group of heroes opens a door they shouldn’t have.
Shortly after opening the door to this room, which is filled with “master” monsters, two people in the party were killed, and the third, One Fist, was surrounded and quickly overpowered as well.
Regardless of balancing issues, it’s a fun game to spend an evening playing.
Do you have a favourite character or skill combination? Let me know in the comments!