I purchased a game called Descent: Journeys in the Dark about 3 weeks ago and I cracked it out for playing on a Saturday night. I had 3 players agree to play but only two showed up. Brenda and Rick each then played two characters, Brenda played Landrec the Wise (a magic character) and Ronan the Wild (Ranged and Melee). Rick played Trenloe the Strong (a melee character) and Lyssa (balanced amongst all three). In hindsight I should have only given them one character each as sometimes we forgot the special abilities of the characters. I think dropping the number of characters to one each would have speeded up the game as well.
We started setup/rules at about 7:30 and we were ready to go by about 8:30. The delay was due to my inexperience setting up the game and explaining rules. The scenario we played was the first one in the book, a fairly straightforward assault on a dungeon controlled by a Giant named Narthak.
Descent is a dungeon crawl game, and the way you play it is very typical of dungeon crawls. Each player runs 1 (or in this case 2) characters that move around fighting creatures. It puts me in mind of the old Games Workshop game called Advanced HeroQuest but a little lighter and contains fancier bits. Some of the differences between the two games are: less randomness in Descent, AHQ is a campaign game straight out of the box, whereas Descent is a one-off affair with some campaign rules tacked on (and a 3rd expansion that is for the campaign), the characters in Descent are pre-made with only some customization done by card draws.
The heart of any dungeon crawl game is the combat system, and Descent uses a similar one to Doom. You get attack dice based on the weapon and bonuses for your character and special abilities. E.g. Trenloe is a pure combat dude, so whenever he attacks in melee he gets the dice for the weapon plus three power dice. Then he gets extra damage based on the “surges” he rolls. The number of hearts rolled is compared to the armour of the opponent and if it exceeds the armour you will cause damage. Once you exceed the creature’s health, it dies.
When the players succeed at some tasks, such as activating a glyph or opening a chest, they get conquest tokens, and if they have tokens at the end of the game, they win. The way you lose tokens is to die, every character has a conquest rating between 2 and 4, and that is the count of tokens they lose when they die.
Brenda and Rick tore through the first two rooms without any problems killing beastmen, razorwings and hell hounds (plus one ogre). Their first real difficulty was the third room. It was stuffed with razorwings, bane spiders, beastmen, skeletons and a master sorcerer. They merrily chopped through this group, along with the great timing of Landrec using an item and stunning all creatures within 6 spaces of him. Rick commented “Well if we go through this room, the next room is a breeze! Then came room 4 (cue the ominous music)
Room 4 had 2 beastmen, 2 skeletons, 2 manticores and one named giant (Narthak), and a gold chest….
They entered the room with about 20 conquest tokens and killed one of my beastmen (the master, so he no longer gave extra dice) and then the missiles started flying. Now Trenloe had Armour 4, so he ignored the first three hits against him, but Manticores have Pierce 3, which reduces your armour by 3 so he had 1 armour. The missileers wiped him out in the first round, causing them to lose 4 conquest tokens and created a sense of despair.
Brenda used Landrec to open the gold chest at the entrance, so I played the only trap card I had, Curse of the Monkey God! And trapped him for one round (then I killed him).
I had them in a death loop, with one dying every round, and the cursing was fascinating…
I had them down to 4 conquest tokens when they finally killed Narthak, 5 hours after we started. I enjoyed it, and I think they did too. Next time I am going to make sure we have more players.