Critical Review - Descent Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition

If you are a fan of dungeon delving games, then you more likely than not have heard of, played, or own Descent.  Fantasy Flight Games took something that, in my opinion, was pretty darn near perfect in Hero Quest, and made it even better.  But now, there is a 2nd Edition of Descent, that has some crying foul and some praising the re-spin...

 

Some people are calling this a "streamlined" version, or an "Easier" version.  Some are calling it a "dumbed down version" even.  But what is it really?

 

I bought the game recently at one of my local stores, because yeah, I'm that kind of guy, and after playing several quests, along with some of the main campaign, I'm here to tell you all about it!  More, after the video break...  however, be forewarned... this one is rather lengthy, as I wanted to include a lot of details which I thought would be important to cover.

Descent is a table top game of dungeon exploration where one player is the Overlord, controlling the game and it's monsters, and the other players are the game's Heroes.  This isn't DnD, let's get that straight from the start.  This is not a technical experience, it is, if I may, a storytelling one.  There are two ways Descent 2nd Editoin shines.  

 

First, is in it's excellent quest builds, providing unique and fun objectives for both the Heroes and the Overlord during the course of the quests and campaigns.  These aren't the typical "kill this, fetch that" quests, or even, when they are, they are done with enough wrapping, to make it interesting, and more to the point, meaningful.  

 

The game comes with backstories on all the Heroes (heck, it even comes with a background on the monstoers!) and each quest can easily become person for them, and in turn, pulls you into the experience, making it all that more enjoyable.

 

Second, is that you have so much in the box, for those with great imaginations, you can easily create your own adventures and stories as you go.  Customization is only limited by the amount of tiles you have and what you can dream up!

The game can be played in a multitude of ways.  You can simply sit down and play one quest or you can sit down for a long session of multiple quests strung together.  Each quest is broken into two acts. This is very clever as it accomplishes two things.  It reduces the size of the board, both creating quick set up/break down times but also provides a shorter amount of time to get to a break point.  You can easily get through an Act I of a quest in 60 to 90 minutes, thus allowing for a drink break and not feeling like it's "taking forever" to get someplace meaningful.

 

In addition, depending on who wins the overall quest will determine the next quest played in campaigns.  The main campaign included does an excellent job of making this a satisfying experience.  In games like this, the worst possible thing is if the Overlord (Dungeon Master) or the Heroes always win.  Let's face it, even the Hobbits had to deal with set backs along their journey, and Descent provides these very well.  At times, it seems insurmountable for Heroes to beat the Overlord, and rightly so.  In other cases, it seems impossible to stop the Heroes!  In either case though, it is possible, it is fun, and the outcomes changing the next chapter of the story pulls you in and makes you want to play that "one more quest"!

For 1st edition players there will be some new rules to adjust to, like the line of sight rules we go over in our video.  For the most part though, I have yet to play a game with a 1st Edition veteran who has any issues with things like this.  For the most part, they all are welcoming the changes.  In the end, there is not a ton of adjusting to do and in one session you will become familiar with the new rules... simpy said, veterans are called veterans for a reason. 

 

For new players, its a GREAT jumping on point!  If you have never played Descent before, this is really a tremendous opportunity to jump into a great franchise that is sure to expand from this set.

 

So what do I think?  Well here's a comprehensive list:

 

What Tox likes (in no particular order):

 

  • Details on the minis and art on the cards is superb
  • You can play the same scenario multiple times with the same configuration of heroes and monsters and still end up in a totally different place!
  • The campaign mode is obscenely well designed to enjoy multiple times through.  We are halfway through the main campaign in two different play groups and both have been uniquely fun, entertaining, and completley different results.
  • The game scales extremely well, albeit a 2 player game is just like a 3 player game.
  • The dice are random "enough" to make your strategies work, but still allowing for "bad beats"
  • The stories are well written and pull you in, I'm salivating for more!
  • The design of the tiles is really well done, almost too well done, as they are very tight to fit together, but when compelted, look like one major piece.
  • Winning as an Overlord is JUST as satisfying as winning with Heroes, and both are well balanced in the scenarios we have fought so far.
  • The "travel" mechanic of having random events happen to Heroes while on route to new quests is well done, although I do pine for a better map than just the "back of the quest book"

 

What Tox doesn't like:

  • Movement diagonally could have been improved without letting figures just "pass by" as mentioned in the video.
  • Line of Sight, while simplified, is almost TOO simplified and has forced us to impleent a house rule of tracing the "shortest" pathway from one corner to another.  This hasn't, so far, affected anything major in our games either
  • Lack of minis for the Lieutenants.  Why are some of the most powerful characters represented by a cardboard disc?  Hey FFG, #PromosToComeSoon?
  • Finally, not having enough time to play this game 24 hours... if I could, I would...  #FirstWorldProblems

 

If you haven't guessed by now, you can probably tell what we're giving this game.  Descent was a great experience as it was and the 2nd Edition only expands on that and provides new challenges and new options for player Heroes and Overlords alike!  We've barely scratched the surface of what is inside this box, but remember, there is a sage line... "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want... well, that and what you get when you kill a dragon!" So what are you waiting for?  Stop reading this and go slay some monsters in the caverns of Descent, 2nd Edition!

 

Final Critical Review Score (Miss, Hit, or Crit):

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Comments: 13
  • #1

    Jon Caputo (Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:59)

    great review! thanks!

  • #2

    critshappen (Tuesday, 31 July 2012 17:45)

    Thanks Jon! Appreciate the positive comment and hope it helped! Working on a game play video as well soon, stay tuned!

  • #3

    Jason (Sunday, 05 August 2012 20:02)

    Really want this game but alas: nobody to play it with.

  • #4

    critshappen (Sunday, 05 August 2012 22:51)

    Do you have a local game shop? If so, I'd suggest checking with the owner, several shops have lists of folks playing in their store and can maybe connect you with folks locally to play with.

  • #5

    JorduSpeaks (Thursday, 09 August 2012 17:08)

    Fantasy Flight has announced that they will be releasing pewter miniatures of all the Lieutenants soon, which should remove one of the biggest complaints on your list.

  • #6

    critshappen (Thursday, 09 August 2012 18:59)

    Yes, very happy about that!

  • #7

    Daniel (Friday, 04 January 2013 14:43)

    Just so you know, there are lieutenants minis... Just have to buy them separately. Even if they are in metal instead of plastic, still not worth 9 or 10$ each. This is one of the cons.

  • #8

    critshappen (Friday, 04 January 2013 18:35)

    Thanks Daniel! Yup, at time of review, wasn't aware of that, but am now. I also read a comment on our youtube.com/critshappen channel that some guys use pathfinder minis for them, which seems like a near idea! Thanks for reading/watching and commenting!

  • #9

    Gdtimmy (Thursday, 21 February 2013 13:21)

    Great review. I bought this today (plans were to play descent 1), but I think a surprise is in store for my morning gaming group. (We play d&d every Friday, they perished, so I broke out descent and talisman).
    We are in western MA, FYI.

  • #10

    critshappen (Thursday, 21 February 2013 20:31)

    Thanks Gdtimmy! Hope you enjoy it! It's a blast of a game. We just recently bought the first 2.0 expansion, Lair of the Wyrm and are enjoying the new features, monsters, and heroes as well.

  • #11

    JustaGamr (Thursday, 29 August 2013 16:07)

    I enjoy your youtube channel of the descent 2nd edition playthrough, i have the first descent along with the road to legend expansion; really enjoyed it! but i cant wait to get the 2nd. its unfortunate that FantasyFlights shopping page is out of stock and i try to stay away from Ebay and Amazon as much as possible. keep up the good work and hope you do more playthroughs.

  • #12

    critshappen (Thursday, 29 August 2013 16:38)

    Thank you JustaGamr. Glad you liked the reviews/videos. I hope you have luck finding it online!

  • #13

    Amuny (Monday, 13 April 2015 15:09)

    Really nice review. Complete and informative. I've been looking forward 2nd Edition for a while. I discovered it recently, fumbling around in online shops. I loved 1st and still playing from time to time, but your review definitely convinced me to buy 2nd.

    Now I'm watching my shipping with impatience. I hope to play this week! I've bought the basic pack + conversion pack + Lair of the Wyrm. The Punisher looks great, and as the guy who almost always play overlord, I had to add more choices!


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