08 September 2012

Descent 2nd Edition: Unboxing & first impressions

I caved in and bought Descent, when I saw they had released a 2nd edition that was a bit more reasonably priced. And the box was also "smaller", more like Battles of Westeros sized than that huge coffin.  In any case, what made me purchase this game to begin with was a review video that spoke about character development and adventure aspects that I think aren't present in Dungeons & Dragons : Wrath of Ashardalon. And while you can run a campaign in D&D:WoA it's not really conveying that special RPG feeling that I got from playing games like Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale on the PC when I was younger.

This game promises to be more of a classic adventure where heroes level up with new skills over the course of a long campaign, keep their loot, buy new items. The "dungeon master" of the game, who controls all the monsters in each scenario also levels up along with the campaign and increases his hand of overlord cards that are full of nasty tricks that can be played during each scenario.

I will write a review after the weekend, so far I have only tried the introduction scenario a couple of times to learn the rules by myself and to get a feel for the game mechanics. I really like what I see and the design choices seem to offer a more fun gameplay style as opposed to the "button mashing" grind in Super Dungeon Explore, the whimsical "beer and pretzels" gameplay in Dungeon Quest or the extremely punishing über tactical D&D boardgame series.

But this post is about "unboxing" and taking a look at the components offered in this latest FFG production.

As I mentioned earlier the box is now reasonably sized and easier to store as opposed to the gigantic coffin shaped one of first edition (and games like Rune Wars).

You get two books, one campaign/scenario book and one rulebook. Having read both I think the writing holds up quite well. The rules are not super well structured, but that is something that FFG rulebooks always seem to suffer from, bad disposition. However this is kept to a minimum in Descent .2nd Ed. At least I don't feel that I have to flip 14 pages back and then 15 pages forward to check a single thing (or sometimes FFG likes to structure their rules with the "middle part" at the beginning, the "end part" in the middle, and beginning at the end together with special rules. Arkham Horror had such a bizarre disposition.

Moving on, the tiles are fantastic, puzzle interlocking edges, and you get a lot of pieces to make "dead ends" in order to contain the area in a nice looking way. The tiles are all double sides, a majority of them have outdoor locations on one side and indoor locations on the other. A nice touch, and good value for money.

You also get a little notepad that probably won't last very long (some 20 pages) but you can always photocopy. This is to be used by the players to keep track of their hero stats and abilities in the long campaign game where you play all scenarios one after the other.

The dice, were the first thing that disappointed me, and really the only real letdown of this box. With everything else being top quality, the dice are really ugly. They are very functional, but the dull design and color choice really make them look as if they are part of some completely different (and way older) game.

The other bummer is that there are some "lieutenant" monsters, they are essentially bosses in some of the story scenarios. But these guys are only represented by tokens and not models. I can understand that to some extent, as you don't use them more than a couple of times in each campaign, but it would have been nice to have them as miniatures.

The miniatures for the monsters are really great, the heroes are quite OK. They are all using the "Runebound" universe, so old characters from games like RuneQuest and RuneWars should be able to work with Descent as well. However I think you may need the "conversion pack" from FFG to make them work with Descent 2nd edition.

A ton of cards, all with great looking artwork and superb design. High quality content all around (except for the dice). Definitely worth the money.

A review of the rules will be up within a few days. It may be that the next post will talk about the components and how they work in the game, while a 3rd part will talk about the gameplay itself. Haven't decided yet and it all depends on whether I think there is a reason for making a longer review.


  1. With 1st ed descent one of the supplement boxes gave you all the lieutenants as actual models. Think it was to keep cost of main box down but still provide figures for those with the ash. Hopefully they'll do same for new ed.
    Dice don't look great but I really like the mechanism they uad with them.

  2. Good to hear about the lieutenants, hope they do the same with 2nd ed. I REALLY like the way the dice mechanics work in this game, a clever combination of a lot of information in one die roll. I just wish the dice were a bit more classy and had a look that matched the rest of the content. But that's probably the least you can nag about - and I'll rather have ugly dice than crappy miniatures or bad tiles.

  3. Interestingly enough the dice in Extra Dice Set in FFG's store look a bit better ... even if it's kinda lame that they couldn't provide that type with the reprint; http://store.fantasyflightgames.com/productdetails.cfm?SKU=VA11a

    FFG also has the lieutenant minis, I think in metal, for 10 to 15$ a piece.

    I'm very much looking forward to the review and though I hope you won't decide based on that, weather to write the "components review", I really like that kind of stuff; next best thing to opening it yourself and getting the first-hand picture.

    Also, you may wish to take a mental note for that (quite admittedly not likely to happen with any gamer :)) time in the future when you find yourself wondering what game you should try next; You mention you like the dice mechanic, that conveys all the necessary info. Alkemy also has a custom set of dice, that tell you weather or not the attack hit, how much damage it did and of what kind. I have a hunch you might like the game, even if it's currently in something of a hibernation. But the starters go for under 10$, because of that.

  4. Good lord, those dice do look terrible. Depending upon the size of them, I could see it might even be possible to confuse a shield with a heart (if that is what those icons are).

  5. Those Descent dice on the FFG store are not the same kind that are in the Descent 2nd edition. 10USD for a single Lt. miniature... not gonna happen for me. It's not a dealbreaker playing with the tokens, just a shame they weren't included.

    Thanks for the Alkemy suggestion Luka, I will write it down on my "to do" list - where other things like Chaos in Carpathia are lingering.

    Yep the shields and hearts look fairly similar at a quick glance. It's really bizarre, pehaps they will release some kind of "super good looking" dice in the future.

  6. Nice, think I´m going to buy it based on your post... =)


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