Tuesday 5 April 2011

Descent into the Dungeon

Last autumn I received the dungeon delving game Descent for my birthday. It's such a huge game, though, that it hadn't been played. That was until Saturday. After a mere 90 minutes of tile punching and reading through the rules a couple of times, Halo_star* arrived and we spent a few hours (with the help of ArabianSquire) sorting out the hacks from the slashes.

I'm not going to do a review of the game. It's old enough (and popular enough) to have loads over the interweb. If you are interested you can have a peek on boardgamegeek. I will however give you my thoughts on the game.

The layout of the board looks pretty familiar. The range of variation for player characters is very nice though. 20 different characters to choose from, with randomly selected appropriate skills to add and the ability to buy your own equipment gives a nice degree of variation. Another difference is the Dungeon Master (or Overlord) is more actively engaged in trying to defeat the other players. They get to choose when and what they reinforce their already heavily populated rooms, allowing the frankly slow move adventurers to be threatened from areas they have already cleared.

Sometimes you regret opening the door

But how easily did the game play? The basics are quite straight forward. The turn system is quite simple. The delays in initial playing comes from quite a lot of looking up effects and skills through the un-indexed rule book. There was a god deal of sighing coming from Arabansquire with the odd "not something else to look up" comment. After a couple of hours the first area was just cleared in the introductory quest! We all had a fun time though, despite the unavoidable delays of the first outing.

The young lad played a solo version the next day, using the rules he could remember (missing out most the skills). At the end of the day he declared the game officially "brilliant". And how much dungeon d you get in the box? As ever Arabiansquire pushed the limits of what can go on the table:

Arabiansquire empties the game box. Again.


  1. It's perhaps too early to say after just the one game, but how does it compare to the Heroquest-Warhammer Quest family?

  2. I've not played Warhammer Quest, so I can't really comment, although I suspect it would be closer to Descent than Heroquest.

    The feel for the adventurers is a lot more RPG-lite, as you have extra skills added to the basic character sheet and the equipment you buy/find can offer different advantages.

    Descent is lot more of a slog through the dungeon than Heroquest. As long as the Descent Overlord has enough cards and evil points to spend he can spawn new monsters at almost any turn. No pop into a room and dispatch 3 or 4 monsters like HQ. In our Descent game the 2 heroes had around a dozen monsters to kill in the first area! That's why the play time is a few hours rather than a 90 minute HQ quest.

    In all, Descent is a more immersive game, but Heroquest will still work for a quick 1-2 hour fix.