some thoughts on Descent

Saturday night’s C&C game didn’t happen, much to my dismay – I was definitely looking forward to the next chapter in our adventure.  Two of our players were absent though, so our host/referee suggested we try out his recently-acquired board game, Descent: Journeys in the Dark.  I had seen the massive box in game shops, but the hefty price tag always dissuaded me from making a purchase. Here are my first impressions:

For starters, $100 you get an awful lot of cool stuff.  Thick cardstock dungeon tiles, a good selection of nicely-sculpted plastic minis, some special dice, and a ton of illustrated cards and counters.  Descent seems like well-designed hack-and-slash game with a pretty cool die mechanic.

Some of the other players compared it to Talisman (a regular favorite of our group); beyond the obvious “fantasy quest” theme, the two boardgames seem like apples and oranges.  There’s a casual, beer-and-pretzels feel to Talisman, along with the flashes of dark humor and weirdness common to fantasy games of its generation.  Maybe it’s just a product of its time, but Descent seems like it’s aiming for a much more “Serious” feel than Talisman.

A more apt comparison in my mind would be between Descent and D&D, the game it tries so hard to emulate with regard to the dungeon-crawling experience.  It does an admirable job, but not surprisingly it falls short of the mark.  Absent is D&D’s flexibility, as are so many opportunities for player creativity that come with the explorative aspect of dungeoneering.  The purely hack-and-slashery of the game reminded me more of Roguelikes, albeit minus the explorative element and the ever-present danger of sudden death and having to start over.

Will I play Descent again?  Sure.  There are other games I’d much rather play, but if my friends wanted to play Descent for an evening I’d happily join them.  I’m just glad I resisted the urge to splurge at the game store.

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