Cardboard Children: Further Descent

By Robert Florence on August 5th, 2012 at 12:30 pm.

Boardgames!
Hello youse,

Today I’ll wrap up my take on Descent: Second Edition. I’ll also tell you about an amazing game called CONQUEST OF PLANET EARTH.

Is that enough for you? What else do you want? Blood? You want me to make you a sausage out of my blood? What? What’s wrong with you?

DESCENT: SECOND EDITION

Okay, here it is.

If you don’t have Descent, this is the edition you should buy. I own everything that came with First Edition, and I love that big old game, but Descent: Second Edition is better. It’s just better. It fixes all the issues, and makes the game playable in a convenient measure of time. They did it. They smashed it.

First Edition, as I said last week, is a very heavy game. The adventure aspect of that dungeon crawl takes a back seat to tactical considerations, as your heroes cover line of sight and maximise their action potential. Second Edition makes Descent the narrative-heavy game that it should be, moving the mechanics aside to allow the players to tell stories. This is a good thing.

I love the way the quests work in the new game. The first proper quest in Second Edition is split into two separate encounters. The first sees the heroes trying to stop goblins making off with a village’s crops. The second encounter has the heroes facing the goblin chief who ordered those crops stolen, and his hit points are directly affected by how many crops the heroes managed to save. If you stopped him eating the crops, he’s weaker and easier to take down. That’s beautiful, and is exactly the kind of thing there wasn’t enough of in First Edition.

The campaign is much lighter, of course, than First Edition’s wonderful Road to Legend expansion. It still excites, though. Overlord and heroes gain experience, and can purchase new abilities. The campaign branches a little bit too, with winners choosing which adventure to try next, and some quests being locked off by game events. Travel still exists, in a much more streamlined form than in First Edition, with players having to draw cards to see what happens between locations. (In Road to Legend (First Edition) the world map had a lot more going on. There would be mini-encounters with Overlord lieutenants and city sieges taking place while the heroes moved around. It was fucking awesome, if a little bit clunky.)

What I love about Second Edition is how replayable it is. If you play through the campaign once, you won’t see all the quests. Each quest also allows the Overlord to bring in monsters of his choice, and that further diversifies the stories you can tell. A dungeon full of zombies is a completely different game from a dungeon full of skeleton archers. In fact, Second Edition seems like a very modular game, with huge potential for designing your own quests and campaigns. Please make some and share them with us, because I’m too busy googling for symptoms on the internet.

There’s a Conversion Kit being released that will turn all your monsters and heroes from First Edition into stuff you can use in the new game. This is hugely exciting for me. It means that I will have a massive amount of characters and enemies to choose from when constructing my dungeons. It’s going to feel like a proper toy box, and the shorter playtime will mean that this toy box gets played with far more regularly. I’m such a spoiled brat.

Any negatives? The line of sight and adjacency rules are good, and mean that there is far more combat. But there are still a couple of niggly grey areas that need clarified. Just silly little things. There aren’t enough dice in the box. Seriously. There really should have been double the amount of dice, to save players having to chase that black die around the table. And that’s pretty much all the negatives. Can you believe that? What a fine release.

It’s an absolute must.

BUT IS IT THE BEST DUNGEON CRAWLER?

Ah, there’s the thing. As we build our collection of Some Games (which started last week with my beloved Cosmic Encounter) we will certainly have to come to some kind of decision on a game that will cover the whole dungeon crawl thing. That’s an itch we will always need scratched. I’d love you all to focus on that this week. Make some suggestions.

I think Descent: Second Edition will be in the hunt, but it needs more plays. Dungeonquest is a real favourite of mine, but I know some of you weirdos are funny about the brutality of it. The recent Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game systems are nice, if a little bit lacking in oomph. Super Dungeon Explore is superb. And then, never forget, there’s Warhammer Quest. Glorious Warhammer Quest, my darling, my darling. But that’s long out of print!

Let me know what you think. We need to get this one nailed down.

RE-THEMING DESCENT: FIRST EDITION

Just a thought, before we move away from Descent. You know how I said that First Edition is all tactics and movement and covering line of sight and all that stuff? I can’t shake the feeling that the ruleset of First Edition could be re-themed into a SWAT game. Imagine it – a team of four SWAT operatives, moving through houses, factories and offices, slicing the pie. One player as the criminals, setting off traps and trying to ambush the good guys. Instead of magic spells you have flashbangs and gas. Instead of swords and crossbows you have automatic weapons and tactical knives.

Could someone make this for me, please? Anyone want to do some kind of fan re-theme?

And, since we’re on a PC website here, where the FUCK is our new SWAT game?

CONQUEST OF PLANET EARTH

Hi. This week I played Conquest Of Planet Earth. I bought it with my birthday money. I loved it. I laughed so much. I want to tell you about it.

CoPE is a 4-player game that can be played competitively or co-operatively. I haven’t played the co-op game yet, because FUCK co-op. The competitive game is plenty, though. Each player controls an alien race, and the objective is to conquer towns and cities and hit 8 Terror Points before your opponents. Yes, you need to terrorise the human race into submission. You need to be the baddest baddie in the game.

This is an easy game to run. Each turn you’ll choose how many action points you’ll spend, and these action points let you move your ships, explore new areas, and activate cards. When your ship enters an empty space on the board, you draw a location card. Most locations can be conquered, and will be worth Terror Points if you successfully destroy any resistance at the location.

Let me tell you about the Human Resistance. When you enter a town, you will have to draw some Resistance cards. Some army infantry might pop out, or the puny town police, or just some stupid teenagers who are practically begging to die. Heroes might pop out, like the town sheriff, and these add strength to any existing resistance. Sometimes hard resistance like tanks and fighter jets come out, and that makes your opponents whoop with joy. Combat is a simple roll-off with dice, adding your die result to your strength. If you knock out the resistance, you conquer the location and score the Terror.

There’s a superhero in the game. Haha! His name is Captain Fantastic, he is super-strong, and whether he wins or loses, he gets shuffled right back into the deck. This means that he can keep popping out to fuck you up, and he will. He will. Again and again. He’s great. You’re terrified of him in one of your own turns, and screaming for his arrival when your rivals are on the move.

There are a lot of cards in the game, and they are all pretty much bananas. Your rival alien has conquered a city that gives him three Terror Points? Drop a nuke on it. You’re not scary enough yet? Play a card that turns your aliens into flesh-eaters. Your area of the board is full of destroyed towns and empty forests? Use your Teleportation Pants to leap onto your rival’s board. Or hire a robot butler to give you a hand. Or send a giant robot marching across the countryside.

Oh man. Every alien race has special powers too, meaning they all play differently. In one game your sexy aliens might be able to seduce soldiers. In another, your horrible fishmen aliens might be able to summon a giant sea serpent to assist in battle. Hee hee! I love sex and fish!

One more thing that I love about this game – a 6 wins. In combat, a 6 wins. Always. This means that even if you’re up against Captain Fantastic and some Tanks, and you only have one flying saucer and your aliens can’t fight for shit, a roll of a 6 will win the fight. It also means that an entire fleet of saucers can be taken down by some lucky rolls by redneck cops. It pretty much means that you can’t be sure of anything, and will always have your nerves shredded by those tumbling bones. For a game of this type and pace and flavour, that 6 just drives the tone home. It’s a riot.

I love this campy, trashy fun-first design. There is no way you won’t love this if you’re anything like me, which I hope you’re not, because I hate myself.

Until next time, stay dicey!

(Shouldn’t have brought that sign-off back. Awful.)

, .

40 Comments »

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  1. Kefren says:

    Hey Rab, when are you going to post the variant rules for playing Cluedo? I think it was a competition some time ago. I was looking forward to Dungeon Cluedo, Zombie Cluedo and Nudo Cluedo.

  2. Kefren says:

    This sounds great. However I bought my new games for the year already, and had my first ever play of King of Tokyo last night, family games evening. My nephew won every game and we all loved it. It’s a great party game.

  3. Spacewalk says:

    I like sex but I don’t like fish. What is a man to do?

  4. BigJonno says:

    I’ve been wanting to pick up a dungeon crawler for ages and this new edition of Descent sounds spot-on. I play RPGs and tabletop wargames already, I don’t need more games that take hours and hours to play.

  5. Duke of Chutney says:

    i’d opt for dungeonquest for best dungeoncrawl (GW edition) but i haven’t played descent 2nd ed or many others. I loved Warhammer Quest about a decade ago, but i cant remember if that was because it was amazing or just nostalgia

    • malkav11 says:

      Dungeonquest may be a fine game (I’m not convinced, but I’m not going to argue what is essentially a matter of taste). But it absolutely is not a proper representative of the dungeon crawl genre. It is a very theme-light game that strongly discourages you from things like exploration and combat. You’ll have to do them to get to the treasure that’s the goal of the game, but you in no way want to because it always punishes you. There is no reward. There is no loot – the treasure is a risk-reward point scoring mechanism but it does nothing whatsoever during gameplay. I don’t think there are even more than a couple of kinds of monster.

      Don’t get me wrong, I do like the way the time limit and possibility of the dragon waking play. I think it’s aces that you constantly have to decide if you dare pursue that loot any further or if you would be better off making a break for the exit. I just want a lot more game around the rest of it (that Android-universe game from an earlier column looks like it might be the ticket there), and I don’t think that mechanic belongs in a dungeon crawl game, which should be about exploration, combat, and looting, all of which should be rewarded with new, cool (possibly lethal) stuff instead of punished.

  6. pruchel says:

    Descent 2e is awesome. Been playing it with the wife, so just two players i.e 2 heroes 1 overlord, still works great. The balance is so much better than 1e, every quest seems to end only one turn or two/a dice roll away from victory for the losing party.

    If you have any interest in dungeon crawls it’s certainly one to get. There are of course negatives, but compared to the overall awesomeness of the game they are just tiny flaws easily overlooked/house ruled.

  7. Tony M says:

    Rob I think the reason Descent 1st Ed feels like SWAT is because 1st Ed was based on the rules of an earlier DOOM board game. But I assume you already know that because you are a board game guy whereas I’m a PC game guy.

    Tony

  8. malkav11 says:

    One of the things I was really looking forward to when Fantasy Flight got the license to do new versions of Games Workshop’s old classics is a rerelease of Warhammer Quest so I could actually experience it. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen. I asked Jon Goodenough (who used to helm Talisman etc development, although I guess now he works for Alderac Entertainment Group, and who is a huge fan of the game) about it and he said that it would tread too close to no-gos on their licensing agreement if they did it right. I said, “Well, what if you did a complete retheme but used the game mechanics, like you guys did with Dune?” He said that a lot of the appeal of Warhammer Quest was the theme, so he didn’t think it would work. I suspect he’s probably right. Then again, he’s not in charge of that stuff anymore, so who knows, maybe the next guy will feel differently.

  9. McDan says:

    Can’t get enough of your writings, always brilliant. I was in London this week and got the second edition of descent, played one game and it’s great. Thank you for recommending it.

  10. Uthred says:

    The combat in Warhammer Quest was sadly pretty crap and generally consisted of tediously whittling down hordes of minions

  11. Leandro says:

    Is Descent 2nd Edition better than Mansions of Madness? What about Fury of Dracula (speaking of 1 player vs many types of games)? Are they comparable games?

    And is it comparable in any way to Arkham Horror? I like the mix of tactics with storytelling and I’m currently in love with Arkham Horror, so a tactical fantasy version of it would be tempting…

    • BennyGee says:

      Descent’s a little different to Mansions of Madness (Descent is more competitive between GM and players) and personally I prefer the balance in Descent. Arkham Horror has far, far more storytelling.

  12. noom says:

    After months of reading this column, Descent 2nd Edition is the game that I’ve finally re-entered the world of board-gaming with. Well, the world of board-game-buying at least. Managed to rope 4 friends in to coming round for a game on Tuesday. Have read the rule book twice and played a dummy-game on my own to make sure I’ve got it all memorized. Really looking forward to playing, and praying I can convince everyone to get a regular session going for the campaign mode.

  13. vanosofmanos says:

    I love, and I mean *love*, Warhammer Quest, but it’s combat either went one of two ways: you’d mow down a small army in a turn, or get stuck standing there whomping on something for what would seem like ages. The huge variety of characters was fantastic, but then you’d get in a situation where someone would be playing the Bretonnian Knight and you’d get to see the very definition of broken game mechanics in action. Trips back to town were sometimes the scariest part of the game: it was either a completely uneventful trip, or you’d wind up back in town broke and beaten… if you made it back at all. It’s also still the only game that our group was completely terrified of going up a level in because every time we did so, our gruesome deaths were that much more imminent.

    The game was chaos incarnate, and almost definitely a mixed bag, but I would sacrifice a puppy to Khorne to get my paws on a reprint.

    • vanosofmanos says:

      Oh, while I’m thinking about it: the question of which dungeon crawl game is bestest is kind of tough. It’s probably my favorite style of board game, but I’ve always had a hard time picking a favorite as it seems each one tries to accomplish something different. I really love playing Super Dungeon Explore, but it feels like less of a dungeon crawl game, and more like Smash TV to me. The D&D Adventure games do some nice things ( I really love how it’s completely GM-less and how it handles monsters ) but is really simple. I do kind of think that each evolution improves on it, and somewhere in combining them you could have a really solid game. Descent, Warhammer Quest, HeroQuest, Dragon Quest and Dungeoneer are all fun and it really depends on what kind of gaming experience I want to have when I pick one to play.

      The one big drawback to many of them, especially Descent 1st Ed and Warhammer Quest, is that the games can take so long that I always feel I should have just played regular old D&D instead, and that kills their replay factor for me. If, in the middle of a board game, I’m thinking, “Hey, we could be halfway through White Plume Mountain by now”, that’s a board game I’m much less likely to play again.

    • BigJonno says:

      You know what I really loved about Warhammer Quest? The character packs. They neatly addressed the issue of an entire gaming group only needing one copy of a game by being self-contained, player-oriented expansions. I never owned a copy of the game, I always played in store or at a friend’s house, but GW got money out of me because of those little boxes.

      • nli10 says:

        Agree entirely. Still have all of mine with the hand written notes by the players in the character boxes. The modular style of getting the figure and its rules was genius. Many of my friends had their own character boxes and custom paint jobs so t was a very personal experience. Don’t remember much about it except that I loved my Witch-Hunter. Might go and look through the boxes.

      • vanosofmanos says:

        Those character packs were a great idea, and yet another reason I miss GW’s old “second line” games. That had all these neat ways to get players to get in to the game without having to buy a copy of the main box that were actually pretty affordable. I had friends get in to many of them because of that.

        I played with a bunch of the character packs, the Pit Fighter and Bretonnian Knight probably being my favorites. I never did get to play with the Witch Hunter or Chaos Champion, though, more’s the pity.

      • Nick says:

        I lost the booklet for my Imperial noble =(

  14. Jorum says:

    Nearly bought warhammer quest on ebay recently but price went through roof.
    I have fond memories of advanced heroquest but haven’t played since teens so not sure if it stands up to time. My parents appear to have dumped mine at some point tragically.

  15. Noseybonk says:

    Claustrophobia ffs

  16. chouzar says:

    What elements do you think a “Dungeon Crawl” game should have?

  17. Easy says:

    I Like ‘Stay Dicey’, it should stay Rab.

    I played Super Dungeon Explore once and it really didn’t stick. I can’t even quite remember why. I just remember not having a lot of fun playing. But one should not judge a game after the first playthrough, I know.

    • Groove says:

      I’d also like to vote YES on Stay Dicey. It’s the best/worst.

  18. MythArcana says:

    Why is it that only Vic Davis of Cryptic Comic can seem to take that board game feeling and translate it successfully to PC games? I would love to check out this game, but I have nobody around that is my age who would consider buying it. Maybe Vic will come up with something this massive in time. :)

  19. Groove says:

    On the matter of Warhammer Quest, I’d like to suggest that no games should make the list if people can’t actually obtain them.

    I think the cut-off should be that if a game is out of print and we aren’t expecting a reprint and if, as a result, the game is hard to find and has inflated prices then it should be excluded. My thought is that if a border-line game made the list then a bad situation would be made worse by people buying the last few reasonably priced copies and the game would need to be removed from the list again.

    Or that’s just me. As someone newer to boardgaming I put a premium on ever being able to play the game ever.

  20. wodin says:

    One day if my master plan comes together you could be getting tabletop wargame experience on the PC, oh and on tablets aswell. Three series, superb themes,universe. All the best bits from tabletop games but using PC power to enhance them where they can be enhanced.

  21. jalf says:

    … summon a giant sea serpent

    Did anyone say Summon Bigger Fish?

  22. ToadChild says:

    Super Dungeon Explore gets ranked as “superb”? That game has terrible balance. I’ve tried playing it several times and it invariable ends in an absolutely crushing steamroller of a victory for the consul. I usually don’t even get to use the dragon.

  23. pruchel says:

    Just a tip. If you don’t have 1e and want to buy the conversion kit for more monsters you can find a lot of cheap proxies on this kickstarter: http://kck.st/SQRe2M
    Not to mention it’s a friggin’ amazing value for miniatures no matter what you decide to do with them.

  24. Premium User Badge

    X_kot says:

    Great article as always, Rab – you’ve nearly convinced me to try this genre. I wish I could help recommend other titles for this slot in the Some Games list, but sadly my last dungeon-themed game was one I played as a young lad wherein the players were mice adventurers in a tomb with randomly placed invisible walls. I wish I could remember the name of it…there was some sort of electronic daddle that would beep. There were also hints of racism and misogyny in how the Asian and female mouse characters were described, IIRC, though I doubt I noticed that as a boy.

  25. Ergonomic Cat says:

    No love for Mage Knight as the dungeon crawl game? Granted, it’s mostly on the surface, not in a dungeon, but it’s the same general idea….

  26. siberianhusky says:

    Space Hulk, anyone?
    It’s space, marines and such. but it’s still dungeon crawler, and great one!