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Cardboard Children: Further Descent

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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.)

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Robert Florence

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