Tabletop Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark
The Second Edition box artDescent: Journeys in the Dark
is a Dungeon Crawling
board game that pits a team of heroes, each played by a single player, against the Overlord—a player who controls all the monsters and traps on the map. It consists of multiple "scenarios" that define the battle map (built together from differently shaped tiles), the monsters, and the session goals for the heroes and the Overlord
. The game features enough RPG Elements
to play as a sort of "Tabletop RPG
Lite" and, in this, is often viewed as a Spiritual Successor
Originally published by Fantasy Flight Games
in 2005, Descent
received a number of Expansion Packs
that added new scenarios, heroes, and monsters. The 2009 expansion, The Sea of Blood
, also introduced the rules for campaign play where players carry over the treasures and XP from scenario to scenario, bringing the experience even closer to a Tabletop RPG
. The second edition, released in 2012, revamped the entire game with campaign mode as a core feature in mind, and has since phased out the first edition completely and received a number of expansions of its own.
The rule book for the Second Edition and its expansions can be found at the publisher's website
The game contains examples of following tropes:
- Action Initiative: Averted. The players decide in which order to act on their turn, while the Overlord decides when to activate each monster group on his, with a twist that once a hero or a monster group starts to act, they must carry out all of their actions for the turn.
- Armor-Piercing Attack: Some weapons and magical attacks have the special property "Pierce", which allows them to ignore some of the defenses the target has rolled.
- The Beastmaster: The Necromancer class has the ability to summon an undead minion to fight for them and many of its abilities revolve around buffing the minion.
- Character Class System: Each available hero has one of four archetypes (Warrior, Mage, Scout, and Healer) that determines which classes he or she can belong to (two per archetype in the base Second Edition, more with expansions), which, in turn, determines their abilities and starting gear.
- Combat Medic: The Healer archetype, although its Disciple sub-class is more suited for dishing out pain than the Spiritspeaker, who is more of a Support Party Member focusing on Status Buffs.
- Competitive Balance: Each available hero has stats and unique abilities that make them useful in certain situations and weak in others.
- Covers Always Lie/Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game: The Second Edition box art depicts three heroes, none of whom is actually in the base game or any of the expansions. The guy with the mace resembles Avric, the elven sword lady looks like Syndrael, but the bestubbled archer has no obvious counterparts at all.
- Critical Failure: Rolling an X on the blue attack die means you fail to deal any damage to the enemy, regardless of how well you may have rolled with the other dice.
- Damage Reduction: Armor/defense works by reducing the amount of damage taken from an attack by the result of a defense dice roll.
- Damager, Healer, Tank: Encoded in the hero archetypes: Warriors are Tanks with the best defenses and most hit points, Mages and Scouts are Damagers (Mages specialize in Area of Effect attacks, while Scouts lay directed damage), and Healers are just that. That said, Warriors and Healers can also dish out some pain, they're just not as geared towards it as the other two.
- Diagonal Speed Boost: Moving diagonally is always counted as a single move.
- Dungeon Crawling: The hero players move their minis about the map, killing monsters, looting treasure, and hopefully stopping the Overlord's plans.
- Dynamic Difficulty: The number of heroes on the map determines the sizes of monster groups and the Lieutenants' stats.
- Elite Mook: Each monster comes in two different varieties: the basic "minion monsters" and the more powerful "master monster", of which only one can be present on the map at any time. Some abilities that affect minions are flat-out ignored by master monsters, and the latter's presence may even boost the former's combat effectiveness.
- Everyone Has A Special Move: Each hero has a unique special ability usable at any time and a Heroic Feat that can be used once per encounter.
- Expansion Pack: Just for the first edition: The Well of Darkness (2006), The Altar of Despair (2007), The Road to Legend (2008), The Tomb of Ice (2008), The Sea of Blood (2009), as well as a number of minis-only packs. The second one has had Lair of the Wyrm (2012, mini-campaign), Labyrinth of Ruin (2013, epic campaign), The Trollfens (2013, mini), Shadow of Nerekhall (2014, epic), and Manor of Ravens (2014, mini). A conversion kit for the first edition, as well as a large number of Lieutenant packs and Hero & Monster collections have also been released.
- Experience Points: In the campaign mode, both the heroes and the Overlord gain XP for completing scenarios (more so if they win) and can spend them to purchase new class abilities.
- Extra Turn: Downplayed, as the heroes (and Lieutenants) can move one square for every Stamina point they expend on top of their two regular actions per turn (which can but must not be regular move actions). Some heroes also have special abilities that let them take extra actions on their turn.
- Familiar: Some classes can summon these as companions, giving them extra powers or just serving as an extra figure on the field. The Necromancer class, for instance, gets a walking skeleton dubbed Reanimate.
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: The four heroic archetypes are this plus the Healer, while the Overlord can multi-class in Warlord, Magus, and Saboteur—also an example of this trope.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: The base Second Edition includes a male and a female hero for each of the four archetypes, and the expansions generally add equal numbers of male and female heroes to the mix. Since only four heroes can participate in a quest, however, this needs not be true of a given Player Party.
- Great Offscreen War: The Dragon Wars, mentioned in the lore, which wiped out all dragons except the Shadow ones.
- Heroes Act, Villains Hinder: In gameplay terms, the heroes always get the first turn in every scenario.
- Heroic Fantasy: It's as archetypal as it gets: A Ragtag Bunch of plucky but upstanding heroes fights off an Evil Overlord threatening The Kingdom of Terrinoth.
- Hit Points: When hit, each hero and monster receives damage markers—when their total equals or exceeds the unit's maximum hit points, it's removed from the game (permanently for monsters, temporarily for heroes).
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The Second Edition includes eight playable heroes and every expansion since added two to six more to the roster. That is not to mention the sheer number of monsters and Lieutenants...
- Loads and Loads of Rules: The base Second Edition contains a booklet detailing the rules for basic, Epic, and Campaign play, plus a quest book with over twenty quests, each with its own special rules. Then there are the event cards and the heroes' special abilities that have their own rules printed on them...
- Luck Manipulation Mechanic: In the first edition, the "Aim" and "Dodge" abilities allowed players to re-roll dice used in an attack (Aim) or to force the player attacking them to re-roll (Dodge). Hero players could set either one as an order, while the Overlord had cards that allow him to use these abilities. These mechanics were removed from the Second Edition.
- Non-Player Companion: The Allies introduced in the Labyrinth of Ruin expansion (and, thus far, only used in it) join the core party of heroes temporarily for certain quests under certain conditions and obey mechanics similar to those of the Lieutenants, except they are activated on the heroes' turn.
- Noob Cave: The quest "First Blood" is suggested by the rule book as a starting adventure for newcomers to the game. It is also the starting quest of the Shadow Rune campaign included with the Second Edition.
- Non-Lethal K.O.: If a hero unit takes too much damage, they fall to the ground and may either attempt to heal on their own turn or be revived by another player.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Overlord has a number of unique named Lieutenants who have higher stats than regular monsters and can perform special actions like the heroes.
- Plunder: By flipping over treasure markers, the heroes receive treasure cards that can be converted into gold and better equipment between sessions.
- Point Build System: Under the Epic Play and Campaign rules, the players buy additional class abilities for their heroes by spending XP.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The heroes are this, emphasis on "misfits": exiles and vagabonds of all sorts, all of them.
- Random Encounters: In campaign mode, actually getting from the Hub City to the questing location requires drawing from a deck of travel cards that can introduce complications for the heroes before the scenario proper even starts.
- Respawning Enemies: In scenarios that advise the Overlord to "maintain group size", monsters that the heroes manage to kill respawn at the start of the Overlord's turn.
- Resting Recovery: Spending one of a hero's two actions per turn to rest restores that hero's entire Stamina pool at the end of their turn.
- Retool: The second edition is not compatible with the first one and focuses on faster setup and play, as well as the campaign mode.
- RPG Elements: Especially in the campaign mode, where Experience Points, Skill Scores and Perks, and gear carry over from session to session.
- Skill Scores and Perks: The Epic and Campaign Play rules allow the players to buy new abilities (active perks) with experience points, while the "Attributes" (Might, Knowledge, Willpower, and Awareness) act as skill scores for Attribute Test rolls to activate certain abilities and to overcome obstacles.
- Spiritual Successor: To HeroQuest, thanks to their similar Dungeon Crawling mechanics.
- Squishy Wizard: Heroes of the Mage archetype tend to have the least hit points compared to the rest.
- Sliding Scale of Cooperation vs. Competition: The game is of the Team vs. Lone Wolf variety, where the heroes are supposed to cooperate closely against the single Overlord, who is usually the most experienced player.
- Story Branching: In the Shadow Rune campaign, which Act II scenarios are played is determined by whether the heroes or the Overlord won the respective prequel scenarios in Act I.
- The Quest: Each scenario is presented as a quest for the heroes to complete.
- Turn-Based Combat: A One Side, One Turn variety with action types (technically, action points, except each unit always has two "points" per turn and each action always costs one—effectively, each unit has two actions per turn) and a square grid.
- Variable Player Goals: The heroes and the Overlord usually have opposed goals in each scenario.
- Villains Act, Heroes React: In-story, each scenario begins with the heroes chasing after the Overlord's minions to stop their newest scheme.
- White Mage: The Spiritspeaker specializes in healing and buffing their allies (and debuffing enemies), but is less effective in direct combat than other classes.