GTM #144 - Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition

Last year at Gen Con 2011, Fantasy Flight Games announced Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition, the updated version of its classic dungeon-delving board game. This all-new presentation of the popular title maintains the core experience fans enjoy: an epic semi-cooperative adventure in which brave heroes venture into dangerous caves, ancient ruins, dark dungeons, and cursed forests to battle monsters, earn riches, and attempt to stop the evil overlord from carrying out his vile plot.

However, many loyal Descent fans may be wondering exactly how Second Edition differs from its predecessor. While it’s difficult to succinctly list the differences between the first and second editions of Descent (since so many of the enhancements are subtle), here are just a few highlights:

• Players can enjoy single-session scenarios, or they can experience the included campaign rules with its branching story arcs.
• A new character advancement system offers more control than ever before. Whether hero or overlord, players can choose a character subclass and spend experience on unique abilities.
Second Edition’s eight heroes and nine monster types are all totally new, promising a Descent experience like none before. Of course, players wishing to transfer their existing figures to Second Edition have only to pick up the convenient Conversion Kit!

~ Accessible rules, engaging stories ~

Newcomers, however, will appreciate Second Edition’s emphasis on accessibility. In fact, one of the chief goals in the development of Second Edition was to create a game that anyone could jump into with little preparation or explanation. In short, you needn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the rules, or even reference the rules very often, to fully enjoy the Second Edition experience.

How is this achieved? In part, the answer is as simple as the presentation of certain helpful bits of information. In the first edition, for example, each hero player would flip a token upon the completion of his actions, to indicate that his turn was over for the round. In Second Edition, these tokens have been replaced by cards, and these cards list the heroes’ turn procedure on one side and the overlord’s on the other. Likewise, conditions (like poisoned or stunned) are handled with cards as well as tokens, and the cards display everything a player needs to know at a glance. Such enhancements may seem simple, but these are just a few examples that add up to Second Edition’s emphasis on ease of play.

But if “accessibility” was one keyword that informed the design process of Second Edition, another was “narrative.” Each of Second Edition’s twenty included quests (most of which are divided into two encounters) tells a deep and engaging story. What’s more, if players wish, they can even link several of the quests together to experience the included campaign, "The Shadow Rune." This emphasis on narrative, coupled with the campaign’s many possible plot branches, creates the feeling of a living, breathing Terrinoth. Meanwhile, the new class and experience systems give players (whether controlling heroes or the overlord) the sense that their characters are reacting, learning, and growing.

~ In a class of their own ~

To more deeply illustrate Second Edition’s new character advancement system, let’s take a look at the Warrior archetype and its two available classes, Berserker and Knight. Every Second Edition-compatible hero falls under one of four archetypes: Warrior, Healer, Mage, and Scout. Each archetype then has two classes, which further differentiate its strengths and play style. For the Warrior, this means a choice between the ferocious Berserker, who can quickly cut a swath through scores of foes, or the leadership and defense-oriented Knight, with his ability to inspire and protect his fellows.
The Berserker’s Whirlwind ability, which can be purchased with enough accumulated experience points, lets him single-handedly take on a horde of surrounding enemies. The Knight, on the other hand, is a defensive powerhouse who can make use of his shield to control pesky attackers. His Shield Bash ability is enough to partially incapacitate an enemy, giving his team a welcome opportunity to take the upper hand in battle.

But the hero players aren’t the only ones who can look forward to customizing their Descent experiences. Second Edition’s campaign mode also gives the overlord a chance to choose a class and improve his powers. One of the available overlord classes is the devious Saboteur; this master of traps is able to, at the cost of experience, add a number of sinister hidden tricks to his arsenal. Whether he’s punishing the heroes with explosive runes, locking them down with immobilizing webs, or transforming them with the feared Curse of the Monkey God, the Saboteur is sure to make the heroes cringe with every cautious step they take.

As a whole, Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition offers a deep and immersive play experience that borders on light roleplaying, all while remaining accessible enough to keep the focus where it belongs: on the quest at hand. And don’t forget! The Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition Conversion Kit includes everything you need to make your current Descent collection Second Edition-compatible. With the necessary cards for every monster and hero ever produced (including promotional heroes!), this convenient conversion kit is an indispensable tool.

Your time is near. Are you prepared to embark on a perilous campaign against evil? Gather your party and forge a new legend!