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Where Is the Challenge?


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#1 Rince

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 03:36 AM

Back in the day, when the second edition of Descent came out, my friends and I were eager to dig into it. We were hungry for a good dungeon crawling experience. Unfortunately, it didn't take long to completely lose interest in the game. Our main problem was the difficulty, or rather, the lack of it.

 

While Descent certainly looked gorgeous, and the rules were okay, we found that the game did not offer any challenge for the heroes. It was nearly impossible to "die" and even if somehow we managed to do it, it carried no remifications. On top of that, it took us very little time and effort to acquire so powerful equipment and upgrades that no matter what the DM threw at us, we could easily deal with it. As a result, the game required next to no strategic planning on our part because the decisions we made had no real weight. We were just running through the scenarios one after the other without feeling a sense of accomplishment! All this caused us to feel like we were just going with the flow, eventually getting bored with the game and stop playing it alltogether about half way through the campaign.

 

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when FFG announced Imperial Assault. I'll be honest, when I saw the announcement, I had mixed feelings. Although I love the classic Star Wars setting and the story-driven campaign, I could not help but remember how disappointed I was in Descent. And this game looks almost exactly the same only with a Star Wars skin. Then I watched the 40-minute long tutorial video Team Covenant posted on YouTube, and it did not help to alleviate my fears. I found the same "problems" in Imperial Assault that I did in Descent, namely the complete lack of challenge.

 

The guys in the video were supposedly half-way through the campaign, yet had no difficulty whatsoever dealing with the swarm of imperials shooting at them. When one guy almost got killed, he just took a turn of "rest" and regained almost all of his health. I find this ridiculous. It not only goes against reality (not even in Star Wars can Han Solo sit down for a few seconds and stand up fully healed) but also kills all the challenge and strategy this game may have.

 

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that Imperial Assault should have permanent death and other "extreme" difficulties, but I think the designers should do a better job of finding that sweet spot where the game is still fun for the casual player yet offers enough challenge and strategy so that the more experienced ones can find enjoyment in it as well. So far, I have not seen this in Imperial Assault. But the game is still in a beta stage; so, it is the perfect time to strike up a conversation. Am I onto something or completely off base? What do you guys think?

 

The game is gorgeous and has so much potential, I really wish it was a bit more than just a simple Descent re-theme.

 


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#2 Shawnacy

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 01:11 PM

Did you feel that Descent 1st edition was more challenging? That's the only one I have any experience with and it did definitely feel like the DM had some decent opportunities to take out players. I would often target one PC at a time in the hopes of widdling them down. Now, it's been a long while since I played, and we played very few times, so my opinion is probably skewed in those regards.

Playtesting, typically, has a habit of finding a healthy balance of a game before it is released, so it's likely that the game is not intended to be super difficult, otherwise it would risk the players from being able to get anywhere into the story driven campaign aspect.

Again I'm not disagreeing that you thought the game isn't difficult for you. There just may be other factors at play here.

A lot of it might also come down to the players as well. Any group game can be easy with players who have a good handle on strategy and coordination. Do you feel that your group is like that?

I know that the DM is partiallly based on the luck of the deck, and that may have also played a part.

Any thoughts on those?



#3 Rince

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 01:40 PM

A lot of people on BGG suggested that my experiences might have something to do with our overlord. More precisely, him playing more like a DM in a traditional RPG and less as an adversary (as the overlord was intended in Descent). In retrospect, this may have some validity, but I still maintain that Descent 2.0 (unfortunately I have no experience with the first one) was a bit on the easy side. I just hope Imperial Assault will not be the same. Someone on BGG also suggested an adjustable difficulty setting, which I think is a good idea. It would be great, for instance, to include optional rules for more experienced players that could make the game a bit more difficult. Of course, we can always just make house rules... :)



#4 maxam

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 06:08 PM

In one of the Demo videos on BGG, it is mentioned by one of the FFG crew that the PCs in the scenario would normally be more experienced/levelled up... hopefully that also means they turned down the difficulty on the imperial side to match(!)

My biggest issue with Descent (both flavours) is that it [i]never[\i] felt like a dungeon crawler - it had all the appearance of being one, but in the end, each map boiled down to a tactical puzzle that needed to be solved, particularly in the second one where everything was open and revealed from the get go there was none of the feeling of suspense, exploration, and looting that you would expect in a dungeon crawler.

Each level was a mission where the participants were all thoroughly briefed and able to strategise based on a meta level to 'crack' it.

If you replaced the monsters in descent with Nazis and the PCs with a crack troop of WWII veteran soldiers, it would've made more sense, heck you could even replace the monsters with Imperials from Star Wars and the PCs with Rebel heroes, and ... oh yeah...

I also found that it seemed easy for the players, once they 'grokked' the way the system worked ... HOWEVER ... this may work in favour of IA, if the game is fun enough for everyone to enjoy watching the rebels fight the Imperials in spite of overwhelming odds ... It's certainly more 'Star Wars'

In the scenario played in the demo, if the Rebels are all "wounded" then the next scenario is an escape from prison mission. "Wounded" in this case means being reduced to 0hp and having to "flip" your card over. None of the rebels ever die per se, they may be taken out of a given scenario, but they come back in the next one...

#5 cogollo

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 05:10 AM

A game so complex as Descent (and this one will be) will always be difficult to balance, specially because it'll depend also on the players and not just on the publisher.

 

I have played Descent more than any other game (specially the 1st edition). In the first campaign I finished with the 2nd edition, I played the Overlord and kicked the Heroes' bottoms in all scenarios except one. My players were complaining about how difficult and hopeless it was for them, but I saw opportunities for them in every game (not that I pointed it to them, of course :ph34r: )...

 

My experience as Overlord is that you have to play this game as a competitive boardgame. You have to study a bit the scenario before playing and specially the weaknesses of the Heroes and abuse any weakness they show you to the limit, as otherwise the game will be too easy for them.

 

Also, one has to keep in mind that the campaign is created so that both sides will reach the climactic battle with a possibility to win...

 

An advice I would give you is to rotate the Overlord player, so that you all get to experience with it and maybe find a balance if one of your group is really good at it (you need to think out of the box sometimes in order to win as Overlord).

 

And, as a last resort, you may always add some house rules to help a bit the losing side


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#6 yagyu

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 05:15 PM

Were playing descent now and the overlord player also acts like a GM instead of a overlord, he will leave monster groups unactivated for no reason or just not plan any strategy and simply react to whoever is closest. Hes a nice guy but yes, the challenge of the game suffers because of this. Hopefully things wll be balanced in Imperial Assault as I will most likely be playing the empire.


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#7 MR Suplex

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 10:31 PM

In my experience and the hundreds of posts I've read about the game, Descent 2nd Edition is very balanced.  I've seen many people complain about the Overlord being too powerful, and just as many saying the exact opposite.  That to me means its probably right in the middle, and my own experience playing 2 separate campaigns validates this.  Our first campaign in particular was an absolute brawl, with a roughly even win rate throughout.  The Finale came down to no heroes but the dwarf berzerker surviving (with less than 4 health).

 

You can't blame Descent's rules if your Overlords are playing like sissies. 



#8 aniedrig

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 01:20 AM

In my experience and the hundreds of posts I've read about the game, Descent 2nd Edition is very balanced.  I've seen many people complain about the Overlord being too powerful, and just as many saying the exact opposite.  That to me means its probably right in the middle, and my own experience playing 2 separate campaigns validates this.  Our first campaign in particular was an absolute brawl, with a roughly even win rate throughout.  The Finale came down to no heroes but the dwarf berzerker surviving (with less than 4 health).

 

You can't blame Descent's rules if your Overlords are playing like sissies. 

 

agreed :) in my gaming group I mostly play the OL and basically crush the Heroes every single time. It is actually so frustrating for them, that I don't get to play the OL anymore. So merely based on what I have seen thus far I would have to say that the OL seems too powerful, but since many claim the opposite, I still believe the game is balanced. I personally have not seen a quest in which the Heroes dominated yet, but I quess that is a problem with our group, not with the game.

 

So, I think that they will be able to balance Imperial Assault just as well.



#9 sangeet

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 09:09 AM

I think a lot of tension is put out of the game because of the unkillable hero's, i would prefer a thread token pool  as done in Descent 1E, where the heros have a limited respwan, and can get more respwan when they complete objectives.

 

In 2E, the balance depends on which scenario is played, meaning that there are easier /harder ones, but the initial mechanic of the players power creep is no way balanced. I find it especially frustrating that the players get 4 XP when a scenario is finished, and the overlord just 1 XP, this mechanic allows the players to get 4 special ability’s after the first scenario, and the Overlord may buy one card which he mostly would exchange vs a weaker card in play.

 

There is a secondary overlord card set, which i tried to use, but it just had not so many essential cards which enable double move, or double attack for the monsters, that it was not worthwhile to use.



#10 spectre113

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 07:27 PM

Descent 2E plays a lot like a tactical miniatures game. I've heard arguments on both sides of the board for the opposition being overpowered, and it encourages me because it demonstrates that the game IS balanced to a degree if both sides whine. It never felt like D&D because it was never MEANT to feel like D&D. There is an evil overlord attempting to spread doom on the people and only a group of heroes stands between him and victory. It's effectively a war fought between an evil mastermind and some plucky heroes. That's why we have a wargame feel to it.

 

Now, when we extrapolate this to SW:IA, we see something similar going on. The evil empire is attempting to do evil things to the galaxy and only a group of rebels in the right place at the right time has any hope of stopping them. It's not a dungeon delve like Diablo or D&D, it's a wargame.


~Spectre113

 

"Wise you must be to know what is impossible before you have tried." - Belgarath from The Belgariad by David Eddings


#11 Otakuon

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 03:37 PM

I dunno...many of the issues with any game like Descent is that the players, either those playing the heroes or the one playing the overload have different skill levels with respect to the roles they are playing.  This is why the rules point out that the most experienced player should play the Overload.  Personally, i find at times that I have to tone down what I do as Overloard in order to give the heroes a fair shot.  And those times when the Heroes are doing well, it's because they have exploited a flaw in my strategy or some unlucky dice rolling on my part (or really great ones on theirs).  The problem of power-creep due to item/skill accumulation is something to be aware of.  Typically, this is mitigated by the Overload acquiring more powerful cards and/or using lieutenants.  I have found that once you have all the expansions and add-on material, Descent 2 because a rather exceptional and well rounded game.

 

I expect Imperial Assault will likewise be the same once a few of the expansions have been released along with additional Ally/Villain packs.

 

To be honest, as the opposing player in a dungeon crawler, I feel that it is not my job to punish the hero players, but to give them a fun and exciting adventure (so yeah, much like a GM...but where I also play to win). 


Edited by Otakuon, 29 August 2014 - 03:39 PM.


#12 spectre113

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 08:14 PM

It was truly said that Descent requires a certain kind of group to play it. When, as the Overlord, I would tear apart the players, they would have intense post-game discussions. The next time, they would be fighting more coherently and countering my moves more efficiently. At first I felt bad for pulverizing them, but after a few games, I was barely hanging on by my fingernails, strategizing heavily against their tactics.

 

I'm going to expect that SW:IA will be similar. A knowledgable Imperial player grinds the Rebels into dust a couple times before they understand the game and their characters and start fighting back. 


~Spectre113

 

"Wise you must be to know what is impossible before you have tried." - Belgarath from The Belgariad by David Eddings





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