I started this thread, because of the numerous threads that state that Descent is not balanced.
I think the term "balance" is something that doesn not exist in games.
Balance/Imbalance doesn't exist, it's just another tool for the whiners to whine while drinking wine.
I like your final word!
I started this thread, because there have been so many debates about the game's balance - with greatly diverging opinions.
A lot of house rules are crafted with the idea of making things more "balanced".
But I do think, as you do, that most of the criticisms are more about "whining" than about sound analysis.
Now, even if luck is involved in a game, one can still evaluate if a given single scenario (here: encounter, quest) is balanced in favour of one or the other side.
In the case of Castle Daerion, some players found the trick to make the heroes fairly unable to win, thus leading FFG to write an erratum about Militia entering later in the game.
First Blood clearly favours the heroes.
Statistical analysis can be usefull, too.
At that level, I see gamers of many other games offer interesting and serious evaluations.
But, for Descent, there is a quite recurrent urge for some players to venture a global judgement about the game's balance.
IMO, as already expressed, I do think that it is impossible to conclude about Descent's (un)balance as a whole, because there are far too many variables to take into account.
Each quest is different, and monsters and hero group composition can vary for the same quest, making things quite different from one playing to another.
Some "unbeatable" combinations can suddenly be outwitted by smarter players.
We could go a step further than just saying that some people state that Descent is unbalanced because they are "whiners".
We could ask oureselves what they are awaiting from the game.
Are they overly obsessed by winning - at a point that they cannot have fun during the game, if they end by loosing it?
Are they unable to integrate the luck factor - at a point that they will blame the game to be less balanced than chess (and even chess is said to be slightly balanced in favour of the white player)?
Are they simply oblivious of the human factor (that makes some players better tacticians than others)? I am quite convinced that group dynamics have a lot to do with the way the game develops.
I have been playing many boardgames, and am present on many forums, but it seems that the obsession of global balance is something quite specific to Descent.
I am an ASL player (it is a very detailed WW2 tactical wargame), but I don't seem to ever have seen ASLers say that the game as a whole is unbalanced. There are debates about a given nationality's values, about specific scenarios being "three legged dogs", etc.
But never the global dismissal of a game as I have seen about Descent about a supposed global unbalance.
I am still scratching my head in perplexity about that phenomenon.