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thinkbomb

Descent 2.0 - too much of a step down for newbies?

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In general I've heard Imperial Assualt referred to as "Super Descent with a star wars theme"

 

If anyone's played both games = I'm curious if the system is too much of a step backwards for players who are used to Imperial Assault's system.  (obviously speaking for the campaign half of things)

The aesthetics appeal to me, I'm just wondering if I'd feel the need to housebake a bunch of rules due to improvements made in the IA system.

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I play both games regularly, though I play descent for campaign (exclusively app nowadays, but have played bunch of Overlord) and Imperial Assault for skirmish. I'd say it's only minor tweaks. The most important change is the activation order, but descent app has adopted the IA activation order (ie 1 hero, 1 monster group and so on instead of all heroes then all monsters).

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Generally speaking I would not want to return to Descent 2nd Edition. The main reason for this, apart from me preferring the theme, is the incredibly improved mission/quest design and Antagonist player attractiveness.

Descent 2nd Ed still had a considerable number of "Gotcha" cards available for the Overlord player that tended to make things less fun for the players.
Also in Descent the vast majority of individual quests seemed to be "race" type things that got stale for us over time. All too often it felt like actually attacking something was usually a bad choice, whereas IA forces you to balance combat vs movement in nearly all missions. Particularly later campaigns and missions got a lot better at bringing thematic tweaks into play that I was missing in Descent.


In terms of straight up rules differences I would say that IA is a considerable improvement and refinement. Particularly the LoS and big figure movements stuck in my mind as things that I vastly prefer. 

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9 minutes ago, chrisdk said:

Generally speaking I would not want to return to Descent 2nd Edition. The main reason for this, apart from me preferring the theme, is the incredibly improved mission/quest design and Antagonist player attractiveness.

Descent 2nd Ed still had a considerable number of "Gotcha" cards available for the Overlord player that tended to make things less fun for the players.
Also in Descent the vast majority of individual quests seemed to be "race" type things that got stale for us over time. All too often it felt like actually attacking something was usually a bad choice, whereas IA forces you to balance combat vs movement in nearly all missions. Particularly later campaigns and missions got a lot better at bringing thematic tweaks into play that I was missing in Descent.


In terms of straight up rules differences I would say that IA is a considerable improvement and refinement. Particularly the LoS and big figure movements stuck in my mind as things that I vastly prefer. 

Thanks!

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Strongly agree with @chrisdk. IA missions are vastly better than Descent quests (the ones our group played before giving up, anyway) and there a whole bunch of other improvements in IA that make it much the better game IMO, not least of which is that Descent encourages the Overlord player to use tactics that just aren't much fun for the heroes (block corridors, pick on the weakest player to keep knocking them down, etc.). I wanted to like Descent but I just couldn't. IA was too much better.

With that said, it's horses for courses and plenty of people on here will say the opposite. If you can borrow a set to play a game or two you'll very quickly figure out whether it's worth taking the plunge on buying it for yourself.

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Again, thanks for all the feedback.  Here's a couple follow-up questions ...

for context: our group is no stranger to modding games for refined balance.  In imperial assault we've rebalanced the entire Agenda-deck system for a more rewarding play experience for both sides (I really do need to make a document and post that, it's kind of a 2nd customized/randomized class now).

With that said, here's the questions (and this is just me asking since I don't have anyone to borrow the game from) ...

- How prevalent are toxic-cards in the overlord side of things? (for context IA's subversive tactics is the king of toxic)

- Would it be feasible to convert the threat system from IA into Descent?  That's one of the biggest reasons I enjoy playing as the villain in IA - the sense of control and ownership involved with deciding when you deploy troops and which ones to kick out (it also has allowed us to story-bake in our own sub-plots).  //  looking at the cards it's ... maybe possible though a heckuva lot of work.  But I haven't seen a campaign log so I don't know if it'd work there.

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Posted (edited)

I own almost everything (minus a few lieutenants) for Descent, and I am struggling to think of any very unfun overlord cards. Perhaps Web Trap, but that can be mitigated with the right skills (and I wouldn’t call it overpowered)

Essay incoming!

A bit on reinforcements: Descent’s first campaign (released in 2012 with the core set) is very poorly balanced. It is often a bland race to the objective, and the reinforcement rules were imbalanced at best.

Each quest has a section of rules describing the reinforcements the overlord receives.

This will read something like “At the start of the overlord turn, he may place one goblin archer on the Exit, respecting group limits.”

The original campaign for Descent frequent said “...he may place one monster from the open group on tile xyz”.

What this did was favor large monsters, such as Shadow Dragons.

If the overlord were allowed to choose between Zombies (a 5 figure monster group with very weak individual figures) and Shadow Dragons ( a 2 figure monster group with very tough, fast figures) it made much more sense to choose Shadow Dragons as the overlord’s open group(s) in a quest.

This combined with an extremely linear map design made it very easy for the overlord to simply block the heroes, since no figures can move through enemy figures in Descent, barring certain abilities.

The later campaigns used a different approach to reinforcements: they generally did not allow reinforcements of open groups and they took the monster strength into consideration to some degree (say, allowing two of a weaker figure instead of one).

Beginning In 2014-15, FFG also replaced the original campaign with a new one, Heirs Of Blood. This is an excellent campaign that is generally considered to be very well balanced in the Descent community, and is certainly head and shoulders above the original campaign.

I don’t know if the other posters have played the original campaign (The Shadow Rune) or the new (Heirs Of Blood)

I do think IA has improved on Descent. I actually use IA’s LOS rules instead of Descent’s.

I’m neutral on alternate activations. They are fine in the cooperative app, but Descent’s competitive mode was not designed with them in mind, and there are a few quests that would become nearly impossible for either side with alternate activations.

Editing to add a TL;DR: The original Shadow Rune campaign for Descent exacerbates every weakness Descent has. Later campaigns are much much better, and the original campaign was replaced a few years back.

Descent is still a **** good game though.

Edited by Lightningclaw

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11 hours ago, thinkbomb said:

- Would it be feasible to convert the threat system from IA into Descent?  That's one of the biggest reasons I enjoy playing as the villain in IA - the sense of control and ownership involved with deciding when you deploy troops and which ones to kick out (it also has allowed us to story-bake in our own sub-plots).  //  looking at the cards it's ... maybe possible though a heckuva lot of work.  But I haven't seen a campaign log so I don't know if it'd work there.

"Heckuva lot of work", for sure. There is no equivalent of threat in Descent at all, so you'd be not only coming up with threat values for literally every monster in the game (or at least all the ones in the expansions you own... anyway, the scope is significant) but you'd be figuring out how to fit that into the Descent system and each Quest. Getting the balance right would be an enormous undertaking, tantamount to building a new game.

I wouldn't be surprised to find someone on the Descent forum might already have had a go at it, though, because it's one of the three most obvious things that would improve Descent (along with IA's system for Wounding heroes to stop weak-hero whack-a-mole, and moving through enemies to stop the corridor blocking nonsense). It would also enable Descent Skirmish mode, which would be awesome cool! But fitting it into the game would be a huge amount of work. Then again, our group gave up on Descent because we found it so unsatisfying compared to IA. Is it worth that effort, if the worst that can happen is it's still unsatisfying (but in a different way) and the best that can happen is it becomes a better game? Maybe!

7 hours ago, Lightningclaw said:

The later campaigns used a different approach to reinforcements: they generally did not allow reinforcements of open groups and they took the monster strength into consideration to some degree (say, allowing two of a weaker figure instead of one).

Didn't know this. How did it decide "monster strength" on this basis, without threat or figure cost? The Zombie / Shadow Dragon problem you mention is one we came across for sure. (I think one Shadow Dragon is worth at least five Zombies, and you get two of them in the group).

7 hours ago, Lightningclaw said:

Beginning In 2014-15, FFG also replaced the original campaign with a new one, Heirs Of Blood. This is an excellent campaign that is generally considered to be very well balanced in the Descent community, and is certainly head and shoulders above the original campaign.

I don’t know if the other posters have played the original campaign (The Shadow Rune) or the new (Heirs Of Blood)

Editing to add a TL;DR: The original Shadow Rune campaign for Descent exacerbates every weakness Descent has. Later campaigns are much much better, and the original campaign was replaced a few years back.

Didn't know this. I assumed Heirs of Blood was just an expansion for those who've played so much Descent they're hungry for new content (which FFG seems to assume is everyone - I'm looking at the number of heroes in the game and thinking, how many campaigns would you have to play to use even half of these guys!?). I didn't realise it was a full-on replacement for the original campaign. Might see if I can pick it up and we might give it another go, though many of the problems we had with it were systemic (while we also had problems with some of the Quests). I've got just over half the expansions, and the models are super-cool, so I really want Descent to be a game that we play. It just didn't live up to expectations when we played it.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah. I got Descent when Heirs of Blood already replaced Shadow Rune in the main box. I played HoB campaign and loved it. 

Then, our group get the Shadow Rune campaign from our friend. This campaign was almost unplayable for us! So many boring missions, so poor design. Do not judge the whole Descent on the basis of Shadow Rune

 

In case of Descent, there is A LOT of differences between campaigns. In some campaigns, for example, in most missions Overlord (evil guy) has to defeat (rough equivalent of "woundind") every hero in the game once (either as the only winning method, or as one of two alternative winning methods), so it becomes similar to IA approach.

Edited by Jarema

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I decided to start the project - Descent: Nerf Herder Edition

 

Here's the in-progress google docs
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1k-yRGgEaacVugeCIaxF_DmllbP5w2l-Z?usp=sharing

And a discord channel
https://discord.gg/fw6ssGH


To answer a couple questions ...
"Why not play Descent as is?"  =  gameplay design is something that can ruin a game for me (I really don't like Blood Rage due to imbalance, unlike everyone else in board gaming community).  Also, I find this level of deep tinkering fun.
"Why not just play IA?" = Descent has a ton of potential, there's a lot of systems in there I like, and those minis are freakin' awesome.

I'm just aware that changing small things at the foundation will have huge ripples in the rest ... hence a full project.

 

Hopefully see some of you in there.

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Descent 2.0 was an improvement on the original in many ways, but there were two ways it fell short: both threat and hero death were removed. This caused a few issues such as shadow Dragon reinforcements and so many quests being races (due to no hero death OL win condition).

both of these features were added back in to IA which was the major improvement over descent 2.0 

early descent campaigns have these problems, later campaigns tried to mitigate these issues. I'd recommend the later stuff to someone who is moving from IA to descent.

the best experience for an imperial/overlord player is descent 1st edition road to legend. That campaign had an overland map, the overload player could move his lieutenants around the map hunting the hero's and burning villages while the hero's were trying to find the overlords lair.

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Having played through 3 campaigns with IA, I joined a Descent campaign.

It feels so weighted in favour of the Overlord.

If your Overlord wants to, he can simply knock one of you down, then corpse-stalk so as soon as you get the player back up, he heals a small amount of health, then the Overlord knocks him back down again.  We had 2 missions where our Overlord took great delight in this.

You want to bring more heroes?  The Overlord gets more powerful, and gets more monsters.  (In IA the few heroes you bring the more health they have.)

Having the "miss" result on every attack just seems stupid.  So glad that on IA it is on one of the defence dice instead.

Basically, we have just reached the halfway stage, and it felt like there was no point in turning up because we were almost guaranteed to lose, simply because our Overlord had read through the rules and knew what monsters to bring, and how to constantly hit us with traps when we'd declare our heroic feat etc. causing it to fail as we were now stunned.  We only carried on because we're at the halfway point and (having only won 1 mission previously) had just about managed to get enough gear between us that we felt that we could damage something without it fully healing up.

In IA, the Imperial player might be the only person aware of the mission triggers, but the heroes always stand a chance, if they work together and don't forget most missions have a time limit.

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I've never really thought of this before, but I think part of what makes players prefer the "miss" on some defense instead of every attack is that it doesn't cripple the heroes as badly.  

 

Hero action economy is so much more precious than the Overlord/Empire, at least in terms of enjoyment. If a hero misses an attack, that burns 1/2 of what that player does an entire round. If an enemy misses one, well the Overlord still can do a lot of other fun stuff usually.

 

So, considering that probably the majority of units an Imperial would field use the black die instead of white, the heroes tend to waste less actions in IA than Descent (where it happens on every single attack).

 

Anyway...

Descent has a lot of really cool stuff going for it- I love the travel mechanic, the store is interesting, great monsters and heroes, the multi-tiered missions, etc.

But the gameplay is just... boring to me.  The fact that each encounter contains no hidden information just seems wrong, and even if you try to play with hidden info like I did (I still often lost) the objectives/triggers just aren't interesting to make it worthwhile.

 

Glad that Descent minis and tiles work well for D&D, because that's probably the only way I'll use them now (and they'll indeed get a lot of use).

 

Though I might break into the app.  That looks like a significant improvement over the boring book campaigns.

 

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