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I am writing this rant in the hopes that it will capture attention from the people at FFG/Asmodee or whatever powers prevail over Descent's future.

I can't for the life of me understand what the appeal of Gloomhaven is. Gloomhaven is lauded so heavily and become  a benchmark goal for a marketable board game.

 

Before you continue reading, I have to admit something: I've never played Gloomhaven. I read the rules, and lost interest almost immediately. I've watched tutorials as well as the game plays.  Maybe my opinion would change if I played, but I doubt it.  I can't get passed the idea in the time that I am taking to organize this massive game,  learn the rulesets,  setup and play.....I could be playing...Descent!

Descent 2E is not a perfect game, by any means. To me, Its versatility still beats the pants off Gloomhaven. You can play it coo-op or with a narrator. You can play it solo or with friends.  Its cousin SW: IA allowed you to play in skirmish mode. You can add expansions that add flare and changes to the way the game is played. You can decide whether or not to add those changes in your purchasing decisions. You can play with the core set, and keep it simple. You can play with every expansion ever made.  The rules, may not be as detailed as Gloomhaven, but they are certainly are a lot easier to understand or explain to someone who is new to the game.  Though I hear Gloomhaven storyline is quite thematic...if I was going to take the time to play a game that that much depth...I could probably play D&D.  Descent has its own lightweight theme and if people wanted to learn more about Terrinoth the world is quite developed. 

I asked people what they thought of Gloomhaven. They told me how awesome it was. I asked them if they had ever tried Descent. Many of them strangely never heard of it. Unfortunately at the time, I didn't invite them to a game, but I found this answer peculiar. 

I understand this only one person's opinion. Maybe I'm miffed because my two favorite games Descent and MoM have a very uncertain future and I want to whine?  I'm not sure if its failure in marketing or presentation, but I can't understand why GH rose to the top when Descent could definitely could continue to be published, developed and improved. It won't stop me from playing the current 2E. They can stop publishing it, that still doesn't make it a shame for future players.

I was wondering what other people thought of this? Especially those who have played both Descent and GH more extensively than me.

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Heya - enjoyed the rant :)

I play both games (long time fan of Descent 1st Ed, transitioned to Descent 2nd Ed....and big fan of Imperial Assault), but I'm also really enjoying Gloomhaven. They're different!

Obviously you know Descent well, so I'll focus more on what's different and appealing about Gloomhaven:

The card system - I think that's where the magic in the design is. The diceless combat isn't just a gimic, the card system is brilliant. The cards represent your lifeforce...so if you get into a position where you can no longer recycle any cards and you are empty, so is your energy and you collapse unconscious. Managing that ever present risk creates a real tension. And you are only allowed a limited number of cards, which you can grow slightly by levelling up but they're a really limited commodity.

Additionally, each card has a lower half and an upper half...you play two cards each turn, electing to use the lower half of one and the upper half of the other.

Every card has a basic function (attack with a strength or 2, or move 2 squares) and then their specialist options on top of that.

The most powerful cards typically can't be recycled. It's a constant trade of: do I use this card's best function now, knowing I can't get it back and am one step closer to exhasution, or do I play it safe but risk not defeating this monster?

The game mechanics do a brilliant job of creating constant tension and I found the design of that really awe-inspiring. It's brilliant.

The other thing I'd say is that Gloomhaven really does feel like an open world branching story...you end up with more story threads than you can possibly chase, and that creates the feeling that you are in a story that is genuinely responding to your choices. It's an illusion but a very engaging and wonderfully convincing one.

My first few games I was a bit so-so, but the more I've played the more it's drawn me in. It really is a wonderful, engaging experience.

Having said that, I still dearly love - and prefer - Descent (especially 1st Edition).

I think Descent captures that fun, instantly engaging, high-fantasy rollicking adventure with immediately accessible heroes and villains.

And buffing up your character to the point where you chuck two fistfuls of dice at a monster is just EPIC fun.

I love it to bits.

The storylines and narrative elements of Descent 1st Edition are hands-down the most engaging and immersive boardgame story experience for me (appreciate others will differ).

Descent 2nd Ed, sacrifices some of that for streamlined, efficient game play and accessibility (although you can get a bit of it back if you play campaign style).

In that respect, I find Descent 1st Ed the most engaging experience, and then find Gloomhaven a bit more engaging than Descent 2nd Ed, which I'd place third....but it's splitting hairs to a degree, they're all great quality games.

If you get a chance, have a go at Gloomhaven. It offers something slightly different again and the mechanics and game design are a wonder to behold.

Hope that helps. And others please feel completely free to differ...this is purely my experience, personal biases and all :)

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Yea, you cannot really say 'what's with the hype?' or 'Why would anyone play x over y?' without actually sinking some time into it. I haven't played GH yet, but will probably try the new expansion/intro that was released for $50 to see if I like the game. That's another thing, how much does $150 or $175 get you for each game? I don't really want to give a ton of money to A$modee for just the base game and 1 expansion.

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4 minutes ago, Hinge of Infinity said:

Heya - enjoyed the rant :)

I play both games (long time fan of Descent 1st Ed, transitioned to Descent 2nd Ed....and big fan of Imperial Assault), but I'm also really enjoying Gloomhaven. They're different!

Obviously you know Descent well, so I'll focus more on what's different and appealing about Gloomhaven:

The card system - I think that's where the magic in the design is. The diceless combat isn't just a gimic, the card system is brilliant. The cards represent your lifeforce...so if you get into a position where you can no longer recycle any cards and you are empty, so is your energy and you collapse unconscious. Managing that ever present risk creates a real tension. And you are only allowed a limited number of cards, which you can grow slightly by levelling up but they're a really limited commodity.

Additionally, each card has a lower half and an upper half...you play two cards each turn, electing to use the lower half of one and the upper half of the other.

Every card has a basic function (attack with a strength or 2, or move 2 squares) and then their specialist options on top of that.

The most powerful cards typically can't be recycled. It's a constant trade of: do I use this card's best function now, knowing I can't get it back and am one step closer to exhasution, or do I play it safe but risk not defeating this monster?

The game mechanics do a brilliant job of creating constant tension and I found the design of that really awe-inspiring. It's brilliant.

The other thing I'd say is that Gloomhaven really does feel like an open world branching story...you end up with more story threads than you can possibly chase, and that creates the feeling that you are in a story that is genuinely responding to your choices. It's an illusion but a very engaging and wonderfully convincing one.

My first few games I was a bit so-so, but the more I've played the more it's drawn me in. It really is a wonderful, engaging experience.

Having said that, I still dearly love - and prefer - Descent (especially 1st Edition).

I think Descent captures that fun, instantly engaging, high-fantasy rollicking adventure with immediately accessible heroes and villains.

And buffing up your character to the point where you chuck two fistfuls of dice at a monster is just EPIC fun.

I love it to bits.

The storylines and narrative elements of Descent 1st Edition are hands-down the most engaging and immersive boardgame story experience for me (appreciate others will differ).

Descent 2nd Ed, sacrifices some of that for streamlined, efficient game play and accessibility (although you can get a bit of it back if you play campaign style).

In that respect, I find Descent 1st Ed the most engaging experience, and then find Gloomhaven a bit more engaging than Descent 2nd Ed, which I'd place third....but it's splitting hairs to a degree, they're all great quality games.

If you get a chance, have a go at Gloomhaven. It offers something slightly different again and the mechanics and game design are a wonder to behold.

Hope that helps. And others please feel completely free to differ...this is purely my experience, personal biases and all :)

Thanks for your input! I wish I would have been around for Descent 1E. 

 

I familiarized myself with the Gloomhaven rules and liked the idea of diceless system. The rest of it seemed a little bit more weighty for a boardgame. (

I was a fan (and still am), a fan of card driven rpg system in the 90s: Dragonlance Fifth Age Saga. The idea was somewhat similar to Gloomhaven,  but  in my opinion better. The idea that your hand was your health. Injuries made you drop cards instead of HP. Since you used the cards in your hand for every skill check in the game injuries sustained had a direct impact on your ability to make decisions. That meant something than watching your numbers drop. As your experience grew and levelled, your hand grew, along with your sustainability and options. Because you had cards in your hand, you could make decisions based  on using your own personal stats to successfully complete a task. Fifth Age was a full fledged story driven rpg, and the rules and setup time were much less complicated than Gloomhaven. The whole game system folded TSR acquired new ownership. (See a pattern here). It was a diamond in the rough.

My post was not entirely about which "game is better".  I just hate to see games like Mansions of Madness, Descent, Imperial Assault go out of print. Those games were bridges that brought me to love FFG franchise. I think they should be developed and not discontinued. I think they have tremendous potential. Maybe a card based system could be woven in. (I know the tried with LtR)

This is another personal opinion, but I think its noteworthy if people in publishing and marketing read this:  One thing to consider is TIME.  Time is a huge factor for adult gamers. I originally got into board and card based games because I thought they would be a lighter alternative to a time consuming tabletop RPG. Granted when I played tabletop rpgs, when there wasn't a need for miniatures or tiles. Things to took place in the "theater of the mind". Setup was much less than it is nowadays.

So that begs a question:

why should I play a thematic board or card game that takes 45 minutes to set up and 2.5 hours to play and put away, when I could play a much more immersive full fledged rpg...which is way more in depth and has better mechanics in almost the same amount of time?

What I liked about Descent 2E was its versatility and the simplicity. It had an rpg feel that was more thematic than Chutes and Ladders. Painted miniatures and tiles make it really visually appealing. Innovative storage solutions reduced setup time without purchasing a third party storage solution that was the same cost of the game.  You could play a scenario in about an 1.5 hours and decide if you wanted to play again. I don't see that with Gloomhaven and that's the "gold standard" trend setter for the future of dungeon crawlers. 

Descent could be improved drastically with less reliance on luck, more reliance on decision making, and perhaps the thematic aspects of MoM in game that could be played in under 2 hours? Again, I speak for myself, but if those criteria can't be met I might as well play a full fledged rpg. 

I want to see the Descent legacy continue. As an example, I can't readily make a retail purchase of Descent 1E in a retail store. Its gone the way of the dodo. (along with all the other games FFG that I like. )  I don't want to see that happen if you're listening Fantasy Flight Games! 

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48 minutes ago, wyatt606 said:

Yea, you cannot really say 'what's with the hype?' or 'Why would anyone play x over y?' without actually sinking some time into it. I haven't played GH yet, but will probably try the new expansion/intro that was released for $50 to see if I like the game. That's another thing, how much does $150 or $175 get you for each game? I don't really want to give a ton of money to A$modee for just the base game and 1 expansion.

I see your point, on the price. I shopped around and found some reasonably good deals. I wouldn't have the same opinion if I paid msr for the games. That also being said, the lieutenant  packs which were often priced at around 10 bucks came with a full fledged deck of agenda cards that provided options and strategies that were game changers- and a nifty figure. Overlord players had the retail purchase options to choose their own stories strategies and options. Hero players, likewise had similar purchase options in expansions and hero and monster packs. I don't mind supporting something if it goes into development for making the experience better.

But, I feel you! And if you like Gloomhaven better and got in for $50...more power to ya , bra!

I also wondered after I dropped money what would happen if dropped the money on Gloomhaven. I 'd have  that big box on the shelf, sorted and stored in the extra money I paid for the insert.  Then I would actually play through the whole thing to benefit from the money I invested.  Incidentally, while I was thinking, I busted out the Road to Legend App and played Descent all the stuff I already owned. 🤣

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MulvaVandelay - it seems you have a good feel for the game, if not a direct experience yet...I think you can probably be pretty confident then that it isn't for you.

The 5th Age Dragonlance RPG game sounds awesome! Not one I'm familiar with at all.

Possibly Gloomhaven is implementing an element of those mechanics, with a number of tokens to rival FFG's biggest outings, an open-world story system, and a classic RPG character progression...so it's a really clever and slick combination of those elements....and it's great...but you're right: getting it to the table is an endeavour. The set up etc is absolutely part of the experience. We get a kick out of the whole process but not everyone will and there are absolutely simpler, but completely fulfilling other options to scratch a dungeon delving adventure itch.

I'm 100% with you on the FFG back-catalogue: I'm a big Runebound fan (still have my 2nd edition boxes), Fury of Dracula, Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror (traded Arkham for its more streamlined twin) and even the original enormous box of RuneWars! I also have Android on my shelf - what a wonderful mess of an overly ambitious but awesomely engaging game that is. Like the original MoM. And only FFG seems to do games like that...they're enormous, clunky, overhwelming but also magical and unforgettable experiences.

And you're right it's not that they couldn't continue to broaden and deepen their IP on those products.

But that's not the modern commercial mindset. 'The Market' demands freshness and 'planned obsolescence.' I don't and sounds like you don't either.

It is how it is...but we still have our classic game collections and there's more there than I'll ever exhaust.

And as new games and trends take hold, the classics seem fresh again and I enjoy rolling them out to my game group every so often to give them a different experience. And 95% of the time they love it!

More power to you - stick to your guns and enjoy the collection of brilliant games you have and keep sharing them around!

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Posted (edited)

45 minutes set up and 2.5 hours to play Gloomhaven? Lol. Set up for us is 10 minutes at most, and gameplay average is about 90 minutes. Breakdown... 10 minutes or less.

At one point my family and I loved Descent so much that we built a game room with a custom table, chairs and cabinet solely to play RTL. (before we painted our minis 😳

20191227_205031_copy_800x600.jpg

 

Edited by doubletapdaddy

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Posted (edited)

However, that has been supplanted by Gloomhaven. We played it a few times last year and then set it aside to play some other games. This past March we broke it out and fell in love all over again. Our original goal was to complete the game before my pre-order of Frosthaven ships next year, however we're well ahead of that as we generally play 5 to 8 Gloomhaven scenarios per week. Although I do miss our dice towers, Gloomhaven consistently keeps us looking forward to unlocking new items, upgrading character abilities, unlocking new characters and progressing the story. Honestly, it it makes Descent feel a bit shallow (it truly does pain me to say that).

Top 5 games at my home:

1. Gloomhaven

2. The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth

3. Descent: Journeys in the Dark/RTL

4. Mansions of Madness 

5. Gloomhaven  😝

Edited by doubletapdaddy

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3 hours ago, doubletapdaddy said:

"45 minutes set up and 2.5 hours to play Gloomhaven? Lol. Set up for us is 10 minutes at most, and gameplay average is about 90 minutes. Breakdown... 10 minutes or less."

I got a fishing tackle box and stored all the components in there...that cut our set up time way down (it also got easier after 5 or so games as we were more familiar with everything).

However as we got more familiar and comfortable with it all and setup was way more relaxed, we also debate the weeks politics and events and the other comings and goings in life in between sipping on the latest brew....so set up typically takes 30 mins for us...but we're only actually "setting up" about a third of that time. Gameplay would be 90 mins consistently, and again interspersed with conversation, drinks and snacks. We do a single session/story each time.

 

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I was looking into Gloomhaven last year, and the reason I didn't jump on it and stuck with Descent was mostly because of the decision to go with cardboard pawns for enemies. I can appreciate that they allow for more monsters at a lower production cost, but there is a part of the hobby of modeling, painting, etc., that I really enjoy. Honestly, though, a large part of that is likely my previous investment in 1E Descent gives me a huge amount of figures to draw from as I started buying into 2E.

I know there is a significant portion of the board gaming community that like to reduce variance and card systems allow for some control over that compared to dice rolls. 

As far as set up and tear down times, I think a lot of that improves as you get experience with any game. You find ways to start boxing things up in ways that allow for quickly placing them for next time. 

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Posted (edited)

All that said, I'd love for Descent to be my go to game again. This is the game that not only inspired my family to have a dedicated game room, but also a dedicated painting area with workstations for three.  We have all expansion packs, add-ons and DLC. I would gladly purchase new physical content/expansions (especially card packs with items to purchase or maybe a new archetype or three), but what I really yearn for is an RTL 2.0. Something with improved AI, stronger storylines, lengthier campaign and makes better use of add-ons. Something that requires the players to change heroes/classes once or twice part way through would be extremely rewarding. FFG are you listening?

...because I'm definitely dreaming. Lol. 

Edited by doubletapdaddy

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On 6/30/2020 at 2:54 AM, doubletapdaddy said:

However, that has been supplanted by Gloomhaven. We played it a few times last year and then set it aside to play some other games. This past March we broke it out and fell in love all over again. Our original goal was to complete the game before my pre-order of Frosthaven ships next year, however we're well ahead of that as we generally play 5 to 8 Gloomhaven scenarios per week. Although I do miss our dice towers, Gloomhaven consistently keeps us looking forward to unlocking new items, upgrading character abilities, unlocking new characters and progressing the story. Honestly, it it makes Descent feel a bit shallow (it truly does pain me to say that).

Top 5 games at my home:

1. Gloomhaven

2. The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth

3. Descent: Journeys in the Dark/RTL

4. Mansions of Madness 

5. Gloomhaven  😝

I just want to say that I'm jealous your family enjoys these with you. My wife doesn't, friends that do we could only get together once a week and that's been killed because of pandemic. :(

Playing alone or over the net in various ways isnt the same at all. It's the fun of these games with the in person experience that makes them.

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I did get to try out Gloomhaven myself and while there absolutely are certain elements I find interesting, I also have to say that in the end, I prefer Descent Coop.

The Card system did positively remind me of games like Mageknight and thus, I was a bit surprised that in practice, I actually found it rather unsatisfying.
Maybe it is because of the different levels of resolution, but in Gloomhaven, the different cards mostly made me feel annoyed by the degree of "gamyness" they entered into the equation.
While there is a fun part to trying to puzzle out the most effective combinations of actions for your turn while keeping future turns in mind, it adds an amount of restriction that does not feel thematically appropriate.
Descent gives me all those abilities with their fatigue and exhaust limitations and that really feels a lot like a classic RPG. The Gloomhaven cards kinda remind me of how many things in 4th Edition DnD just felt too artificial.

I also  feel that the "running out of cards" adds a sort of timer element that just does not really work well for me.
It reminds me of the first Print on Demand Coop Modules for Descent as opposed to Road to Legend.

On top of that, the looting also ended up being a lot more restrictive than in Descent with its search tokens.

 

When it comes to leveling up, I am also rather reminded of how in Descent, many bemoan that the overlord only gets to add new overlord cards which he only can use so often - or at all.
While Gloomhaven has a card system I do think I like better because it does away with a lot of the "luck of the draw", it has a bit of a similar problem that you do not add as much consistent stuff as you do in Descent.
Of course, other things make up for that to a degree, like adjusting your attack deck, but, still, I am not quite won over there.

...also, I do think Descent is handling things better for NOT having the situation that one character can be out of the game while the others are still playing.

And speaking of that, Gloomhaven really is odd to me in that much unlike Descent, the characters are rather similar in robustness to the monsters. Yes, you can use your cards to avoid damage, something we missed on our first playthrough thanks to the way the rules were structured, but that only exacerbates the issue of running out of cards.

I also am not too much a fan of the restriction of only being able to start with certain characters.

None of the Gloomhaven starting choices really appealed to me that much.
And I am not so sure about the ones that unlock later.

Things like the "consistent changes" in Gloomhaven, stuff that gets unlocked over the playtime regardless of who is playing also are not really that much my thing.
It feels like it is trying to emulate a video game with unlocks in a way I am just not sure I really care for that much in a boardgame.

In the end, there are a lot of really interesting ideas in Gloomhaven and I still would definitely play it, but, whether it is experience of play or the difference in the game, i definitely am having a lot more fun so far playing Descent.

Most of all, I actually really do like the fact that Descent offers the option to play against a human opponent.
Whether Road to Legend or Gloomhaven, playing against the game in the end just is rather "erratic". It is a bit hard to really plan, you are not even supposed to know usually what all the possible monster actions are.

In contrast to that, I can actually try planning my turn in Descent with the possible Overlord actions in mind, so it is just more fun from a strategic point of view.

 

Going forward, I would rather see Descent play to its strength, improve game balance and give us a fair and fun way to play both against a human opponent or together against the app. The current game has its issues, but I do not think games like Gloomhaven are what I would want to see being emulated.

 

 

 

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