By Casey Kelley
I have a confession to make. I love Descent. Almost as much as I love beer. I love the game enough that I spent precious beer money on tons of the game’s expansions. Lots of beer money. That could have been spent on beer. But it wasn’t. Because it was spent on a board game.
Should you spend your beer money on Descent? I can’t answer that for you (how can one quantify another’s love of beer?), but here are some of your other questions that I can answer (as an overlord and professional DM, it is my right to assume you’re asking these questions):
“How do you expect me to get into such a dense game? There is so much here! There must be a ton of rules. Let’s just go get some beer and forget the whole thing!”
Fear not! Descent is actually fairly simple. Descent believes in keywords. Keywords make everything easier. Easier is better. Better is good. Good is… I lost my train of thought there… Anyway, keywords are what take so much of what could be an incredibly complex game and boil it down to a handful of rather quick steps. Every action, reaction, or thing you could possibly do is governed by some very simple rules centering on key words. The rule book*, sorry, the rule pamphlet breaks everything down into easy , digestible chunks. Everything is organized in such a way that is flows from one action to the next, simple to complex, players turn to Overlord’s turn, so that when you DO have to look something up, it’s fairly easy to find what you need. Oh, and there is an index, which is amazing.
*[Editor’s note: call it a pamphlet; that sounds less intimidating]
“Yeah, but… but… all those pieces! It just looks so fiddly… so… upkeep intensive. You sure you don’t want to get some beers?”
Of course, I would love to** …but not right now. Right now is where I explain to you that your argument is spot on and completely wrong at the same time. See, Descent actually doesn’t really hammer you on upkeep. Yes, there is a fair number of moving parts and close to a metric ton*** okay, not a ton, but a lot of little pieces, minis, cardboard chits, and cards (soooo many cards). The great thing is 90% of them are used between games. You don’t need new shop cards, quest cards, skill cards, Overlord cards, or travel cards during a game. That crap can all go straight back in the box. Those 30 different types of monsters? A few are chosen for each game then everything else goes back in the box! So yes, there are a ton of pieces, and there is some upkeep… BUT… it is all **** AHH! OK! mostly between games. The worst you have to manage while playing is your health and stamina, and that involves removing health when you get hit, and stamina when you use skills. Most characters only have between 8-12 health and 3-5 stamina, and you have little tokens to represent both health and stamina, so your upkeep is usually quite simple.
**[Editor’s note: No you wouldn’t, sit back down and keep writing]
***[Editor’s note: please don’t use measurements you don’t actually understand]
****[Editor’s Note: Don’t lie to them, it’s only mostly between rounds, there STILL is upkeep during the game and you know it!]
“Okay, so it’s not that upkeep intensive, but you didn’t address the fact there is figurative ton of pieces!”
Yeah… there are a lot of pieces. You say that like it’s a bad thing. What do you want me to say? Pieces make the game interesting. Don’t like a lot of pieces? Go play Candyland! *****Look, pieces are what make a game re-playable. There is no way you will see even 1/10th of the possible combinations of characters, classes, monsters, skills, items, quests, missions, and encounters in a single play through. The possibilities are nearly endless, and that’s just the base game. If you ask me, you’re getting a lot of game for your beer money.
That said… I highly suggest some sort of storage solution other than “just throw it back in the box.”****** Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I told you to throw stuff back in the box, but now it’s time to grow up and get yourself a storage solution. Like you said, there are a ton of pieces; proper storage and filing will make managing the game so much easier. My personal suggestion is a fishing tackle box, preferably one never used for fishing tackle because, you know, fishy smells, but there is no one single solution that I have ever found that is perfect. Whatever you choose, find a solution that works best for you (as long as it’s not “throw it back in the box” like some savage). Figuring out your storage solution is almost another game unto itself. So, see, two games for the price of one!*******
*****[Editor’s note: Don’t antagonize the readers!]
******[Editor’s note: Didn’t you just tell them to throw everything back in the box?]
*******[Editor’s note: That’s not actually game. Don’t try and sell the most frustrating part of Descent as bonus. Nobody will believe you.]
“Okay, so I think I am ready to give up my precious beer money and buy the game. There is so much Descent out there! What do I need to buy? Please tell me I don’t have to buy it all!”
Start with the Base game. That has everything you will need to play, and all the other expansions are built on it. The great thing is, as I stated above, there is enough in base game to keep you busy for a literal ton of games. ********* Seriously, a bunch of games. In a single campaign, you only play about 1/3 of the total missions, so you’d have to play at least 3 full campaigns just to play all of the missions, and that’s not taking into account the almost infinite combinations of possible monsters and player character/class combinations that can completely change up how those missions work. The Base set will keep you entertained for years. Months, if you get bored easy.
Once you actually do get bored with it though, there are 3 large expansions with campaign booklets the exact same size as the original and (at the time of this writing) 4 small expansions with 2 separate 2 part side quest missions. Most come with at least 2 characters and 2 classes (the big ones come with 4 new characters and 2 new classes), new Overlord cards, 3-5 new monster groups, numerous new items, new mechanics, and new map tiles. Start small, work your way up to the big ones. They expansions are all modular, meaning you can add the ones you want to play with, ignore the ones you don’t, and everything works smoothly and fits together perfectly. It also means you can add the characters, classes, item, monsters, and side quest cards to any of the campaigns without causing any problems.
********[Editor’s Note: figurative. And you can’t measure plays in weight. That doesn’t make sense!]
“Okay, you talked me into it! I bought the game!”
Good for you! Enjoy! I’m sorry for the lost beer.
“What do I do now?”
Well first you have to open the box, pull out all the… *********
*********[Editor’s note: Don’t be obtuse! Nobody likes that]
You are obtuse. ***********
***********[Editor’s note: I’m not obtuse, you are being a child]
I know you are but what am I? ***********
***********[Editor’s note: … we’re done here…]
Enjoy the game and happy questing!
Casey Kelley is a contributor to the Cardboard Herald, and co-founder of Paper Heroes; a D&D live play podcast. You can find more Casey at www.paperheroescast.com or on iTunes and Stitcher by searching "Paper Heroes".
Casey was also on episode 6 of the Cardboard Herald podcast, which can be found here or on your favorite podcatcher.