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Flashback Friday - Descent

U Updated
Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Game Information

There Will Be Games

Love it or hate it? Do you still play it?

Ten years ago Descent: Journeys in the Dark was THE dungeon crawl.

 "Odds are you've heard of it as it slammed itself onto many tables as a massive box full of plastic bits and tiles, came with a tweaked version of the Doom dice system and was almost a really nice minis system.

 ...except that the scenarios REALLY, REALLY sucked...You know, Descent really pretty much sucks." - Frank Branham

Fantasy Flight Games rebooted the game with Descent Journeys in the Dark 2nd Editionin 2012. This upset many Descent fans as they had invested in a butt-ton of plastic for Descent 1st Edition in the form of expansions. However, after the re-boot Descent, according to several reviewers, no-longer "sucked" 

"In fact, when you play Descent 2 and discover that it's about as close to a role-playing game that you can come without having to work on a fake English accent and learning to use 'methinks' in a sentence, you may find that you cannot stop thinking about playing this game." - Matt Drake

Fantasy Flight Games even came out with an app, which was positively received.

However, there have been so many Dungeon Crawls released in the past few years - from the D&D board games to Gloomhaven. Does anyone still play Descent? Has any of the newer dungeon crawls "fired" Descent? What Dungeon Crawls are you playing?

Just a reminder you can find all our reviews and articles about Descent 2nd Edition  in its listing in our Board Game Directory (click here). I recommend InfinityMax's (Matt Drake) for a fun read.

There Will Be Games Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie


Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie


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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #277446 13 Jul 2018 10:31
Personally, I never cared for Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Space Cadets: Away Missions has pretty much "fired" most dungeon crawls for me.

We are currently doing a Dungeon Degenerates campaign, but DD feels more like an Adventure game than a dungeon crawl to me.
GoTeamVenture's Avatar
GoTeamVenture replied the topic: #277451 13 Jul 2018 11:03
I played 1st edition a couple times. I had a lot of fun with it but it was difficult for me to get people together for longer games at the time. I had a lot more success getting 2nd edition to the table. My gaming group at the time played through the 2nd edition core set campaign and one of the smaller campaigns. I thought the cooperative version of the game that uses an app sounded interesting but I have not played it that way.

After playing Imperial Assault I traded everything I owned for Descent 2nd edition. I usually play overlord for these types of games and I like the changes they made for this role in Imperial Assault. I really like that turns alternate between heroes and enemy groups. I also prefer the threat pool for summoning new figures onto board versus reinforcements for each scenario. In Descent 2nd edition the overlord could also create monsters walls to try and slow the heroes down because many scenarios were kind of like races. This often worked well but it wasn't much fun. I like they Imperial Assault allows heroes to move through overlord figures by spending movement points.

I would play Descent again but I don't feel the need to own it. Right now I own Imperial Assault, Silver Tower, and Gloomhaven for this style of game. I would rather play any of those over Descent. I have not played Conan but I think that system looks really neat. I backed the Batman Kickstarter because that setting is more appealing to me and I think it could be one of my favorites of this style of game too. I don't own Claustrophobia, Space Cadets Away Missions or Gears of War but I would also rather play those over Descent. I just think there much better options than Descent for this style of game these days.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #277452 13 Jul 2018 11:04
Descent is old fashioned and not in a good way. The app helped, a lot really, but then Gloomhaven happened.

This is such a crowded genre...among the best games, there is always something that one does a little better than the others but none feel like the total package on a way that Gloomhaven does. Provided you are not looking for dice-based hack and slash, which Silver Tower and the D&DAS games still do the best IMO. And if you are looking for short, fast and brutal than Dungeonquest will likely never be topped. Two player will never break the ceramite grip of Space Hulk, although Claustrophobia tried. Sci-fi award goes to DOOM or Away Missions depending on mood. Catacombs is in there somewhere among the best as a special mention. Wiz-War is the ultimate competitive dungeon crawl in its class.

There are so many “pretty good” games in this space though...Sword & Sorcery, Galaxy Defenders, Undercity, Super Fantasy, Perdition’s Mouth, etc. etc...but all are better than Descent and Imperial Assault for that matter.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #277453 13 Jul 2018 11:13
I played Descent once and didn’t like it. The gameplay was a repetitive grind, and it was ridiculous that getting “killed” meant that you went back to town to go shopping.

Despite the name, Dungeon Degenerates doesn't seem to be a dungeon crawl. I think that a proper dungeon crawl requires a tactical scale where the position of individual adventurers in a fight is important. Oh, and a dungeon should be involved.

I still think that Asteroid was one of the best dungeon crawl games, even though it’s in a science-fiction setting.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #277455 13 Jul 2018 11:43
We played first edition Doom several times until determining that unless the Invader player was functionally retarded, the game was hideously imbalanced. So when Descent 1st Ed came out, we were wary. But it turned out much better, despite still being imbalanced toward the Overlord which only increased with the first expansion, until the major course correction of the second expansion back toward the players. We played 1st Ed a few dozen times and usually enjoyed it. However, at some point, the insane power boosts of the silver and gold chests turned the game into a series of one-shots: either the Overlord slaughtered the Heroes in a single encounter or the Heroes laid waste to the dungeon with their new toys and the final boss was just a matter of adding up dice.

Road to Legend was a good step toward an RPG-like game, but just like with all my later RPGs, I could never get people to consistently show up for a serial game of that sort. That meant that, despite owning 2nd Ed, I couldn't hook my regular group on it and a couple of them were radically opposed to this "new" Descent because they were fans of 1st Ed. So both Eds sat on the shelf until I sold all of 2nd to a family in North Carolina who were thrilled to have something to do together. I hope they're still enjoying it. 1st Ed remains on my shelf, waiting for a buyer.

I just received another dungeon crawler after a year-and-a-half wait in the form of Big Trouble in Little China. It's my only Kickstarter ever and I jumped in on a spur of the moment decision because I had the cash. I have a feeling it won't seem much play, either, but I'm hoping to get a couple in to do a review. Otherwise, we don't play any dungeon crawlers these days. I still have the new version of Doom and Space Hulk on my shelf, though.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #277456 13 Jul 2018 11:47
Road to Legend was ingenious way back when it was released. It was horribly balanced and I never saw a campaign that ended in a tense climax, but the way it included town elements, travel, and a global agenda for the bad guy really elevated the entire experience. I wish we'd see campaign games in this genre use a global map with consequences such as this did.

Gloomhaven is one of the best, but I still dig Myth. I know, I know, but its gameplay is very unique and interesting and I still haven't found a game that tackles crawling in the same way.

I prefer Claustrophobia to Space Hulk (setup time and more varied tactical options being the primary reason), but both are great.

I really dig SC: Away Missions and the new Doom.

Alien vs. Predator: The Hunt Begins (2nd edition) is simultaneously fantastic and aggravating.

It's not really a dungeon crawler, although it has some similarities in grid movement and with campaign growth, but Battlestations is one of my favorite games. The new edition is excellent.
Jexik's Avatar
Jexik replied the topic: #277457 13 Jul 2018 11:47
Descent was my first-ever shelf toad. I dropped like $200 on it and 3 expansions back in the late '00s and totally regretted it after like 2 plays of me webbing and poisoning my friends into oblivion.

If you want something crunchy, Gloomhaven stomps this now, I think. I'm really interested in trying Seal Team Flix though.

Also D&D 5e is arguably more accessible and fun. (And those 4th edtion coops are definitely easier to get into). I'm mildly curious about the app though; it worked quite well for Mansions of Madness.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #277458 13 Jul 2018 11:57
Never did play any version of Descent despite having been a big fan of the original DOOM board game. The dungeon-crawlers I currently own are;

Star Wars Imperial Assault - This is the reason I no longer own DOOM and wouldn't bother with Descent now. The setting is far easier to get others interested in than either of the former games. Its got a great 2-player mode, a co-op mode with the app, solo mode with the app, and 1vsMany mode with both sides interesting to play. Only thing it lacks is non-campaign play for more than 2 players. Either through skirmish or scenarios. A minor complaint considering all it does offer.

Incursion - This is my Space Hulk for the simple reason that I like the setting better. Don't really care which is the better game. They're both top-tier corridor shooters.

Castle Ravenloft/Legend of Drizzt - Great simple co-ops for solo or a group. Lots of fan-made content to keep these fresh for many more years if needed.

Sword & Sorcery - This is on its way out. Just have to finish the last mission and dragon expansion. Does a good job of emulating stuff like Diablo 3. Similar to D3 I also have no interest in replaying the main story but unlike D3 there's not enough to keep me going outside of the main story. Some people don't like the complexity but I had no problem with it.

DungeonQuest - Nothing much to say about this one. You either enjoy it or you're incapable of feeling joy. Seriously improved by tracking high scores like it's an arcade game.

Space Cadets: Away Missions - Haven't played enough to comment on. Still need to finish painting.

Dungeon Degenerates - Despite the name this doesn't take place in a dungeon. More of an adventure game as Shellie stated.

Side Note: I think I'm done buying campaign games at this point and will just stick with the few I have. Thought that I would really like them back before they were a thing but ended up personally preferring one-and-done scenarios. I don't play often enough so always forget the story which usually doesn't matter anyways. It took us a year to get through the first Imperial Assault campaign and at least some of those game nights I'd like to have played something else but we'd never have completed it that way. Been playing Sword & Sorcery once every couple of months and honestly have no idea why we're even questing anymore. I just assume we're trying to save some town or something. If I gamed with the same group who were also interested in a campaign at least bi-weekly it might be different. However, I've decided that if I'm going to put the commitment into getting the exact same group of players together on a regular basis for a specific game then I'd rather it be for an RPG. Or if I'm looking for a campaign to solo then I'll likely turn on my PS4 and player Witcher 3 or something.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #277459 13 Jul 2018 11:57
Warhammer Quest is still the go to dungeon crawler for me. I haven't seen the need to go to any others. Random Dungeon setup, character level ups, loot to gather, decent user-generated content, expandable monster lists. The dicey combat and the possibility of losing the whole party to a cave in on a bad deck generation does not bother me.

If I want anything more than that, I'll just run a proper RPG session.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #277463 13 Jul 2018 12:44
I traded my Descent 2e plus the first small-box expansion away a few months ago and don't regret it. I still have IA and have gotten close to trading/selling that away too, but I have everything in a big Plano case so I've held off on trying to process it. In either case, I've gotten people to play one or two scenarios but then our interest lags. I should probably try IA again, though.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #277464 13 Jul 2018 12:45
This is such a weird genre because it is one of those things that is so huge among people like me but I am not super into it. I played Descent for the first time with someone in Atlanta and it did almost nothing for me. I liked Heroquest and stuff too but I'm not trying to recapture those moments, which I think were more about the time I played them.

Of these games, my favorite is probably Gears of War. I've liked what I've played of Away Missions and Catacombs too, and own both.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #277467 13 Jul 2018 13:34
I never liked Descent. Far too gamey for a dungeon crawl and lacked any sense of adventure.

charlest wrote: ...but the way it included town elements, travel, and a global agenda for the bad guy really elevated the entire experience. I wish we'd see campaign games in this genre use a global map with consequences such as this did.

This however I agree with and tried to incorporate similar elements as these into other dungeon crawls that I did play, namely Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Boardgame which is for all intents and purposes a Heroquest clone that is much more refined and has a less generic theme.

That, my friends, is the king of dungeon crawlers. It is, overall, the quintiessential dungeoncrawl. It is the anti-Descent. Since it is simple and promotes exploration and adventure with simple mechanics over descents bloated mess of a design.

Too bad it was only ever sold in Europe. But I found a complete collection over there and never regretted buying it. I sold it off to a new home once we played it to death.

Nowadays, my only dungeon crawl that gets played is Dungeonquest. (Thanks again, Pete!)

I still own Claustrophobia and spacehulk. Though those don't get played, sadly. I'm trying to make an effort with Claustrophobia though.
BaronDonut's Avatar
BaronDonut replied the topic: #277474 13 Jul 2018 14:49
Descent’s big secret is that it’s a two-teamed sports game marketed as a dungeon crawl. It’s all about positioning / movement / efficiency, which always rubbed me the wrong way.

Dungeon crawls aren’t my very favorite, but I’ve had a lot of fun with Space Hulk, Claustrophobia, and Silver Tower.

GorillaGrody, where you at? You’re an aficionado of the genre—which have risen to the top for you?
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #277476 13 Jul 2018 15:15

Gary Sax wrote: Of these games, my favorite is probably Gears of War. I've liked what I've played of Away Missions and Catacombs too, and own both.

You are literally STF’s target market.

I think the best to worst goes like this:
Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Board Game (plus 2 expansions)

I think it’s a moot point trying to make anything better than Warhammer Quest. It is literally the pinnacle of game design in the space and there is very little that one can do to improve it.
It hits the accessibility:depth ratio dead at the apex and the saddest thing in the world is that they remade it and changed it. It should have been in print in perpetuity.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #277478 13 Jul 2018 15:32
I played Warhammer Quest back in the day and loved it. I played it again recently and felt it was very boring. I don't necessarily need an intense brain burning level of tactics, but it's pretty mindless.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #277481 13 Jul 2018 16:11
I play Descent 2E when I get the chance but for the three of us (two playing two heroes and one as the OL) finding enough time amongst all my other games for a long campaign was the problem, two of us did play through all the campaigns in the Road to Legend app and that was a damn good product. Also have played the initial campaign in the Imperial Assault app and that was probably better.
We enjoyed Warhammer Quest so I have pre-ordered the new Terrinoth edition for us.
We also like Doom 1st edition, the challenge and fun far outweighs any imbalance.
Space Cadets: Away Missions is getting some dedicated play also, and I have D&D Castle Raveloft for some lighter fun along with Dungeonquest.
And last (I think) I also have Claustrophobia but neither of us have been that impressed by it, the constraints within the game make many of the scenarios a lockout for a very good Redeemer player.

Yes there have been some interesting alternatives out in the last few years but my descretionary leisure spends don't cover buying every new (and mightily expensive) game that everyone starts crowing about, I stick with what we enjoy playing and pick up the odd new game now and then.

PS I have a copy of Space Crusade that has been sitting unplayed for a good 15 years but now our group has reached back up to four for a couple of days each month I'll try and get it to the table for a bit of sci-fi crawling.
Space Ghost's Avatar
Space Ghost replied the topic: #277482 13 Jul 2018 16:11
Shadows of Brimstone is basically the "modern" day Warhammer Quest. My brother and cousin love it, so we play it quite a bit.
quozl's Avatar
quozl replied the topic: #277494 13 Jul 2018 17:45
For dungeon crawls, I play Wiz-War or an RPG.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #277500 13 Jul 2018 17:59
We aren’t even figuring in the crop of roll and write games...Four Against Darkness is best, but D100 Dungeon is really really good.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #277501 13 Jul 2018 17:59
So far, these Flashback Fridays have all been bad flashbacks.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #277504 13 Jul 2018 18:06
Ha ha! Remember that game you used to like?
Menat's Avatar
Menat replied the topic: #277508 13 Jul 2018 18:25
I still occasionally like to bring out Descent 2.0 because the vibrant art style is really appealing to me and the mechanics still feel pretty tight. I didn't see it mentioned here but Level 7: Omega Protocol remains a high point for sci-fi crawlers for me.
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #277510 13 Jul 2018 18:36

Menat wrote: I didn't see it mentioned here but Level 7: Omega Protocol remains a high point for sci-fi crawlers for me.

It hasn't, but it should have.

It's a much better Gigeresque Aliens games than Space Hulk. And I'm a huge fan of Space Hulk.

It's a design that screams "Look at me! If I had a better, less contrived theme, I'd be hot shit! Just look at my sleek design! I'm hot sex!"
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #277511 13 Jul 2018 18:48
Yeah, Level 7 was one of those “pretty good” ones for sure.
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #277523 13 Jul 2018 23:40

BaronDonut wrote:
GorillaGrody, where you at? You’re an aficionado of the genre—which have risen to the top for you?

Space Hulk all the way.

EDIT: Actually, all the games that do RPG-in-a-box do something wrong. Gloomhaven's great, but every time I set it up, right around the 15 minute mark of the 30 minute set up time, I start having doubts about my commitment. I may be done with anything that forces you to set up puzzle pieces with correspondence numbers in the corner. Why? What makes the walls of this 2d-rendered 8 x 8 room so different from this other one that I have to search for the unique version of it every time we set up? Enough with that.

Actually, the most fun I've had with a dungeon crawl recently was just using the basic spacial instructions from 5e and playing it as a board game with lots of extra talking. 4e was a terrible slog in this regard, but 5e doesn't care that much about maps and figurines, and lets players just go ahead and do their thing.