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DavidNorris
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K2 Review - Digital Eyes

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The Ascent of Descent - Review

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30 Aug 2021 09:00 #326101 by Michael Barnes
Here’s my review of Descent: Legends of the Dark. It...

Mythbusting the year's best game.

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30 Aug 2021 11:51 - 30 Aug 2021 11:51 #326102 by sornars
Thanks for the great review, I think a mythbusters approach makes sense for a title like this with so much noise surrounding its launch. I'm very curious to hear if you have any expanded thoughts re: difficulty beyond the one line on it being of concern. In the other thread you mentioned that you felt that there was tension when playing on Heroic. Did the difficulty spike or did it crater from that point onwards?
Last edit: 30 Aug 2021 11:51 by sornars.
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30 Aug 2021 12:00 - 30 Aug 2021 12:07 #326103 by Gary Sax
I don't like to drone on about MSRP to be honest, I don't know what money means to people and I spend a lot of money on shit I think is totally worth it (eyeballs Arkham LCG). But my lament is that it sounds like something that would be right at home on like a target shelf if it wasn't for the foreboding MSRP. It would reach an audience primed for app usage. Heroquest for the actual young instead of the increasingly dominant olds like myself.

I still remain convinced that anyone who does an app driven game needs to program in support for multiple players on their own phones for management and reading. I know it's a heavy programming lift that multiplies app complexity but I think it's almost mandatory for a big product. Doing this all gathered around an app thing triggers all of my feelings about solo suitability you mention. Ideally, people can do their own management (I think mental ownership of items and characters is Good in these sorts of games) and reading along if they care to while the app narrates. I will say that doing the campaign with *all* of the characters ducking in and out mitigates some of the inventory management ownership issues and makes the single screen make more sense.
Last edit: 30 Aug 2021 12:07 by Gary Sax.
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30 Aug 2021 13:05 - 31 Aug 2021 12:05 #326105 by Sagrilarus
So the obvious question, although I don't know if anyone has an answer yet -- expansions?

Because let's be honest, with an app holding much if not all of the narrative aspects the delivery of additional material to work with the existing physical set would be awfully easy, and could be attractively priced. The hybrid approach opens a lot of additional avenues and this is a big one.
Last edit: 31 Aug 2021 12:05 by Sagrilarus.
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30 Aug 2021 13:47 #326106 by Jackwraith

Gary Sax wrote: I still remain convinced that anyone who does an app driven game needs to program in support for multiple players on their own phones for management and reading.


Excellent point. This was the thing that really makes Alchemists work. Everyone has the app on their phone and puts in the code for the game that you're all playing that day. That way, there's no need to pass one phone around or have everyone trying to gather around one six-inch screen. Everyone just uses their own device and plays the same game. I think that would be a huge step forward for games like this.
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30 Aug 2021 17:22 - 30 Aug 2021 17:23 #326110 by Michael Barnes
Yeah, you know, that is a really big shortcoming here that I didn’t think about as a shortcoming because I’ve played 75% solo- it would be GREAT to have everyone using their own device because passing around my phone really sucks. However, I think there are limitations there in that doing so would require synchronizing over a server, which could lead to that nightmare doomsday scenario that this game will not be playable in 2036. There’s also likely quite a bit more development required that may make it untenable at this stage.

Sornars, the difficulty thing is actually kind of more of a big deal than I made it out to be, in retrospect. The problem is that the difficulty is kind of like the worst difficulty design in video games today…in that the games aren’t actually harder, they just throw more enemies with more hit points at you. The higher difficulty levels kind of get annoying because they feel spammier and the enemies take a lot more damage…which results in combat feeling more Grundy and repetitive. The challenge does come through in managing your abilities and maximizing opportunities, but the enemies aren’t actually using a different AI routine or something like that. This can also lead to tension giving ground to frustration and annoyance rather than actual difficulty. It is satisfying to get better gear and skills and bring those to bear on the tougher enemies so that is another angle in play here. I would say that -most- of the time the development/progress curve feels just right and their is a good balance of resistance. But after a few quests you can feel it sort of either becoming too easy or too much into that “bullet sponge” kind of difficulty.

But you know what, maybe I’m more ELITE or whatever, but I’m sort of finding that I prefer the normal difficulty and erring on the side of “too easy” . I don’t really like being beat the hell down in these kinds of games. Now with that said, I appreciate -tremendously- that this is very much a fail forward format. I -do not- enjoy
aimlessly replaying failed scenarios. I like that if you blow one here you roll on and that fail becomes part of the narrative. I’ve failed a couple and still felt like the story was progressing and providing good consequences.
Last edit: 30 Aug 2021 17:23 by Michael Barnes.
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30 Aug 2021 17:27 - 31 Aug 2021 08:11 #326111 by southernman
Thanks for the excellent review Michael.
I was impressed with what I first read/heard about it but because I've got far too many big games arriving in the next year plus not being compatible with Descent 2e (I have a lot of it plus we want to go through campaigns in it again - we like 2e) I knew I most likely would not be getting it ... well not at least for a couple of years.

All in all I like what you have written and am really glad you have appreciated this slight direction shift in boardgames, obviously not completely new but a definite evolution - but my comments on your comments are:
Myth #1 - yep, with you with all of it. But I'm not one for people saying things like "And don’t get me started on the Luddites who are terrified ...", that is putting you above other people and calling their opinions worthless.
Myth #2 - yep, and yep all the cool new games with apps are having narration, someone for them to work on.
Myth #3 - great to hear this. Do have to say that the scenario you described at the end is similar to one in Sword & Sorcery where the party are fighting on a separate map while in a dream, and then there's Etherfields ... ;-)
Myth #4 - totally subjective so not really a myth, I don't like some of the art I have seen, it may be fresh & new but that doesn't mean good - just different.
Myth #5 - well I reckon they said that purely to distance themselves from the very successful preceding editions so they couldn't be judged (easily) against it - a new slate and all that. But also subjective because, as you said, 2e may not be your idea of Descent but it is many others.
Myth #6 - sorry, while I buy expensive kickstarters this is a fact. Judging a retail/standard release game against the niche and exclusive kickstarter market isn't correct, it is expensive against Descent 2e and all other games that come out from FFG and other mainstream game companies.
Myth #7 - great points.

Again, it's great to hear you were blown away from it - that does actually mean something to good companies.
Last edit: 31 Aug 2021 08:11 by southernman.
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30 Aug 2021 18:59 #326113 by mtagge
"But unless you are the kind of fun-murdering stick-in-the-mud that doesn’t read out the story text on Arkham Horror cards or whatever and just silently rolls the dice for the outcome, it’s really just a change in where you are reading the text."

Best "house rule" we have for Arkham Horror is that the person to your left reads your card aloud, but they don't read the possible outcomes. I am sure there are ways to punch up the narrative factor for a game like this. Since I end up reading all the text whenever we play one of these I do really terrible voices of what I'd think a goblin/dark wizard/twilik/imperial/whatever would sound like.
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30 Aug 2021 19:04 #326114 by Jackwraith

Michael Barnes wrote: I -do not- enjoy aimlessly replaying failed scenarios. I like that if you blow one here you roll on and that fail becomes part of the narrative. I’ve failed a couple and still felt like the story was progressing and providing good consequences.


Yeah, that's a real positive. I thought that was one of the better aspects to the attempt to make campaigns for earlier versions' of Descent? I vaguely recall both Road to Legend and 2nd Edition having simply more advantages for the Overlord if the heroes fumbled a mission. But it's been a while, so I may be misremembering.

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30 Aug 2021 20:48 - 30 Aug 2021 20:49 #326115 by hotseatgames
Arena: The Contest wanted me to replay a mission I failed. I just said nahhhh and kept moving to the next one, granting myself none of the XP that would have been earned.
Last edit: 30 Aug 2021 20:49 by hotseatgames.

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31 Aug 2021 08:15 #326121 by southernman

Jackwraith wrote:

Michael Barnes wrote: I -do not- enjoy aimlessly replaying failed scenarios. I like that if you blow one here you roll on and that fail becomes part of the narrative. I’ve failed a couple and still felt like the story was progressing and providing good consequences.


Yeah, that's a real positive. I thought that was one of the better aspects to the attempt to make campaigns for earlier versions' of Descent? I vaguely recall both Road to Legend and 2nd Edition having simply more advantages for the Overlord if the heroes fumbled a mission. But it's been a while, so I may be misremembering.

Yep, you recall correctly - in 2e the OL gets rewards if they win plus the side that won the most quests gets to choose the interlude and finale quests. And pretty sure the 2e app gives you different items in the market depending on how well you have done (well you have a Fame rating and we seem to get better stuff when our fame went up).

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31 Aug 2021 08:42 - 31 Aug 2021 08:46 #326122 by Sagrilarus

Jackwraith wrote:

Gary Sax wrote: I still remain convinced that anyone who does an app driven game needs to program in support for multiple players on their own phones for management and reading.


Excellent point. This was the thing that really makes Alchemists work. Everyone has the app on their phone and puts in the code for the game that you're all playing that day. That way, there's no need to pass one phone around or have everyone trying to gather around one six-inch screen. Everyone just uses their own device and plays the same game. I think that would be a huge step forward for games like this.


That would be ideal for remote play, but requires a central server (which brings advantages as well as disadvantages by the way. Having people stop by "the store" each time they play opens a lot of opportunities.) Were I FFG I would have done this, even if it's not in their (current) core business model.

But I'll tell you what, "screen sharing" would be super-easy for co-located gamers. iPad and Android provide it for use to a television or the like so everyone can see. But even if you wanted it across phones and OSs on the same LAN it's not difficult coding. Make a fuss about this at FFG and you might just get it in an updated version. If it was me, I'd open up an API for local connections, then let gamers code the rest of it for me. Likely done in a week.
Last edit: 31 Aug 2021 08:46 by Sagrilarus.
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31 Aug 2021 09:57 #326124 by charlest
I heard of someone sharing their screen on Zoom and the other players connecting to the Zoom call so they could see it.
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31 Aug 2021 14:50 #326133 by dragonstout
I can't agree with Barnes on the "there's no more reading aloud than in a typical FFG game". While there might be same total number of minutes spent reading as in, say, Arkham Horror 2E, in that game, the reading is divided up into small chunks throughout the game. In Descent, every game I've played so far has literally 15 minutes of reading before the game and 15 minutes afterward. That is WAY too much reading *in a row*. I can imagine it being fine solo, but when I'm reading it all out loud to the group, it's exhausting, especially when it's often pretty boring and we either *just want to start playing the game* at the beginning or *just want to go home and sleep* at the end. That's my biggest problem with the game so far.

Also, I don't know that "the characters have distinctive personalities" is necessarily a good thing in a board game? Like, of course the old Descent characters had less personality; they were never given any beyond the image. But then you could project whatever you wanted onto them, which I think works great for a board game. For the Arkham Horror Card Game, where they have much more personality, it's still less than the new Descent, and it still lets you do plenty of projection onto them, in part because you don't hear any of their actual dialogue. But in Descent, so far I've found that Kehli is annoying, Vaeryx is haughty and smug, and the elf guy is aloof and antisocial, and for those first two especially, their personality has turned me *off* of playing them.

OK, one last complaint: getting stuff from treasure chests and bookshelves and etc. feels extremely underwhelming, because the items (outside of the consumables) are all things that not only can you not use right now, but you can't even easily what you WILL eventually be able to use it for or what it does. I can't get excited when it says "you get 1 Vigos and 13 Curios", or even "you get a recipe for Steel-Tipped Darts" or whatever; it means nothing. So even though it's clear that scavenging for all this stuff is important in the long run, no one's excited about doing so. The crafting also just does not work with multiple players at all, as it requires analyzing what you can build and what you can't, what overlaps, etc., which requires every player carefully going through all the options in the app. It's way too detailed to work with multiple players at a table.

We're sticking with it for now, but I could very much imagine ditching it after the fourth scenario.
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31 Aug 2021 17:26 #326141 by jason10mm
My FLGS has this game and good grief, you could use that box to shore up half of Louisiana right now! It isn't quite a coffin game but wow is it dense!
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