Monday, November 19, 2007

Journeys in the Dark

Saturday, we got together to play a game of Descent at my place. Attending were Mike Garrett, Steve Wicklund, Justin Kosek and his friend Ben, and Justin Easley. I played Overlord again and Mike and I picked the same scenario we tried our last time out. This time, there were of course 5 heroes (4 new to the game). Mike spent a good amount of time with everyone picking characters and we tried to explain the basics of what everything meant. After a bit of time, the group felt they had a good balance of characters - two tanks (Easley and Ben), two magic users (Kosek and Steve), and a rogue (Mike). I had read a bit about playing against 5 heroes and eventually settled on using 1.5x4-player monster HPs. This seemed to work out well and was pretty balanced, though still a tad on the easy side for the heroes. Things started a bit slowly, as Mike discovered that his combination of skills and weapons meant he couldn't do much damage despite his ranged abilities. Coupled with the new players feeling things out, the first few rounds were slow. Once everyone figured their guys out and how best to use them in concert, things sped up a lot. Easley's tank was nearly overpowered with his ability(Knight) to spend a couple of fatigue points to move two spaces and then attack three times! Plus each time he used this ability, all adjacent firendly figures gained fatigue back. Ben's tank was also nearly as lethal in that if he killed a monster, he could spend a fatigue to then conduct another attack against an adjacent monster (he also regenerated a fatigue each turn). Kosek's character raised my cost to play cards by an additional threat token, but otherwise, his and Steve's mages were as expected - heavy ranged damage dealers. The kick to Kosek's character was his ability to do a ready action and then give that to another character (often to a tank that had already taken out a load of guys). It quickly became apparent that my two best assets were going to be: spawning beastmen(the command ability of the red beastmen is nice) and hitting the group with traps. I got into play the Trapmaster card, which let me reduce the cost of traps as well as up the damage, and set about trying to trap the group to death. Things seemed to be pretty even, as I couldn't seem to kill anyone, but did burn through the threat cards once, scoring conquest tokens (BTW, my run of bad luck with the Hellhounds continues as I still am oh-fer in successful breath attacks). The group countered the loss of conquest by activating a glyph. The group got to a chest which scored them more conquest, but I balanced that out by killing Mike. This was far and away my favorite kill. I hit Mike right after he got an equipment card that effectively gave him hand grenades. I hit him with a control curse, which allows the Overlord to use the character to make an attack. I, of course, used him to attack himself. Easy kill! ;) The group activated another glyph to gain more conquest, but I was then able to kill Kosek, leaving the group 3 conquest tokens. Sadly, it was at this point that the group pretty much all needed to go. We really were only 1/2 way through this scenario, and in my best guess, it could have gone either way. I had a good chance to try and put a hurt to Easley's tank, which would have netted me enough tokens for the win, but the next area also offered multiple things (chest and glyph) which they might have gotten to first. We had to call this one a draw. With two plays under my belt now, I have to say this: I like this game. My only real complaint is the time factor. It takes a bit of time to get started, and it takes a couple turns for the players to figure out what is going to work for the party. It also takes a couple turns for the Overlord to figure out what isn't going to work for him. Once you have the mechanics down and can look at the dice to quickly determine the result, things speed up a lot. We played for a solid 4-5 hours and were only halfway to completion. That's a lot of time to invest in a single session. On the flip side, nobody realized how fast the time was going, which was a good indicator we were all completely absorbed by the game.

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