Descent 2nd edition is a fantasy dungeon crawl game that i have been collecting since 2015 and it saw my return to painting models after a break of around ten years. It is of course a follow up to the original Journeys in the Dark, with an aim to streamline the rules and improve the way the campaign system works. It is a miniatures based game where heroes play co-operatively competing with a dungeon overlord player who controls the monsters, events and traps to try and stop them achieving their objective.
This games comes with high production quality, models are good with heroes a little smaller in scale than some other dungeon games, with lovely artwork on the cards and the most detailed map tiles around. Heroes come with different skill decks, a choice of two for each class, warrior, mage, healer and scout, and your ongoing progression can reflect your character’s chosen play style preferences.
The core box set is excellent value with huge replayability including 8 heroes and 9 monster groups and has a campaign book to work through with branching path scenarios depending on whether the heroes or dungeon overlord win a scenario, culminating in a final story showdown. The new campaign system is generally considered an improvement over the previous edition, with each storyline split into more manageable gaming sessions, however a lot of scenarios focus is on time limited play with mechanics driving you to finish quicker than your opponent, whereas the original was much more a sprawling open dungeon crawl and great for longer one off adventures. Whilst the 2nd edition was originally competitive, expansions later added three co-operative scenario packs and then an app called ‘Road to Legend’ which enabled new campaign adventures where the dungeon and monsters are controlled for you.
The game is largely relatively easy to play, heroes have core statistics for movement, health, endurance and what dice they roll for defense, and alongside these are useable skills used to roll for tests. A couple of areas this game excels at versus other dungeon crawls are the combat dice of differing colours which improve from green to yellow to blue to red, and these have both the damage they cause, the range distance covered and also surges which can be used to trigger special bonuses, i find them excellent in use. In addition heroes can strain themselves and spend fatigue tokens up to their endurance limit to gain extra movement when needed which gives another layer of tactical choice. Finally a hero has two special skills on their board, one ability that is ongoing and one a heroic feat that can be used once per adventure, and these help to make each character unique.
The overlord has their own plot card decks to perform special actions such as interrupting heroes, laying traps or causing extra damage, and they can select the deck they want to use each game. Monsters will come as minions and a stronger master level, plus they have act 1 and 2 levels, so as heroes improve so can the monsters. All this gives a lot of variety to the game on both sides.
Dungeon Crawlers come in many different forms, and while Descent can be beaten in certain areas by other dungeon games, i do consider the combination of the 1st and 2nd editions my best all round dungeon game covering all different types of play battling through a campaign, an overlord controlling a dungeon, or playing co-op or solo with the app. Descent 2nd edition is a game that gives some scope for you to play how you want, but it is going out of print now and so has become more costly to find.
There are many expansions available which are covered in my separate guide including a look at my painted models > Descent 2nd Edition Expansions