Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: Descent - Journeys in the Dark

As my wife asked me this week if we could play a game of Descent I thought of doing a short review of the game. Yes it is not the latest game at the moment but it is a clasical dungeoncrawler. You could even say it is the grandson of our beloved Heroquest which was the starting point for tabletops for many of us. Since I own the game some time, all markers and miniatures are build together already, but at first opening you have to break all the markers and tiles out of thick cardboard and assemble some (few) of the miniatures (e.g. the dragon).

Descent - Journeys in the Dark
Descent - Journeys in the Dark

Content of the box

The box comes LOADED with stuff. It is so stuffed, that you will have problems to pack everything in after playing :-). To give a short overview of the content:
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Questguide
  • 20 Hero Sheets
  • ~80 Plastic Figures
  • 12 Dice
  • 180 Cards
  • 61 Map Tiles
  • 500+ tokens/makers

Descent box content
Stuff over stuff over stuff ...

Some words about the miniatures: They are made out of a relativly soft plastic so swords and staves and the like bend with ease. They have a good amount of detail (no display quality but hey they are designed for playing) and the monsters have two types of color. White/beige monsters are "normal" red ones are elite monsters with better stats and special abilities. Some of them could easily used for other games (tabletops) and invite you to paint them.

Even more content

The game has many extension (of which I don't own any) and two campaign sets. One is completly out of print and is traded on ebay for some hundred bucks. The other one is also out of print, but traders have some stock left. The last one I own, Descent: The Sea of Blood which introduces rules for campaigns, a world map, sea fighting, heroes for the Overlord and rules to develop the hero characters in the campaign.


The game is a classical dungeon crawler. The heroes have to complete quests and therefore run through dungeons, kill monsters and bosses, and hoard treasures and magic weapons. The game is designed to be played by 2-5 players. One player has to take the role of the Overlord (the Dungeonmaster, the bad guy) and play all the monsters and traps and so on. His target is to hinder the players and rob them of their questmarkers. If the heroes have no questmarkers left, the game is over.
The heroes on the other side, try to survice the dangerous dungeons and fulfill their quest every dungeon has. If they die, they loose some questmarkers (depending on the strength of the character), are teleported back to the city and revived automatically. If they fulfill their targets, EVERY player wins.

Before you can start a game, the Overlord decides which quest is played (in the campaign mode this is decided by the players, as they move over the map). and sets up the dungeon. The hero players choose which heroes they play (20 are at their disposal), can buy equipment in town and get ready for their adventure. The heroes have one fix starting point buit can activate glyphs throughout the game to teleport back to town. If they activate the glyph and the first hero sets foot into the dungeon, the game begins.

Descent set up to play

The game follows all the rules for a dungeon crawler: fighting monsters, finding treasures and avoiding traps. At the end most times there is a even bigger monster (the end boss) which the heroes have to overcome. In campaign mode, the Overlord also has a hero to play, which can raid cities, hunt the player heroes and so on.
As we discovered setting up the game takes really time, the better you have managed this pile of map tiles and counters, the faster the settup will be. A normal game will take about 3-4 hours (plus), depending a bit on the amount of players and the time they need to discuss their strategy. The more players are in game, the more monsters and traps are at the disposal of the Overlord.

Surrounded by evil monsters


Descent - Journeys in the dark is a complex but fun game. The more you play, the faster your games will get, since everyone knows the rules. The boy is loaded with stuff and I think some miniatures I will use in the future for some tabletop gaming. With the campaign expansion you get LOTS of extra rules but a cool system to develop the heroes characters and get a bonding with them. With five players you should have a big enough table with a bit of extra space, the dimensions of the bigger dungeons are enormous. Today there is already a Version 2 of descent on the market, I don't know how this plays, but I will not buy the new one.
I do not regret that I bought the game some time ago (when it was fully prized). Even then you got lots for your money.

I can only give you a short overview of the game, a full coverage would take many pages and would be somewhat boring I think. Hope you enjoyed it anyway.

So long,


  1. Wow.. nice little review there.. always been on the look out for another dungeon crawler since HeroQuest keeps being sold for insane prices on eBay.

    Might have to look into picking this up.. that is if Sedation Wars doesn't take up too much of my time ;)

    1. Yeah Sedition Wars will be nice. But its only a 2 player game. Descent is 2-5 players, thats really cool. Most of my friends have no bond to tabletop or role playing games but they like Descent :)

  2. Nice review but one minor complaint though. I'd have loved to see pics of all the different minis included in the box.
    I'm still thinking of buying it or not as I'm mostly interested in the tiles and miniatures to play another games with them.

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      I will try to unpack the box again and make some pictures of the miniatures (if I find the time this weekend).
      So stay tuned :)


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