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Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Board Game Box Shot

Descent: Journeys in the Dark


Across the land, courageous heroes delve into shadowed dungeons, journey to lost cities, and explore forgotten ruins. In the darkest corners of the world, these heroes confront deadly and terrifying monsters. For those few who survive, the rewards are many. For those that confront the Overlord, master of traps and monsters, in his dangerous dungeon realm and fail... only eternal darkness and the Overlord's hollow, echoing laughter...

Descent: Journeys in the Dark is a semi-cooperative game in which two to five players will take on the antagonistic roles of heroes and Overlord. Up to four players will choose characters with a wide assortment of skills and innate abilities to be the heroes who will explore dungeons in search of treasure and adventure. One player will take on the role of the Overlord and will control the dungeon's many traps, puzzles, and monsters.


The heroes' goal will be to cooperatively conquer the dungeon, seize its many treasures, and achieve other objectives as set by the scenario. If the heroes cooperate and achieve their goals, they will all win. The Overlord's objective is simply to use all the means at his or her disposal - from deadly traps and ferocious monsters - to kill the heroes. Each hero has a certain Conquest Point value to the party and if too many Conquest Points are lost through hero death, the party loses and the Overlord wins.

Are you equipped and ready to step onto the Glyph of Transport and cross the dark portal into the world of Descent?

images © Fantasy Flight Games

User Reviews (11)

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Professional Advisor
82 of 91 gamers found this helpful
“Intense Tactical Slugfest”

Descent pits a team of heroes against a monster-filled dungeon run by an evil overlord. Heroes collect items, manage their inventory, and draw upon an impressive variety of unique abilities. The overlord manages a “threat” pool to spawn monsters, activate traps, and generally hinder the heroes. Both sides engage in nuanced, tactical combat. Games are lengthy (typically 4-6 hours for me).

Despite appearances, this isn’t a traditional RPG. The overlord is an opponent, not a referee. The heroes are under constant time pressure, even when no monsters are visible, so the game is a sort of race. Both sides are expected to exploit all the strategies available to them, even if they are sometimes counter-intuitive. Expect a tactical miniatures game, not a storytelling game.

Some players are also disappointed to discover that every game starts from scratch with a new set of heroes, rather than carrying over loot and experience. I actually quite enjoy it, as it allows me to experience a lot of character growth in each individual game, and makes it easy to play quests out of order or with different players each time.

The basic rules are much easier to grasp than I expected, and the detailed rules (such as monster abilities) can generally be learned as they come up, making Descent remarkably easy to teach. However, there are a multitude of special cases with unclear or counter-intuitive rules that will crop up from time to time, and the game has been errata’d extensively. Download the FAQ, and be prepared to discover you did some subtle-but-important things wrong your first game.

Game balance is quite good on average, but highly variable. The asymmetric gameplay can disguise large player skill differences (I highly recommend rotating overlord players). The player scaling rules don’t work very well, and heroes will find the game much easier when playing with a larger party. Quest difficulty varies widely, and the first couple quests are basically tutorials, often giving a misleading impression. Skills, treasures, and heroes are also all over the place, and a lucky or unlucky draw can change the whole game. (In fact, this bothered me enough to create my own rebalanced homebrew…though that probably says more about me than about the game.)

In summary, Descent is a deep tactical combat game with an impressive breadth of content, but it’s a bit kludgy, and it won’t necessarily scratch your RPG itch.

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63 of 74 gamers found this helpful
“A Good Game in Principle”

Descent is a game of dungeon exploration and combat. One player is the Overlord. That player sets up the map and monsters. The Overlord rolls for the attacks of the monsters and gets to play cards to harm the players.
The other players select one character each to play. Each character has a different balance of skills, attack, and special abilities. Skills are drawn from three different decks, warrior skills, thief skills, and magic skills. Most characters get three skills. Each character has attack dice allocated between the three types of attack, melee, range, and magic. Most characters have three dice allocated between the different types of attacks.
After setup, players get to take their first turn. Each player may go in any order, but a player must finish their turn before another starts. Players pick one of four actions on their turn, move twice, attack twice, move once and attack once, or move or attack and take one order. Their are four orders, aim which allows a re-roll of the next attack that character makes, defend which lets them attack on their turn, rest which restores fatigue, and dodge which forces the Overlord to re-roll attacks.
After each player goes the Overlord gets Threat (which is used to play cards), attacks with monsters, and plays cards. The overlord is responsible for revealing each part of the dungeon as players explore.
I like all of the individual mechanics for Descent, however it is a hard game for players. Monsters can have special powers which make them more difficult. In some scenarios monsters have more than one special power. This is where the game gets unbalanced. For example, undying is an ability where some monster can get their full health back after they are killed. This is a fine ability for skeletons and minor monsters. But some of the dungeon bosses have this ability, which means for each time they succeed in using the undying ability, the players will have to fight the boss monster again. Most scenarios are designed so that players will exhaust their resources nearly completely by the end of the boss fight. Having to fight them again is almost impossible.
Overall Descent is good game that needs some minor tweaking.

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Intermediate Reviewer
72 of 98 gamers found this helpful
“How to waste your life and not really enjoy it along the way!”

The contents of this truly enormous box are fantastic, I couldn’t say a bad thing about them really! The board pieces are thick and chunky and fit together securely. The cards are a good size and the artwork on them, and throughout the box, is brilliant and in keeping with the theme of the game.
The playing pieces are well made from the characters to the monsters (LOADS!), the characters are sufficiently different to each other that they can be easily told apart on the board and the monsters are equally well made. The stat cards that go along with them are clear and although a little gaudy, due to the bright yellow border, they fit in well and don’t spoil the overall look.
The rules are not eh easiest to grasp as the rulebook is confused and certain key elements are lost in small boxes to the edge of the page. Once these have been located and read the game isn’t that complicated and easily taught, but that’s probably the quickest part about this game.
Finally the counters, of which there seems to be thousands when you pop them all out! All are nice and chunky with nice art on them but sorting through them can be tedious so some sort of organiser is a must for this game (I found that a multi compartment tackle box is an inexpensive and ideally suited solution)

The components alone make this game a good, solid 9/10 but that’s where the praise all but ends.

THIS GAME TAKES AAAAAGGGGGEEEEEESSSSSS! I don’t mean that the plot takes ages, or the missions themselves to that matter, the set up alone can take what seems like an eternity!
The game in itself has a good solid base and the combat mechanic is a good one, I personally enjoy the use of the different coloured dice for different forms of combat. What takes the biscuit is that while combat can take a couple of turns for one fight, the overlord player has so many options in his deck for summoning enemies that any game can quickly turn into a quagmire of squishy bad guys, making moving on to another room near **** impossible! So much so that in one game our group had, the overlord kept the heroes from escaping the first two rooms for over an hour! You can guess how quickly the fun went out of that game!

I would only recommend this game for gamers with that much spare time on their hands that they’ve considered taking up knitting top pass the time, and even then to give the knitting another consideration. The components are first class and worth a 9/10, but the tedious slog through an endlessly spawning swamp of mediocre enemies, who multiply quicker than the ants in my back yard force me to knock this down to a 4/10, such is my disdain for the Gameplay. I truly hope that the 2.0 version improves it and makes for a faster game as the premise and theme is my usual style, but until I have a good look at it, my v1.0 is staying in its box, at the bottom of my pile, wishing it got played as much as Talisman!

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Gamer - Level 9
Explorer - Level 6
Guardian Angel
32 of 46 gamers found this helpful
“Impressive components worth the effort to learn”

I am not going to do my usual rules explanation on this one. There has been plenty of information done already. Instead I am focusing on some general information you should have. First, and most importantly, If you do not already have the game make sure that the copy you purchase is 2nd edition. I bought it when it 1st came out and my group played it a few times and then stopped as we were getting slaughtered every time we played and never made it past the 1st scenario. The second edition had significant rules changes and made the game more enjoyable while keeping it playable. Secondly, if you do own a 1st edition copy see if you can find a conversion kit. The company put these out for a while and they have everything you need to convert 1st edition copies for 2nd edition play. Third, the components are fantastic and worth the cost. I believe that the fact that so many of today’s boardgames have impressive minis(both in quantity and quality of design) are due in large part to the outstanding work that Fantasy Flight has been doing on their games. Finally, this is a “dungeon crawl”- a team of heroes with a goal. You can play as bunch of 1 time adventures or run it as an ongoing campaign with the same heroes each time and watch as they grow. There are plenty of expansions available if you enjoy the game.

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Pet Lover
62 of 97 gamers found this helpful
“My favorite so far”

That is my favorite game so far. Hard but rewarding, long but intense, a lot of different ways to play and tactics to use. Haven’t tried the 2nd edition or any expansion, but probably they should fix some of the issues with it:
* not very balanced – amateur game-master can win against experienced heroes
* very long (not sure if that’s a ‘+’ or a ‘-‘)
* quests are all the same with only small differences (i.e you have to carry a spoiled princess with you for a penalty)
* game master can become very rich very quickly

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Poland Beta 2.0 Tester
64 of 111 gamers found this helpful
“Great dungeon crawler”

I was lucky enough to purchase used copy of Descent + all expansions for around 250USD. Amazing price (well, I have seen Road to Legend on ebay for 230USD…). It was in perfect conditions so after couple of months I decided to buy it.

This game is just amazing. So many tiles, so many tokens, so many plastic figures! Hope 2nd edition will be even close to this one.

We will see soon enough, but until then….Descent is my own number 1 right now

ps. I dont care if you like my review or not. most of you does not even read it. just click it 😛 🙂

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62 of 108 gamers found this helpful
“One of my faves!”

There’s quite a bit to set up, and it takes a while to play, but it’s SO enjoyable.

Pick a character, party up with some allies, and try to survive the dangerous monsters during the descent! Along the way, find new equipment, abilities and spells, level up to make yourself stronger, and of course bash in some monster skulls!

This game does have a “Dungeon Master” role, so it’s that person vs the rest of the gamers, essentially. The adventuring party is fully co-operative though.

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64 of 118 gamers found this helpful
“Very frustrating”

I found this game very frustrating. WIth too few players, the adversary just rolls over the players. With four players, they roll over the adversary. The game feels incredibly unbalanced.

We started house ruling it to fix some of the issues and realized it would be quicker to just play D&D.

I’ve also been told there are fixes available online, but again, if it requires that much work, we may as well just play D&D. The components are really nice, and may make the game worth the price for some players — they’re easily used in D&D games, for example 🙂 …

I’ve been told the 2nd edition is an improvement, but I do not have any direct experience with it yet.

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5 Beta 1.0 Tester
US Army Service
63 of 123 gamers found this helpful
“Absolute favorite”

My all time favorite game. Love playing this with my kids as the tension in each game is wonderful. So many great twists and turns and the absolute best dice mechanic ever. Very excited for second edition and the new updates. Essential piece for the dungeon delver gamer.

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Legend of the Five Rings Fan
Spider Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Went to Gen Con 2012
63 of 124 gamers found this helpful
“A Fantastic Free-for-All of Fun”

This is one of those games that is great for those group get-togethers where you do not feel like playing D&D and just doing an old fashioned dungeon crawl. Though the game can take some time to set up, the pay off is very much worth it.

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63 of 126 gamers found this helpful
“Good basic design, needed some work”

The game is very fun but unles you have the max players, expect the dungeon overlord to win 95-99% of the time…even than if they play smart expect 50-70%. Also you will want o buy some extra packs of the dice as passing them around all the time gets old fast.


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