Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Road to Legend, Chapter 1.2

Six of us met to continue with our Descent: The Road to Legend game on Tuesday night. From our previous meeting were Jesse, Iveta, and Laurent (Mike has no apparent interest in the story arc element in RtL and bowed out). Joining us were Ben H and Matt R. Ben had never played Descent, and Matt had played once or twice before, but both jumped right in and started to get the hang of the game with very little prep time. 

To save a little time, I'd "rolled" the second and third levels of the dungeon prior to our session, and gotten the various characters all set up. This saved me quite a bit of time sorting through the various floor pieces, and I recommend this for groups who are competitive but that isn't the main reason for play, as the Overlord *may* make some choices based on their knowledge of the upcoming maps. However, I tend to discard a lot of cards so that I can build up threat quickly, so there's little planning beyond what's in my hand, so I don't feel my extra knowledge helped me in the least. 

Our second level seemed to me to be very straightforward. The map was a squared off donut, with two treasure rooms off to each side. Our boss was again a skeleton, and in addition to a never-ending supply of skeletons I also included an ogre and a golem. The Ogre didn't last long, but the golem sure did. Fighting against Vasikos (I think that's the character name), they both had trouble getting anything going, with Vas using the Dodge ability pretty much every turn to force rerolls. It wasn't until the characters got the boss skeleton wiped out that they were able to finish off the golem and get to the treasure rooms. Good thing there was a chest - they give the Great Wyrm extra Conquest Points, of which I was pretty far behind when we started (6 to 2). By the end of this level I'd not only gotten three for going through my deck (I got the Brilliant Commander card out that let me draw three cards a turn), but also the points for killing Astarra the Runewitch, my favorite target in this game as she has little armor compared to the tanks. I'm going to need buffed up characters and lots of traps to do them decent damage.

Just before they got to the third level (another donut but with much bigger rooms and more rubble), I also got out the DOOM! card that let me roll an extra power die with each attack. I'm limited to two Power cards played, so I couldn't get out the Hordes of Things card out, but then again if you don't have multiple areas in a level (most have just one) there's no real point once you get to the final level. 

The third level has a master giant, which is by far the most dangerous critter they've run into, and quite fitting for the dungeon boss. In addition to the usual special attacks, he can choose instead to throw a chunk of rubble around the room. If it moves over a hero, they take damage and if it lands on them they die. I did manage to kill Astarra again (for a nice 4 Conquest Point gain combined), and am hoping to get through my deck once more for another three. That will put me up to fourteen or fifteen points after the dungeon, which is not too bad. Poor Matt just kept getting picked on, but that's what happens when your armor consists of what looks like a workout halfshirt and a hairband. The party's Conquest Points are already at that point, and I expect them to get to 20, for a total of around 35 points. 

We had to stop about halfway through this level. At the present rate we'll get 1.5 levels done each session, which is maybe a little slower than I expected. Assuming no encounters on the way back to town, I'm guessing we'll get through the first half of another level in the next session once they go back to town and train or do other things and we get used to the non-dungeon mechanisms. That means about a year to get to silver level, another year to get to gold, and another to get ready for the big fight. Not sure this game will last three years, although people seemed to be having a good time and I'll keep it going until my audience loses interest. I think that once the players get to start improving their characters we'll see some extra enthusiasm, although at this point that's not an issue, and I hope it's enough to keep people coming back. I'm a little worried that the dungeons will start to feel kinda samey-samey, but only time will tell. Hey, I've played WoW for more than a year and am still loving it, and it's technically got the same issue (although that's not as true when it comes to dungeons as they get more difficult in a strategy sense as opposed to just tougher monsters, forcing players to play smarter). Still, I have trouble seeing the game having the same punch after 15 dungeons or more. Perhaps the quest mechanism (where going to a specific dungeon gives you a bonus) will spice things up and add a story element to keep things fresh.

One other interesting note is that we played with five people taking four characters. Because I want to let as many people as possible get in on the fun early, I was willing to take the chance that one person could operate as a strategic thinker for the group, or just as an extra voice. Iveta took on this role, and while she wasn't as involved as others, I think she's enjoying the way the story unfolds. Next time she'll get to drive someone and we'll let someone else sit out, assuming we have five players on the hero side. I'm glad that the game is engaging in this way, although the limitation on exactly four heroes, while clearly a necessary design decision, is a bit of a knock. 

All in all, I'm enjoying the game myself quite a bit, even though I arguably have the least interesting role (as I'm not all that involved for about 60-70% of the time, or at least don't need to be). However, since I really enjoy hosting and watching people having a good time, especially with something I'm organizing and running, that's not a bad thing at all. It really is a very fun game to watch other people play, as there is so much interaction between the characters. 

Thanks to everyone who came and played, and I'm looking forward to getting into the character building parts of the game as we move ahead.

1 comment:

Laurent said...

I think the pace will speed up as we get more comfortable with the rules.

The time lost is mainly due to discussion between Jesse and I on how to run the dungeon.
I'm all for let's kill everything in turn together whereas he's more of an opinion to split the group while he's tanking the main monster.