I’m new to the Descent game having played only once before when Mike brought it over and taught it to my family and me. (You can read about our first experience here.) Four weeks ago Mike brought Descent again and we played one dungeon with Cori, Tage and Jack.
The boys were impressed with the game so when Mike showed them the newest expansion, a campaign mode called The Road to Legend, they wanted to give it a try. We agreed to meet on Saturday mornings when Mike got off of work.
The first two weeks went pretty well but we were falling behind in Experience points because we kept dying. In the campaign version of the game, dying doesn’t hurt our character as he pops right back up in perfect health and with all of his items, but it hurts the heroes as a whole since it gives the player who is handling the monsters Experience points to use towards upgrading his monsters. After the second week, I was finally beginning to see the sense in using caution when you first enter a dungeon level. I also realized the importance of using your special action tokens to Aim, Dodge, Heal, and Guard. These were the thoughts I took with me into our third week of play. Unfortunately, my heroic companions had not yet grasped this.
On the third Saturday the heroes headed to a special dungeon where we could pick up a lot of money which we needed to buy the boat and map in order to reach more areas. The first two levels didn’t give us much trouble since Mike was hording his evilness until the next level. On the third level he kept spawning new creatures at a steady pace, many of them the upgraded ones, and dropping heroes in pits, etc. The heroes suffered several deaths before moving to the final level of the dungeon where all of the gold was hidden.
This floor has three long hallways leading into three different areas, each with a horde of gold and a token representing the dragon who is guarding it. I didn’t realize it was a dragon until the token was flipped but I figured it would be bad and suggested we stick together. This suggestion was vetoed by everyone else and off we went in two groups.
Jack and Tage were the first to encounter their dragon which is when I first learned that Tage had known it would be a dragon from his experience in playing other RPGs. So why did we split up!?! Tage’s character was strong enough to defeat the dragon after Jack had softened it up, but as a consequence of his magic, he’d killed off Jack. Even this wouldn’t have been too bad if Tage could have come to the rescue of Cori and I but in order to do that, he would have to cross a room stuffed with monsters or take two turns to head to town and back to our section of the dungeon.
In the meantime, Cori and I had awaken our dragon. My range-specific character was so weak that I could only do one or two damage after getting through the armor of the dragon, who could take 30 hits or more. Cori’s character was split almost evenly between magic and melee, and while he was more powerful than mine, could not come close to killing the dragon in one turn. We were in serious trouble and I suggested we head back to town and call it a day before we both died. We’d made enough money to buy the boat and the map and had money left over. Would they listen? No, of course not.
Tage became disgusted, although he didn’t say anything; his mouth got tight and he said only that he wanted to come back from town and fight the dragon. I decided to head for town but since I had to wait one turn at the portal before I could transport, I moved onto it and fought, giving the dragon a paper cut. Cori fought, doing a small amount of damage to the dragon. Then the dragon had his turn, killing me and leaving Cori with one health. Tage returned to the dungeon and killed the dragon but in the process, his magic also killed himself and Cori. Thus ended our journey on the campaign trail.
I had butted heads with my fellow heroes several times during that third day because I had seen beyond the single dungeon we were exploring; I had seen the need to balance risk and reward. When I was told to run up there and grab the gold token or activate the transport portal, I often refused since it would put me in a position to die on the monster’s turn. That doesn’t mean that one of the other characters didn’t do it and die. I suggested that Cori not move so close to the monsters but I got a dirty look as she moved back one step. Of course, on the monster’s turn, she was surrounded and died.
When we all agreed we didn’t want to play this any more, they still hadn’t realized that they were wrong; that giving Mike 13 Experience points from all the deaths didn’t make sense compared to the 2 we would receive from killing the second dragon. I thought I did very well when I didn’t respond to Tage’s comment, “I don’t want to insult anyone but I’ve played other RPG’s and I see, like, five moves ahead.” Yes, I thought, but you don’t see Mike’s monster moves or the big picture.
Maybe this story will help other players who are new to Descent, or at least the ones who are trying The Road to Legend expansion for the first time. In the normal game, you give your all to defeat the dungeon but in the campaign mode, you have to look beyond that one dungeon and to the fact that you’re trying to gain experience while keeping the bad guy from getting too strong too fast.