Decent: Road to Legend

Rules for Decent: Road to Legend [pdf]Fantaasy Flight Games (FFG) has come out with a 3rd expansion to the game Descent: Journies in the Dark. The prior two expansions added new creatures, new maps, new map pieces, new effects, new props and new characters. I was kind of expecting more of the same with this release but to my surprise it is a very different animal. In fact this expansion is hardly an addon but more like a Master Game that Descent is the addon!

Road to Legend brings to the game a whole new way to play Descent. It has a map or the world of Terrinoth on which the party moves about. It is similar to the map in Runebound. In fact it is much like a mega-version of Runebound. Runebound takes about 4-8 hours to play. Road to Legend will take months to play. In RtL the players are involved in a great struggle against the Overlord who has an insideios plot against the land of Terrinoth. There are several Overlords to choose from and 3 plot lines to choose from. Our gaming group chose to start with the Dragon avatar and the Obsidian Shackles plotline. The Dragon gets the standard starting lieutenant (Sir Farrow) and starts in the Mountains to the South.

The players have three objectives in the campaign: Keep Tamilir, their home city, from being razed, prevent the Overlord’s plot from reaching a conclusion, getting powerful enough to face off the Overlord in his secret keep for the final battle. This is a tall order.

The new campaign system has “week” turns in which the characters travel, have encounters, explore dungeons and interact with cities (rest and recuperate, shopping, training, etc.) Each city is unique and offers different opportunities. There are even two secret training locations that offer the ability to improve a characters abilities (health and stamina).

A major change to the system is the concept of campaign level. There are 3 levels (copper, silver and gold) and just about everything is tied into this. Even the black power dice are now supplimented with silver and gold dice. This is huge. All the monster cards have been re-evaluated and there is one for each campaign level, plus there are “diamond” level cards. Needless to say, even “low-powered” diamond level creatures are kick ass. Imagine a beastman able to take on a green party – single handedly! If you’ve played Descent you know the standard beastman pretty much goes down in one swipe. In this game the beastman isn’t very different at the copper level. By the Diamond level though he is a commando of death.

One of the problems we had with Descent was that our gaming group tends to only have 2 1/2 hours of game play time. We play every other tuesday night. Since we all have work the next day we can’t play until the wee hours. So come 9:30 we are in final wrapup. The problem is the typical adventure map for Descent and its two other expansions require 3-4 hours to play. So we would usually stop just before the end or have to preserve the map and finish it two weeks later. That is no longer a problem. Dungeons are now divided into 3 levels and each one is easily playable in an hour. In our first game this past Tuesday we found the new dungeon layout and new spawning rules to be a lot of fun. It was clearly more enjoyable. The randomness of the dungeons is interesting too as they have some pretty specific storylines. They oddly don’t have much connection to each other. This isn’t a critisism yet. It will take some time to determine if that has an unsettling feeling or not.

There have been some changes to effects and to props but many are the same. The new rule book consolidates all of them into one place which is a very good thing.

The fact that your character starts out weaker than what a normal game of Descent provides is actually a benefit. You get to know your character’s strengths and weaknesses better. You are much more able to customize your character as time goes on. And since all the games are now connected you get to keep your loot, skills and other boosts. It is by far more interesting.

We played about a dozen times regular Decent over the past couple of months. We got a good feel for the game. To date the Overlord has tended to prevail about 3 out of 4 games but I think this time the game is much more balanced. Actually since the players will be getting more intimate with their characters I expect they will start to use their skills more and to better effect. Having a new character with new skills and so many options left many of them forgetting key things they could do. This is a much better way.

Overall we gave the new expansion a big thumbs up after our first go this week. I’ll report on future games as the campaign unfolds.

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