It’s not Tuesday, but I wanted to write a bit about the Hero and Monster Collections that have been put out for Descent: Journeys in the Dark today, as I recently had two of them delivered and think they’re amazing 🙂
Now, I’ve only briefly mentioned Descent on here before, back when I played the POD scenario Forgotten Souls, but the game is so good that it’ll make it here before long. I haven’t gotten to play the game as often as I’d like, so you can take this blog with a pinch of your favourite condiment. However, I want to share some impressions with you all…
Descent has seen a whole load of expansions to support the line since the base game was released in its second edition back in 2012. The state of the game right now is:
– core game (plus six associated Lieutenants)
– Lair of the Wyrm expansion (plus associated Lieutenant)
– Labyrinth of Ruin big box expansion (plus four associated Lieutenants)
– The Trollfens expansion (plus associated Lieutenant)
– Shadows of Nerekhall big box expansion (plus four associated Lieutenants)
– Manor of Ravens expansion (plus associated Lieutenant)
– Forgotten Souls co-op scenario (print-on-demand)
– 3 Hero and Monster Collections
A little history
Descent was originally produced in 2005, and quickly became popular as one of the archetypal dungeon-crawler games. Set in the same universe as Runebound, which was released in its own second edition the same year, the two games seemed to evolve together, sharing heroes and the like, with four promo heroes released that could be used in either game. This was all back when board games like this were seen as a little odd, shall we say, and didn’t have the need to appeal to mass-markets. I’m not trying to be snobby when I say this, it’s just a fact: games like this didn’t try to break out into general markets back then. You had to either stumble across a very specialist shop, or else do all your shopping online, usually importing, to get your hands on such things.
Gradually, however, this has changed, and Descent is one of the more famous examples to see this, I would say. For second edition, its price point was lowered and the coffin-box was thrown out in favour of a square thing. Components were redesigned and the core set came with all-new heroes and monsters.
Of heroes and monsters
This is where the Hero and Monster Collections come in today. See, back in 2012, the second edition core game was released almost alongside a “conversion kit“, which featured second edition cards for all the heroes and all the monsters that could be found among first edition. So, owners of the previous game suddenly had a massive amount of options when confronted with this, and people like me, who had always shied away from Descent but threw their money at Runebound regardless, could at least use the hero cards to add more variety.
The Hero and Monster Collections, however, come with cards and miniatures for the first edition stuff. The first box, Oath of the Outcast, was announced back in January of this year, with the following rationale:
Hero and Monster Collections are a new type of expansion for Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition. Each one contains four heroes and three or more monster groups, updated for the second edition of the game with completely new art and figure sculpts. Every Hero and Monster Collection also includes two quests, to be played individually or as a Rumor quest in a campaign.
The quests, more than anything, really intrigued me. As a lifelong thematic player, I’m always looking for new things like this to excite me. It’s the quests, in my view, that really elevate these expansions beyond the mere ‘new toys for an old game’.
Oath of the Outcast (above) landed in May, and was followed by Crown of Destiny in July:
The third pack, Crusade of the Forgotten, was then released in October:
A fourth pack, Guardians of Deephall, has also been announced, with an expected release by the end of the year.
For someone who doesn’t get to play much Descent, you might be wondering just why I’m so excited by these things. Well, the answer is simple: because of Terrinoth. Fantasy Flight Games has invented the world of Terrinoth as a fantasy realm wherein Descent, Runebound, Runewars, Rune Age and DungeonQuest all take place, with BattleLore having recently joined in the fun. On the one hand highly derivative of other fantasy lines, the setting is nevertheless classic for me due to the association with one of my all-time favourite board games, Runebound. It’s a setting that I cannot help but enjoy, and always get a rush of good feeling whenever I see anything new for this universe. I always nurture the hope that I will get to play more Descent soon, of course, but in the meantime I just enjoy building up my collection with these things.
As another point, they’re also amazing in terms of quality. I mean, did you take a look at those chaos beasts – and the giants! – from Crown of Destiny?! To illustrate the point, take a look at this side-by-side comparison:
Here we have Shiver, Jaes the Exile and Tahlia – miniatures from the Runebound games (Frozen Wastes, core game and Sands of Al-kalim) with their counterparts from the new Collections. The new sculpts are pretty awesome, but the level of detail they’ve not got is pretty amazing, to say the least! Jaes’ robes are now just awesome! The hero cards also have brand-new art (and, in some places, some tweaks) compared with those available in the conversion kit:
And of course, the same thing is true of the Monster cards:
Added to this are the new Quests and such, and we’re really getting an awesome little bundle right here! In the UK, these packs retail for around £25-£30, and they’re definitely worth every last penny. The expansions for Descent seem to have calmed down for the moment, with nothing new on the horizon beyond the fourth Collection, presumably as we wait for Imperial Assault to hit. But these packs are an excellent way to keep the game going, in my opinion, and hopefully we’ll be seeing plenty more of them as time wears on!