It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and today I thought it’d be cool to take a look at some expansions for Descent 2nd Edition, a game that I first featured on the blog here back in 2015: let’s look at the Lair of the Wyrm!
The treacherous Wyrm Queen Valyndra has awoken from her slumber, unleashing her foul hybrid minions on the countryside to burn and raid as they please. Her lust for gold has lured her from her lair, and now it’s up to a few brave heroes to drive her back into hiding and destroy her cruel servants!
The first expansion for Descent, Lair of the Wyrm came out in 2012, and is what I suppose you could now call a small box expansion for the main game. As such, it comes with more of everything, which is never a bad thing as far as I’m concerned! We get new items, new enemies, and new heroes, as well as new tiles and five new quests that link into a new campaign to go on as we delve into the lair of Valyndra, the wyrm of the title.
First of all, let’s look at the heroes. We get two: Reynhart the Worthy, and High Mage Quellen. Reynhart is from the warrior archetype, and comes with a new Champion class, while the mage Quellen brings the new Geomancer class with him. Both of these allow for more options for all manner of heroes, of course, which is something that I always enjoy seeing.
Again, the item cards provide more of the same, though a new aspect of the game is introduced through something called Secret Rooms, which allow you to place a whole new tile that can be searched, in a mechanic that feels very similar to the secret door cards in DungeonQuest. Unlike in that game, you don’t start a whole new area of the map, but rather continue on with the current quest once the Room has been resolved, but it just feels very similar, and I thought I’d mention it!
Moving on to monsters, there are only two new types included here: Hybrid Sentinels (the bat-like creatures) and Fire Imps (those little dudes coming out of the flames). The fire imps in particular tie into the theme of the expansion, through the new condition of Burning! Yes, if being poisoned and all the rest of it wasn’t enough to worry about, you can also catch on fire in the dungeon! Well, it makes sense, because you are delving into the dragon’s lair…
Valyndra herself is a Lieutenant for the Overlord, and as such is sold separately as a miniature, though there is a large cardboard tile the size of her base to represent her in the game if you don’t want to add the mini. She’s pretty huge, and very detailed, and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to have this model on the tabletop as a final boss monster. Valyndra comes with all the usual lieutenant pack stuff, and the Overlord in general gets some nice new toys in this box, including the new Punisher class that can be pretty brutal on the heroes.
Lair of the Wyrm is also used in the co-op scenario Dark Elements, which successfully blends the base game with the expansion in a new and exciting way. The co-op scenario plays a little like Shadows of Brimstone, if you’re familiar with that game, whereby the heroes are progressing through the quest in the light of a single torch that illuminates only a few squares around them. The elements involved in this quest include both enemy units from Lair of the Wyrm, along with the Elementals from the base game and – my favourite enemy type so far in the game – merriods! If you’re looking for a great co-op expansion for Descent, and want to use the bits from Lair of the Wyrm, then this is definitely it!
Lair of the Wyrm is an incredibly flavourful expansion to the Descent line, and definitely worth picking up if you find yourself in need of some dragon goodness for your games (and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want dragon goodness in their games?) As of the time I’m writing this, I believe it’s getting quite difficult to find, being one of the earlier expansions for the game, but definitely worthwhile picking up if you can!
Some very exciting things have been coming out of FFG over the past couple of days, some of it already announced at GenCon, but some new. Let’s take a look!
To start with, the very exciting news about Under the Pyramids, the new big box expansion for Eldritch Horror. Last year saw Mountains of Madness come out, which brought a sideboard to the game, along with a lot of additional bumph that you can see in my blog here. Under the Pyramids seems to be following that template, with a new board that depicts – unsurprisingly – the Egyptian desert. Two new Ancient Ones, of which only Nephren-ka has been spoiled, along with eight more investigators and a whole host of other new bits. I’m guessing Nyarlathotep will be the second Ancient One, though given the breadth of lore for him in the mythos, he may be better-placed in a box by himself. We’ll see, though.
Something that sounds like a lot of fun is the Museum Heist adventure – no idea how this will work mechanically, but it just sounds like a lot of fun!
Hoping we’ll get this for Christmas!
Just announced today is the seventh hero and monster collection for Descent – Treaty of Champions! Looks very much like more of the same, really, though take a look at those miniatures! Those demon lords look absolutely amazing. Interestingly, while I said this was more of the same, there is a new monster group, the Crow Hag! An interesting-looking mini, some strange cultist-like character with a huge mace of some sort… interesting!
Always great to have exciting options for a game, anyway!
Have I mentioned the new cycle for Warhammer Conquest? I’m not sure… At any rate, the next cycle is expected to begin at some point, and it mainly deals with interacting with the position of planets. Capitalizing on the fact the deluxe expansion, The Great Devourer, will be released by the time this hits, we’ll also be getting Tyranid cards, and the fourth pack, What Lurks Below, brings a new Warlord to the faction. In keeping with the first cycle, it also looks like the Space Marines will be focusing on a new chapter, this time Black Templars. Interesting, as I’d have thought we’d be seeing something like Blood Angels or Dark Angels first. At any rate, I wasn’t actually intending to keep buying Conquest packs after the Warlord cycle ended, but FFG are always so very good at keeping me hooked on their card-crack!
I realise I’ve not mentioned the other big, exciting expansion announced back in GenCon, Return to Hoth! I’ve actually played the skirmish game once, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but have wanted to play more before featuring it on the blog. Anyway, it’s a really exciting game, and Return to Hoth looks like it has some very good additions to this! The miniatures include HK-droids, Wampas, and a Mon Calamari hero, all of which look excellent.
The associated ally and villain packs also look good – Princess Leia, Dengar, and some Snowtrooper chaps, all look fantastic! Interestingly, there is a lot in this box that seems to support the skirmish game, including a four-player variant, which makes me wonder if FFG are keen to support this aspect above anything else. It does kinda make sense, given the opportunity for organised play. The skirmish game is certainly the more popular aspect as far as what I’m seeing locally, at any rate.
Another one for the Christmas list, anyway – all four of these things are coming before the end of the year, anyway.
The Imperial Raider is apparently in stock at my local store, though it is so overdue that I don’t think I’ll actually believe it until I’ve seen it with my own hands!
It’s post 300! Never thought I’d see the day… to celebrate the fact that I’ve been churning out so many posts here at spalanz.com, I’ve decided to go for a fairly special post to mark the occasion, and bring you all a game day blog that takes a look at a game that has been mentioned here so often, it’s gotten a little silly: it’s time for Descent!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, today I’m looking at the juggernaut of dungeon-crawling games, designed by Kevin Wilson and originally released from Fantasy Flight Games back in 2005. Set in the fantasy world of Terrinoth, the game features a one-vs-many mechanic, pitting a group of heroes against the evil Overlord. It was released in a second edition in 2012, and being a huge fan of the Realms of Terrinoth, I snapped it up! While it has seen depressingly little table-time from me, a spate of co-operative adventures has since been released that supports solo play for the game, and has allowed me to enjoy the game at last!
So let’s take a look…
First of all, the heroes. There are eight heroes in the base game, sub-divided into four archetypes – warrior (red), healer (blue), mage (yellow) and scout (green). Each of these is further subdivided into classes, with each archetype receiving two such classes in the base game. Each class has its own deck of small cards, which provide the hero with some starting items and abilities, as well as skills that can be bought by leveling up your hero. Always fantastic when a game allows this!
In a similar manner, the Overlord player has a deck of Overlord cards he can use to counter the efforts of the heroes, which starts as a generic deck of cards but can branch into particular specialties. The Overlord mainly interacts with the heroes by deploying monsters, as well as using the Overlord cards to affect gameplay. Furthermore, the Overlord has access to powerful Lieutenant packs that give even more options:
Lieutenant packs feature plastic miniatures instead of the cardboard tokens used to represent Lieutenants in the game. As usual with FFG, however, they’re much more than just a new figure. They also come with a Plot deck that adds an extra level of storytelling for the Overlord, a deck of cards that is paid for with threat tokens that are gained whenever the Overlord defeats heroes, completing quests, etc. However, threat tokens, when paid, are given to the heroes as Fortune tokens, which can be used by them to re-roll dice and stuff. It can be a powerful trade-off! Also included is an Overlord card that allows you to bring that Lieutenant into any game as an Agent, replacing one monster group with a version of the Lieutenant that is somewhere between full Lieutenant and Monster. There are loads of Lieutenant packs out now, and they’re all very much worth it for the range of options they bring to the game!
The game follows a specific scenario, and supports a campaign-mode of play whereby scenarios can be linked to form a real adventure, and character-leveling becomes more important as the game goes on! There is a campaign book included in the game that details how each scenario is set up, using specific tiles and monsters, as well as other tokens to represent items or search opportunities for the heroes.
The Overlord, as mentioned, has access to a fairly decent collection of monsters here, but there are also Hero and Monster Collections available that re-implement classic monsters from the first edition of the game, in new sculpts that look pretty awesome! I’ve looked at those elsewhere on this blog, of course, so let’s stick with the base game for now!
While the game is scenario-driven, combat forms a main part of the experience, and the system used by Descent is actually really nice, I think! To start with, there are a whole load of weird-looking six-sided dice for the game, which have all manner of symbols on them to indicate successes and failures.
The dice fall into two categories: attack and defense. Attack dice range in potency from yellow through to blue and up to red; the defense dice follow a similar pattern, from brown, through to grey and finally to black. Shown on the attack dice are heart symbols, indicating how many wounds the attack does. The numbers indicate how far the range is – so if you’re using a ranged weapon on a monster six squares away, but you only roll one 2 on your attack dice, the attack falls short. There are also lightning-bolt glyphs, called surges, which can allow you to trigger a special effect by spending them. On the defense dice, the shield icons are used to cancel any heart icons rolled by the attacker on a one-to-one basis. Let’s take a look:
Here, Grisban the Thirsty has rolled three hits (with a range of 6, but as this is a melee attack the range doesn’t count) against the Merriod, and has one surge that he can spend to trigger the effect on his Chipped Greataxe to deal an additional wound; the Merriod can cancel two of these, so will take two damage from this attack.
The number of dice a hero or monster rolls are shown on the respective cards – monsters have cubes above the picture (for a generic, cream-coloured monster) and below (for the red, master monster), while item cards will show the coloured cubes on the right border. Item cards often have a hand limit, similar to Arkham Horror – Grisban’s axe in the above picture has two hands in the bottom-left corner, so he can’t use any other items in his attack.
There is a lot of depth to Descent that I’m not really getting across in this blog, for the simple reason that it’s a game you really need to play in order to truly experience. It can be quite complex to get everything moving, as evidenced by the 36-minute Watch It Played video, but the experience can be exceptionally rewarding for both sides when you do it right. That said, it’s not the sort of game I tend to go for (despite owning the fairly-similar Mansions of Madness), and the Overlord is much more the antagonist rather than more a DM, but it’s still got so much to commend it that I can never stop gushing about it whenever I get to play!
Hope everyone has been having an excellent weekend – aside from the weather, it’s been pretty good for me, I have to say! I’ve been slowly working on a couple of Necron things lately, mainly in the interests of finally doing stuff with models I’ve had hanging about for ages. About three weeks ago I built up a trio of Canoptek Wraiths, and have finally begun the process of painting! There’s another painting competition at the local GW store – Paint It Green – so I thought I’d enter with this chap, given that my Necron scheme relies on lots of green:
The base colours are pretty much done now, though I haven’t managed to get any more done to it yet. As with the Catacomb Command Barge, I like the look that results from just having the base colours blocked in, so while it might not be enough to win a painting competition, I’ll stick to my usual MO, I think.
True to form, I have dozens of unfinished, half-painted miniatures hanging about the place, and I’ve moved on to yet another model – the C’tan Shard of the Deceiver!
I believe the Nightbringer is the more powerful of the shards, but I just love the pose on this one! While, on the whole, the finecast took minimal preparation (very few airholes), putting it together has shown that some greenstuff will be required here. I want it to be something of a centrepiece model for the army – even though I have lords and stuff who are probably more important, the fact that this guy is just so tall (though, oddly, he’s smaller than I thought he’d be) means I want him to stand out. The “official” colour scheme has that wonderfully burnished gold-with-cream-cloth look, but I’m currently thinking of orange-yellow with perhaps a purple cloth. It may well tax my painting skills to actually do this, but I’m looking forward to it.
Once the other stuff has been painted, of course…
As well as the new C’tan, I took delivery of some pretty damn exciting stuff lately, as well:
Awesome! The new Battlelore army packs are very exciting, bringing more options for the existing Daqan and Uthuk armies in the base game. While I’ve only played it once, it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to being able to play it again very soon! The third army was recently announced, of course, which is also very exciting, but I think I’ll always be an Uthuk kinda guy at heart! Rune Age has shown me the truth of that!
A lot of the Hernfar Guardians models were broken upon arrival – all told, six models were in bits. FFG has really good customer service, though, so I’m hoping they will replace them, as I don’t think I’ll be able to glue them back. We shall see, anyway! The big Siege Golem comes in parts that snap together, much like the Roc thing in the base game, just in case you were wondering – in the montage above, he’s been dry-fitted together, but I think I’ll glue him together to make sure he stays put.
As for the new Descent stuff, well that’s just all sorts of awesome. Descent is a game that has been languishing in the unplayed pile for far too long, though the recent spate of co-op scenarios has enabled me to get it to the table for solo games, if nothing else! I’ve been enjoying these Hero & Monster collections, the first three of which I took a look at back in November.
The most recent release, Visions of Dawn, included a new hero sculpt for Nara the Fang, who was originally released as one of four promo heroes for the original game (with crossover hero cards for Runebound and Rune Wars). The new sculpt appears to have retconned his entire species, but it’s still an awesome-looking miniature, and inspired a game with the new Dark Elements co-op scenario that I had a short while ago, but have only just now had the ink to print out the rules!
I also love the Merriods!
Descent is one of these games that I’ve mentioned an awful lot on this blog now, so I think I should probably devote an up-coming game day to the game. Keep your eyes peeled for that!
Hope you’ve all been having a tremendous weekend – especially filled with lots of tabletop awesome yesterday, of course! I only managed one game yesterday, unfortunately, though it involved Runebound, so that’s always great! I have the intention to play at least one game today as well, so we’ll see how that goes.
We’ve been seeing some interesting stuff coming out of Fantasy Flight lately – at least, to me it’s interesting! The new Force and Destiny RPG looks fantastic, and while I love the galactic fringe, I’m really feeling inspired by the way FFG have been infusing this idea of Jedi-in-hiding and such throughout their LCG so far. A new adventure book has been announced already, which seems almost tailor-made for integrating into either of the other two Star Wars RPG lines, provided of course that you have a Force sensitive character among your party. I particularly like the idea of seeing relics of the Clone Wars era, which is something I thought was nicely-implemented in the new Darth Vader ongoing series from Marvel. The book isn’t due until the third quarter (so, Christmas!), and of course we have yet to see the core rulebook released, but it introduces an interesting possibility for the game as a whole, and I’m excited for it.
Star Wars role playing games are something that I really enjoy a lot, and while I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try the new one from FFG, it still excites me to see new content for it, if only to provide something interesting to read!
FFG have also released a third co-op scenario expansion for Descent, Dark Elements. I played the first one last year, and the second a week or so ago, and can highly recommend them to anyone and everyone, really! What’s particularly exciting about this third one is that it uses stuff from the expansion Labyrinth of Ruin. Expansions for expansions are rare in the board game world, as returns are assumed to be smaller due to the dependent nature of the beast. However, given that the Descent co-op expansions use the in-house manufacturing process, I kinda hope that they’ll produce a slew of the things, as while they still have design costs, the fact that they only produce these things to order should help to mitigate the risk of not selling as well as more mainstream game expansions. Anyway, enough rambling from me on this – it has merriods, so it should be awesome! I’ve treated myself to it, along with some of the Lord of the Rings print on demand stuff, so stay tuned for more of that!
I’ve been trying to learn the rules to Warhammer 40k over the weekend, as the manager of my local games shop has offered to play a game with me on Friday. I’ve got to say, this is one overly-complex rules set! Aside from the fact that it’s a tabletop game with nearly 300 pages of rules across two hardcover books, it seems to require a lot of time and effort, which I’m not sure will be worthwhile. I’m open to persuasion, as always, but it strikes me that it might be a bit too long-winded. We’ll see, of course.
From what I’ve gleaned, it’s a case of moving, shooting, and melee – I don’t have any C’tan, so I won’t be engaging in any psychic warfare (I think). Moving seems fine, as I move 6 inches, and terrain can interact with that. Shooting seems to be overly-complicated for what it is – check range, roll to hit, roll to wound, remove models. It sounds simple, except it really isn’t, due to the various stats that interfere in bizarre ways, predominantly ballistics skill. I mean, my Necron Immortals have a ballistics skill of 4, which means they hit on 3+? Why can’t ballistics skill just be what you need to roll to hit on, and eliminate the unnecessary step of subtracting from 7? BS, indeed!
I’m still not entirely sure what’s involved for melee combat – I got distracted by the issue of Challenges, which sound like a lot of fun! It’s something that has drawn me to 40k from the beginning, the idea of a more narrative style of play, and I thought this seemed to be quite thematic in how it encourages role-playing. There is some element around Morale, apparently, and if your guy refused a Challenge, his leadership value is ignored for Morale checks, which seemed nice and thematic! Simple things…
I’ll be playing my Necrons, of course, and I think I have roughly 1000-points of army ready. I’m going with Immortals as the troop choice of course, and I’ll have some Lychguard in there as well. I’ve recently finished the Catacomb Command Barge, which will also feature, as will a couple of Lords and a Cryptek. I’ll have a write-up for you all on Friday, with pictures if I remember, so you can see how it went!
Until then, I’ll be enjoying my usual round of board and card games, and hopefully today I’ll be able to get in a couple, if nothing else. Whatever you’re doing this Sunday, I hope it’s awesome!
Ah, this happened far too quickly! Doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was looking at the grand vista of a whole nine days off work!
This last weekend has been pretty quiet and uneventful as things go, at any rate. Yesterday I had the very exciting game with the new co-op scenario for Descent, Nature’s Ire, which I mentioned yesterday anyway, but just wanted to re-iterate how much fun these co-op scenarios are! Highly recommended, to all!
This afternoon/evening, I actually did a spot of miniatures painting, too!
Last September, Games Workshop brought out a fourth edition of the classic Space Hulk boardgame, which I initially resisted, but decided to just throw caution to the winds and snap up, as I fell entirely for the whole limited-availability thing. While I did build up the miniatures towards the end of that month, but it’s just been languishing in my spare room ever since. However, I had a small problem with one of the genestealers coming in the box broken, and GW replaced the entire sprue – awesome customer service, right there! It was the sprue with the Broodlord on, though I didn’t do anything with the extras – until today!
I’m actually really excited to be painting these chaps, as I felt like the whole Space Hulk thing was a bit of an event, back in the day, so it’s nice to kinda get a bit more of that. I’ve so far only painted one base coat onto them, just the decking bits, but it’s good to be finally doing something with these miniatures, I have to say!
So now I’m in a bit of a quandary over the colour scheme I want to use. Part of me wants a traditional-looking game, with the purple and navy genestealers as per normal:
However, there are so many interesting-looking colour schemes out there for Tyranids in general, I’m really not sure what I want to do! I bought a Maleceptor at the beginning of the year that I’m still planning to paint in Hive Fleet Eumenides colours, but we’ll see what happens. Crazy times, people – anything could happen!!
Speaking of painting stuff, I didn’t win the painting competition at my local store – though seriously, I never had any illusions of victory! More than anything, it got me somewhat out of my painting funk, but check out the winner:
Amazing stuff, I have to say. You can just about see my Saurus Oldblood under his wing, too!
So yeah, anyway, it’s been a fantastic week, over all-too-quickly, but at least next weekend is Easter, so at least there’re a couple of short weeks coming up! Marvellous!
Thought I’d take a look at some of the new stuff that’s been floating about the internet of late, see what’s happening in the board game world, and the like. You love it!
First of all, I’d just like to announce that I’m intrigued by this. Not being a 1st Edition-er, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from this. A campaign of 32 adventures, I’m assuming it’s just going to be a bloated version of any of the quest books from any of the boxes available for the game. Which isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! Given the narrative, I really hope they make it work really well with the lieutenants for the Farrows. We’ll have to see what Q1 brings, I suppose! As I’ve often said, though, I’m a big fan of seeing game lines supported, so it’s always a pleasure to see new stuff for games.
Another preview for Imperial Assault has gone up, showing off the Mercenary faction. I have to admit, I hadn’t really realised they were going to be making an appearance in the core box, despite there being a nexu quite obviously on the main page for the game! I’ve kinda lost track on whether this game is going to be out in time for xmas, though the Upcoming page of the FFG website does have it listed as on the boat, so…
I’m sure everyone has by now seen the news that FFG are going to merge into the Asmodee group? This is something that I totally didn’t see coming, but as I’ve been up to my elbows in essay this past week I hadn’t had the time to say anything about it until now. Amid the “no massive changes/business as usual” assurances, one of the biggest things to come out of this for me was the news that FFG will be able to take advantage of Asmodee’s distribution network in Europe – I’m hoping this means we’ll be able to get the games as quickly as our American friends across the water! Currently it’s very hit-and-miss, so that’ll be nice. The idea that “a few of FFG’s products” may transition to other publishers within the group has been taken by some on the internet to assume that FFG will be moving back to designing more “hardcore” boardgames that they were originally known for, such as Runebound. The historian in me doesn’t believe anything without seeing the first-hand evidence, but it’s definitely a very nice idea! Asmodee have an impressive portfolio of games (indeed, any amazon search will invariably bring up pages and pages of games that stem from the Asmodee group), but I hope FFG won’t get diluted/absorbed by that…
Still waiting for this to be released – currently expected 3 December, so we’ll see. Apparently, it has a Bane promo card, but unlike previous releases, we’ll all get the promo card. So, it’s just a card, then, really. But anyway. I’m no fan of promo cards, so this is good. I haven’t played DC for a long time, despite picking up the Crisis Expansion when it came out earlier in the year. Might be worth giving it another look, methinks, anyway…
The End Times continue for Warhammer Fantasy with part three: Khaine. God of War for the High Elves, and of Murder for the Dark Elves, Khaine is definitely a destructive personality, so it’ll be very interesting to see what happens to the elves in this installment. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to place a pre-order; like the previous books in the series, this one also sold out – but within 20 minutes of being made available for pre-order! Ridiculous.
While I’m all for creating excitement about products and so forth, I’d be embarassed if I was working for Games Workshop. How can a company that has been around for so long be so incredibly bad at projecting sales? This has been going on since Nagash back at the end of August now, and from what I’ve been reading online, and from conversations I’ve been having and hearing at local stores, this sales strategy is pleasing nobody. Some people think it’s to drive up the e-version sales, while others think it’s just bad planning (these books have been in development for months, after all). For it to keep happening, however, is just shameful, and it strikes me that, if this were any other company, the merchandising team would have been sacked to a man, for a start. There are a whole bunch of people who want to buy from them, but because of their own business model, can’t. What sort of company actively discourages sales? Sheesh. (Remember folks, I don’t work in retail, so all of this is my own – limited – opinion!)
At any rate, I’ve been busy with my Lizardmen project in the breaks between essay-writing:
Hardly an army’s-worth, but I’ve been enjoying the change from Necrons! Lizardmen are really what got me into Warhammer all those years ago, so I’ve been enjoying this “getting back to my roots” sorta feel! Of course, I once again run the risk of having a whole plethora of models that will require painting at some point, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’ve just been enjoying building these guys up!
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!
In addition, there’s also been a look at the upcoming Forever Evil expansion for the DC deckbuilding game, which looks to be in a similar vein to Marvel Legendary’s Villains expansion.
I do quite like the DC game, anyway, though it does feel quite simple in comparison with other deckbuilders. I’m sure it’ll feature here at some point, anyway…
There’s also been an update on Fallen – apparently it’s all-systems-go once again, so I’m hoping I’ll get to see this game by Christmas once again – at laaaaaaaaaaaaaast!
It’s been another exciting weekend of Necron-building, with a squad of Deathmarks and Lychguards being made up.
Wonderful stuff, though I am faced with twelve models that need painting (I also made up a Necron Overlord). Well, that’ll be an adventure for another day!
So the Games Workshop site is once again Dark Eldar-crazy this weekend, as the Codex came out yesterday. More kits have been announced to supplement this, along with a Codex supplement (already!)…
Now, as you might know, I’m not a Warhammer player, yet, but I’m intending to remedy that soon. When I do, I’m intending to play Necrons, because I think they look amazing, and to that end I have been amassing a sizable force!
However, while my heart belongs to the Necrons, the Dark Eldar do still have a pull for me, primarily the wonderfully gothic Wracks, a kit of which I bought upon release. While I don’t think I’m going to go down the route of getting the Codex, I am planning on getting this new Haemonculus Covens book, as I’m thinking that, as I get more involved in the game, I may start using Dark Eldar as allies for my Necrons, and to that extent will be fielding a Wrack squad, potentially with Urien Rakarth involved somehow, as well!
The new Archon and Succubus models look really cool, I must say. It seems Dark Eldar models have a really awesome dynamic to them, and I have been tempted quite a lot to get some of the other unique characters and stuff. I’m not currently looking to build up a Dark Eldar army, though, so I really ought to save my money!
I doubt it will, of course, but I hope that the Necrons get a similar love when their new Codex comes out…
I do feel like I’ve, well, not over-done it as such, but like I’ve spent too long with Warhammer 40k lately, and need a bit of a break. So I think some boardgames will be on the menu (though they might still be Warhammer-themed, of course!) – variety is the spice of life, I guess!
Tuesday is once again game day here at spalanz.com, apologies for missing it last week! Today, therefore, I’m doing something a bit special (for me, at least), and taking a look at the first card game I ever bought for myself: Rune Age.
I’d played card games before, of course, but after splitting up with my ex, I’d stuck to just the one board game, Runebound. After a few weeks of indecision about investing in the Lord of the Rings LCG, I eventually decided to try a smaller card game from FFG first, thinking I’d see what they’re like and whatnot. As I love Runebound so much, Rune Age seemed like the logical choice so, taking the plunge, I bought a copy. I still remember sitting down, having set up the cards as described by the manual, and feeling a little nonplussed by how to start. However, that didn’t last long, and away I went! The game was fantastic, and the rest is history!
Rune Age is a deck-building game from Fantasy Flight Games, designed by Corey Konieczka, who is, at the time of writing, the Executive Game Designer at FFG. Set in Terrinoth, the same universe as Runebound, the game is in what I have been referring to lately as Stage 2 of the company’s Terrinoth games, the post-Runewars phase. In case you don’t know, Runebound and Descent (1st edition) were set in the universe, where heroes battled monsters as they went up against various threats, such as Vorakesh and High Lord Margath. Runewars came out at the end of 2009 and changed the world significantly – while there were still heroes, the predominant feel was now of warring factions, as the game universe was blended with that of Battlemist, a game from the late 1990s that was somewhat derivative of Warhammer/D&D. Battlemist was designed by FFG’s CEO Christian Peterson, so it’s perhaps understandable that he would want to reintroduce some of his earlier ideas into his current games line-up. Runewars brought four factions to the table: the Daqan Lords, the Latari Elves, Waiqar the Undying, and the Uthuk Y’llan (each one derivative of the Empire, High Elves, Vampire Counts and Chaos Daemons from Warhammer, respectively).
Rune Age came out in mid-2011, and translated much of the sprawling wargame of Runewars into card-game form. The same four factions were featured, using the same four unit types in each, and the card game even included one scenario called Runewars. The choice of a deck-building game is perhaps a little odd, but overall the format really works well. Looking back, I’m still really impressed with it, and would say it’s one of the best non-collectible card games that I own.
So what’s it all about?
Players take command of one of the four fantasy races and compete in one of four scenarios while building their deck. Unlike, say, DC or Street Fighter, where the goal is to acquire victory points – and, even, unlike Thunderstone, where you build your deck to delve into a dungeon, but you’re still competing for victory points – Rune Age has different victory conditions depending on which scenario you play. It’s this aspect that makes it truly a breed apart from the other deck builders out there, and really makes the game fresh each time you come to it.
If you didn’t want to watch the video, or you just like to read my rambling discourse, then continue!
Each of the four scenarios is different, ranging from all-out war to fully co-operative. Each one also uses different cards from which the players build their decks, leading to different gaming experiences in each scenario. So let’s have a look at each one.
Rise of the Dragonlords
This scenario should be familiar to anyone who has played the base game of Runebound. Players are trying to defeat the dragonlords as they appear, including Kalladra (of DungeonQuest fame) and Margath himself, before defeating one final card, the scenario objective itself. The dragonlord cards can give you bonuses when you come up against the final objective, so that you stand a better chance, and the person who does so is declared the winner. I play most of my Rune Age solo, and this scenario is fine for that, as you’re fighting the event deck itself.
This is an all-out war scenario, and Runewars fans will no doubt appreciate the nods to the wargame here and there. Basically, players are fighting each other, besieging each others’ home realms and friendly cities, in order to eliminate each other from the game, with the last faction standing declared the winner. At the outset, the players receive one random Dragon Rune card each (the two cards at the bottom-left and -right of the above picture), which provide varying bonuses to the players throughout the game. When you eliminate a player, you also take control of his Dragon Rune, and you can use it instead of your own. I haven’t played this much, as I’m not a big fan of player elimination games like this. Plus, if I want to play Runewars, well, I’d play Runewars!
Another race game, in The Monument the players are trying to build their faction’s beacon of power. As you can see in the picture above, each faction has a unique Monument card that has a gold cost in the bottom-right corner. The object of the game is to get enough money that you can build your monument with one hand of cards before your opponents do. The “evil” factions seem to have the upper hand here, as their monuments are cheaper than the “good” factions. There is less player interaction than in Runewars, with each player trying to gain enough gold while the event deck itself messes with everyone. While some cards will provide gold bonuses, much like the dragonlords in the earlier scenario, there are also cards that force the discard of gold-providing cards throughout the game. I quite like this scenario, as it has the right amount of competitive play for me. And, as you’re trying to build your monument while the event deck tries to stop you, it also works reasonably well solo.
And finally, we have a fully co-operative scenario. Again, fans of Runebound will no doubt be pleased to see this one, which utilises a similar mechanic to The Cataclysm adventure variant to that game. While in previous scenarios the players have been fighting against the event deck to varying degrees, here the event deck is really out to get you. The object of the game is basically to survive against it, and if the players manage this, they all win – however, if anyone is eliminated, the players as a whole lose. Now, I really liked the Runebound adventure, and I do quite like this one, too – however, I must say that this scenario can be brutal if you’re not focused on it. I’ve played it a few times, but I believe I’ve only managed to outlast it twice. Really good one, this one!
As I said before, each scenario brings with it its own cards. Now, players obviously have their own ‘barracks’ of cards to buy that make up their particular faction, but there are also neutral cards for purchase, which can often really help you. These cards are divided into two types, units and tactics:
The unit cards are similar to the unit cards in each faction’s barracks, but the tactics cards are similar to event cards in other card games, providing a one-time benefit when played. As you can see, each card has an icon in the bottom-left corner, which denotes to which scenario it belongs; the scenario objective cards show these icons on their reverse, allowing you to build up the central play area for each scenario. This is a really impressive way of going about things, I feel, and one of the ways the game is kept fresh each time. The only other game I’ve played that comes close to this is Thunderstone, but without any specific rules, that game all becomes a little random.
Anyway. The other feature that is available in the central play area, besides the money cards, are the Neutral Cities. These correspond to the eight Free Cities on the original Runebound board, and a proportionate number of them are available for each game at random. They provide bonuses for the players, but they must first be won! They also have some of the best artwork in the entire game:
This brings me on to the currency of the game, something that I also really like about it. Gold is obviously a currency, but you also have Strength, denoted by a shield icon, and Influence, denoted by a jewel icon (that last also a nod to Runewars). A card’s cost is displayed in the bottom-right corner, and the bonus it provides is shown in the top-left. This used to confuse me no end, and indeed, whenever I introduce new people to the game, it confuses them, as well, because most people (myself included) automatically assume the cost is in the top-left. Anyway, it’s a small point, but still. The city cards shown above also have a number below their Influence value, which is their auto-defense bonus. I’ll get onto that shortly.
We’re ready to begin!
As is usual with deck-building games, players begin with some money and some comparatively weak-powered cards, and try to refine their deck as they go. Usually, it’s rare that you can take on one of the enemy cards within the first couple of rounds, as you’re mainly building up your deck. Players can, however, use their low-powered units to build up their home realm by buying Stronghold cards (shown in the bottom left of the above picture), which have a Gold and a Strength cost. These cards provide Influence, which is used to buy the neutral cards in the centre, either units, tactics or gold. Influence is also used to keep cards in your hand – ordinarily, players discard their hand and draw back up to 5 cards at the end of their turn, but if you have a particularly useful card, you can exhaust an Influence card to keep it in your hand.
When you go up against an Enemy card, you play your units down and compare the strength of your army with that of the Enemy. Some Enemies will force you to roll the attrition die, which will possibly subtract strength from your army depending on how many skulls you roll. If you equal or exceed the Enemy’s Strength, you defeat it, and either claim it as a Reward, or else place it in the discard pile.
Unit cards have various effects that often lead to some wonderful synergy, and my favourite faction to play for this is the Uthuk Y’llan. Above, you can see that my total army Strength is 13; however, I have also played the Battle Cry tactics card, which adds 1 Strength to each unit in my army. 17 is still not enough to go against the Rise of the Dragonlords objective itself, but this is where the synergy comes in – my Chaos Lord has an ability that lets me wound one participating unit, which I have used on my Berserker (hence he’s slanted a bit), whose own ability allows me to add 2 Strength to that unit, giving me 19 in total. I rolled one skull on the attrition die, which leaves me with 18, meaning I have defeated the objective and won the game!
The mechanic of wounding cards reflects the bloodthirsty nature of the faction. It basically means, at the end of the combat, that card is ‘destroyed’ – put back where it came from, either the barracks or the central play area – rather than discarded.
In addition to attacking the event cards, players can attack each other throughout the game by conducting sieges. When doing this, the besieging player declares his target and lays out his army, while the defending player lays out his. If the besieger is going after one of the Neutral Cities, that card’s auto-defense bonus is added to the defending player before the siege is resolved and, if the siege is successful, the city changes hands. If the besieger is attacking a player’s Home Realm, however, he deals as much damage to that Realm as the defending player didn’t block – all Home Realms can take up to 20 damage before that player is eliminated.
I’ve had a lot of fun with Rune Age, but was overjoyed when, in April 2012, an expansion was announced for the game: Oath and Anvil.
This expansion offers a whole host of awesomeness to the original base game. Foremost among this are two new factions, and two new scenarios.
The scenarios reflect what I have now taken to calling Stage 3 of the Terrinoth games, which coincided with the release of Descent 2nd Edition, which was released shortly before Oath and Anvil. One of the scenarios, Ascent of the Overlord, is basically the game of Descent brought under the Rune Age formula. One player is the Overlord, against whom at least two Allied players are fighting. The Overlord is trying to eliminate these players, with help from the event deck, which provides a series of boons to him that the Allied players will need to work towards to defeat.
The second scenario is called The Quest for Power, which replaces the Neutral Cities from the base game with eight Landmark cards, including such notable places as the Obsidian Library (as seen in Runebound: Island of Dread), as well as the Empyreal Vale, the home of the Latari Elves. The scenario is called “complex” by the rules sheet, but isn’t really all that difficult to grasp. Players are competing for Power in a similar way to competing for Gold in The Monument scenario. Power is represented by an icon on each Landmark card, and players collect this Power on their Home Realm in the shape of damage tokens. Players receive Power tokens at the start of their turn equal to the Power provided by the Landmarks he controls. Players can besiege each other and either steal the Landmark or steal 2 Power tokens, and the first person to 20 Power wins. Marvellous!
The Quest for Power is definitely my favourite of the new scenarios, as I enjoy the jockeying for Power than results from the game. It’s also somewhat less confrontational as, while you are besieging other players, you’re not trying to eliminate them in the same way as you are in Runewars, so for me this is an improvement on that earlier scenario.
Rune Age: Oath and Anvil comes with an absolute slew of cards, however. Obviously, both the new scenarios also come with new neutral cards you can buy:
There is also a new group of cards called Mercenary cards, which I was really excited about when I first read about them. Basically more neutral cards, these guys can be added to any scenario following a nicely-executed system. Where the scenario icons are located on the usual neutral cards, mercenaries have a wax seal with I or II in it – you take two different I cards, and one II card, and add them to the set-up along with the scenario specific cards.
Most of the mercenary cards tend towards player-vs-player play, so as I play mostly solo I don’t get an awful lot of use out of these guys, but there are nevertheless some really good cards here, and the entire mercenary mechanic is something that I really like. As you can see, with cards like the Flesh Moulder and the Shadow Dragon, we’re seeing a lot more of Descent in this game than ever before.
Finally, but by no means the least, Oath and Anvil gives the core set factions and scenarios new cards. You may have noticed that the two new races have six unit cards rather than four? Well, with two new units apiece, the core races aren’t forgotten:
Oath and Anvil introduces a new unit type, Mythic units. These Mythic units are represented by a golden shield in the top-left corner, and are extremely powerful members of your faction’s army. In addition to their effects, Mythic units are discarded when they are destroyed, meaning you only have to buy them once (which is a good thing, considering their price!). Something that I thought quite interesting at the time was that the new units introduced in this expansion corresponded to the Runewars expansion Banners of War, which was released shortly after the core set for Rune Age. The new scenario cards are a nice feature, as you can often cycle through these cards quite a lot, depending on how well the game is going, so it’s nice to introduce some fresh blood like that. (There is also the option of playing Rise of the Dragonlords fully co-operative with a variant introduced here).
Rune Age: Oath and Anvil is, quite simply, a required purchase for any fan of the base game. The vastly increased gameplay options presented by the box contents can lead to even more hours of fun, and I can highly recommend getting it if you haven’t already. The new races have a wonderful, distinctive feel to them, and the new scenarios add a nice twist to the whole.
I’ve often seen Rune Age in comparison with the other Terrinoth games from FFG. When it was released, it was highly comparable to Runewars while retaining strong links to Runebound (which wasn’t as dead back then as it is now). Oath and Anvil has brought a big portion of Descent into the game, while retaining the original feel. While Descent remains at the forefront of FFG’s Terrinoth line-up, the recent news from GenCon that we’ll be seeing more for Battlelore has got me wondering whether there will be a move to integrate Rune Age more fully with that game. There are already strong ties, of course, but those are more by accident than design, as Battlelore drew as strongly on Runewars as Rune Age itself originally did. Whether there will be further integration when we see the new Battlelore stuff will, I suppose, remain to be seen.
Indeed, it’ll be interesting to see if there’ll be anything new coming for Rune Age. Christian Peterson did say at this year’s In-Flight Report that, unless they categorically say so, no game on the FFG roster is actually abandoned or dead. I have previously contacted the company suggesting the use of Print on Demand for new scenarios, rather than generating a whole new box of material, but while they thanked me for my input, nothing has yet appeared. We’ll see what happens next year I suppose, when Battlelore has had its new stuff.
Until then, get yourself a copy of this game, and bask in its excellence!