Descent: Legends of the Dark A Unique Fantasy Flight Games Dungeon Crawl
Over the past few months, my father-in-law and I have been doing a deep dive in to the world of Fantasy Flight Games miniatures board games. We’ve played a good 25-30 hours of Journey’s in Middle Earth, about 10 hours of Star Wars: Imperial Assault, and about 15 hours of Descent: Legends of the Dark. While I believe that Journey’s in Middle Earth and Star Wars: Imperial Assault share a number of features that make them similar, Descent is a much different experience.
I’ve been told by many leading into my work with Fantasy Flight Games that I really just needed one of the three games, as they were all very similar in mechanics and gameplay loops.
However, while I do believe that to be true for Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, it’s not really true for Descent. Both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars build their games on a very similar premise, with notable quality of life improvements in Lord of the Rings since it was released later. In both, if you are doing an application based campaign, you will pick a hero to use throughout your campaign, load them out with weapons, attach a few modifier cards, and begin your journey.
While there are a few minute differences – Lord of the Rings uses cards for combat, and Star Wars uses dice – the way the campaign plays out feels pretty similar.
The thing is, when you play Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, you are getting a story that will work with whichever characters you choose. In fact, who you choose seems to have little-to-no bearing on how the game plays out.
You are, however, stuck with those characters for the duration of your play. For reference, we’ve played two Lord of the Rings campaigns to completion. I did the first with Aragorn and it took about 14-15 hours. I did the second with Beorn, which took about 12-13 hours. That’s a long time to be stuck only playing one character per campaign.
Descent: Legends of the Dark is narrative focused, with a defined adventure for each of the six characters. Quests that you will accept generally require you to bring a certain character along for the ride, which means you are swapping between characters very often. For some, they’d rather play one character for 10-15 hours. I personally, however, enjoy the story driven nature of Descent, where I might play as Chance in one mission, and perhaps Sirus in the next.
Descent is also a bit more loose with the player count, so if you want to add a third person to your campaign, that’s not going to be a problem, and in fact, the application will adjust for a three or four player mission instead of a 2-3 player mission.
For many, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings might have a leg-up because they are licenced products that we know so well. And even though I only got to experience Aragorn for 15 hours, I enjoyed the character, and exploring areas of Middle Earth was exhilarating.
I wouldn’t trade that time spent for anything. Likewise with Star Wars, I really enjoyed the unique character I had, exploring various planets in the Star Wars universe, and tackling big bad bosses like Jabba the Hut and Darth Vader. Again, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
But Descent is unique and different, and a game I highly recommend if you enjoy a strong narrative experience. Think of it as a more visual Dungeons and Dragons experience, and you’ll probably have a good idea of what to expect. But if someone tells you that all three games are alike, so just pick one, ignore that advice. Descent sits in a world of its own. And we recommend you pick it up!