second chance games

Search This Website of delight

  FROM FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES Just a few crucial preliminary points, in case this series is new to you.  Most important is that you will often...






Just a few crucial preliminary points, in case this series is new to you.  Most important is that you will often find this game abbreviated to Descent Act II.  It is, despite its rather eye-watering cost, an Expansion and so owning Act I is essential for playing this game.  If you choose to read on, be warned that I cannot be held responsible for what may lead to an unfortunate hole in your bank balance!
First a little history (which may be skipped over by those who do own Act I).  The Descent lineage of games began with Descent: Journeys in the Dark - a relatively conventional, though excellent, fantasy cooperative quest style game with an active evil games master controlling and seeking to win by thwarting all the efforts of the good guys (I use the latter word as an all embracing gender term). Later came Descent: Legends of the Dark - Act I.  This was a monumental step forward in a similar mould to and from the same people who created Journeys in Middle Earth. (Another favourite of mine.) In other words, the marriage of a table top fantasy game with an app that not only fulfilled the role of dungeon/quest-master, but also controlled many other facets of the game.
Virtually anything, if not absolutely everything, that has been said about Act I can be said about Act II.  Supreme quality - check.  Amazing miniatures - check.  Massive narrative arc -check.  Zillions of tokens - well ok, not as many, because you already have all the ones from Act I, but some new ones.  Lots of cards - check. And so on…
Briefly too, we’re still inhabiting the world of Terrinoth and working cooperatively to accomplish a sequence of quests with the same six heroic characters as in Act I, using at most four out of the six characters in any individual quest.  It is a linear game in its time-line and order of play with each turn divided into a Hero Phase and then a Darkness Phase.
In this next section, I’m going to look at the physical contents of Act II and make some comparisons with Act I.  As is my custom, I’ll point out now that these are often opinions and your taste may differ from mine.  My first statement, however, should (fingers crossed) be agreed on by all.  The boxes that the games come in are well nigh identical, except for colour and title.  Very large, very heavy and looking as if the top section and bottom section have been separated by another box - which is a fairly accurate description of things!
Raising the top section and looking into the top layer, you find the most amazing three packages of miniatures.  
The miniatures in their recessed trays

One of which is absolutely awesome and then some!  The supreme agent of evil - a towering 10 inch (25cm) sculpture of striking detail - all alone in its individual recessed container.  Next to it are six brand new miniatures for each of the six heroes: Brynn, Galaden, Vaerix, Syrus, Kehli and Chance. Then there is a surprise seventh miniature, Indris, which introduces one of the new concepts in this expansion, namely Companions. Indris is the only Companion in Act II.  A Companion is explained as a separate type of figure from either heroes or enemies.  It’s controlled by a hero when they activate, but has an independent sculpt and a double-sided card just like a hero. Does this hint at future expansions with other Companions?  
Just my personal view on the heroic figures - I find them in general more finely sculpted than their matching ones in Act I and this level of detail is equally brought out in the 18 enemies they face off against.  These too are all outstanding, especially the fantastically named Dragon Hybrid Doom Caller with the equally fantastically massive bell that they carry on their backs.  

Dragon Hybrid Doom Caller

...and his mighty bell

As before, all the enemy figures come with bases that have room for coloured inserts so that you can distinguish between them when you have more than one of the same type appearing in a given quest.  For the inserts themselves you’ll need to use the ones from Act I.   
Just a few random views on both the heroes and their opponents.  I love the fact that in Act II, Brynn is swinging her mighty hammer and has exchanged her massive winged helmet (not one of my favourites) for a much neater piece of headgear (a winged tiara?)!  

Brynn and that immense hammer
Chance has, shall we say, stepped from the shadows and no longer sports a mask - an item I did like! - while  Kehli seems a little less chunky and both she and Chance are in even more dynamic poses almost seeming about to launch themselves from their bases. 
Kehli & Chance: a dynamic duo

Perhaps my favourite change is the new figure of Vaerix.  Now he sports not just his mighty spear which is slung on his back, but swings with great power his bell weapon.  

Still, the most significant change must be that Syrus and Indris, the phoenix, are no longer one bonded sculpt, as the short rule book tells us, “As Syrus’s mastery over elemental magic has grown, so has his bond with Indris …(who) can now move independently across the map.”
Syrus & Indris

Confronting them are the new forces of evil in all the glorious detail familiar from the figures in Act I.

Out of these four, all bar the vampiric figure have four copies apiece, while the Doom Caller has two, along with the smaller salamander/dragon.

Moving from the world created in plastic to that in cardboard, there is everything you might expect.  Starting once more with a new set of large double sided cards, one for each hero, you’ll find a similar change and one that, like the figures, I’ve welcomed.  Act I’s cards were for me slightly too cartoonish - these seem slightly more mature, more adult almost.  Each new Hero card features new abilities, increased health and improved statistics and additional Surge abilities.  Indris, though now an independent figure, is still very much bound up with Syrus and so, as a Companion, does not get their own large card, but a smaller playing card sized one.  This cannot be flipped in the way the hero cards can to reveal new attributes, but has a defeated side instead that affects Syrus.  

Brynn's new character card

The two substantial packs of cards cover the many new items be be revealed as the campaign progresses.   Among them are weapons and stacks of skills for our heroes, a variety of light, medium and heavy armour and a new type of card, Legends.  Each Hero has up to three of these Legend cards which may be unlocked based on decisions made or their performance in the various quests.  Though double-sided, you can choose only one side to be used in this current campaign and there are several other features of these cards that make them stand out and differ from previous familiar card use.  Typically the app has a handy tab that can be called up which shows the legends and skills that each hero has unlocked so far and can equip themselves with at the beginning of a quest. Added to all this is an assortment of cards for trinkets and consumable items.
All this information and the rules linked with them is covered in the compact 12 page booklet.  Each Hero is prefaced by a brief piece of atmospheric text and introduces one major new unique feature.  For Syrus, as I've explained, there is Indris as his Companion.  Chance possesses Umbra Tokens to help friends and elude enemies.  Kehli has acquired Contraptions that she can lay about the terrain, while Galaden brings Shroud Tokens in to playOver and above these specific Hero-related elements, there's a new status - Confused - that can be laid on their enemies by attacks and abilities, as well as a new feature that benefits enemies - Resistances - that will initially be unknown until they suffer damage from whatever they are resistant to.  Nor should you forget that all the rules and everything presented and unlocked in Act I carry over to Act II.
So, plenty of new twists and turns to add layers of depth to the ongoing saga and finally, of course, there's plenty of new terrain pieces.  Here's a comprehensive look at everything when constructed and for someone not gifted at assembling most things these went together with little problem and in remarkably quick time by a careful attention to the four page guide to construction.

Ladders, columns (in three sizes), a cart, a bridge, a couple of shrines an arch with two choices of bells (one for the Heroes to ring, the other for the Evil Ones!) and lurking at the left rear a statue that figures can physically be located on!  In the centre you can see the range of tokens and another new element: fire.  Rather like barricades in Act I, fire can play its part in adding to the damage caused by Heroes and their enemies alike.  I particularly appreciated the single piece fires that can be attached to other items of furniture.  Anyone for a spot of book burning!
Below you can see an impressionistic creation to allow you to see how some of this might work together.   Pay special attention to the large stone platform some of the forces of evil are standing on.  

This is not just a great item playing a single scenic part.  It can also be inverted to form a walled courtyard and then, at the end of a day's gaming, reverts back to being a very successful container for all the other terrain!

Walled courtyard or storage box!
Without giving away any detail, the beginning quest of Act II is a substantially long introduction and then the campaign settles down to sequences of similar length to Act I.  The system rolls on well polished wheels and, though I've been told the campaign is estimated to be slightly shorter in overall length than Act I, you should be more than satisfied by its length and the whole promises many more hours of game play.  What I find is a final incentive to buy is that all that is unlocked in Act II can potentially make an appearance through the wonders of the app, if you decide to return to Act I again.  

To feed you with the nightmare that awaits should you succumb to this game, here are three final shots to dwell on! 

Finally, I must express great thanks to Asmodee for providing me with this review copy and the opportunity to tread this absorbing path.