Friday, October 17, 2014

Descent Cooperative Adventures - Forgotten Souls

First released in the Spring 2014 Descent Game Night Kit, this adventure introduces something that a portion of the Descent fanbase has been calling for since the release of the game, a scenario in which there is no Overlord player.

Sending your party of adventurers into a dungeon after a dragon named Tharn that is ravaging a town, you encounter passageways that try to kill you, demons trying to take the souls of villagers, and the dragon himself in a final encounter.

Lets take a look at the set and see how it adds to the Descent experience!

For me, this expansion was a godsend.  Descent 2nd is a great game, but it is not a proper RPG with a Gamemaster.  I'm going to borrow a word that has probably fallen outside its original intent, but this isn't an experience where the GM is trying to curate an experience for a group of players.  Descent 2nd's Overlord is one of two sides out to win.  Players who sit down at the table aren't always aware of this so it leads to mixed expectations and opinions of the overall game. Forgotten Souls is one of several adventures that takes away the need for an Overlord, moving their tasks to a series of cards and instructions.

To counter the fact that the dungeon is programmed, it is also very unforgiving.  Each room introduces some new peril such as draining your fatigue every turn, the need to rescue an innocent villager, or overwhelming monster odds.  Add on top of that, the players get little rest once they have completed a room card's challenge.  A peril deck and the doom track ensures that the hero players have to keep moving deeper into the dungeon or suffer further.

The hero characters aren't without their own advantages.  Every time you kill a set number of monsters (determined by the number of heroes) then the game doles out some treasure.  The players get to only keep one piece each time and decide who it goes to.  Also the heroes start with one experience point that they can choose to spend right away or save until later.  The first and second Main Encounter rooms give some experience which can be saved up and spent as the heroes need it.  The game doesn't give out the amount of experience one would see in a regular Descent 2nd campaign, but it is enough to make some great customization choices.  There are a few class cards that are functionally useless as they cause the Overlord to discard a card or some similar effect, but they are rare and don't reduce the viability of any one class.

The monsters types are set at the start of the adventure, much like how the Overlord has to pick his monster groups for each scenario.  Forgotten Souls uses Zombies, Barghests, Flesh Moulders, and Shadow Dragons as your enemies in the various rooms.  A stack of monster cards gives instructions on how to move and attack with each monster type as you play.  You just find your monster, start at the top of the list, and execute the first two actions that are applicable.

In theory the 'Overlord turn' is very simple, but I found that I really had to be familiar with all the monster keywords and possible actions before I really understood how the cards work.  We struggled with the timing of some of the events and monster actions until we went back to the base game rulebook and did some more reading.  Our other disappointment was the length of the scenario.  The game has twelve rooms, with the final room of the scenario being somewhere in the last four cards of the deck.  Just getting to the first major event room took us over two hours.  Our disappointment was with the fact that the game doesn't really have stopping points built into it.  It really has to be left out assembled and in play if you want to return to it on another evening.  (Side note: I'm looking into tuck boxes so I can put the game away between adventures. I just really wish it had the possibility for break points.)  I ran the event three times at a Game Night event and no one made it past the first Main Encounter room in less than two hours.

In the end, it is a very well done module.  It isn't a cake walk for me yet.  I've attempted it with two heroes four times, and have lost due to the doom track all four times just as I got to the first Main Encounter.  It isn't short either, though that isn't necessarily a negative, depending on your play group.  The basic mechanics of Descent 2nd Edition are fully intact here, leaving your group with a tense adventure that lets you mix up the normal play of the game.  And the best part?  Forgotten Souls only requires the base Descent 2nd Edition box.  None of the expansions are needed at all, unless you really want a specific class for your hero. What are you waiting for?  The monsters await you!

(All images used in this article are copyright Fantasy Flight Games.)

Tom Tjarks is a Fort Worth native and avid game player (PC, Console, Board Games) He has previously written for, blogs at his own personal blog, and can be found asking lots of questions about games on Boardgamegeek. He is @tntjarks on twitter, Dreamshadow on Boardgamegeek and other forums. 

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