A friend of mine was recently discussing dungeon exploring boardgames. Lacking the time for role playing he asked me what the best dungeon exploring game on the market was. I replied "Dungeons and Dragons, first edition." The game world is full of dungeon exploring games, all of which try and capture the feeling of Dungeons and Dragons on a board. Ironically the best choice is old fashioned D&D itself, which is designed to be played on a tabletop with miniatures anyway. This doesn't stop the boardgamers from searching for Another option with which to simulate D&D without actually playing it.
Last week Triple Play Games in Lebanon hosted a Descent Second Edition preview event. Descent is an older game with several expansions. It allows players to move miniature adventurers around a board and search for treasure or battle monsters. Successful adventurers grow in ability and return for further adventures fighting even more menacing creatures. I had always been intrigued by Descent. The box is gigantic and the expansions add dozens of cool toy creatures and terrain tiles. The whole package is so full of Stuff it seems almost decadent. And in a sense truly decadent since it would be a big cash outlay just to approximate D&D, which I own and enjoy already.
I jumped at the chance to play second edition Descent and I have to say I had a terrific time. Each player had a character with some strengths and weaknesses. My character was somewhat magical and fast on her feet. Another was immensely strong and another had spells. In our games we had to make our ways across a game board and complete some mission, whether it was to get to a location, fight a creature, or rescue a hostage. Each mission was challenging but not impossible and the opponents and treasure were varied and interesting.
Descent had a few other nice features. The rules were simple, short, straightforward and well written. The game has obviously been playtested extensively and runs very smoothly. The missions are nicely varied. Each character had obvious strengths and over several games you do get the feeling that your hero is evolving and developing. Further, each character type has a chance to really shine. Finally, the components were all top quality.
Given the time and players with an interest I will always choose to play D&D. Barring that, Descent Second Edition is a lot of fun and really ideal for younger or beginner players. It has a steeper price tag but I think it's well worth it for what you get.