News for May 2012
Martial Mastery
A preview of Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition

Over the past three weeks, we’ve learned a great deal about the mechanics of Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition, the upcoming board game of dungeon delving adventure. We heard from designer Adam Sadler regarding his favorite design elements, we saw an overview of Hero sheets and the actions hero players may perform, and we learned how the overlord uses his minions and tactics to oppose the forces of good.

While there are certainly plenty of mechanical elements yet to explore (such as combat, the campaign experience, and others), today’s preview will step back to present a more strategic and thematic look at Second Edition. Specifically, we’ll examine the relationship between archetypes and classes, focusing on the Warrior archetype and its two available classes, the Knight and the Berserker.

Heroes of All Stripes

Every hero in Second Edition or the Conversion Kit falls under one of four archetypes: Warrior, Healer, Mage, and Scout (Jain Fairwood, whom we met two weeks ago, is a Scout). But the significance of archetypes is fairly simple; they present a player with a selection of classes. In other words, your archetype may be Warrior, but the important question is this: What kind of Warrior do you want to be?

The Berserker class starts with the two-handed Chipped Greataxe,
while the Knight class begins with a Wooden Shield and Iron Longsword.
These starting item cards are each part of their respective Class decks.

Classes further differentiate an archetype’s strengths and play style, and the Second Edition base game features two classes per archetype. For the Warrior, this means a choice between the leadership and defense-oriented Knight, with his ability to inspire and protect his fellows, or the ferocious Berserker, who can quickly cut a swath through scores of foes.

A Word on Surges

Veterans of first edition may notice that the Chipped Greataxe lists two seemingly redundant surge effects. This is because unlike in first edition, a single surge effect in Second Edition may only be triggered once per roll. Players unfamiliar with surge mechanics, or those who wish to know more, should check back soon. We’ll discuss surges in more detail in our upcoming preview of Second Edition’s updated combat system.

Once a player has selected his hero, he selects a class permitted by that hero’s archetype. What happens next depends on the type of game being played. If your group wants a basic, single-session quest, simply collect your class’s starting equipment and skill. The adventure then proceeds.

Alternatively, players looking for more character customization in their one-time scenarios can use the “Epic Play” variant to build a character using a predetermined number of experience points (the overlord likewise upgrades his deck to meet the challenge). Or, players can use the included campaign rules, earning experience points over the course of several linked scenarios, then spending them on new class skills as they see fit. Either way, after choosing a class, a player should start browsing through his Class deck, a stack of cards consisting of skills and starting equipment specific to that class.

Which Path Will You Take?

Take a look at the Hero sheet for the elf Syndrael, below. Her archetype icon clearly indicates that she’s a Warrior, so your first decision is to choose a class: Knight or Berserker.

Browsing through the Knight’s deck, you’ll initially see the basic action Oath of Honor. The fact that this card lacks an experience point cost indicates that it is the Knight’s starting skill; all Knights have it automatically. Oath of Honor requires an action to perform, as indicated by its action icon (this does not, however, mean that it must be exhausted), and a hero must suffer one point of fatigue to use it. Oath of Honor also represents the Knight’s general thematic concept nicely; it allows her to rush to the aid of an ally, striking down a threatening foe.

Even within a given class, however, there are numerous skill combinations to be unlocked through clever allocation of one’s experience points. Assuming Syndrael chooses the path of the Knight, will she be the type of Knight that focuses on personal defense? The protection of allies? Some combination of the two? Skills like Defense Training, Stalwart, and Shield Slam might be good choices for a knight who prefers to be in the thick of things, deflecting blows with her shield while giving as good as she gets. On the other hand, a Knight who seeks to take pressure off her more fragile allies might choose skills such as Guard, Challenge, and Defend.

Then again, maybe the best defense is a strong offense. Syndrael could instead choose the Berserker class. Rage is the starting Berserker skill, and this straightforward technique represents the chief focus of its class: dealing damage. But should Syndrael focus her attention on powerful blows against single opponents, or should she be able to take out out entire monster groups in one mighty swing? Are her Health and Stamina characteristics high enough to support a “take damage to deal damage” strategy, or should she walk a more conservative road in her skill selection?

Brute, Death Rage, and Execute, for example, are all skills that help a Berserker deal damage depending on the damage and fatigue she’s willing to suffer. Whirlwind, Charge, and Weapon Mastery might support an approach with less personal risk, while still allowing the Berserker to remain a formidable offensive force.

Whatever choices you make, Second Edition’s hundreds of possible skill combinations ensure that character creation hasn’t ended after you’ve selected a class. On the contrary, it’s only just begun. Keep checking back for more in the coming weeks, and look for Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition and the Conversion Kit this summer!

Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition is a story-driven board game for 2-5 players that takes a party of adventurers deep into the dungeons of Terrinoth for adventure, treasure, and glory. Players will embark on a campaign of linked quests as they develop characters based on four fantasy archetypes.

    
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