News for May 2012
Spoiling for a Fight
A preview of Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition

Every passing week brings us that much closer to the release of Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition! We’ve seen a great deal over the past month, including an overview of a hero’s turn, a look at the overlord and his minions, and an examination of the Warrior archetype.

But with rampaging ettins and axe-wielding berserkers competing for the fate of Terrinoth, it goes without saying that pacifism is out of the question. We’ve already seen that “Attack” is one of the most important actions a hero can choose on his turn (important enough, in fact, to often choose it twice), but how are attacks actually resolved? Today, we’ll look at Second Edition’s custom dice, we’ll discuss its new line of sight rules, and we’ll put it all together with a detailed example of an attack.

Seeking Fortune’s Favor

Second Edition features nine custom dice in six types, three of which are generally used for defense while the other three are most often used for offense.


Second Edition’s nine custom dice consist of one brown, two gray, and one black defense dice,
plus one blue attack die, and two red and two yellow power dice.
Click the above images to see each die’s full configuration.

The defense dice, which let a hero cancel incoming damage () from an attack, are fairly straightforward. From brown, to gray, to black, they provide increasing amounts of defense (), with gray being the most common; it’s rolled by the majority of monsters and heroes alike. The offensive dice, on the other hand, are a bit more complex.

Dice Iconography

This symbol represents damage being dealt on an attack roll, or damage being recovered.

This symbol, called a surge, allows players to trigger powerful abilities or recover fatigue.

The attack die features this symbol on one side, which results in the attack being a miss.

2–6  Some dice also have a range on them, which determines how much range a given attack has.

This symbol appears on defense dice and allows the player rolling the dice to cancel damage.

The ubiquitous blue attack die is essential to any offense, and is called for by everything from a simple sling to a Merriod’s thrashing tentacles (it’s also the only die with a miss result (), which renders an entire attack ineffective). Where an attack derives its uniqueness, however, is in the type and number of power dice it uses. The red power dice are heavy on damage, and are typically seen accompanying the blue attack die on melee weapons. Alternatively, the yellow power dice offer a boost to range (a number 1–2), and tend to be seen on magical and ranged weapons.

Another symbol that the attack and power dice have in common is the surge (). You might think of a surge as a sort of currency, which can be spent to trigger powerful abilities on an attack. It’s important to note, however, that each available surge effect can only be triggered once per attack, so a Knight cannot, for example, Shield Slam multiple enemies just because he’s rolled multiple surges. It’s also important to explain what might be called the “universal surge effect.” Any hero can spend a surge to recover one fatigue, but as with all surge effects, this can only be triggered once per attack.

All together, these versatile combat rules contribute to both tactical depth and character distinctiveness, as each hero and weapon setup offers engaging dice combinations along with compelling ways to spend surges. Will you stun your foe, or is raw damage the wiser approach? Should you force your opponent to reroll a defense die, or should you recover a fatigue in anticipation of an upcoming turn? With each attack comes a new wealth of interesting tactical possibilities.

Calling the Shots

As we discussed above, ranged attacks tend to require the blue attack die and at least one yellow power die, as it is these dice that provide range (a measure of how many spaces your attack can “travel” before hitting its target). The success of such attacks is not entirely a matter of distance, however. In order to target an enemy, an attacker must also have an unobstructed line of sight.

Veterans of first edition will notice an important difference in Second Edition’s line of sight rules. In short, rather than tracing “center to center” (from the center of the attacker’s space to the center of the target space), line of sight is now traced “corner to corner” (from any corner of the attacker’s space to any corner of the target space). Both corners are of the attacker’s choosing, but the line can neither cross over a blocked space nor be traced along its edge (see the example to the right). Daniel Clark, one of Second Edition’s developers, took a moment to explain this design decision:

It’s not that the first edition line of sight rules were confusing by any means, but they encouraged players to devote a lot of time to considering and executing the perfect shot. We would often see players paralyze the game as they deliberated line of sight, and it was this tendency that the design team wanted to minimize. By adopting more liberal line of sight requirements, we saw playtesters spending less time on these decisions and more time focused on the narrative.

While it’s difficult to convey the end result of this change in a preview, those who have played Second Edition can attest to a subtle shift in the combat dynamic. If attackers can more easily establish line of sight, it makes them less concerned with maneuvering for a clear shot. Conversely, however, their targets must now actively maneuver to take cover behind blocked spaces.

Tomble and the Zombie

Now that we’ve established the basics of combat, let’s put it all together with an example. First, however, meet Tomble Burrowell:

For the purpose of our combat example, imagine that Tomble has purchased a Sling from the Shop deck, which he’ll now use against a Master Zombie. Notice that Tomble’s Sling has a surge effect that causes the Stunned condition, while the Zombie can spread Disease. Stunned, Diseased, Immobilized, and Poisoned are persistent conditions that can affect heroes and monsters in Second Edition, and they’re conveniently represented by cards that are placed in front of the afflicted player (and in the case of the overlord, tokens near his monster figures).

To see how Tomble fares against the Master Zombie, download our combat example (pdf, 2.8 MB)!

But what if things ultimately go poorly for Tomble? Should a hero suffer damage equal to or greater than his health, he is considered defeated and is knocked out. He then immediately suffers fatigue up to his total Stamina, and his controlling player removes his figure from the map and replaces it with one of his hero tokens (knocked out heroes block neither line of sight nor movement).

Unless a knocked out hero is revived by an adjacent ally, he can perform only one action on his turn, and that is to stand back up (to be clear, this constitutes a knocked out hero's entire turn). Such a hero rolls two red power dice, recovering damage equal to the  rolled and fatigue equal to the  rolled. Of course, the monster that knocked him down in the first place may have something to say about this, and a newly revived hero is vulnerable to being knocked right back down again...so it’s important to have the backup of nearby allies.

Reviving a knocked out ally follows the same basic procedure, but since a different hero is performing the action, it is a far more efficient use of everyone’s two actions per turn.

Ready to begin your own adventure? 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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