News for May 2012
On The Campaign Trail
A Preview of Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition

A shadow is spreading across Terrinoth, and four brave heroes are all that stand before the overlord’s vile schemes. In our first preview of Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition, designer Adam Sadler briefly discussed his favorite elements of the new iteration. Among them, he said, was an interesting and varied campaign system that offers multiple narrative paths.

But how does the campaign system work, and how can the players affect its narrative direction? Today, we’ll take a closer look at The Shadow Rune (Second Edition’s included campaign), and we’ll see some of the choices that players can make in determining the fate of Terrinoth.

Adventure Around Every Corner

Before we bring the light of justice to Terrinoth’s dark corners, however, let’s shed some light on the Campaign sheet. A pad full of these double-sided record sheets comes with Second Edition, and they serve two vital functions: keeping track of the players’ progress, and clearly listing the choices for upcoming quests.


The front and back of the Campaign sheet. Click to enlarge.

Take a look at the list of quests on the back of the Campaign sheet. The Shadow Rune takes place over nine quests (remember that a quest typically consists of two separate maps, called encounters), and they occur in this order:

  • The Introduction (in this case, the single-encounter quest First Blood)
  • Any three Act I quests (of five available choices; these are selected by the players, as we’ll discuss below)
  • The Interlude (one of two possible single-encounter quests, depending on which side won more often during Act I)
  • Any three Act II quests (of ten choices...sort of; we’ll discuss selection criteria in a moment)
  • The Finale (one of two possible quests, depending on which side won more often during Act II)

Let’s break that down a bit. The Shadow Rune campaign begins with First Blood, but where it goes from there is fairly flexible. Whichever side wins First Blood may choose the next destination from any of the available Act I quests: A Fat Goblin, Castle Daerion, The Cardinal’s Plight, Masquerade Ball, or Death on the Wing. A Fat Goblin need not be the first Act I quest just because it’s listed at the top of the Campaign sheet.


The Shadow Rune’s overland map, which appears on the back page of the Quest Guide. Before each quest, heroes
must travel (drawing a Travel Event card for each travel icon they pass) to their destination, starting
from Arhynn (where they rest, debrief, and sell items between quests). Click to enlarge.

In fact, generally speaking, the winning team of any quest chooses the next quest from those available in the same act. The exceptions to this are the Interlude and Finale, which are determined based on who won the “best of three” series that made up the preceding act. It’s important to note that in The Shadow Rune, any Act I quest that wasn’t played (due to having not been chosen) is considered to have been won by the overlord, for purposes of selecting its Act II follow-up.

An Act I Example

As an example of how Act I might play out, let’s imagine that the overlord won First Blood, the introductory quest. On the Campaign sheet, the players mark the icon to the right of First Blood’s title bar, which always indicates an overlord victory (hero victory is marked on the left side of a given quest’s title).

Having won the choice of the next quest, the overlord player selects Masquerade Ball, which he also wins. He then chooses A Fat Goblin, but this time the heroes win. The heroes then agree that the third Act I quest should be Death on the Wing. They win it. Since three Act I quests have been completed, it’s time for the Interlude, and since the heroes won the majority of the Act I quests, the Interlude will be The Shadow Vault.

If the overlord wins the Interlude, he will be free to select any "unlocked" Act II quest. Remember: his options will be limited based on who won certain Act I quests, and any Act I quest not attempted is treated as though the overlord won.

This, of course, brings us to Act II. Beneath each Act I quest on the Campaign sheet, you’ll notice two possible Act II quests. These quests become available only after the Interlude, and only depending on who won their Act I counterparts. For example, if the overlord won Masquerade Ball in Act I, Blood of Heroes is essentially blocked from the game (cutting off the possibility of retrieving its potentially useful reward). This system ensures that even though Second Edition offers twenty possible quests, only a portion of them will be played over the course of a campaign, and rarely in the same order.

Layers Within Layers

Even within a given quest, success or failure can have game-altering effects. What’s more, success is defined differently depending on the quest being played; victory conditions for both sides are dictated by the special rules of each quest. The overlord, therefore, may need to complete any number of objectives to win, from collecting bales of crops to guiding a lieutenant off the map...and a variety of others.

A few weeks ago, for example, we looked at an excerpt from the first encounter of A Fat Goblin. This Act I quest pits players against Splig, the self-styled King of All Goblins and one of the overlord’s many lieutenants.

In the first encounter of this quest (seen below), the heroes must prevent a raiding party of goblins from stealing crops (represented by objective tokens) and taking them through the map’s exit. The heroes do this by gathering the crops themselves and storing them safely in one of two spaces adjacent to the farm. Of course, the goblins will have something to say about this; they’re under orders to bring Splig his next feast.

The outcome of this first encounter of A Fat Goblin directly affects the rules of its second encounter. Did the goblins escape with most, or all, of the crops? While there is no immediate penalty to the heroes or reward for the overlord, a well-fed Splig makes for a more formidable adversary in the second encounter.


The first encounter from A Fat Goblin

In the dungeon-themed conclusion to A Fat Goblin, Splig’s minions must guide imprisoned farmers from their cell to a nearby torture chamber, where Splig himself can interrogate them to find out which one is a disguised knight named Frederick. Can the heroes defeat Splig before he interrogates, then absconds with, the right farmer?

With Second Edition's many possible plot branches and a narrative that shifts based on success and failure, players can enjoy its campaign multiple times without experiencing it the same way twice. Keep checking back for more, and look for Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition on store shelves this summer!


Above, an excerpt from the second encounter of
A Fat Goblin, which shows the
persistent effects from the first encounter, as well as the victory conditions for
both the heroes and the overlord. Click to enlarge.

Want to be among the first to play? Join us for Realms of Terrinoth 2012, or encourage your local retailer to host a Second Edition Preview Event!

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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