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Descent: Legends of the Dark Overview

Descent: Legends of the Dark Overview

Descent: Legends of the Dark Overview

Welcome to our overview of Fantasy Flight Games Descent: Legends of the Dark. If you haven’t already, check out our four-part review featuring the TerrainMiniaturesApp, and Gameplay for our take on the game. If you want to know the ins and outs of how to play, read on!

Descent: Legends of the Dark – The Game

Descent: Legends of the Dark on our gaming table.

This game is enormous, both physically and also conceptually, and there is a ton to know about playing this game. The rules are very intense, and this is undoubtedly a game that takes a fair amount of time to learn and play. Our aim with this article is to explain how to play this game to the best of our ability.

In Descent: Legends of the Dark, you and your fellow players, take on the role of heroes in the land of Terrinoth.

The game is an adventure through many different quests. Each with its final objective and tasks to reach that goal. The game uses a modular board that the app directs the players to put together for each quest. The app allows the game board to change to match your current location in the adventure. The game also has miniatures to represent all the enemies and heroes the players meet throughout the campaign. Read on to discover all that goes into this game.

Game Components

  • Lore Guide – tells you about all the characters you come across and their motivations
  • 12 custom Dice – 4 d12 dice, 4 d8 dice, 4 d6 dice
  • 16 plastic ID Markers – these are placed on the bottom of the enemies to identify them
  • 40 Plastic Miniatures and one riser – Several enemy types, the riser is for large enemies that may end their turn on a stair step
  • 18 Map tiles – These tiles are the modular board and are double sided and marked with a number
  • 47 terrain pieces – This includes trees, treasure chests, bookshelves, stairs, alters etc
  • 6 Underlays – These double sided designs represent fire, water, spikes and are used in the modular board for the game
  • 6 hero cards – These show the character and all their stats
  • 40 weapon cards – Weapon cards have two sides, a normal side and an upgraded side
  • 18 Armor cards – These cards show what type of armor a character has and what the benefit is when equipped
  • 12 Trinkets – These are items that give a player a special ability when obtained
  • 42 Consumables – These are food or potion cards that allow the character to use them once for a specific benefit
  • 42 skill cards – These cards are double sided and give the hero a particular skill
  • 10 injury cards – These cards have a minor and major side, if a player’s hit points gets to zero, the app will tell the players which card to give out.
  • 4 reference cards – These are the rules on a concise card
  • 8 card sleeves – Each hero has two different weapons, the players put those weapons in the same sleeve so they act as a single weapon card
  • 12 explore/sight tokens – These tokens are double sided and represent items to interact with on the board
  • 80 condition tokens – 16 each of the following: Infect, Terrified, Scar, Focus and Prepare
  • 54 fatigue tokens – teardrop shaped tokens that a hero receives during the adventure
  • 4 health dials – Each character tracks their current health through a quest using this dial

 

Game Setup

As this is a campaign game, there will be more setup at the beginning of a campaign and less as you go forward.

Initial Setup

In Descent: Legends of the Dark, the initial setup is a little bit more complicated than usual. That’s because there are about two inches of punch board in the box with tokens and terrain elements. In this game, the terrain is all 3D, so you will need to spend some time putting them together. We recommend putting everything together ahead of when you plan to play the game. It may take you an hour or so… you’ve been warned.

That said, the game does come with a handy insert that explains how all the pieces go together. All the pieces are labeled, so it’s not difficult, but it does take some time.

Campaign Setup

In the campaign setup, you will need to select your initial heroes and your starting weapons. Along with these, you will choose a health dial, the matching hero miniature, and the hero card. You will also need to download the free companion app from apple, google, amazon or steam. Then use the app to select a save slot and tell it who your starting heroes will be. You can play the game with 2-4 heroes, and if you want to play solo, the rules are the same; you choose two heroes to play.

Quest Setup

After selecting a hero (which you may change during each quest’s setup) and determining their hero card and miniature, you will set your health dial equal to the number that appears next to the heart icon on the hero card. Then you will set up the supply of tokens and place the map tiles, enemy figures, injury cards, and consumable cards nearby the board. Finally, you will embark on the quest via the app. The initial narrative of the quest will play out, and at the end, you will setup the starting map as shown in the app. You will find the map tile labeled in the app. Remember, there is an A and B side to every tile. Place that in front of you and orientate it to match the app. Then place any terrain on the map tile (3D terrain and tokens). Now you are ready to play!

A quick note: If you look carefully at the app, you will see a faint outline of the entire hidden map until revealed. The outline is helpful so you know approximately where to place that starting tile on your game table so that you don’t have to move the whole board later in the game.

Gameplay

The heroes play Descent: Legends of the Dark over a series of rounds. In each round, there are two phases, the Hero Phase and the Darkness Phase.

Hero Phase

In the hero phase, each hero takes a turn, which is variable each round. In their turn, a hero can do three actions. The three actions must include a Maneuver action and any two other actions from the following list of 5 actions: Maneuver, Fight, Explore, Ready and Unique. The hero can do an action more than once during their turn. Here’s a breakdown of each of those actions:

Maneuver

Maneuver for Brynn is 3 as denoted in the upper right

The heroes move about the board using the maneuver action. On the heroes’ card, there will be a number next to a green icon arrow icon. This number is the hero’s speed and represents the number of maneuver points in a maneuver action. Each space a hero moves into costs one maneuver point. The maneuver action can be split up by other actions as well.
So if the hero had a speed of 3, they could spend two maneuver points to move two spaces and then interrupt their maneuver action to explore a treasure chest, then complete their maneuver action to move one more space.

Any space sharing a solid white line or corner (diagonal) is considered adjacent. The heroes can move into any adjacent space. A hero can not move into a space with an enemy or 3D terrain. However, they can move through a space with another hero so long as they do not end their maneuver in that space.

If at any time the hero moves adjacent to an enemy, they become impeded. Impeding means that they lose the remainder of their maneuver points for this action. If a hero wants to maneuver from an enemy adjacent space, they may only move one space regardless of the speed on their hero card. The game wants you to stand and fight, and it is harder to run away.
Finally, if a hero moves into an adjacent space containing a sight token, they must activate it in the app. Sight tokens do not cause a hero to spend an action, unlike explore tokens which are an action.
If a hero was moved there during the darkness phase by some game event, they may resolve the sight token at the beginning of the following action phase.

 

Fight

Fighting an enemy in Descent: Legends of the Dark involves a few different steps to take. Before a hero attacks, they need to check two things: the range of their weapon and the line of sight to the enemy. 

Range
Syrus’ wand has a range of 4 and a damage of 2

Range is determined by the the number on the weapon with a swooping arrow icon. The number For range, look at the number on the weapon with a swooping arrow icon. The number next to it is the number of spaces away from an enemy a hero can attack. A hero can be closer than that number and still attack but can not be further away.

Line of Sight

If a hero wants to attack an enemy, that enemy must be in their line of sight. The app has a line of sight tool that allows players to select any square on the board and see what other squares are in their line of sight. To determine the line of sight, if a player can draw a straight line from their hero to the enemy that does not intersect the map edges or spaces with 3D terrain, the enemy is in line of sight. The app does take the guesswork out of this as well.

Hero Attacking

The player goes into the app to attack an enemy, clicks on their hero’s portrait, and drag it to the enemy they want to hit. Dragging from the portrait will create an arrow on the screen to denote who that hero is attacking.

The Hero attack screen when Brynn attacks a Fae

Next appears the hero attack screen, where the player indicates which weapon they will use to fight (this is always their faceup weapon, Players can flip weapons during the game – see the Ready Action below). Then the player looks at the hero’s stat card and looks at the cross sword icon. The dice color next to it represents the die the player will roll to attack.

Brynn’s cross swords icon is a black die; each hero has their own die

Each die has numerous faces with custom icons on them.

dice come in three types and with different symbols
  • Success – Star shape icon – the hero can spend each Success to apply damage to the enemy
  • Advantage – Plus shape icon – the hero can place a fatigue token on any card in their possession that can take Fatigue (See Fatigue below). Adding Fatigue then converts to a success and can be applied to attack fo the enemy.
  • Surge – Thunderbolt shape – The hero can spend the thunderbolt to resolve their surge abilities printed on the hero card next to the thunderbolt.

Back in the hero attack screen in the app, the player enters the number of successes they got into the number picker.

The app will take this number and multiply it by the damage value shown on the weapon card for the weapon used and then automatically apply that number as damage to the enemy. Each enemy can defend, and this will reduce the total damage applied. Their defense is based on a random number between 0 and the number on the silver shield underneath the enemy in the app.

Syrus’ Staff has a damage type of crush.

Each weapon also has a damage type on its card. If a particular enemy is weak to a specific damage type, the app will automatically add one additional damage for each weakness. At the beginning of the campaign, the heroes don’t know what a specific enemy type is weak against, but as they defeat enemies, The app will list the enemy’s weakness under them. This display will help remind you what each enemy is weak against and help you plan your attack, and determine which weapon works best against them.

Explore

If you want to spend your turn exploring in Descent: Legends of the Dark, this is the action for you. You can explore in two ways: interacting with an explore token or a 3D terrain piece. A hero must either be in the same space or an adjacent space to interact with a terrain piece. The player must drag from their portrait in the app to the item they want to interact with. Dragging tells the app which hero interacted with the item. Interacting will often gain the party items or open up the map further or generate a skill test which we’ll explain later.

Syrus is going to interact with a sight token. Sight tokens are NOT actions, but are interacted with the same was as Explore

Ready

As an action, a hero may flip over their hero card, weapon card (switch weapons), or any skill cards they may have. Players will lose any tokens on those cards. (Fatigue and any positive and negative conditions go back to their respective token pools). Flipping a card provides unique skills that may be ideal for the given situation with the added benefit of removing tokens that were causing harm. Keep in mind that the longer some tokens stay on your card, the more damage they do to the hero.

Unique actions

If a card has an arrow icon with a number, this is a unique action. The number tells the player how many actions it takes to complete this action. Each hero has some specific unique actions.

This side of Syrus’s hero card has a Unique Action called Phoenix Bond

After each hero takes their actions, the round moves to the Darkness Phase of the game.After each hero takes their actions, the round moves to the Darkness Phase

Darkness Phase

The darkness phase of Descent: Legends of the Dark represents the time passing and enemy phases. At the start of the darkness phase, each hero will resolve the effects of any infected or terrified conditions, after which each hero may discard one fatigue token. Then this phase continues with Enemy Activation, Quest, and Tactics steps.

Enemy Activation

The app will determine the order in which enemies will activate (move and attack if possible). When an enemy activates, they typically move towards a single hero and attacks them. If more than one hero is equidistant from the enemy, the enemy moves towards the hero with the lowest health left. If there are multiple heroes with the same health, the players decide which hero they will go after. As with the heroes, if an enemy moves into an adjacent space to a hero, they become impeded and forfeit the remaining maneuver points they may have left.

A Berserker can maneuver up to 4 spaces towards Vaerix and then deal 4 damage to the adjacent hero.

An enemy moves according to the speed number in the app and only moves enough spaces to be within range of the hero they will attack, even if that means moving away from the hero to create the furthest distance between them.
Enemies can not move through another hero’s space but can pass through an enemy space.
Finally, the enemy is affected by range and line of sight when attacking a hero.

Attacking

An enemy will automatically attack the heroes, inflicting the number of damage next to the red icon on the app screen. Each hero affected by an attack has an opportunity to defend. They do this by rolling the die next to the Shield icon on their hero card.

Chance can defend using the blue die next to the shield, some heroes use different dice for attacking and defending.

For each Success (star), the hero reduces the number of damage by one. For each Advantage (plus), the hero may take a fatigue token onto any card that has space left on it. If they roll a surge, they may resolve the surge effects. If there is still damage after rolling dice, they adjust the number on their health dial down by the amount of damage taken.

Abilities

Frequently, abilities will also modify an enemy’s attack. If this happens, a dialog box will show in the app with instructions on changing this attack.

Interrupt

From time to time, in Descent: Legends of the Dark, you will need to pause an activation to use some other area of the app, for instance, to “Wound a hero.”

Within the enemy activation screen, there is an “Interrupt” button. If a player clicks on it, it will pause the enemy activation and return you to the central part of the app. Once finished, a player may click the “Resume Activation” button to return to enemy activation.

Damage

Both heroes and enemies can take damage during the game. Each hero has a number next to a heart icon on their hero stat card. This number is their max health and represents how much damage they can take. An enemy’s total health shows in the app as a heart with a number inside.

Hero Damage and Wounding a Hero

Brynn has 6 health left, if she reaches 0, she becomes wounded

As Descent: Legends of the Dark plays, the heroes will take damage either through fighting or some other game effect. If a hero ever adjusts their health dial down to zero, they become Wounded. To identify a wounded hero, The player clicks on the hero’s portrait and clicks on the Wound Hero button in the app. They then adjust their dial back to the full number on their hero card next to the heart. Finally, they take a specific “Minor injury” card from the injury deck. The hero must now follow the instructions on the injury card for the rest of this quest. Should they reach zero again, they will repeat the above steps, but instead of drawing a new card, they will flip the one they have to the “Major injury” side and follow those instructions until the end of the quest. Injuries hinder the hero’s abilities and should be avoided if at all possible. If a hero reaches zero for a third time, the app will typically inform all the players they have failed, and the quest ends. It is in your best interest not to allow this to happen to your fellow players so that you can complete the quest.

Enemy Damage and Conditions

If an enemy suffers damage while being attacked, the app will auto-apply that damage to the enemy by reducing their health bar. However, if one of the hero’s abilities directly damages an enemy, the player can adjust the enemy’s health down as well. Once that enemy reaches zero, they are defeated and removed from the board.
Specific actions and instructions in the game will tell the players to apply a condition to the enemy. These are usually negative and only last for the current round. One of these conditions, doomed, is an exception. If an enemy is doomed, any other conditions stay at the end of the round.

Fatigue

As mentioned before in this article, in Descent: Legends of the Dark, if a hero rolls dice to attack, defend or test, they may get the plus sign on the dice. A player can convert that plus to a success by taking on Fatigue. The hero can put that Fatigue on any card with the fatigue symbol showing, and each card can only hold the number of Fatigue listed on the card. When taking Fatigue, that Fatigue can be spread amongst all cards eligible to take Fatigue. If a hero is must take Fatigue and have reached their fatigue limit, they suffer damage instead. Some cards and actions have fatigue abilities as well.

Kehli has a fatigue ability called Adaptable, if she takes 3 fatigue on this card, she can perform this ability. Kehli can only take a max of 3 fatigue as denoted in the lower right.

A Fatigue ability has the fatigue icon preceded by a number listed on a card. That number represents the number of additional fatigue tokens a player needs to place on that specific card to use that ability. If by adding those fatigue tokens, a player were to go over the limit in Fatigue, the player can not play that ability.
A player can clear Fatigue by performing the ready action on a card and flipping it to the opposite side.

Tests

When the hero interacts with terrain or tokens, they will perform a “Test.” This test will require the hero to use one of their stats (Might, Agility, Insight, or Will) which the app will determine. Then they will roll two black dice and modify their number of successes by the modifier next to the stat on their card. Some of these modifiers will be positive, while others are negative. The hero may resolve Advantage (plus) and Surge(thunderbolt) as usual.
There are two types of tests: Threshold Test and Normal Test.

Galaden has a Might of +1, he rolls two black dice – same as all Tests, and adds one success

In a normal test, the stat to use has a number on the player card. This number is how many successes the player needs to get to pass. The game will show two buttons, “Pass” and “Fail,” Each with a different narrative outcome for the story.
In a threshold test, the player will see a number selector and enter the number of successes into it. The difference here is that multiple heroes can perform the same skill test on their turn and add on their successes. Once the app sees that the total successes exceed its internal threshold, it will trigger the narrative to advance. These tests occur for quest milestones where it takes multiple heroes to succeed.
The last type of test is a test to negate damage or Fatigue. If a hero is about to take damage or Fatigue, the app may offer an opportunity to negate that by saying “{skill} negates.” If that happens, the player performs a test, and for every Success, they may reduce the amount of damage or Fatigue by one.

Hero Effects

Heroes have both Abilities and Conditions that they can get as the game progresses. Heroes have both Abilities and Conditions that they can get as the game progresses.

Abilities

Each card in the hero’s play area can have an ability. Each ability shows how a player can resolve it. Unless the ability says otherwise, the hero resolving the ability is the only one the ability affects.

Surge Ability

Whenever a player rolls a thunderbolt during a hero’s turn, that hero may activate their surge ability.

Keyword Abilities

If a card has a bold keyword on it, it directs some action for the player.
The 4 keywords are:

  • Charge – Place the number and type of the specified tokens on the card. Once players remove those tokens through game actions, the card flips.
  • Reach – A weapon with reach on it means the hero can attack two spaces away from the enemy.
  • Reveal – Whenever a card in the hero’s play area says “reveal,” the hero must resolve it immediately.
  • Shift – This allows the hero to move up to the specified number of spaces ignoring impeding rules, but still needs to take into account terrain rules

Hero Conditions

If a hero is told to infect, terrify, scar, focus, or prepare a card in their play area, they will add a token of that type to the specified cards.

This image shows the Fatigue which is not a condition, and Infect,Terrified, Scar, and Prepared – Focus is missing.

If a hero already has a specific condition and is told to add the same one again, they don’t. The exception to this is if they are resolving the Charge keyword. When a hero flips a card, all conditions move to the token pool.

The 5 conditions are:

  • Infected: If a hero is infected and they reach the “Time Passes” stage of the Darkness phase, the hero suffers damage equal to the number of infection tokens on their cards
  • Terrified: If a hero is terrified and they reach the “Time Passes” stage of the Darkness phase, the hero suffers Fatigue equal to the number of terrified tokens they have
  • Scarred: Whenever a hero flips a card with a scar on it, they suffer two damage.
  • Focused: During an attack, defend, or test, a hero may discard a focus to re-roll one die.
  • Prepared: If a hero has a prepare token, they may discard it to flip the card during their turn without using a ready action.

Round Ending

After the Darkness phase, it is time to get ready for the next hero phase. Clicking on the button in the lower right-hand corner will return the players to the hero phase, where you continue your quest.

Game Ending

Descent: Legends of the Dark ends in one of two ways:

  • The heroes complete the quest successfully and meet all objectives. The app will conclude with some narration and animation related to the story advancing.
  • The heroes fail the quest either through an action defined in the app or if one hero reaches zero in their health three times. The app will conclude with different narration. However, the overall campaign will continue, albeit with a slightly different story.

In either case, the app will show the party’s travel back to Frostgate along with any story or random events that may happen.

Frostgate Interaction

Descent: Legends of the Dark also uses the app for interacting with Frostgate. While in Frostgate, players can Craft, Forge or Shop along with taking part in events.

A Map of Frostgate with Forge, Craft and Shop locations

Crafting

During the overall campaign players gather raw meterials from killing enemies and looting During the overall campaign, players gather raw materials from killing enemies and looting treasure chests. These items are saved in the app’s inventory, and when you click on the craft hall between quests, you may combine things you’ve discovered to create new weapons, armor, trinkets, or consumables. Players can equip these items during future quests.

Shopping

Players can visit the shop to purchase raw materials and completed items. Players can then use the raw materials for Crafting. The players can sell items back to the shop for a lower cost but gain coins to buy other items.

Armory

Players can visit the armory where they can upgrade or replace their weapons. This process tells the app what weapon each hero is holding to display those weapons during the attack phase correctly.

City Events

Throughout the campaign, various City events will occur, and they usually serve to advance the overall story and require the players to make narrative decisions for the party.

Campaign Map Interactions

Within the app, there is also an overall campaign map that shows the locations of available quests. Yellow arrows represent the main campaign quests. Black arrows represent optional side quests. Finally, there are also Campaign level events that work similarly to City Events but have broader game effects.

Thank you for taking the time to read this in-depth article on how to play Descent: Legends of the Dark. If you want to know more about what we think of this game, check out our reviews on the TerrainMiniaturesApp, and Gameplay! This game is also available in our store. Check it out today!