Updated: Nov 24, 2020
After months in lockdown I finally gave in, decided I will never see my friends again and turned to the dark arts of the solo gamer. A couple of weeks back I decided to pick up The Delve, a piece of DLC for Descent Road to Legend which creates an infinitely replayable 6 part quest. Your heroes will travel through six mini dungeons, attempting to reach the final one and escape.
When I bought and played Descent 2.0 I stubbornly hung on to the original as the two do offer vastly different play experiences. The original Descent was not a campaign game, not a sprawling story told over 11 sessions with branching paths and side quests, it was a single adventure in which your heroes went from feeble peasants to glorious heroes of the realm over the course of five hours, usually with a break for sandwiches.
And while the experiences were different enough for me to cling to that coffin box like I might a lifesaver in the frigid dark of the ocean, I have never actually busted it back out because it isn’t as streamlined as the 2.0 version, it has clunkiness and rules that hard to recall. Well the Delve presents a happy middle ground that means I can finally let first edition drift away and free up some shelf space.
In the Delve you take your hero on a journey from basic nobody to full blown adventurer in a randomly generated setting. The app is capable of pulling content from your entire collection, so if you have a lot of expansions you will see a lot of varied terrain setup along with different monsters giving you a more unique experience each time you play. You can also choose to limit the items in your collection so if you were playing at a friend’s house, for example, you don’t have to bring everything in order to play the game.
Playing solo does mean running two heroes at once. Now, I don’t really recommend solo play for this reason, there's a lot of information to track in Descent at the best of times, but two heroes and maybe 3 monster groups is a lot to keep track of and I know I definitely forgot stuff, especially some of my special abilities and feats. However, if you push the rules aside and worry more about having fun than trying to remember all the minutiae then the game moves along at a nice clip.
But it’s not a short experience. Descent 2.0 was redesigned to give you a 1-2 hour dungeon crawl experience, which might sound long but it’s still around 4 hours shorter than Descent 1st Edition. The Delve for Road to Legend is pushing more back up towards the 4 hour time frame, maybe less with an experienced group but it’s not a short session. You could, however, save between dungeons by placing all your heroes components in baggies. Each game consists of 6 dungeons with a boss fight at 3 and 6 so it would be very simple to split a session into two parts saving after the first boss.
Each dungeon is small, a few tiles at best, I’ve been playing on the coffee table and not had any problems with running out of space. Each dungeon requires you to complete a certain objective, the simplest ones simply want you to defeat a certain monster, while others might require you to interact with objects, such as putting out a fire or rescuing civilians. The more expansions you have in your collection the more scenarios you have available.
Between each dungeon is an upgrade step. The app will instruct you to draw some market cards and choose a certain number, you will also gain xp to gain new abilities. Finally you’ll get some healing and condition removal to help buff you up for the next scenario.
In my first play through I was taking Jonas the Kind and Krutzbeck a dwarven berserker, through the dungeon. Our final encounter was against Zachareth, the original boss from the base game. He had with him a pet Shadow Dragon and a handful of Skeleton Archers. I should have taken out the archers first, they were to my rear peppering me with arrows, but instead Krutzbeck charged forward hoping to slay the dragon before it could activate and devour our party.
However the dragon had boosted hit points and by the time we took it down we were in a bad way, in fact Jonas had already been knocked down. In the game you get a certain number of Moral, each time a hero is knocked out you lose a moral and when you run out then you lose the campaign.
I defeated the Shadow Dragon and turned my attention to Zachareth… but then, from nowhere the dragon swooped down and gobbled him up… I cheered, but only briefly, devouring Zachareth recharged the Shadow Dragon’s batteries and he flung himself back into the fray. Both Jonas and Krutzbeck fell to his attack, our moral was in the toilet but the dwarf got back up and severed the dragon’s head from its body.
I felt a sense of relief wash over me, we had done it, with a single health remaining on each hero. I clicked “Continue” on the app, expecting to be showered with praise but instead it just updated the objective “Reach the Portal”...
Oh no… I hadn’t counted on this, I thought we just had to kill the dragon… we were out of turns and out of health and the Skeleton Archers had yet to fire. Their bows twanged and down went Jonas, ending all hope we had of winning! So close!
So for me the Delve hits that sweet spot of delivering a single session dungeon crawl with tons of variety and none of the prep work. If, however, it's story you're looking for then you can play any of the other Road to Legend campaigns, there's three free ones and one paid for DLC or alternative each of the big box expansions for the game offers a full campaign but requires someone to play the Overlord and guide the story. For me though, the Delve is something I can bust out for game night, obliterate some goblins and zombies and be done before the nachos run out... assuming we ever get to have Game Night again!