One of the few knocks against Descent: Journeys in the Dark is that it’s not really a cooperative game, that one player has to work against their friends as Overlord, controlling the dungeon’s monsters and inner workings. Beyond that, Descent does pretty much everything you want a dungeon crawler to do. It has great components, complete with thick cardboard and terrifying and gruesomely detailed miniatures. It has a host of expansions that will give you hundreds of hours of entertainment. And its core mechanics are pretty solid, making for a game series that’s absolutely great.
But wouldn’t Descent be more fun if the four people in your gaming group could play together instead of three against one? Well, Fantasy Flight Games has a surprise for you. There is now a recently released companion app for Descent. The app (Android, iOS) assumes the role of Overlord, guiding your way through dank, shadowy halls, slowly revealing tiles and treasures, and controlling the monsters. At this task, the app is especially adept. Sometimes, the creature may come charging in. At other times, it might hang back with ranged attacks. And, at the worst times, it will pick out the weakest member of your party and attempt to cull them out.
Upon free download, there’s a four-encounter mini-quest, ‘Rise of All Goblins‘ that you can attempt to beat. Each time you’re victorious, you can visit the city of Tamalir and use your newfound wealth and XP to buy new items and skills. Future campaigns will be available for a small fee. Tell the app which expansions you own, along with packs and collections, and the app chooses monsters for you to fight from what you have in your library–a feature that can really randomize your dungeon exploring experiences.
Having played through the first encounters, I really enjoyed the app. I played Descent (without the app) with a group at Geekway to the West this past weekend and I was reminded of how much the app improves the game. Rather than referring to the rulebook time and time again to check rules or set up the next tiles, the app makes everything more streamlined. Plus, if you’ve never played before, the app provides a tutorial that will get you up to speed quickly.
While some might complain or wish that the game were fully digital, I love the combination of physical and digital. There is something so nostalgic about physically moving tokens across gridded hallways and tombs that gets lost in the digital world. But I also love being able to tackle a dungeon and campaign with a full complement of friends. The app controlling the game for the Overlord is a very welcome addition, making for an almost perfect marriage of digital and cardboard and making a great game even better.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample of the physical game for review purposes.