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Descent: Legends of the Darkish is the largest, most bold board sport of 2021


Greater than 4 years in the past former Fantasy Flight Video games head of studio Andrew Navarro introduced collectively a small group of creatives in Minnesota. The subject at hand was the following iteration of the corporate’s flagship dungeon-crawling franchise, an extended working sequence referred to as Descent. The results of that effort is probably the largest, most bold new product that the tabletop writer has ever tried: Descent: Legends of the Darkish – Act One.

“I’m paraphrasing,” recalled designer Nathan Hajek in an unique interview with Polygon, “however he mentioned he wished it to be ‘as large and definitive as humanly attainable. […] We’re placing all of it in. We’re going for it. Extra sources, extra time, extra folks. Let’s blow it out of the park.’”

A demons stands on a mountain of flagstones.

The massive, winged determine is the one miniature that doesn’t come pre-assembled. It options its personal spacer, proven on the backside of the miniature, to permit it to face on slim platforms.
Photograph: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

The result’s a roughly one-foot dice of cardboard and plastic that weighs slightly greater than seven kilos. Inside is likely one of the most subtle units of pre-assembled plastic miniatures available on the market, in addition to a novel assortment of 3D cardboard terrain. There’s additionally an app, out there totally free on iOS and Android, Mac and Home windows PC. It’s a full-fledged motion role-playing marketing campaign in a field, one which doesn’t require a Dungeon Grasp in any respect, and it’s going to set you again $174.95. It arrives at retail shops worldwide on Aug. 6.

Descent: Legends of the Darkish is a press release piece by the Midwestern firm, one which it hopes will set a brand new bar for the style.

Right here’s the way it works.

Opening up the massive blue field, I encountered an almost two-inch thick stack of cardboard punch boards. There’s additionally a four-page leaflet crammed with directions. After the higher a part of two hours of rigorously popping issues out and gingerly assembling every little thing, I had all of the bits wanted to create a large 3D degree from a dungeon. There are double-sided flooring tiles with particular underlays representing water and lava; huge double doorways in a number of designs; bookcases and magical cauldrons; spell books mounted on tables, and extra. Better of all is a intelligent set of notched columns that let you create platforms that stand up off the floor of the desk.

Think about essentially the most intricate dioramas, the sort created for reveals like Crucial Position and Dimension 20, all rendered in papercraft, and also you’re heading in the right direction.

“That punch board,” producer Jason Walden advised Polygon, “was not a part of the unique imaginative and prescient. It simply took place naturally. Certainly one of our graphic designers, Joe Olson, instructed it […] after which it simply form of began to snowball.”

This sort of manufacturing worth can be out of the query for a $60 sport, however the market has modified significantly during the last 5 years.

The preferred sport within the dungeon-crawling style, known as Gloomhaven, disrupted the complete trade when it launched a crowdfunding marketing campaign in 2015. The practically 20-pound retail product comes with dozens of miniatures, tons of of playing cards, and an analogous two-dimensional assortment of terrain and cardboard monsters. Although it prices $150, it stays probably the most critically and commercially profitable new merchandise of this era. Many have tried to repeat its complexity, however none have but matched its success.

Fantasy Flight reasoned that if shoppers had been able to put down that a lot cash for brand new, unproven designs on Kickstarter, why not go the additional mile for followers, new and previous, of Descent? It’s the form of extravagance that tabletop followers can solely dream about — or one which hobbyists will spend months or years crafting by hand — and shortly will probably be available in shops. The ultimate product is fan service all the way in which down, together with into the empty void on the backside of the field to carry all that cardboard terrain safely between video games.

That’s proper: Fantasy Flight is paying a premium to ship half-empty packing containers from China.

Then there are the miniatures. Earlier editions of Descent have included comparable plastic miniatures manufactured from PVC. The heavy, pliable composite makes minis which are practically indestructible, but it surely additionally leaves their options gentle and their flat bases typically warp. Fantasy Flight tells Polygon that the fashions that include Descent: Legends of the Darkish are comprised of polystyrene, injected into laser-cut metallic molds. It’s an analogous course of to high-end fashions from Britain’s Video games Workshop and Poland’s Archon Studio. The outcomes are stiff, barely extra brittle miniatures which have crisp particulars, together with weapons and different options that stretch effectively previous the spherical base. Hobbyists and miniature painters will love them.

A dragon and a dwarf face down a pair of wolves.

Photograph: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

Producer Walden says the know-how to make these sorts of minis has been within the Fantasy Flight pipeline for a while now. It featured prominently in video games like Star Wars: Legion. That is the primary time that miniatures of this sort will likely be included in one of many firm’s extra conventional board video games.

After all, that is removed from a conventional board sport as a result of all the set-up and the motion is managed by a digital app. The truth is, you possibly can’t play the sport with out it.

However that is nothing new for Fantasy Flight both. Its first app-driven sport, XCOM: The Board Recreation was launched approach again in 2014. Then got here Mansions of Insanity: Second Version in 2016, adopted by a free replace for Descent known as Street to Legend. That was adopted up in 2019 with the critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Center-earth.

Descent’s companion app will deal with every little thing from organising the play space on the desk, to equipping arms and armor, to truly crafting new items of substances between missions. However, in line with producer Walden, the largest innovation is available in the way it allows his group to handle the sport’s narrative.


The primary 10 minutes of Descent: Legends of the Darkish from a pre-release model of the app.

“The depth of content material is likely one of the greatest issues,” Walden mentioned. “If you’re taking part in an everyday sport and you’ve got a deck of playing cards which are driving, for instance, a story expertise, you possibly can see it. There’s 50 playing cards [in that stack]. You already know your narrative expertise is that this deep. You see it. You bodily see the narrative depth.

“What we’re in a position to do is take these 50 playing cards and multiply it into hundreds of choices,” Walden continued. “The depth is mysterious. It’s like an ocean. You gained’t know the way deep that goes, and that provides a ton of thriller.”

Polygon has been busy these previous couple of weeks taking part in by the sport’s 16-mission story arc, which Fantasy Flight estimates will take shoppers round 50 hours or extra to finish. Pre-orders for Descent: Legends of the Darkish are reside now. Count on our full evaluation quickly.

Descent: Legends of the Darkish was previewed on Home windows PC utilizing a pre-release copy of the bodily sport and app supplied by Fantasy Flight Video games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. You could find extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.


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