Review – Descent: Legends of the Dark – The Betrayer’s War
Are we the betrayers or are we fighting them?
|Designer||Kara Centell-Dunk, Nathan I. Hajek, Philip D. Henry|
|Artist||Preston Stone, Gary Storkamp|
|Publisher||Fantasy Flight Games|
The Betrayer’s War, an expansion for Descent: Legends of the Dark, promises more (and different) terrain and miniatures, more gameplay-story meshing, and more consequences for decisions. Essentially, the designers honed in on what made Legends of the Dark so great for so many players and made more of it.
If you haven’t already, check out our review of Descent: Legends of the Dark for basic gameplay mechanics.
Players will encounter altars, creepy occult rituals, blood-sucking fiends, and ghosts throughout the campaign. None of the content is explicit either in appearance or description.
The Betrayer’s War starts off after the events of Legends of the Dark. If you’re not carrying your completed Legends of the Dark campaign, you’ll need to sit through what the rulebook calls a “short” cutscene but what in actuality is a 40+ minute cutscene with choice, etc. You have been warned.
My group’s journey kicked off with us chasing down a thief in a burning watchtower. Afterwards, the story opens up as we sought to gain influence with different factions around Terrinoth in order to help Waiqar the Betrayer defend Terrinoth from dragons and Uthuk Y’llan.
We haven’t finished the campaign, but The Betrayer’s War seems to focus on each individual hero and the group as a whole, with each hero’s story getting fleshed out more than in Legends of the Dark. What’s cool this time around is how that fleshing out is woven into the gameplay. Not only do some scenarios focus on specific heroes, often they will feature fun new ways to use those heroes within the scenario. Some fun new ways to use those heroes are present in upgrade cards which utilize new tokens like umbra and shroud. The former grants special bonuses to certain characters (Chance can essentially teleport) and the latter allows players to dodge being targeted by enemies.
Time for the new physical pieces: The Betrayer’s War adds some new, more mature (as in older) versions of the heroes as well some very cool-looking bad guys. Some of the bad guys in the story have their own special miniature and show up throughout the story. There is also the giant dragon miniature that is incredibly impressive. Betrayer’s War adds new terrain, and it uses it very well for many different scenarios. I won’t share too much about this because of potential spoiling possibilities, but know that the first 3 scenarios make incredible use of the new terrain.
The designers have done an excellent job integrating the story into each scenario. There have been quite a few scenarios where the story is compelling all the way through. The Betrayer’s War has capitalized even more on the storytelling capabilities of the app, interactive terrain, miniatures, and other game components.
There’s quite a bit of dialogue. Some scenarios do a good job of mixing it in with the action (which I prefer), but others will be heavy on the dialogue on the front and/or back end. Not a huge deal, but it can be frustrating because this is a game and players want to play it. So, the story aspects are good, but sometimes (not often), they make the game too slow, which can be tough in a game that requires 2+ hours for each scenario.
Betrayer’s War adds to, and therefore reduces, something I really enjoyed about Legends of the Dark. Legends of the Dark is, from a gameplay perspective, Gloomhaven light, which is a great option to have. For family members who weren’t ready or willing to learn the ins and outs of Gloomhaven strategy, Legends of the Dark provided a similar fantasy experience (with a much better table presence) where I could just say, “You get to move and then attack or explore stuff.” In Betrayer’s War, players have so many options to manage from the beginning that it can feel overwhelming. The Descent gameplay isn’t as deep as Gloomhaven, so it can be frustrating for newer players to memorize and utilize so many different cards off the jump. Managing the XP cards will be no big deal for Descent: Legends of the Dark veterans, but be wary of adding new players into The Betrayer’s War campaign.
If you’re looking for bigger and better Legends of the Dark, look no further than The Betrayer’s War. Better gameplay-story weaving, exciting new variations of heroes, more interesting villains, exciting and diverse scenarios, and more choice-consequence. Even if it may be a tougher beginning for newcomers if you’re adding a new player or 2 to your party, they’ll get the hang of it by the end of the first scenario.
Fantasy Flight Games (Asmodee North America) kindly provided a review copy.
The Bottom Line
The ideal expansion for Legends of the Dark, capitalizing on what the game does well.