Gaming in a War Zone

I had an idea.

I’m deployed with the US Army to western Afghanistan, and I’m stuck here for a year. What am I going to do? How will I maintain my sanity? Why did I even bring my dice bag and PDF versions of Exalted, WHFRP 2E, D&D 4E, and Dark Heresy when I have one or, at most, two other people to play with?

Then the aforementioned idea hit, and I knew what to do. I thought back to a game that, with two players, can still be complex and fun. A game that can be incredibly frustrating or goddamned exhilarating. I thought of Descent: Journeys in the Dark, and particularly the great fun that was the ‘Road to Legend’ campaign mode.

Descent’s basic gameplay is a dungeon crawl. Four heroes, of some mixture of the ranged, magic, or melee archetypes, negotiate a map filled with monsters, traps, obstacles, and treasure. The monsters and traps are controlled by an Overlord, always plotting to kill or delay the heroes however he can. The heroes start out with basic equipment, a few potions, and a few skills.

As they defeat certain monsters, open chests, and pick up gold, they gain equipment and the ability to buy skills, potions, and better equipment. The base game and the expansions Well of Darkness, Altar of Despair, and Tomb of Ice come with a large variety of single levels, with nothing carrying over from one level to the next. The expansions also provide new monsters, new Overlord abilities, new hero skills, new heroes, etc.

The Road to Legend and Sea of Blood expansions introduce advanced campaigns, where the heroes and monsters start out even weaker, but each side slowly gains power and abilities. The advanced campaigns also include a large map with cities to shop at and defend from the overlord, dungeons and islands to explore, and small battles called ‘encounters’ that can happen while the heroes travel from point A to point B. So who did I contact to purchase Descent, and as many expansions as I could get my grubby hands on?

The esteemed Andrew Lawrence, of course.

For it was his fault that I ever played Descent (and WHFRP, and Dark Heresy, and D&D 4E, and Pathfinder, and Space Hulk) in the first place.

But Road to Legend was sold out, and not being made any more due to the impending release of Descent 2E. I watched two sets of Road to Legend sell on eBay for around $200.

So I settled for the base game, and three expansions : Well of Darkness, Tomb of Ice, and Sea of Blood. Sea of Blood has an advanced campaign mode similar to Road to Legend, so I’m not missing out on much. And it’s not easy getting hundreds of dollars of board game to Afghanistan, especially considering that the Royal British Post is kind of a jerk and wanted to charge by weight, almost doubling the price.

We solved that problem by Andy mailing it to a US military friend of mine stationed at Menwith Hill, and he mailed it by the Army’s post service to me here in the middle of freakin’ nowhere.

The game(s) arrived a month or so later. We had four rules books and a quest book to peruse, many monsters to place into neat lines (that immediately were messed up when we put the box away), and lots of tiny little counters to sort into drawers. We found a table in the fenced-in ‘yard’ behind our building and cleaned most of the bird crap off.

We found several sets of plastic drawers full of useless crap like screws, fuses, tape, which all went into one box, and filled the drawers with health markers, hero figurines, doors, etc.

We tried to cover the game and the sets of drawers with a camouflage poncho… didn’t hide it from the boss for long. A 3rd player was found, and a schedule (the middle of the freakin’ night) was worked out.

We were ready.

We’ve been playing the game for a few months already and I’ve only now started blogging, so I’m not going to document an entire campaign.

It will mostly be observations of levels or encounters that stood out, story points that stuck in my mind, or particularly silly rules problems.

So until next time,

Nate @ DMB

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