There's no denying it: dungeon-delving is dangerous work. The unwary and unprepared hero has no chance against the fel powers and horrific monsters the Overlord has at his disposal.
Here are ten suggestions that I feel are probably the most important I could give to hero players in Descent.
Rule 1: Don't get close to corners unless you can establish a line of sight around the corner to prevent spawning, ESPECIALLY if you are a low armor character. This will not always save you, but countering spawns with line of sight is the #1 way to reduce damage over the course of a game. Most monsters have a max move of 3 or 4. Remember that and take advantage of it. Don't sweat the Charge card (the Overlord card which temporarily doubles a monster's speed). If it happens, it happens, and then the Overlord has used that card.
Rule 2: Take advantage of your skills and your fatigue. Keep your fatigue refilled; use a rest order if you're in the clear and low on fatigue. Save vitality potions for emergencies. Remember that fatigue will let you move while battling. Don't forget your skills in the heat of the moment.
Rule 3: Eliminate a wounded monster before starting on another one, if possible. If a monster can do a lot of damage to the party, use fatigue with battle actions to make sure it will die. Don't take chances with master beastmen, master ferrox, etc. Remove each source of major damage ASAP. If you can use a weapon with blast to kill multiple creatures at once, even better.
Rule 4: If you already have items of a particular treasure level (copper, silver, gold) and are reasonably happy with them, consider leaving other chests of that color alone. Chests generate threat, take time, and contain most of the nastiest traps in the game. The conquest points you get out of chests will often be taken right back and then some. The threat of chest traps only intensifies as expansions are added. Don't be greedy.
Rule 5: Move quickly but not rashly. Don't open doors before your current situation is under control unless you are under extreme time constraints. Don't waste time grabbing every single potion, gold pile, or chest. As the quest designer, I have placed them there as temptations. Only get them when you aren't slowing down the other heroes and/or you really need them. Again, don't be greedy. Remember to use glyphs to their greatest advantage. If you're on a glyph and are about to die, go to town. Buy and drink a healing potion or two (one when you move to town, one on the next turn before you return from town). Fatigue is easier to restore than wounds.
Rule 6: Stay spread out, with the weakest heroes in the middle. There are area effects now that can end an entire party if they clump up, such as Rolling Boulders. Don't offer the Overlord 10 or 12 conquest points on a silver platter. This can be a game-ending mistake.
Rule 7: Which brings me to: Stay aware of the Overlord's potential cards in each situation. Will Rolling Boulder wipe out the party if you go down that hallway and the Overlord has it in hand? Is there another hero who is better suited to opening a door/chest? Is there anything you can do to minimize the risk of a powerful Overlord card bringing the party to its knees? If not, then press on and hope for the best. Don't hesitate over "might be's" unless you can improve your odds. Hesitation only increases the odds that the Overlord has that card you're worried about.
Rule 8: Aim and ESPECIALLY Dodge are better than you think. A Dodge order DOUBLES THE CHANCE OF EVERY ATTACK AGAINST YOU THAT TURN MISSING. At the VERY least, it will almost always reduce the damage you take. Aim is best against opponents whose armor makes it difficult for you to hurt them. Taking two attacks with battle is worthless if the odds are that you aren't going to penetrate the monster's armor. Aim allows you good odds of raising a single attack's damage significantly, allowing you to penetrate tough armor.
Rule 9: You don't have to kill everything to win a quest. Let me repeat that: You don't have to kill everything to win a quest. If a monster can't do much damage to the party, and/or can be left in your dust as you sprint away down the hall, leave it. Don't waste time killing it. Yes, it's very annoying when skeletons snipe at you for 1 or 2 wounds. So what? The Overlord is trying to goad you into going after them. With something like a kobold master, you have to weigh the time/risk investment involved. Can you kill the kobold and use glyphs to quickly return to the party? However, remember rule 5. Don't leave an ogre behind you and open a door just down a short hallway. That's a great way to become the meat in an ogre-hero-ogre sandwich.
Rule 10: If you fail a quest, analyze the dungeon before putting the game away. Where were the hottest spots? Are there areas you could have avoided? If so, are the rewards there great enough to offset the risk and time investment? Where are the key lines of sight to reach? Sometimes it's best to have a high-armor character run to cover a line of sight before the Overlord can spawn monsters down a corridor the heroes are going to have to go down. If you don't take at least a minute to think about what went wrong, you aren't learning from your mistakes and the same thing will happen the next time you play, whether it's that quest or a different one.
There you go. Things are harder for the heroes with the expansions. They need to be more adaptable and clever than ever before in order to survive the dark. But I am confident that resourceful and observant heroes can meet the new challenges – especially if they keep these ten rules in mind.
Fantasy Flight Games