Descent could be an enjoyable game, but it was mentally taxing since you constantly had to worry about mini placement to prevent spawns, and also were always doing fiddly math calculations based on the results of your massive dice pools then applying a zillion modifiers. Also, its Overlord victory conditions were designed around stalling the game as long as possible to run the players out of VP. Combined with the extremely long playtime (around 5-6 hours!), it could exact a pretty harsh toll on the old mind-grapes.
It really came into its own with the campaign expansion, which made three especially good changes for the game:
- Starting campaign characters were WAY simpler than starting vanilla Descent characters. Towards the end of the campaign, things got complicated again, but by then, you felt you'd earned it.
- The randomized dungeon levels were short (45 minutes-1 hour per level), so you could play 2-3 of those and stop when people's brains were fried.
- The campaign framework itself, which gave everyone a map to cruise around on, towns to buy things in, and the overlord little armies to move around on the map to raze towns and harass the PCs with.
We actually got through a whole campaign (this is the primary benefit of pulling in non-Action Team members), and while a couple of the sessions were hilariously aggravating for the players, overall it was a really fun experience. I do feel a little bad for my Overlord in the final fight. The players found a late-game broken combo where basically they rigged the final fight so that my badass dragon really couldn't attack them at all. It resulted in a pretty savage beat down, but I was dicking with them so mercilessly throughout the campaign that I think they earned it.
Descent 2nd ed is a mixed bag. It's much more streamlined, and uses a comparable experience system out of the box so you start with simplified version of the campaign framework out of the box, but it doesn't include the things I really liked, which were the randomized dungeons and overworld map minigame. They also really toned down the loot grabbing which was a big part of the fun.
The interesting thing is they recently released a solo/coop adventure for it through POD. Hopefully they're testing the waters for a full coop expansion. I could see getting back into it that way.
But for now, I don't own any of that shit so it's all dead to me!