Nightfall Review

Nightfall is a deck building card game for 2-5 players with a horror theme, featuring battles between werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and more.

It is published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) and designed by David Gregg.

Nightfall touts itself as a highly interactive and confrontational deck building game, in stark contrast to the grand daddy of deck building games Dominion.

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A Brief Overview of What Gameplay in Nightfall is Like

In Nightfall each player is some sort of figure in a post-apocalyptic world. They will command minions of werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and hunters to inflict damage on their opponents. The player who is the least wounded at the end of the game wins.

On your turn, you will attack with any minions you have in play, summon new minions and magic spells, and claim new creatures or orders by using your "Influence."

Nightfall uses a unique "chaining" system for executing orders. Every card has a corresponding color, as well as two colored cards that it can chain into. This chaining system allows you to play multiple cards in one turn, as long as the colors match up.

After you create a chain of cards to use on your turn, your opponents each have a chance to "piggyback" on your chain and continue it themselves. To win Nightfall, you will have to be cunning enough to play enough cards to give you the edge but without opening up too many dangerous chaining opportunities for your opponents!

After a chain is established, orders are resolved -- each "Order Card" either allows you to do something neat (and usually detrimental to the other players) or summon a new minion who will defend you against your opponents or attack on your behalf.

If you have no minions to defend yourself when a horde of Zombies or Werewolves comes knocking at your door, you will have no choice but to draw wounds. Drawing too many wounds will ultimately cause you to lose the game (the game ends when the last wound card is drawn), but do not fear! Nightfall features a "comeback" mechanism, allowing you to discard wounds you have accumulated for your benefit.

Will your wounds defeat you, or make you fight even harder?

Component Quality -- What Exactly Do You Get in Nightfall?

Nightfall is a card game with no board or playing mats, so you are essentially getting a box full of cards. The box is amazing, because it comes with dividers and foam pads to keep your cards in place while you store them and for easy retrieval during setup. This game has the best official storage solution I have ever seen in a game I've purchased.

As far as the cards go, the game comes with over 300 of them. The card backs look slick and black, which goes well with the dark theme of the game. As far as quality goes, they are about what I've come to expect from card games in this price range. They are of neither the best nor the worst quality cardstock I've encountered.

There are 24 different order cards, and each one has unique artwork depicting gruesome characters or horrific scenes. The artwork is not entirely memorable to me, but it does help give players a real sense of the game's ghoulish atmosphere.

That said, this games artwork and flavor text does not take itself seriously. It's all in good fun, which is fine; this is not a heavy or serious game in general.

The Gameplay in Detail - Skip This Section if You Don't Care to Read Details

Every player will start the game with 12 cards in their deck -- six minions, two copies of each.

As the game progresses, players can "claim" new cards for their deck from what are known as "archives." An archive is a stack of cards that belong to no one until they are claimed. There are "public archives" and "private archives." Every game of Nightfall has 8 public archives from which any player can claim an available card. Each player has access to 2 private archives which are drafted at the start of the game. Only the player who the private archives belong to can claim its cards.

Because Nightfall comes with 24 different order cards and only 12-18 of these are used in any given game (depending on the player count), the combination of archives seen will rarely be exactly the same.

To claim cards from an archive, a player must spend "influence." Each card has a an influence cost printed on it. A player starts his turn with 2 infulence, and gets 1 additional influence for every card that he voluntarily discards from his hand.

But before you decide which cards you want to claim, you have the opportunity to give orders or summon minions by playing cards into a "chain" (described earlier). After your orders are resolved and your minions summoned, that is when you can choose to discard cards that you didn't want to use earlier.

After claiming whatever cards you can afford, you draw back up to 5 cards in your hand, and the next player takes their turn. If your deck is empty, you shuffle your discard pile to make a new deck.

Any minions that you summon on a turn must attack at the start of your next turn. After attacking, the minion is discarded -- don't worry, in most cases, you'll get to use it again later! You must sometimes be careful to leave minions on the table for defense.

Minions attack with different strength values. Any attacks which are not properly defended by the opposing player(s) result in them drawing "wound cards." A game of Nightfall has a preset number of wound cards depending on the amount of players. When the last wound card is drawn, the game immediately ends, and the player with the least wounds in their deck is declared the victor.

Nightfall's "Feel": A Fast Paced Brawl

With all of the forced attacking going on, Nightfall is a fast paced, confrontational game that can really get your adrenaline pumping. You will be trying to outdo your opponent(s) and deal as much damage as possible on your turn. Pulling off a cool combo and hitting your opponent with ten wounds in one turn is an intensely satisfying feeling!

Although you begin the game with a rather weak deck that gets stronger as you claim more cards, the weak cards you start with "exile" themselves after the first time they are used. This gives you a powerful deck more quickly than most deck-building games, so you get the feeling of having a lot of offensive might very quickly.

There is certainly a level of tactical depth in Nightfall, but at the end of the day, for most people, I find that the game usually feels more like a slugfest than a think-heavy game.

Playing Time, Demographics, Etc

Nightfall supports 2-5 players. It is not typically a long game, but each player adds more downtime between your turn and overall length to the game. Most of the people I've played this with seem to prefer it with 2-4 players -- with the a full table of 5, the gameplay slows down and it loses some of its fast paced, exciting feel.

If you play the game with 2 players, it feels like a direct-competition slugfest -- he who plays the better tactical game, makes better buying choices, and plans his attacks better should usually win (with the help of just a little luck).

The 3, 4, or 5 player game can feel completely different. The "chaining" mechanism is in full effect here, as any order you lay down can ultimately allow multiple opponents to further thier own goals. An air of politics is also added to the game, as players manipulate, plead with, and form temporary alliances with each other to take down the largest perceived threat or convince other players not to attack them. But there can only be one winner, so you can never know who to really trust! You may take John's suggestions to send all of your Werewolves to attack Jill, but then John just might sneak a squad of Vampires in your back door while you're undefended!

Nightfall isn't the first game I would teach or recommend to a non-gamer, but to anyone who has played a few games (especially other deck building games) the rules will be rather simple. This isn't a heavy game.

Recap Time: Positives and Negatives about the Nightfall card game:

This game comes in a fantastic box with excellent dividers for the cards. Normally I wouldn't make such a big deal about this, but Nightfall really sets itself apart from its competition here in a noticeable way

Fast paced and agressive -- something "big" happens almost every turn

Nightfall introduces more new concepts than most entries into the deck building genre

The different combinations of archives that will be available to you every game means you will rarely be able to use the same strategy twice

Just plain old fun. This game doesn't take itself too seriously, but there's enough there for real gamers to appreciate

Card quality and artwork are only average

Game feels a bit long for what it is with 5 players, and perhaps a bit short with 2 using the default rules (the publisher has provided updated 2 player rules). About right with 3-4 players

If you need a copy of the Nightfall rules, they are here: Nightfall Rules

Check below for my final verdict on Nightfall!

The Verdict on Nightfall - Is It Fun?

Nightfall attempts to capture the feel of creature combat from games like Magic the Gathering to bring a more confrontational feel to the deck-building genre (which is typically dominated by non-confrontational games with low human to human interaction) and it succeeds.

There is no way you can ignore your opponent in Nightfall, playing your own game while he plays his. In Nightfall you kill each other.

If that excites you (it sure excited me) then I think it is worth trying out. It hasn't gone over perfectly with everyone I've shown it to, but most people who like this sort of thing have had a blast.

Can I promise you'll love it? No. But if you feel excited about the stuff you've read here, then chances are that Nightfall might be the deck building game you're looking for.

It's already got a couple of great expansions, too, with more planned in the future, so if you love variety and you love the idea of fighting werewolves with zombies who are fighting vampires, then Nightfall is an exciting game to get into right now.

- Roger Wilco

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