Review: Nightfall (Card Game)

Nightfall is a new deck-building card game from Alderac Entertainment Group that is set in a dark world of vampires and werewolves. The game supports between 2 and 5 players and takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour to play. The basic set for the game comes with over 300 cards that include minions you can recruit into your deck, actions that you can play during your turn and other player’s turn, several types of wound cards representing different types of damage taken (bite, burn, and bleed), and draft cards that are used during the game’s set up.

Gameplay

The game of Nightfall includes several interesting mechanics that create a different style of gameplay from other deck-building games I’ve played. During the set up of the game each player drafts cards (choosing one and passing the rest to the next player) to determine two unique cards that will be available only that player will be able to purchase through the course of the game, and the rest of the cards form common piles that every player can purchase from. In this way players are given a chance to set themselves up with specific advantages, define the style of deck they will build, and determine the cards that will be available to every player for the entire game.

After set up is complete, each player takes a turn that consists of a Combat Phase, Chain Phase, Claim Phase, and Cleanup Phase. The first time I played the game I was surprised because in your Combat Phase all of the minions that you have in place must attack other players and after attacks are resolved all of your minions are discarded from play (unless otherwise noted on the card). This means that as you play cards on your turn, the game ends up taking on the feeling of preparing for your next turn while at the same time you can keep an eye on the other players and get a sense for what minions they will have to attack with at the beginning of their turns.

Gameplay: The Chain Mechanic

Keeping track of other player’s actions isn’t as simple as it might sound, however, due to the chain mechanic used for playing cards. During a player’s Chain Phase they create a chain of orders by playing cards that must be linked from card to card. Each card has a primary color represented by a moon in the upper left corner of the card, and one or two linked colors represented by small moons to either side of the primary one. In order to chain a card, its primary color must match one of the linked colors on the card played before it, and cards must be chained with the most recently played card. This means that certain groups of cards are going to be easier or harder to chain together than others, and once you have played a game or two and grasped the chain concept the act of drafting to set up the game becomes a lot more interesting.

What makes the game even more fun is that on your turn, once you have run out of cards to add to your chain, each other player in order has a chance to play cards from their hand and add on to your chain. They must still chain cards that link properly with the last played card, but in this way each player has a chance to put minions into play and play actions on every other player’s turn. Once every player has played cards in the chain or declined to, the chain is resolved in reverse order so that the last card played on the chain happens first and then back through until the card played by the current player that started the chain. In addition, many cards have kickers listed at the bottom of the card that produce additional effects if the card is chained off of a specific color card. In this way the game manages to create a very intricate and interesting series of options from a relatively limited number of cards.

The Claim Phase acts much like the standard buy or purchasing phase in other deck-building games, with the addition that players can discard cards from their hands to gain more influence which is used to buy more cards into your deck. Just like other deck-building games, purchased cards go into the player’s discard pile and don’t come into play until they are reshuffled and drawn into your hand. As player’s play minions, attack with them during the combat phase, and play action cards, each player will build up wound cards that take up space in their deck but can also be used during the Clean Up phase for some minor benefits. Once all of the wound cards are gone, the game ends and the player with the fewest wound cards wins!

A Fun and Interactive Style of Deck-Building

All of these mechanics and elements combine to create an incredibly fun and from my experience relatively unique style of deck-building game. I really enjoyed the combination of draft mechanics to set up the game with the chain mechanics that allow each player to play cards at different times during the game. This aspect also allows players to stay involved on other player’s turns and can even help players set up more interesting turns as they play a bunch of minions on another player’s turn that will attack at the beginning of their next turn. On top of this, many cards have effects that only occur when they are activated as part of a chain (some only in your own chain, others only in other player’s chains) or when they are in play.

The production quality of the game is incredibly nice, with original and evocative art that creates a very strong sense of the world in which Nightfall takes place. The instructions come with a perfect mix of stories to add more information about the world, the rules of the game, and examples/tips that help the player better understand how the game plays at the table. The cards are a nice for glossy cards and although each card needs to contain a lot of information once you have become familiar with the game they are very quick and easy to understand.

Who Will Like This Game?

If you’re a fan of deck-building games and are looking for some new aspects of the genre, or if you have issues with other deck-building games and some of the elements I’ve described here sound interesting to you, then you should definitely try out Nightfall. Fans of Gothic settings, specifically vampires and werewolves and the kind of worlds that they inhabit, will find many elements of the game to enjoy and should really be able get into the world of the game. I was very surprised by many of the elements in Nightfall the first time I played it and I feel that it is a great style of deck-building game. I’m very excited to see what the future expansions and cards will look like for this game.

Comments

  1. Noumenon says:

    I like how the chain phase reminds me of rummy!

  2. Jon Fuhrman says:

    Kind of hoping for deck-building games to go out of vogue, for a little bit anyways. Dominion is great and there are fun aspects I’ve heard about or seen in other similar games but I’m afraid of burning out on it. Of course I’m really looking forward to that near future deck-building game coming out from Rio Grande, whatever its called…go figure.