Friday, February 25, 2011

Card Game Review - Nightfall

Groff Deathbloodfang, squire of East L.A. and fire marshal of the apocalypse, spread his leathery vampire wings and swooped down out of the night. His prey was below him, hot blood filling his nostrils like the cream in a chocolate eclair. He dove down, down, down, down, down, down and one more time down, claws extended to pluck his dinner out of the inky blackness and devour the human's terror. He was a wolf on wings, a wolverine in a hang glider, a badger on roller skates.

At the very last possible second, Groff's prey turned and looked up at him, and a high-powered rifle exploded in an orgasm of gunsmoke and muzzle suppression. Groff's last thought before the bullet tore into his face and sent his brains flying out the back of his head like a water ballon filled with orange marmalade was, 'son of a bi-' He wasn't able to finish the thought, because he died halfway through 'bitch.'

Derek Coolaselvis smiled grimly. 'You won't hunt in my town again,' he said as he lowered his rifle and wiped vampire brains off his cardigan. Then a werewolf ate him.

The unending night had consumed another victim. Well, two victims, if you count the vampire, but he was a bad guy, so he's not so much a victim as a statistic. The werewolf had a little indigestion, too. So maybe three.

If you play Nightfall, you too can join in the brooding darkness where the sun never comes up and humans are walking snack cakes. Vampires fight werewolves, and they both fight humans, and all this drama and violence and sadness and angst is played out in the only feasible way it could ever work - as a deckbuilding game.

Nightfall brings to your table the epic struggle between vampires and werewolves, with humans caught in the middle, by letting you buy cards that represent vampires and werewolves and sometimes humans who are caught in the middle. You can also buy actions that simply do what the bestial animal inside every immortal demon longs to do - hurt your friends. Only you do it with cards, which is not quite as dark, unless you're giving them paper cuts or throwing the cards at them really hard. Then it's as twisted and evil as the soul of the abominations hunting through the neverending night, where streetlights cast watery shadows and nobody anywhere has a tan.

When your turn arrives in this abyss of hopelessness and long black leather coats, you will have the chance to unleash your minions so that they can ravage your opponents in a festival of blood-soaked anarchy and freeform dance. But beware, because each of your minions and actions shows colored moons, and if your opponents have matching colored moons, they can play on your turn. They can also steal your Lucky Charms. Then not only will their actions resolve before yours, possibly ripping out your spleen and eating it with fava beans and a glass of Not-Very-Sunny Delite, but you will not have any breakfast cereal.

Carefully selecting your minions and special actions is paramount to survival in the dark world of Nightfall, where policemen carry loaded pastrami sandwiches and every action could be their last, especially if they carry their sandwiches past werewolves who really like pastrami. It's important that you choose actions that you can chain together, because you may be able to play five cards when everyone else is playing one or two. Of course, it's also nice if the cards you choose actually work well together. It's not as helpful as you might imagine to destroy a summoned minion if you're the only stupid vampire lord with any minions summoned. Then you kill your own guys and your friends laugh at you, and in a fit of hideous anger you rip off your shirt and feel very bad about yourself.

As with any game where the goal is the complete decimation of your foes and the eventual consumption of their internal organs in a nice cobb salad, the hunters in the darkness win by giving more wounds than they receive. To represent this tragic and violent goal, Nightfall uses the one thing at which it excels - cards. When Bad Fart and Cheese Toe, your werewolf aggressors, rip through your opponent's meager defenses and savage his leader with their very scary claws and razor-sharp teeth, that leader will have to add wound cards to his deck, which will then take up space and irritate him to no end as he receives hand after hand with a bunch of cards that aren't good for anything.

Ultimately, nothing can adequately express the horror and misery of unending night, unless that something is black eyeshadow and false fangs that make you talk with a lisp. No card game could ever really convey the darkness in your soul. Only by wearing fingerless gloves and dying your hair, and then reading fan fiction you found on a Masquerade website, can you truly understand the powerful urges of the monstrous rulers of the night. And when I say all that, I mean the theme in Nightfall is almost as weak as the theme in Dominion, but with better art.

However, no matter how easily you rest in your comfortable chair, gathered around the dinner table as you hold your cards close and pretend to be from Transylvania, nothing can prepare you for how damned much fun it is to play Nightfall. It will hurt your head, though it will hurt considerably less than if a vampire were to really eat your face. Carefully buying the right cards and playing them in swift, damning moves destined to wreak havoc on your foes will aid you in your quest for bloody victory. But buying the wrong cards and playing like a chump human will have you reeling from the constant stream of painful blows to the face that your opponents will heap upon you.

So many things about Nightfall make it one of the best deckbuilding games you can encounter. A redraw for wound cards provides an edge you might need if you are losing badly. Personal archives of cards that only you can buy force you to form an overall strategy from the very outset of the game. A beginning deck erodes as you play, forcing you to buy wisely before your resources are depleted and the other werewolves all pull your underpants up over your head and give you a nightmare of a wedgie. The greatest feature of the game is the chain, where you plot and scheme to take advantage of the weaknesses of your enemies while building towering attacks and unbeatable defenses. In other words, Nightfall is a very, very good game.

And if you don't buy Nightfall, Goat Raper the werewolf will come to your house in the middle of the night and run off with your Magic cards. Then all you will have left is the black of your soul and your red-tinted contact lenses.


2-5 players

A deckbuilder that really lets you lay into your opponents with your bloody talons of doom
The chaining card play makes this a thinking-vampire's game
Never any morose pauses, because you could play on your opponent's turn (could be a con if you need to touch up your white foundation)
Neat re-draw rule helps players who are losing to get back in the game
Excellent depth and plenty of room to grow
I totally dig the art

Theme is a little weak, but it gets the job done

Nightfall kicks ass. If you like deckbuilding games at all, you should check it out. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's out yet. That sucks for you.


ninthdoc said...

I want this to bad, I can taste it!

Anonymous said...

Dominion's gameplay...?

Anonymous said...

Looks outstanding.
That's two solid reviews from you & Barnes. _Now_ I can preorder it. :D

UniversalHead said...

Shame about the three different variations of Copperplate Gothic and the use of all-caps on the cards - but I guess I'm the only person who finds these things annoying! :)

Matt Drake said...

Heh. You would notice that, UH.

Anonymous, you appear to be asking a question - but I don't know what it is.

comprar un yate said...

Surely, the guy is totally just.