I spoke a little about Nightfall before, but I want to talk about it some more.
When Dominion invented the “Deckbuilding” genre, a lot of publishers swooped in to try to capitalize on it. I’ve played a few of these (I like Thunderstone and Core Worlds a bunch and am okay with Ascension on the iPad. The one I really don’t play much is Dominion itself.) but until recently I had not played Nightfall, one of the first to come out in the boom.
Part of why I didn’t try it was the theme; for some reason I thought it was yet another damn zombie game, when it’s actually about Vampires, Werewolves, and the humans who hunt them. Also part of why I didn’t try it was that no one I knew had it.
When Nightfall showed up on the iPad, I bought it, because at that time I bought pretty much every boardgame release, even if it was a game I didn’t know or care for. I tried the iPad game and found it to be impenetrable. No idea how this thing worked. Even after they supposedly improved the tutorial it seemed destined to just languish on my iPad, unplayed and unloved.
This past January, though, I bid ten bucks on a copy of the real Nightfall game in the Unity Games auction in the hopes that it would help me learn the iPad game. It sat on a shelf until a few weeks ago, when Matt and I gave it a whirl.
Turns out it’s not that hard to learn. We figured it out and played a couple games and we liked it. I can’t speak for Matt, but I liked it a bunch. Now that I knew how to play I went back to the iPad app and started some games up against the AI. A game I hadn’t touched became one I couldn’t put down.
I figured out the basics and some more advanced strategy from the lowest level AI, and then moved up to the next AI, who handed me my ass regularly. Eventually I figured more out and now I can give as well as I get when I play the level two AI. I haven’t tried level three yet.
Nightfall isn’t much talked about among gamers, and the comments I saw on it were pretty dismissive. It’s a different kind of deckbuilding game from the others. Most of those follow the usual Eurogame mode where everyone does their own thing and the main conflict between players is from competing for the same resources or trying to achieve a thing faster or more efficiently. In Nightfall, it’s all about direct conflict; your guys are beating the crap out of the other players’ guys. It’s much more face-punchy than most games.
It also has a pretty unique idea in that, when it’s your turn, you play cards to start a “chain”, linked by colors. After you’re done, the other players have a chance to link off your chain. This can really throw a wrench in your plans, and figuring out what cards will chain best and the timing of when to play them is key. I can imagine that if more than three players are playing, this can get pretty chaotic, but it’s worked well in the two- and three-players games I’ve been in, and given a decidedly different flavor to each player count.
I’m playing a couple of asynchronous games on the iPad against Matt and Brian. It works okay, though there are some annoying pauses when a player has to make a decision, often an obvious one (Do you want to assign damage to your opponent or yourself?) I’ve also bought the Martial Law expansion for the iPad game, which adds a bunch of new cards and a new trick or two to the base game.
The iPad version seems to have been abandoned by Playdek. There are references to two other expansions in it (there are four total) but you can’t buy them, even after all this time. I don’t know if this will change any time soon.
However, yesterday I went up to Modern Myths and bought Martial Law for the real version of the game, and I also looked at but didn’t yet buy other expansions for it. It’s won me over that much!