Ever since Dracula met the Wolf Man, vampires and werewolves have had issues. Vampires hold werewolves to be savage and uncouth, while werewolves say vampires are pretentious Eurotrash. Their rivalry is good for gamers, though, and has led to this entertaining card game about supernatural killing machines determined to rip each other apart.
Nightfall puts you in charge of a variety of creatures of the night. Other players also control armies of monsters, and the player who has the fewest wound cards in his army at the end of the game wins. A good offense is usually the best defense, but the goal of ‘get hurt the least’ encourages a balanced strategy and playing opponents off against each other.
This is a deck-building card game, similar to Ascension, which is also published by Playdek. (Both games are adaptations of physical card games, but the originals are from different publishers. Ascension is from Gary Games and Nightfall was created by Alderac Entertainment Group.)
As opposed to the good kind.
Most deck-building games start players with a small deck of cards, then allow players to claim new cards from a common pool. Your strategy evolves based on the cards you choose to play. You know what your opponent is picking, so you can adjust your deck to beat his– but he can do the same thing to you. Deck-building games offer a lot of the fun of collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, but they’re faster, easier, and cheaper.
Nightfall follows this model, with a few twists. Each player has a private vault with two cards that nobody else can claim. The game also uses a unique ‘chain’ mechanic to put cards into play.
Each card has a color, shown by a full moon in the upper left corner. Two smaller moons on each card show which colors can be played next. A red card may lead to a yellow card, which may lead from blue to purple to red and back to yellow again. It’s like Uno: the Scary Monster Edition.
When a chain of cards is created, every player gets a chance to add to it. This gives you lots of opportunities to create clever combinations, even when it’s not your turn. If you can kill off your opponent’s minions, stick him for some wounds, and draw more cards– all during his own turn!– then your strategy is working well.
Nightfall is a complex game, and it doesn’t provide much help for new players. A tutorial takes you through the steps of the game but never clearly explains the goals. The computer opponents play through their turns quickly, and the cards are too small to see clearly without pausing to enlarge them. It’s hard to pick up the basic rules, never mind the subtleties of strategy.
The game’s interactivity also works against its multiplayer features. Each turn provides opportunities for several players to act, which slows down progress. A turn that would take less than a minute in face-to-face play can take hours online. This is not unusual for turn-based multiplayer games, but Nightfall uses a chess-style game clock that counts down even when a player is not logged in. It’s disappointing to see a game end because your opponents’ clock ran out, whether you win or not.
Despite this, Nightfall is an engaging game. Its strategies are subtle, even when they involve werewolves getting in your face. It’s also a blast to play live against opponents who are logged in at the same time. If you like strategy games and don’t mind a steep learning curve, Nightfall is worth the effort.