Monday, October 12, 2015

Board Gaming: Darkest Night

If you want a truly challenging co-op game, that can also be played solo, then continue reading.  Darkest Night is the game for you.

Darkest Night is published by Victory Point Games.  For those used to publishers the likes of Fanstasy Flight, the art and components will be a bit disappointing.  This is not to imply that the components, art and rule set are not quality.  It will just be a different quality than you are used to.  That being said, Victory Point's motto is "the game play is the thing."  On this count, they deliver and then some.

The goal is to defeat the Necromancer and his plethora of minions (NOT the yellow, ovoid, friendly kind!).  This is done by defeating the Necromancer in combat or initiating a ritual to banish him.  I have played several games now, and have found neither course of action to be more or less difficult than the other.  Much of it depends on the heroes you choose and their special skills.  One requires more planning, the other path to victory more luck.

Darkest Night is a turn based game, with the player/players (the game is for 1-4 players) going first, and then the Necromancer taking his turn.  Since this is a co-op game, the Necromancer has "pre-programmed" behaviors to frustrate the players' attempt to defeat him.  He also has "blights" which complicate player efforts to achieve victory.  These blights become more frequent and more powerful as the game progresses.

Speaking of game progress, there is a game turn counter that serves as the timer.  As the timer moves forward, the Necromancer and his allies become more powerful.  Moreover, some blights, events and quests cause the turn counter to accelerate.  Thankfully, there are a few tricks the players can also use to slow or even reverse the turn counter.

The hero profiles offers a wide variety to choose from.  8 to start.  Each of the two expansions offer an additional 4.  An impressive total of 16 to choose from.  I have played several times, and with the exception of the Ranger (always a favorite when I played D & D back in the day), I have never played with the same four characters in any game.  Are any better than the other?  Depending on your choice of how to defeat the Necromancer, each character offers a distinct set of skills to achieve victory.  I recommend playing with as many as possible to see which work best for your and which function best from a narrative perspective.

There are two expansions for the game; With An Inner Light and On Shifting Winds.  I recommend playing with the base game for a while, and not using the Event mechanic until you are comfortable with basic turn sequence.  Add Events after a while.  Only then would I suggest you purchase With an Inner Light.  This expansion adds the Quest mechanic, more Blights and more Heroes.  IMO, the only reason to get the second expansion is if you are interested in the additional Blights and Heroes.  I have all three, but only purchased both expansions since I wanted the Ranger hero to play with.  If you enjoy the game enough, the expansions are certainly worth the investment.

Overall, I really enjoy Darkest Night, both as a co-op and solitaire game.  It is challenging, and the darkness of the board and components are very good.  I have even started listening to a "lighting and thunder" soundtrack for added atmosphere.  Finally, I would recommend watching the Ricky Royal YouTube playthough to see if it's something you might enjoy.  His walkthroughs are always enjoyable and informative.

God Speed in your quest to bring light to the Darkest Night!

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