To explain Nightfall is to explain the chaining system. The unique new chaining system really does make up the bulk of this game. You will want to understand the best time to chain in minions, when chaining in a spell makes it effective and when it makes it fizzle. You will need to understand how to chain minions in for defense purposes vs when to chain them to make them useful attackers. And of course, you will want to learn the best ways to make big fat chains. So.....what the hell is a chain anyways? Chaining is basically casting a series of spells that must be linked together. Nightfall has a "Chaining" phase which essentially serves to be the time for you to cast spells or summon in minions. Unlike most games though these spells and minions are not tied to any kind of "mana" or other arbitrary point that is consumed to cast. Instead every card has a large moon symbol and two smaller moon symbols which can be linked together to cast your spells. The large moon represents the cost to play that card and the small moons represent the cards that can be "chained" to them. So for instance, if you play a Vampire minion that has a green moon and then two small yellow/blue moons it means you must chain your vampire on to a previous card with a small green moon and then to further chain another spell the next card must have a large yellow or a large blue moon. This unique chaining feature means you can cast as many spells/minions as you can tie chains/moons together. Furthermore your opponents can then chain their spells on to the end of yours. This means you have to be careful what moons you leave hanging out there and that you can try and plan ways to chain useful spells on your opponents turn!
The rest of the game plays out fairly similar to Magic the Gathering or many other combat card games where you send minions to attack and your opponent must block or take damage. Every point of damage means taking a wound card out of a separate deck. Once all the wound cards are removed from the wound deck the game ends and the player with the most wounds loses. So is Nightfall a broken link, or is it off the....chain! Ok sorry that was bad
The artwork is unique - I am not exactly sure how much I like or dislike it, (Amanda says she dislikes it)but the artwork definitely has a style of its own. I feel many games have copy cat art that makes them feel similar, but for better or worse Nightfall seems to be unique.
The game comes with room for expansions - We have already bought both expansions and they fit in the box perfectly with the game. I wish more games planned ahead for expansions this way! It is so nice not having to carry around 3 or 4 boxes for one game!
Your units have life bars! - Every enemy in Nightfall has a life bar. On the top of the card there are 4 red notches, on the left side 3, bottom 2 and right side 1, if your minion has 4 life. As your unit takes damage, you can simply rotate your card to represent how much life it has left. This is such a simple, simple thing...yet so freaking brilliant! I can not understand why other developers have not used this before!
Chaining is a really unique mechanic - The chaining mechanic in Nightfall is just so unique. I can not think of a single other game where you chain together your spells in this way, let alone one where you chain enemies in to battle.
Chaining is not just unique, it is fun - I really love trying to figure out all the different chains that are possible. I love stopping and thinking, "Ok, I can use these cards to get rid of a few cards from my hand, then I can chain this red, to this blue, to this green to this red and then end it with this white". I love that I can use my opponents chain to summon in minions on their turn, so they are ready to attack on mine. And I love trying to figure out how to manipulate a chain so that my spells will counteract my opponents. As I said above, chaining is a very unique mechanic...but it is also a lot of fun!
The starting deck - No, really! I know this sounds like an odd thing to post as a positive but I love the starting deck! In most deck building games you start with a bunch of crappy cards that as the game goes on come up in future hands and make you groan. For example, in Ascension you have a bunch of +1 to Rune or Power (I can't recall for sure if what you use to defeat monsters is called power?)and in Dominion, you have a bunch of crappy +1 to gold cards. It is just annoying that instead of getting to the awesome new cards you have bought you still keep seeing those annoying opening cards! In order to get rid of them, you must waste a few turns trashing them. Nightfall solves this problem by making it so all of the cards you use in your opening hand trash themselves after they come in to play! Another small small thing that makes this game very enjoyable.
The developer is active at BGG - I always greatly appreciate when developers are active at the forums for their own games. I have seen one of the developers (David Gregg AKA s3rvant)very active at BGG both answering questions and just communicating with the games supporters in general.
The cards came damaged - A few of my cards came with dents, dings and scratches. I bought a brand new/sealed copy so it's not like it's from the previous owner. From day 1 my cards were damaged and cards in the expansion also came damaged.
Cards are made cheaply and use a black border - These are some thin, thin, thin cards. Other then coming damaged, they also will get nicks and scratches if you even look at the card wrong. Furthermore, the developer used black borders and black backing so every little flaw REALLY stands out. Nightfall is one of those games that you will want to sleeve the moment you get it.
Random drafting can result in unbalanced games - Since Nightfall uses a random drafting method going by base rules, it is very easy to end up with a game where it is impossible to chain certain cards. Basically, what happens is you end up with a ton of moons of one color out on the board but not many others. The expansions aggravate this problem even more since adding more cards equals a higher chance of repeat moons. We actually had one game where 6 of 8 of the available cards were green and the other two were red. This resulted in a complete inability to chain more then 2 or 3 things. An official variant can help fix this problem a bit, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time.
Set up and put away time takes a bit - It's not horrendous but it definitely takes a good 5-10 minutes of time to get everything ready and put it all away. Each player needs their starter deck and to then shuffle it. Then shuffling the draft cards, dealing them out, picking which draft cards you want, getting all the normal versions of the draft cards out and eventually putting all this away. It is far from the worst set up and even farther away from the worst to put away, but it is noticeable.
The dividers and game markers are amazing - Nightfall comes with a bunch of foam dividers that can be used to organize the game however you want. Furthermore, it comes with named marker cards (cards that are slightly larger then the normal cards, so they stick out when in the box). This makes it incredibly easy to keep track of everything-- a godsend once you add expansions in to the box!
Drafting cards - In a lot of other deck builders, such as Dominion, you will just randomly select a bunch of cards out of the box to play with. Nightfall comes with drafting cards that represent the cards you will play the game with. You shuffle the drafting deck, then deal the cards out to the various players, who will then get to chose the cards used in the game. The drafting cards go back in the box and the normal version of the cards players drafted comes out of the box. I really enjoy this drafting mechanic and I love that they made special cards just for the drafting phase!
Discarding cards = influence = purchase power - I love that you can discard cards to get more points to buy more cards. First off, it is enjoyable to not have to fiddle around with an arbitrary resource such as mana. But second, I love that it lets me turn junk cards in my hand into resources and that at the end of my turn, I can just draw back to a full hand.
Expansions already exist - At the time of writing this review there are already 2 other expansions available. While a game should be judged by how it stands on its own, it is always nice to have expansions available.
Expansions are needed - Ok, as I just said it is nice that the expansions exist already, but I feel that they are truly needed. Nightfall does provide a solid number of cards, but it still felt like it needed a bit more for varieties sake.
Misprinted cards - I think this is just for the expansions, but several of our cards came badly misprinted. Basically, the text down in the kicker portion of the card is smeared with thick black ink and or had their ink run . A few cards also had wording that was off center. In one or two cases, the cards are difficult to read and Ryan claimed he could not make out the wording at all.
Takes time to wrap your head around this game - Chaining is a very unique mechanic, so this is not a game you will jump in to and master in an hour. Even if you understand how the game is played, it will take you awhile to learn effective strategies, how to properly chain things together as well as when to attack and when to defend. Of all the games we own, this may not be one of the most complicated, but it is definitely one of the games that took the longest to feel as though we were getting to be good players.
Yellow and white can look like the same color - If you are playing in good lighting and looking at the cards up close this is not a big deal. But if you play in a dim lit room or are too far away from the cards there are a few cases where the yellow and white moons have looked like the exact same color. Nightfall should be played in a well lit room and at a table where the cards are within a foot or two.
Have I found a new favorite game with Nightfall? Nope! But I do think we have found a game that we enjoy a lot and that will hit the table quite a bit. Nightfall may not be the best game I have ever played, but it is a very good game with several very unique game play mechanics. Our collection recently broke 200 games and with so many games at our disposal, it can be hard to find games that are TRULY different from one another. Some nights, we sit down to play a game and it can be overwhelming deciding what to play. As I said, many games are just so similar, so when something like Nightfall comes a long and mixes it up it is refreshing. We have 3 bookshelves housing our games. One bookshelf is for games that never get played, one for games we have not played yet and one for games that get played all the time. I love to draft, I love to chain and those two mechanics alone guarantee Nightfall will be on our shelf of games we play frequently for a long time, if not indefinitely.
There are quite a few things I dislike about Nightfall. The cards came in not the best shape with some misprints. I am a stickler for quality! It takes some real time to learn how to play this game and even longer to get good at it. While you do not HAVE to play with the expansions, it does feel like it helps a tremendous amount . And of course, even if you have the expansions it creates the problem of having games where you do not have enough variety in the moons. This makes Nightfall one of those games that is greater then the sum of its parts. I found that once I understood how to play, I wanted to keep playing and those flaws just melted away. That said while I do enjoy Nightfall, it can frustrate me immensely. See I am not very good at planning things several turns ahead and Nightfall is a game where that can be vital. It can be daunting trying to work out how not just your own chains will resolve, but also your opponents as well...and how your opponents will try to play off your own chain! As I said though despite all these flaws and personal frustrations I keep asking Ryan to put it on the table. Because of that I thoroughly recommend Nightfall to those looking for a card drafting game with some very unique mechanics!