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Board Game Review – Nightfall

2011 August 11
by Michael Schroeder

Review copy kindly provided by Alderac Entertainment Group.

Nightfall is a game about dominance in the dark underworld of creatures thought to be merely fantasy – vampires, werewolves and more…please don’t close this window, the game is not about Twighlight – that’s for teenage girls.

Nightfall by Alderac Entertainment Group

Nightfall by Alderac Entertainment Group

Designer: David Gregg

Number of players: 2-5

Age: 12+

Time: 45 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Nightfall – a new fast, furious and fun deck-building game from Alderac Entertainment Group. Featuring direct head-to-head combat, amazing art, a new AEG world, and unique mechanics by designer David Gregg, Nightfall will be the deck-building game to own.

Before the game begins, there is a draft to determine which cards are available for purchase, and by whom. During this draft players select two cards from the set for their personal archives, and they also select cards to put into the common area. The cards drafted into personal archives may only be purchased by the player who drafted them.

After the table has been set with the private and common cards, players begin play.

The meat of Nightfall is in the chaining mechanic, which was partially developed with the help of people right here on BoardGameGeek.

Each card has a main color and two linking colors. If you can match the main color of a card to one of the linking colors of the previous card, you can chain those cards together. Once a chain is started, players all get an opportunity to link additional cards onto the chain during that turn.

Cards in the chain resolve in reverse order: first in, last out. Instant effects fire off as cards come off the chain, doing damage to your opponents or bringing characters into play to defend you and attack your opponents.

The object of Nightfall is to put wounds into your opponents’ decks and end the game with the least amount of wounds in your deck. But beware: the more wounds a person has, the more enraged they become and the faster their deck works, meaning more cards and bigger chains will come your way!

Nightfall’s base set releases with starting decks of 12 cards for up to 5 players, and 24 distinct cards (7 copies of each) for drafting during play.

The box contains card dividers, and is in the same format as the much heralded Wrath of the Elements box for Thunderstone.

Basic idea in my own words:

Nightfall is a deck building card game that has the theme of monsters such as vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc. that shines with it’s unique blend of mechanics, most notably the “chain” mechanic.

The game comes in a compact sized box, similar to the expansions to Thunderstone and as you can see, is a very dark theme from the artwork and just general use of dark colors.

Nightfall is organized very well with the foam blocks and card dividers and the rulebook is very explicit how you should setup the game after you first crack open the cards.

“So, get on to the game already…”

During a game of Nightfall you are controlling your own minions and actions to inflict wounds on your opponents. At the end of the game, the player with the least wound cards, wins.

The game is a deck building game, so in the beginning, each player starts with the same starting deck, which is comprised of 12 weak characters. These characters have benefits, but they will eventually get burned in the trash, or “exiled.” One thing that’s unique about Nightfall is the fact that, at the beginning of your turn, you must use all your minions in play, to inflict wounds on players, then like a bee, they hurt, then die (in this case, get discarded). This mechanic, I’m trusting was intentional, it blends, in my opinion, very well with the theme of the game, vampires and monsters of the night, come out, attack, then subside into the darkness.

Throughout the game, your trying to build up a line up of minions to defend yourself and be able to attack opponents. Like most deck building games, you start with weaker cards then build yourself up to stronger ones and try to filter the crap out of your deck. So again, through minion attacks and special effects, you’re trying to wound your opponents and mitigate your wounds. So hows this all done?


On your turn, you are following a set of actions in sequence…

  1. Combat Phase – during this phase, you must attack players with all of your minions. Attacking is done by targeting a player and using your strength of your minions to attack.
    Lillith Lawrence from Nightfall

    Lilith Lawrence from Nightfall

    The card above, Lilith Lawrence is an example of a minion. You’d use her to attack with. Her attack value is the number in the top right corner, in red…2. Ignore anything else, I’ll explain that in due time. Just know her attack is 2. The player that is defending, declares what minions or cards he’s using to defend with. Again, if you look at the card above of Lilith, you’ll see red hash marks on the edges, these hash marks represent that minions current health. If you’re attacking a player, and say, that player has a Lilith in play, he can use Lilith to defend the attack and essentially absorb any hits. When a player uses a minion to absorb hits, they turn the card around to now show the remaining health, if any. If the card gets killed, it goes into discard (or exile). Any remaining wounds would go directly to that player and that defending player will receive that many wound cards in their discard deck. That is a summary on how combat works. There is of course, more intricacies but they don’t need to be explained here. After you have attacked with all of your minions, they are discarded.

  2. Chain Phase– This is the most interesting mechanic in the game. Chaining is what separates this deck building game from others, to where everyone is doing something on everyone else’s turn – which is, bringing out more cards. When the active player reaches this phase, he has the option of laying out a card, this card and any other cards he lays out are considered not in play yet. This mechanic is how players bring cards to the table.
    Chaining Cards

    Chaining Cards

    Look in the card above, Sir John Travail, you can see 3 moons in the upper left. These are related to chaining cards and kicker effects. How chains work is, say, you lay out Sir John Travail, you can lay another card down (cascade wise suggested) that has a large purple or yellow moon. So the card your laying down, the large moon has to match one of the small moons on the previous card. This can also mean you can chain off someone else’s last played card. So a wise player will try to think of what you have, and make it so that you can’t chain. Also, there are effects called, Kickers. When a card you lay down has a kicker, if kicker moon color matches the large moon color of the previously laid card, you can resolve that kicker effect. So this revolves around the table clockwise, that everyone can and may bring out cards, one player at a time, until they wish to cease. Then, the player to the right of the active player, can start resolving his chain. Resolving your chain – What this entails is, one by one, that players cards can move from where they are, to “in play” (so now they can be killed and do other stuff), any relevant kickers take affect and any effects where it says, CHAIN. If the text says, your chain, you can only get that benefit if you were the player that created the chain, in this case, you aren’t. When you are done, resolving of cards happens counter clockwise, then finishes with the active player.

  3. Claim Phase – This phase is simply, the buy phase. Your influence is the same thing as how much money you have. You always start with 2 influence, and you may discard cards from you hand to discard, you receive 1 influence per card discarded. In addition, certain cards give you more influence. Now, you may buy any amount of cards you can afford from the common archives (decks in middle of playing area) and or your personal archive (every player starts with their own personal decks to be able to buy from (2)). Add these purchased cards to your discard.
  4. Cleanup – During cleanup you draw back up to 5 cards into your hand. If your hand contains any wound cards at this point, you may discard them to be able to get their effects, such as draw more cards. But only 1 wound cards effects may be applicable here…you can’t continue to chain wound cards to get yourself caught in some loop.

Game End: The game ends when the last wound card is drawn from the wound deck. The number of wound cards is 10X the number of players. Whomever has the least amount of wound cards is the winner! So, wounds are not only bad as in they are less VP for you, but they clog up your deck. Too bad the priest, Genesis One, is only a starter card.

A 3 player Nightfall setup

A 3 player Nightfall setup


Components: 3/5

I like the box size and quality. The rule book is good quality and looks like it cost a lot of black ink to print 🙂 . I like the insert and method of storing cards, just like Thunderstone expansions, BUT I don’t like that if the cards aren’t tight with the foam and cards, they tend to fall flat so your digging in there during setup or breakdown to fetch them.

Theme: 2/5

I’m not so hot on the theme as I am with Thunderstone. I just feel this theme came out too in line with the recent obsession with werewolves, vampires and zombies. I don’t like pop culture so I think that leaves a bit of a tainted, eh, in my opinion, in regard to theme. But even Thunderstone I’m not thrilled with the theme, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very fun game.

Luck Factor: 3:5

Typical deck building luck! In my opinion though, in this game, I feel as if you don’t have as many cards in your deck, so carefully picking will make your luck more so, I feel. I’m still giving that a 3/5 though.

Strategy: 3/5

Not a mathy calculation game, and there’s luck, but like deck building games, it has it’s form of strategy. Trying to mitigate opponents from playing off your colors in a chain, buying the right combination of cards for their powers, and colors.

Overall Feelings: 3/5

I enjoy this game very much. I’m interested in getting many more plays in. It’s not my favorite game by any means, but the art is great, the game play is great, it has its unique elements, and overall it’s fun! I would recommend Nightfall to anyone that’s in our hobby. I wouldn’t recommend it for families that are not in this hobby and young children though, due to the graphic nature.

Notes: Thanks for those on BGG that posted pictures, which I used.


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