Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
I love cooperative games. This game type requires full engagement from all players and it can encourage team building when you win or lose together. Eldritch Horror, Samurai Spirit, and The Grizzled are some of my current favorite cooperative games.
Today, we are going to take a sneak peek at a new cooperative game looking for funding on Kickstarter. Darkest Night: Second Edition, from Victory Point Games and designer Jeremy Lennert, is a questing & combat based cooperative game for 1-4 players. Sound like fun? Let’s take a look and see.
In Darkest Night: Second Edition, a kingdom has fallen to an evil Necromancer. The last of the kingdom’s forces have rallied to the hallowed ground of the Monastery. The players take on the role of heroes trying to wage a guerilla war against the Necromancer and his growing dark forces. The heroes will battle and quest around the kingdom to find Holy Relics to help defeat the Necromancer before his power builds enough to overrun the Monastery.
How to Play:
Players start by placing 4 Holy Relic tokens on the game board and shuffling the Event, Quest, and Artifact Decks. All decks are placed all facedown within reach of the players.
Since Darkest Night: Second Edition is a cooperative game; players choose a team of four heroes. The base rules are designed to use four heroes and so, depending on the player count, players could play more than one hero as needed. Each hero comes with a hero sheet and 13 power cards.
The final deck is the customizable Map Deck that is made up of Subdecks noted by color key on each card. There are a total of 6 different colors that correspond to a table in the rules for what kind of game you’d like the Map cards to possibly dictate. You create the game’s Map Deck by matching the color coding. Then flip the first card and place the various Blights to be placed on the board for the start of the game (except the Monastery).
Sequence of Play
The game consists of rounds, with each hero taking a turn (in any order) and then the Necromancer takes a turn.
Heroes will do the following steps in order:
1. Start: Resolve start-of-turn effects (usually reduction of hero’s Secrecy due game conditions).
2. Event: draw one Event Card and resolve it.
3. Action: Perform one action such as: Travel, Hide, Attack (Blights or Necromancer), Search, Pray, Meditate (gain a Spark), Retrieve a Holy Relic, or Card (using an Action Card Artifact, or Quest in your possession or location).
4. End: resolve end-of-turn effects
After the heroes’ turns are completed, the Necromancer takes a turn:
1. Darkness: Advance the Darkness Tracker.
2. Quest Timers: Place one Time Marker on each quest in play.
3. Movement: Roll a die and move the Necromancer (cannot move to the Monastery)
4.Blight: Place a blight token on the Necromancer’s current location.
The rounds will continue until the victory or defeat conditions are met. Heroes can win in two ways: 1) Combat and defeat the Necromancer when in possession of a Holy Relic or 2) Find 3 Holy Relics and bring them to the Monastery and perform a Holy Ritual. Heroes will lose the game when the Monastery has 4 or more Blight tokens present and it becomes overrun.
Optional rules to note:
The beta rules listed a number of different optional rules that again add to the game’s replay. There’s rules for increasing the difficulty, adding or subtracting Heroes as well an option for a player to play the role of the Necromancer (I would suggest using the Darkness Deck with this option).
The one optional rule that was the most interesting seemed to be the Dual-Class Variant. You will begin play with only two Heroes but each will have their power deck and another from any other Hero and start with 6 Power Cards instead of 3. Yes, more powerful Heroes but half the recommended starting total.
As you can tell from the How to Play section, there is definitely a lot to keep track of in Darkest Night: Second Edition. This is a game that’s going to demand that all players pay attention. That being said, it’s not a hard game to learn or play.
Overall the rules are well organized and have excellent cross-references. I think the cooperative nature of Darkest Night: Second Edition also pushes players to help each other learn and master the gameplay. I think this is one of the reasons that cooperative games are so appealing to me. Top to bottom, you’re all in this experience together and it’s to your benefit and enjoyment to be sure all players are on the same page.
Now, this game was a ton of fun to play it but let me warn you, it’s challenging to win, but what gamer doesn’t love to be challenged. The gameplay will constantly try to harass and whittle the heroes down. We all thought at the start of our first game that the heroes seemed rather powerful but as the game went on, that feeling changed and it became a battle to stay alive. The game definitely makes players suffer along with the heroes and it makes a win something to savor.
A big positive to note is that this game has a ton of variety given its multiple deep decks and number of heroes, making the replay value off the charts. The base game comes with 9 heroes and ample Event, Artifact, Map desks. When you add the Secrets of the Past and Storm on the Horizon expansions, the hero count jumps to 29 and each adds to the decks noted above.
Each expansion also adds 2 new decks: Mystery Deck- a new and more challenging way to find Holy Relics and a Darkness Deck which basically works like Action Cards for the Necromancer. This again adds to the variety and overall replay and can be used together, separately, or not at all depending on preferences.
However there was one aspect of the gameplay that was a little bumpy for my group. Activating and Deactivating Power Cards took some getting used to. We had to read and re-read the rules a number of times. In the end, we think we got it right. It could be how the rules are written or just us.
What seemed to really help with Power Cards was the Compendium. It gives fuller explanations of the Powers and how to use them. I hope Victory Point Games has all the powers listed for the Kickstarter because there was not a full list at the time of this preview. It was a very helpful guide to reference given the powers that were listed.
Even with a prototype version, my group and I definitely had fun with Darkest Night: Second Edition. It’s a good sign that the rulebook was well organized even though it wasn’t in its final stage. I know there’s still more to add, especially to the Compendium, but I’m sure it will be complete by the time the game gets to backers or retail.
If you are a fan of cooperative game play, then Darkest Night is absolutely worth checking out. While correctly using Heroes Power Cards can take some getting used to, overall we had fun trying to defeat the Necromancer and his dark forces. Even though the Necromancer is powerful, the Holy Relics are the great equalizer and gives the players hope at a victory.
The base game will come with miniatures and the stretch goals can unlock more custom miniatures, new Hero Power, and Event cards. So, I am looking forward to seeing how this game ends up once fully backed and published.
If you’d like to become a backer, pledges start at $109 for the base game including all stretch goals. Darkest Night: Second Edition is scheduled to be in backers hands by March 2017 and you have until June 11, 2016 to become a backer. Head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.