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Review of Victory Point Games:
Euro Game #9 Darkest Night
Darkest Night is a Euro Game designed by Jeremy Lennert & published by Victory Point Games. It is a multi-player co-op fantasy game of a guerrilla war in a small kingdom. The background story is that a dread Necromancer and his forces have taken over the kingdom after defeating the army and capturing the castle, the last of the kingdoms strength has taken refuge in the monastery where the Necromancer and his dead dare not tread....yet. As he tightens his grip and builds his power for a final assault on this last refuge a few brave souls seek a way to fight back. Darkest night is a co-operative game where four heroes fight a guerrilla war to retake the kingdom, all players share victory or defeat and must work together as a team to succeed. This review is of the deluxe boxed edition.
So when you open the box what do you get?
1. One thick card mounted game board 11”x 17” in two halves which fit together jigsaw style.
2. A very thick card sheet of laser cut pieces
3. Six of six sided dice
4. 9 hero mats
5. 90 power cards
6. 6 Artefact cards
7. 34 Event Cards
8. 20 Map Cards
9. 1 Rules Booklet
Take care with the laser cut pieces as they are very thick and the smaller counters do not push out easily, also the edges of the pieces are covered in a thin layer of soot from the laser cutting process. A wipe is supplied to clean the edges but you will still need to wash your hands after punching out and assembling the pieces. The pieces themselves are robust and well illustrated although we have now pretty well replaced the hero markers with plastic figures from our Talisman collection. The cards also look robust and up to the handling that they may have to take.
The map depicts the kingdom showing the seven locations the players can visit (the Castle, Village, Mountains, Forest, Ruins, Swamp and Monastery), the lines they can move along as well as the numbers that are used to determine the Necromancers movement. Strangely with the boxed edition you also receive a heavy paper version of the map. Along the bottom of the map is a numbered track which charts the Necromancers growing power.
This game pits the players (who have a choice of characters to play) against the game, it needs no umpire or games master the cards drawn and die rolls control the movement and appearance of the Necromancer and his foul legions. The heroes have various powers dependant on type (Knight, Druid, Wizard, Prince, Rogue, Acolyte, Scholar, Seer and Priest) and more power cards can be drawn in the course of the game. They must together either defeat the Necromancer in combat or collect the four holy relics and place them in the monastery. To defeat the Necromancer you need to score 7 which with a six sided die is of course impossible, if your hero has a holy relic however he/she can add 1 to their die roll making it possible.
The sequence of play each of the heroes (in any order they agree to) takes a turn after all four have done so the Necromancer has his turn.
Each hero turn consists of
1. Start: Follow any special start of turn instructions
2. Event: Draw and apply an event card
3. Action: Choose one of the following actions: Travel (move to an adjacent location), Hide (Refresh your powers), Attack (Choose a blight (Necromancers minions) and fight it), Search (roll and compare to search difficulty listed at your location, if successful draw a map card and refer to search result)
4. Pray: (Monastery only)
5. Retrieve a holy relic: Discard 3 keys to collect a holy relic
6. Power: Use the action from one of your power cards
After all four heroes have acted the Necromancer now acts in the following order:
1. Increase Darkness: move the darkness marker along the track on the bottom of the map, this can trigger effects as it increases.
2. Necromancer Movement: Roll a die and compare it to each heroes secrecy rating, if the Necromancer rolls higher than the current secrecy of a hero that hero has been detected. If the Necromancer detects any hero he moves one space towards the closest by the shortest possible route. Otherwise the Necromancer moves along the arrow marked on the board that matches the score on his die roll. The Necromancer may never enter the Monastery for any reason.
3. Create Blight: The Necromancer creates blight in his new location (creates a new minion).
The game rules were simple to follow and on our first playing we made few mistakes that were not corrected rapidly with the explanations in the booklet. Some of the card effects however did take a couple of readings to discern their meaning, the example of play at the back of the booklet paid real dividends if read carefully before you play (which we didn’t till before our second game).
The game itself is dependent to a large extent on rolling 5 or 6 on the six sided dice, this can sound bad, particularly if you are wary of luck based games, but this can be mitigated to a great extent by the heroes working closely together and using their powers to complement each other’s actions. The game actually forces the players to do this otherwise you are sure to lose. We found in our first game that the killing the Necromancer option should really be a last resort at the games end, by searching and taking the holy relics to the monastery you are choosing by far the better strategy. You must as a group agree to your tactics to achieve this as soon as game starts if not before and the part each player must perform.
To conclude, this game is a well produced and thought out piece of work, we are now looking at obtaining the expansions, including one where a player can take the part of the bad guy like in most RPG’s, and would recommend this game as an addition to anyone’s RPG collection. Playing time is not excessive and when you are sure of the rules game play rattles along creating tension, especially as the darkness marker travels along the track sometimes at an alarming rate (beware the desecration counter). The games structure means that a game can be played in a couple hours easily although the box gives a not unrealistic game time of 150 minutes.