So I was one of the lucky ones to get a copy of Nightlight (kickstarter-edition) from the first round of shipping and figured I would use this opportunity to write my first game review.
After unwrapping the box, I laid all of the components out on the table (cards, dice, wooden heart tokens, a piece of paper containing the rules, and a piece of paper containing the names/handles of KS supporters). Honestly, the components were a little disappointing. The box is made from incredibly light-weight cardboard and it is wrapped in what feels like paper (which has the cover printed on it). The cards are made of light-weight card stock. Typically, I only sleeve games with cards that require a lot of shuffling, however, the first thing I did with this game was sleeve it because it felt as though the card could easily bend/tear. Also, the text on many of the cards does not appear to be that sharp - though it is still easily readable. The rules come on one sheet of paper, folded to fit in the box - nothing special, but it doesn’t really have to be. The game provides $12$ mini-dice, again nothing special (and again there is no reason for anything more). After playing a number of games I realized it was good the dice are mini because you occasionally have to throw all $12$ dice (or more) at once. The wooden hearts, on the other hand, top quality.
I found that between the wooden hearts and sleeved cards (sleeves not provided) that the quality of the whole package was good enough. It is the artwork though, that pushes this game over the top. Absolutely fantastic artwork that matches the theme and the skill/person/idea/item each card represents. (To be honest, it is the artwork and the fact you can play this game solo that attracted me to the game in the first place).
Fairly simple mechanics allow you to play a game or two of this and stand a chance of winning. However, as you get to know the stuffed animals (the player-controlled characters), there are several different strategies that start to emerge. One aspect that I really enjoy is there are $7$ different characters to chose from and all of them feel very different from each other. For example, the panda is good at attacking multiple enemies at the same time (even enemies engaged with other players); the cactus is able to put up strong attack and defense against enemies it is facing; the ninja(?) has the ability to deal more damage to an enemy that is being attacked, and so on.
While this game has the potential to suffer from the alpha-gamer problem associated with a lot of co-op (since there is no hidden information), there is enough of a luck-factor to minimize the potential for this. The luck in this game has to do with combat. Each stuffed animal and enemy has $3$ stats: attack, defense, and hit point. When someone attacks they roll the number of die equal to their attack value (plus minus any modifiers). Attacks hit on a $5$ or a $6$. Then the defender rolls the defense die equal to their defense value (+- modifiers). And each $5$ or $6$ blocks one attack that hit. Any attacks that hit and were not blocked deal damage.
Unlike a lot of games, the purpose is not to kill all the nightmares (enemies). Instead the purpose is just to survive $3$ rounds. This makes for a semi-short game (about 30 minutes for $2$ players or an hour for $4$ players), but adds a fair amount of strategy. For instance, the toughest nightmares often attack first. So if you can weather their attacks and take out some of the easier nightmares, there will be less things attacking you. And depending on what the other player are doing, you may be able to use extra turns to help them out. Also, unlike most co-op, winning this game means at least one stuffed animal must survive (instead of everyone). So by the time round $3$ rolls around, one or more of the players may need to sacrifice themselves in order to protect one.
This is where the game really shines - when you are playing with 2 or more players. Most stuffed animals were designed with some (or all) of their skills/special ability to interact with other stuffed animals. The more players there are, the more options there are to consider, which leads to a deeper game. However, this game is still excellent with just $2$ players.
Over the past year or so, I find myself playing a lot of games solo. So for those that like to play solo, I thought I would touch on this issue separately. This game can be played solo with no modifications to the rules. And the challenge is the same. However, only one or two of the stuffed animals shine on their own. Which means after $3$ or $4$ play-throughs, it will get boring. However, the solo gamer can make up for this by simply controlling more than one stuffed animal. By doing this, all the strategy and all the stuffed animal choices are there, making this game equal to the multiplayer experience in every way (except, of course, other human players to converse with).
As I have stated, the game comes with $7$ very unique stuffed animals (heroes). It also comes with $3$ scenarios (or dream classes). Each of the classes will have a dream deck (5-7 cards each) in which you will reveal one card for each of the three rounds. The dream deck makes global game modifiers (attacks +1, defense modifiers, etc.). So after a couple games with a given scenario you will likely see all the dream cards. Each of the classes also contains a denizens’ deck containing the nightmares you will face. When making the denizens’ deck you will combine the nightmares from the class you picked as well as a general set of nightmares making a fairly good-sized deck. However, most of these cards just contain the basic three stats (attack, defense, and hit point). This means seeing all of these cards is nothing special, some will be easier than others, but at least there is great artwork. Some of the cards in the denizens’ deck will contain special text, but nothing earth-shattering. There is also the Toy Chest deck - a deck of $20$ cards that players will use to help them keep the nightmares away. During each of the $3$ rounds, $4$ cards are revealed and each player choses one card to add to their deck. In most games you will see $16$ of these cards (the first round you look at $8$). If one of the players is the cactus, $5$ cards per round will be revealed (so all $20$ in a game). Put all of this together, and you will discover the major differences from game to game come from the combination of stuffed animals and the luck of the dice rolls. Everything else will be very familiar from game to game. However, after about 15 plays, this seems like it is enough.
After you play through with a stuffed animal a couple times, you will start to develop strategies which will help improve your win/loss ratio. But due to the luck factor, there is no way to ‘solve’ this game making it a nice filler that does not get old quickly. The game also include an Ultimate Nightmare Mode - a set of special cards to add to each scenarios which make the game much, much tougher. So, for those of you (like me) that want a co-op game that is fair, but difficult, this mode is for you.
Component quality is acceptable (if you sleeve the cards).
Stays true to the theme of the game. The game feels as though it was designed around the theme, instead of being tacked on afterward.
Game Mechanics are simple to understand, letting you quickly jump into the game. But after several plays a decent amount of strategy develops.
This co-op game was designed to make you think about strategies involving aiding other players (that may sound strange - but many co-ops players are independent while working to a single goal).
The solo experience is lacking if you just play one character. However, controlling multiple character gives you the same experience and challenge as multi-players.
Conclusion: I don’t see this game at the top of any greatest-hits list, but it is a solid, quality game. Personally, I expect this game to hit the table often enough to say it is well worth the money.
Thank you so much for the review! It's awesome that you clearly took so much time to think about what you really wanted to say. It means a lot to us since this is our first game release.
We shared this review on our Facebook page, too!