Hi! This is Chris Smith, the designer of The Nightmare Invader. I thought I would post a long and detailed session report. Hopefully if you are having issues with the rules, this will help. Cheers!
Setup: First thing I look at is my Dream Skills, Flexible and Resourceful. Both are quite useful, and since I can use them during the Rescue part of the game, I will try to get at least one of them quickly.
Next, I look at the New Abilities and try to decide if I should go for a Control Token win or a Health win. Traps are possible with 2 different cards, but they can be useful with either strategy. Efficient Attack is quite powerful, so I will go for a Health kill. Set Trap is better than Indirect Attack for this strategy, so I will try for that one next if I can.
Invader Turn 1 (Inv1): I flip the top 3 cards from the Invader deck and get Aliens, Spiders, and Ghosts. Three different fears, so my Loved One isn't fazed. Lindsay has a bad nightmare about Ghost Spiders (sounds really creepy, actually) and 8 other Guests gain 1 Panic each. Not a great start for me.
Player Turn 1 (Play1): First thing I need to do is choose a Guest. I decide to start with Lindsay and try to wake her. I'm not worried about getting the Calm Loved One Ability, but it would be a nice bonus.
Unfortunately I roll poorly (1/2/3/3/5/6). I will only be able to remove 2 Panic with this roll, so I decide to reroll with 5 dice.
My second roll (1/1/3/6/6) is similar, but this time I roll 2 ones, which will give me some Panic. Let's try again with 4...
Ouch. This is not going well at all. Three??
Okay, I'll have to be satisfied with that (3/4/6). I slide the 6 up to the 4 slot (you can use any die for any lower number if you want) and remove 2 Panic from Lindsay. Hopefully my luck will get better...
Inv2: The Invader projects nightmares of Aliens, Ghosts, and Death itself into the Hotel Guests. Several Guests get a second Panic, and two of them, Billy and Pat, have nightmares intense enough to get 3 Panic each, bringing them up to 4. The Invader is not playing around tonight.
Play2: With things going so poorly for me, I'm already thinking desparate thoughts. I need to get Efficient Attack and take out the Invader as quickly as possible. Hopefully I can wake up Jimi as well.
However, once again I get totally ridiculous rolls. Did you see that roll of quad ones? Scary. I once again stop at 3 dice and remove one measly Panic from Jimi. Sigh.
Inv3: With a deep chuckle, the Invader flips up Heights, The Dark, and Death again. Billy and Pat have had enough as images of death drive them over the edge and they become mental slaves to the Invader. Paul takes a 3-point hit to his Panic level bringing him to the edge of sanity.
Whenever the Invader claims a Hotel Guest, you must remove a Basic Invader card to make room in its deck for the Guest card. I remove Death and Heights (The Dark doesn't appear on either Guest.) Each Guest also attracts 2 Invader Spawn, so I add tracking markers to the Aliens, Death, and Ghosts Spawn tracks. Death appears twice on the Guests, so that tracker goes up to 2. Lastly, the two Guest cards get placed in the Invader discard pile. Poor Pat and Billy!
Play3: Next I choose to try waking up Fred and learning the Set Trap Ability.
Finally a good roll! I move the 6 up one to Learn Ability, and I move one of the 4's to Hide so I don't suffer any Panic from the 1. The thee 4's on Calm/Wake Guest are enough to wake Fred, and I learn Set Trap.
Inv4: The Invader flips Germs, Spiders, and another Germs. My Loved One is bombarded with intense dreams about Germs and disease and suffers her first Panic. Fortunately, with only 2 fears being projected into the Guests, no one else suffers a fifth Panic, although Alannah now has 4.
Play4: I choose George this time. I'm trying to learn Resourceful and wake George at the same time.
Unfortunately my cursed dice return and I reroll twice (down to 4 dice) before I roll a pretty good result (1/4/6/6). I choose to take 1 Panic in exchange for waking Brian. Looks like I made a mistake and forgot which Guest's room I was in. Oops. Sadly I couldn't learn Resourceful.
Inv5: The Invader flips its last 3 cards, The Dark, Heights and finally, the Direct Attack card. This card serves two purposes.
First it is a timer, causing you to lose Panic each time it is drawn.
Also it adds unpredictability to the Invader deck. As soon as the Direct Attack card is drawn you must shuffle the deck and discard pile into a new deck.
After reshuffling, I draw a replacement for the Direct Attack card for the Invader, and get Aliens. Along with The Dark and Heights, this is devastating. Three more Guests and driven over the edge and join the Invader's cause. I lose access to both Flexible and Indirect Attack in the process.
All three of the Basic Invader cards I just drew are permanently removed from the deck to make room for the three Guest cards. Also, the Spawn Tracker gets a lot more active, with Aliens and The Dark getting 2 tokens each, and Death and Heights getting 1. Not good.
Play5: Jimi is my next target. Maybe I can get lucky and wake him while learning Efficient Attack. I'm pretty much grasping at straws at this point.
Nope, after two rerolls I settle for Calming Jimi twice.
Inv6: Pat contributes to the Invader's nightmares, causing a double dose of Death (Loved One takes her second Panic) and Ghosts. Pat also smells pretty good to the Death and Ghost Spawns so they each move one step closer to joining the Invader.
Alannah and Tom are driven mad, so that's more incentive for the Death, Spiders, Dark, and Ghost Spawn to pay me a visit. The Germs and Death Basic cards are removed from the Invader deck. Notice that the Invader deck will usually remain at 15 cards through the end of the Rescue part of the game.
Play6: Okay, one more shot at waking Jimi from his nightmares.
Nope. Once again I am forced to reroll twice and with only 4 dice left, the best I can do is remove Jimi's last 2 Panic. (I forgot to move the dice up to the Calm/Wake Guest row in the picture). Efficient Attack is still unlearned as well.
Inv7: The Invader draws Billy, The Dark, and Direct Attack.
Once again I add 1 Panic from Direct Attack and reshuffle the Invader discard pile into the draw deck.
Next the Invader draws a card to replace the Direct Attack, getting Spiders. Lindsay and George are the 8th and 9th Guests to succumb to the Invader out of the 12 I started with.
I increase the Spawn tracks for Death and Aliens from drawing Billy.
At this point, after adding to the Spawn Tracks for Lindsay and George, the Invader deck is 60% Guests. The Spawn tracks are going to finish very quickly, which means soon I will be doomed.
Play7: Jimi, the last Guest left in the Hotel, only has 1 Panic. Surely I can rescue him at least?
Yes! I didn't even have to move any dice around. The Rescue part of the game is now over. I've rescued 3/12 Guests, and learned 2 New Abilities and 0 Dream Skills. Pretty pathetic. This game will end very quickly, but maybe I can reduce the Invader's Health to zero in three turns. It's my only hope.
Inv8: With all the Guests either possessed or awake, the Invader turns its full attention to attracting its Spawn to this reality. Chris and Alannah make excellent bait, and the Death Spawn joins the party. Fortunately for me, it can't heal any of the Invader's Health while it is at full (6). However, from now on the Direct Attack card will cause me to suffer 2 Panic instead of 1.
Play8: I'm now in the Confrontation part of the game. Instead of having to reroll all my dice, I can choose to keep any number of dice before I reroll. Also, I can only reroll once, but I get to use all six dice even if I reroll. I start by rolling (2/2/3/4/4/6). I choose to keep everything but one of the 4's. I can use the 3, 4, and 6 to activate Efficient Attack, and maybe I can roll a third 2 for Attack Invader...
The Invader loses 2 Health. Maybe there is still hope!
Inv9: First the Invader flips Direct Attack. Because one of the Spawn has joined the Invader, I gain 2 Panic. The Invader deck is reshuffled...
(My apologies for this image (and a couple more) are upside-down. I swear they look fine when I look at the files on my computer hard drive. I have no idea why BGG flips them.)
George (The Dark & Germs), Germs, and Aliens are projected. My Loved One suffers another Panic from the double dose of Germs (again). The Dark joins Aliens on space 5 of the Spawn track. If I can finish off the Invader before they complete and heal the Invader, I still have a chance.
Play9: Once again I roll well (1/1/2/3/5/5). I use the 3 and the two 5's to activate Efficient Attack and try to roll a third 1...
The Invader is down to 2 Health. Can I complete the miracle win next turn?
Inv10: Alannah is flipped first. Next is Direct Attack again. That's okay, I still have lots of Panic to give after suffering 2 more. Reshuffle discards & Direct Attack...
Noooooo!!! Pat and Lindsay complete two separate pairs of Fears, Ghosts and Death. My Loved One takes 1 Panic for each pair and finally gets flung over the edge of sanity. My grief consumes me and I give up.
This was a frustrating game, but it does illustrate just how horribly wrong my game can go. I was worried that it might be too easy, but apparently not. Sorry once again for the upside-down images. If you know what I'm doing wrong, please let me know.
Thank you very much for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Questions and comments are welcome.