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Subject: I like this neighborhood better under Martial Law! rss

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Lee Valentine
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Nightfall: Martial Law
Published by Alderac Entertainment Group
Designed by David Gregg
Contents: 228 Minion and Action cards, 60 Wound cards, 24 Draft cards, 34 Card Dividers, a full-color rulebook
$39.99


Nightfall: Martial Law is a new expansion for AEG's Nightfall deck-building game. It is also playable as a stand-alone game. I refer the reader to my review of the Nightfall base set for a discussion of gameplay, as this review focuses on additions to the game in this particular set.


New Card Features
First, Martial Law has a focus on cards which either innately stay in play until they are discarded or destroyed, or which can be kept in play by paying a game cost to do so. This changes the feel of the game because most characters are discarded on your turn immediately after they attack. Since defenders don't damage attackers, it is possible with enough attackers that will remain in play, to continue amassing an attacking force over the course of several turns.

Next, perhaps even more than in the base set, some of the "Action" cards are exceedingly difficult to even get into play. Because of the order in which card chains are executed in Nightfall, cards which counter or modify the Orders of your opponent cannot typically be played usefully on your own turn. Since they can only be played on an opponent's turn, they rely heavily on your opponent ending his chain with a card that you can play off of. In two-player games this feels like having a "counterspell" that can only be played on every other Tuesday of odd numbered months.

Most of the mechanics for Martial Law are the same as those found in the base Nightfall set. There are, however, two new features of this set: the new "Feed" mechanic and a new type of Wound.

Some Chain and Kicker effects have a new mechanic called "Feed". Feed lists a game cost to be paid, and each time you pay that you can repeat the associated Chain or Kicker effect. This is a very simple new mechanic that is easy to remember.

There are two types of Wound cards in this set, however you can still only trigger one type of Wound-based effect per turn. The first kind of Wound, which was found in the base Nightfall set, can be discarded at the end of the hand to draw two cards. New Martial Law wounds can be discarded during your turn to give an attacker +1 to his Strength for each Wound you discard. The new Wounds are marked with a "Martial Law" logo to help you quickly distinguish between these two Wound types without having to read the game text on each one. I really liked this new addition. Having multiple types of Wound effects to call upon added more tactical flexibility, and was an improvement over the original product.


Components & Packaging
When I reviewed the base Nightfall set, I was not provided with the full retail version of the product, and so couldn't comment on the retail packaging. Martial Law comes with a two-compartment box to store cards (like the smaller Thunderstone expansions). It also comes with 34 index tabbed dividers (31 for this set, plus 3 for promo cards). Each divider has the name of the card it is supposed to be filed with. These dividers are noticeably taller than the game cards. While the dividers keep the cards easy to find, sponge blocks keep categories of cards separate from each other, and keep the cards from moving in the box during transport. The blocks are obviously removable to allow for further expansion cards to fit in this storage box. Overall, the storage solution works well.

The card art in this set is of high quality. With regards to the production quality of the cards themselves, in my initial review I complained about the press coat on the cards. I did not have the same problems with the cards' press coat this time around. The original Nightfall set became marked after just one play. These cards seem a little bit better constructed. Perhaps my original cards were defective, but these are definitely acceptable.


Conclusions
Nightfall: Martial Law offers lots of new cards to expand your existing Nightfall collection, but how does it work as a stand alone product? The set struck me as somewhat more balanced than the Nightfall core set. The base game sometimes had a draft where there was no easy way to deal with certain specific cards. In Martial Law you have a bit more flexibility, either building a tight deck of just a few cards, or a more diverse deck which doesn't chain as well, but which has a few more answers to your opponent's decisions.

I still have a complaint as to the game's style. As with the base set, I felt that many of these cards were thematic only with regards to the art on them and the names of some mechanics (e.g., "Feed"). Unfortunately, I have never played Nightfall and felt an immersive experience like I was in some sort of post-apocalyptic Gothic horror universe.

Martial Law does, however, deliver on the promise of a player-vs.-player deck building experience. I actually prefer Martial Law a bit over the original Nightfall set, and recommend it as a starting point for those interested in investigating this product line.


For Retailers
Typically expansions to games sell, almost by-definition, less well than the base game. I suggest getting an "alpha gamer" to demonstrate this product or maintaining a store copy of Martial Law for players to try out. This product is better than the core Nightfall set, and helping to sell this product may well move copies of the original game.


Lee's Ratings
Overall: B+
Rules: B
Appearance: B+ (A- for the art, but the layout was somewhat plain and lacked certain iconography that would have raised the score to an A)
Gameplay: B+ (for more than 2 players), B (for 2 players)
Components: B+
Packaging: A
Retailer Salability: B (or lower if Nightfall sold poorly for you)


Links
Nightfall: Martial Law rulebook
My review of Nightfall on OgreCave.Com



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