Pete Krause
United States
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So on Saturday I finally had time to fire up my new Nightfall app from Playdek and AEG. I have to say that going into this I was really excited because of how much I love Playdek's port of Ascension for the IOS and believe me (or ask my wife) I play it a lot. Now unlike when I started playing the Ascension app for the first time I had never played Nightfall before so along with getting used to the electronic format, I had to overcome the inevitable learning curve of playing the game for the first time. Fortunately there is a very handy rule book and great interactive tutorial built in to the app that helps, but falls just a little short of being complete, but will get you through.

Digging into the tutorial and the rulebook I searched for the story line of this game, but could not find it on this app (maybe something that can be added in an update). As a first time player of the game, I can only guess that you are supposed to be a vampire lord with control over your minions that you influence and your goal is to take down your opposing vampire lords for complete control over your domain and the lord with the least amount of damage wins. Aside from this, the tutorial starts by explaining the set up of the game and explains the turn phases. It does a really nice job of letting you interact with a pre-set game with notes that walks you through all of the phases of a turn and continues to do this several times to get you used to the turn flow. A fantastic part of this tutorial that I hadn’t seen before up until now was how it then let you finish the game that took place in the tutorial and let you fend for yourself (this was really easy because the AI inflicted damage on itself for an easy win for you). Now, to feel a little more comfortable with the gameplay and to try to see if I had missed something the first time around, I had to view both the tutorial and the rulebook for a second time and then a third time. Now this isn’t so bad because with my games on my shelf that have a little more complexity and several actions / phases per turn, I have to read and re-read rules over and over to internalize them.

Tabletop to Screen
Now where I had a hard time because I had never played the tabletop version was where the port from tabletop to screen had to leave some things off for efficiency. I guess in order for a game to fit the screen of an iPad or iPhone some things are going to have to change. The play area that is built into this app makes efficient use of the space by letting you toggle between the cards in your hand vs. which minions you have in play and also displays different cards in the main area depending on which phase of the game is currently taking place. The downfall of this for the first time player is that the wound cards and exile pile are not really seen in the playing area, and it took me a while to understand that adding cards from the wound deck was how you kept track of your damage total and that my starters (beginning 12 cards) disappeared from the game into an exile pile. The graphics of the play area change constantly throughout the game to let you know what phase the game is in, but I found it distracting and would prefer a solid background like a tabletop surface with maybe an icon or text to let you know the current phase.

Animation speed was a little bit of a problem at first especially since I hadn’t played this before. I would recommend at first going into options and turning the game speed and the animation speed to slow. Without playing the game in its physical form, combat and chaining attacks happen very fast so you just start seeing cards flying around without an explanation of what’s happening (this happens in Ascension too). Slowing the speed and animation down still leaves you without explanation of what is happening, but helps you understand the sequence and where the cards are going just a little bit more. I think that as I get to internalize the card’s powers a little better, this will start to make more sense just as it did in Ascension. Once you get to know the game, crank these options back up to fast.

Online Play
Oh... I am a newbie, so I’m not ready at the moment as I’m writing this to put my life on the line and play online, but this looks rich. You can select between a two or four player game and with game creation you can either draft cards or have a quick pick of cards by the AI (artificial intelligence). You can select friends to invite to play and best of all, you can set a game clock (similar to a chess clock), where you will have to forfeit the game if you are slacking and not paying attention, or if you have to pause because your favorite episode of Three’s Company is on.

All in all, Playdek and AEG have done a wonderful job of giving us something else to play rather than just Ascension or Food Fight on our iPads and iPhones. The app and online play will never be a replacement for real face-to-face social interaction that you get when playing a tabletop game, but can be a great filler in your free time throughout the week, or a great way to master the game when you are away from your gaming group. For $4.99 US this game is a value when you compare it to not thinking a thing about dropping $30-$40 on the tabletop version of games like this.
main menu
create offline game
double tap cards to view up close
Standard play area
play of an action card
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