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Subject: On the benefits of choosing to take an early Wound rss

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James Webb
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Introduction: Pain is weakness leaving the body.

You would be forgiven for assuming that Nightfall is ultimately a game about causing your opponent/s to take Wounds, but this is a misleading assumption. The win condition is very clear - the player with the fewest Wounds wins. Causing an opponent to take Wounds will hinder them, and run down the game clock, but it does not necessarily follow that it will help you to win the game. Nightfall is won not so much by causing Wounds to your opponent, but rather by preventing Wounds being caused to you. The 'Aggressive Wound Variant' mixes this up a bit, by indeed making the act of causing Wounds directly improve your game condition, but the principle remains true. Taking Wounds will lose you the game.

So why would I consider it a benefit to willingly take a Wound, or even Wounds? If you have ever lost a game by one Wound, you will know that this question is quite justified. In my defence, this article is really about timing. It's about the benefits of willingly taking a Wound or two in the early stages of the game.

Ignoring Enraged Wight's chain text, it can be very easy to prevent Wounds in the early stages of the game, especially in the Combat Phase. None of the starter cards can reasonably be labelled heavy hitters, not when they occupy the same world as Lone Wolf or Franz Orlock. Some of the softer options, such as Yuri or Charlotte can be blocked with impunity by Genesis One or another Yuri, provided it's your turn next. Throw in Bad Smoke and it really just looks like bad luck or poor play if you take a Wound from combat in the early stages of the game. You may choose not to block in order to keep a Minion alive for your own Combat Phase, but why would you not, for example, block a weak attack with Yuri as a default? Why would you choose to let an early attack through if you could avoid it?

I think that there are two strong reasons for willingly taking at least one Wound in the first couple of turns of the games, and here they are...

1) I ain't got time to bleed.

Most of the Wound cards coming your way will be the base Wound card - the one that lets you discard Wounds during your Cleanup Phase and draw replacement cards. The benefit of having a few Wounds in your deck is obvious. It allows you to cycle through your deck a lot quicker than Johnny No-Wounds. This is helpful at any stage of the game, but the benefit is very significant in the early game. Having a hand of six or seven cards is just better than having a hand of five cards, especially in the first few turns. The starting Minions are difficult to chain well, and having more of them in your hand increases your options and your chances of pulling both starting Minions of a particular colour. Most of the time, for example, it's better to have both Yuris in your hand when it comes to your turn.

Furthermore, having more cards in your hand directly translates to more discards and therefore more Influence. In the early stages of the game, having more Influence than your opponents can be a significant boon. You can start building your engine quicker and more efficiently and, of course, because you are cycling through your deck faster you will see your shiny new cards a turn ahead of your opponent/s. This is not to be sniffed at.

Of course, there are some cards that allow you to directly punish greedy deck-cyclers (e.g. Relentless Grinder), but the beauty of Nightfall is that you should never be caught out. You can see what cards are available and plan accordingly before your first turn.

In some cases, the cards you have in your private archives can also make an early Wound attractive. Maya Westermann, for example, or if the top card of the Wound deck is of a type that works specifically with the chain or feed text of one of your cards.

In short, having a Wound or two in your deck in the early stages of the game can be a good way of getting off the starting block a little quicker. However, if the first Wound on the deck is a Martial Law one, I would be more cautious.

2) Smoke and mirrors.

As I said in my opening paragraph, winning a game of Nightfall requires you to not take Wounds, or at least not take as many Wounds as your opponents. Some of the time you can stop the Wounds coming with your cards. Other times, you are entirely at the mercy of the decisions that your opponent makes. In other words, SY-COL-O-GEE, and taking an early Wound can be of great psychological benefit.

Of course, in a two-player game this is a moot point. Whatever your opponent has, it's coming your way. With three or more players, your opponents' perception of you is critical. Other players need to appear to be a greater threat than you, and being seen to take a Wound is a great way of sending the message that other players should be targeted before you. Furthermore, being seen to take the first Wound is of incalculable benefit. Everyone remembers it, and if they don't you can easily remind them (but don't be too obvious or whine. Nobody likes a whiner). The first person to take a Wound is clearly already behind, right? Therefore, I'm going to target the people who have not yet taken a Wound, or at least, I think they haven't taken a Wound. I can't quite remember - but that guy, that guy took the first Wound. He definitely has one.

I'd much rather take a Wound or two at the hands of Charlotte or Yuri, than be the first name on the list when my opponent is wondering who to hit with his Koi Jiang/Legion Ten/Pale Fury train of pain.

My first reason is fixed in the rules of the game - Wounds can let you draw more cards. This second reason is less static. It depends on your group, but this second reason can be even more powerful than the first if it allows you to exercise some influence over how you are perceived by your opponents. Ever won a three player game 13 and 11 to 3 simply because you took two Wounds in the first turn?

Conclusion: What could go wrong?

Although it's beneficial to have a few Wounds, there is definitely a tipping point. Just ask anyone who has been unable to block a double-figures attack. It's unlikely that taking a couple of extra Wounds in the early stages of the game is going to make much of a difference - a deck with thirteen Wounds in it isn't any easier to play than one with fifteen in it - but it mustn't be forgotten that Wounds can clog up your deck, and there's something unpleasant about drawing a Wound just when you only needed one more common card to complete your killer chain. On the whole, however, your are going to take Wounds in this game, and choosing to do it earlier can give you an unexpected advantage.

The psychological benefits of taking early Wounds is a lot more tenuous. It depends entirely on the group you play with. It works better if you play infrequently, or if your group has a high turnover. If you play often enough with the same people, however, they'll figure you out eventually and your skill in psychological operations will become a hindrance as everyone goes the-boy-who-cried-wolf crazy on you regardless of who's actually winning.

None the less, I believe there are solid strategic reasons for choosing to take an early Wound, and am interested in what others think.
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David Gregg
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revgiblet wrote:
Ever won a three player game 13 and 11 to 3 simply because you took two Wounds in the first turn?

Yep. This past weekend actually. Took a Big Ghost early on (let 3 wounds slip by) and was never hit again. Ended the 4 player game 18, 15, 8 and 1.

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Craig Groff-Folsom
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Great point about the benefit of an early Wound. I am still trying to teach my friends about the beauty of this game, so I spend a lot of time playing the iOS app with visible Wounds against four AI opponents. It is pretty obvious that players attack the one opponent with the fewest Wounds, which plays perfectly into the example of taking a McTeague or Charlotte early rather than being the last player without a Wound when someone gets a swing with Radinsky.

While the AI programming isn't a matter of psychology, that adds another level to the physical game when counting Wounds isn't a skill that many players use. My playgroup has really gotten into the political strategies of games like Risk Legacy, pleading for mercy after heavy casualties or trying to arrange some form of temporary truce. Unlike Risk, actual position in Nightfall is obscured due to the deckbuilding mechanic. A cursory glimpse at the board does not reveal exactly who has the advantage in orders, or the number of Wounds. Owning and cultivating an image of disadvantage is much like the old "Jedi mind trick" CCG strategies, and it's a level of the game that I don't think outsiders to the game realize until they've given it a chance.
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Kevin Gordon
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Great article. Another thing to think about (in the mid-game, especially) is what Wound effect is on the card. By mid-game I like having a Martial Law Wound in order to surprise other players with a more deadly attack than they were anticipating. Coldest War wounds can also be very helpful if your deck isn't perfectly synergized.

In the last game I played (four players) there were two guys who had very deadly decks. Mine was so-so and the other guy's was pretty bad. The only way I could deal ANY damage was using my ML wounds in order to sneak in some spill-over damage. Meanwhile, the two big dogs were dealing haymakers at each other. In the end, the guy with the crappy deck and myself tied for least wounds, and he won the tiebreaker. We had both taken wounds early and were able to talk ourselves out of being heavily attacked on a regular basis.
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