Publisher: Victory Point Games
Game Designer: Jeremy Lennert
Artwork: Clark Miller
Players: 1-4 (Cooperative)
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 150 minutes
Game Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Card Driven, Variable Player Powers
Parental Advisory: Safe for children
Darkest Night, Shiny Night
Victory Point Games is coming off of two very successful Kickstarter projects in the past year; first was an updated 3rd Edition of Dawn of the Zed’s followed by the spiffy Nemo’s War 2nd Edition soon after. Now, their sights are set on bringing a revamped and expanded Darkest Night 2nd Edition to Kickstarter with updated art, components and presentation while seeding in some new surprises, all to bring one of their all-time bestselling games to it’s greatest version ever.
By going the Kickstarter route, VPG continues their plan to expand from being just a print-on-demand publisher by stepping into the mainstream realm of the FLGS and opening their games to a much wider audience. It’s a smart and natural progression for them, especially with their evergreen titles and they’re doing it in style!
When I first spoke with Victory Point Games a while back about their plans for a Darkest Night Kickstarter I was excited at the thought of this game getting the update it deserves. For those not familiar with Darkest Night, this will be a great project to get behind while battle scarred veterans of the game will be thrilled with how the game has been made bigger, better and more epic than ever before.
Darkest Night has evolved over the years from the base game up through four expansions to build an enthralling fantasy game world that will satisfy any solitaire gamer’s need for adventure and the 2nd Edition pushes that boundary further, bringing to us the definitive Darkest Night experience.
I won’t rehash the gameplay as I’ve already covered the series extensively in previous reviews, instead I’ll preview the changes that the 2nd Edition Kickstarter brings to the table and what it means for newcomers to the series and veteran alike.
Everything in Darkest Night 2nd Edition has received a complete overhaul to make it a premium format game, from layout to presentation and it’s evident even in the beta that all of the component upgrades will be beautiful. A lot of effort went into upgrading the overall feel with gorgeous art and a big increase in the size of components, it looks really stunning!
The new art on the components is phenomenal and the map retains its layout but is now a much bigger 17” x 22” size and the Kickstarter product will be mounted, unlike the card stock beta. To go along with this, the character standees have all been increased in size as has the Necromancer whose standee is a gigantic and awesome sight. The only thing better would be some mini’s, hmm… well, we’ll come back to that later on.
The Map, Artifact and Event cards have all been revitalized and upgraded to tarot card size and this is helpful, especially with the Map cards as there is some important extra information on them that is completely new for the 2nd edition.
Now Map cards allow for a completely customized experience, similar in vein with the deck difficulty customization in Dawn of the Zed’s. Gamers can now select any or all of the Map subdecks from the main deck using a color coded system at the bottom of the cards to tailor the challenges to their liking.
By selecting different subdecks the map deck can be configured for games of varying lengths and difficulty which helps new players ease their way into the game, facing less challenging blights at first while taking a stepped approach to learning as they progress, which I think is a great development. While it may seem minor, it is a significant addition to help new players while experienced players will benefit by it too as they can now choose a smaller subdeck to squeeze in a quick game when time is short.
The Artifact and Event cards have an enhanced look but the odd thing I noticed with them was that a lot of that extra space was seemingly wasted. That bigger space should mean larger, easier to read text but instead they’ve actually used a narrower and slightly smaller font which has the opposite effect. Granted, this is just a beta so that can be easily fixed, but it should be noted because it would be a letdown if those bigger, beautiful cards weren’t utilized to their fullest extent.
The Quest and Darkness cards have been updated, with the biggest changes coming to the Quest cards, making them easier to follow at a glance. The fluff text has been moved to the bottom with the important effects and directions spelled out in the middle using a friendlier format.
Mystery cards have a new format, switching from portrait to landscape and it works like a dream. The mysteries read like pages from a book which not only looks cool but also make them easier to read and follow logically. Darkness and Mystery cards will be available in the two expansions for the project, more on that below.
The Hero mats have been left unchanged aside from some updated graphics and art, which is good because not much needed to be changed on them in my opinion. The Grace and Secrecy trackers are larger and while I like this, they can be a bit unwieldy because of their size and can get in their own way sometimes.
There are a total of 29 heroes in the game and each of them will be getting three extra power cards in the Kickstarter which will be met through stretch goals. These power cards will add new tactics and abilities while also touching on a new mechanic unique to the 2nd Edition, Sparks.
Sparks are an interesting new addition to Darkest Night, these tokens can be spent before any die roll to gain an extra die. Heroes can earn a maximum of three and you can expend up to all three of them for three extra dice in the same roll. This can be huge at the right time, like when you face off against the Necromancer and you NEED a greater chance to roll that six!
This makes Sparks a great help to new players especially, experienced players can choose not to use them if they feel it makes the game too easy but since they can’t be traded you can still allow less experienced players to use them in a cooperative game. I think this helps even the playing field in that regard, giving the newer player a slight handicap and you may appreciate them more when that newbie saves you from certain defeat.
Another big visual change comes for the Blights with their size now considerably increased and the result is they look gorgeous on the map. Even better, when you turn them over to see their effects and stats you don’t lose out on the art! One of the visual drawbacks to the previous design was their size, being smallish tokens there just wasn’t enough real estate to have both the necessary text and the art fit in the space. While it wasn’t game breaking in any way, it was a visual detractor which I’m pleased has been fixed.
Fans of the 1st Edition will really love how Victory Point Games consolidates all of the hero, blight and artifact information into a single new tome called the Compendium. Gone are the days of hunting through five different rule books to remember what each hero’s abilities are. Everything is now available in this really sharp book that makes for an interesting read even when not building a party to adventure into the kingdom.
What about all of those wonderful expansions that have been released over the years you may be asking? Well, the Quests from With An Inner Light have been rolled into the base game of the 2nd Edition along with a slightly different lineup of heroes. The Quests are a great inclusion to the base game as they add more hurdles for your heroes to overcome while they seek out the keys to unlock the Holy Relic and defeat the Necromancer. In essence, the base game from the Kickstarter is right on par content wise with The Necromancer bundle that was being sold up until 1st Edition was discontinued.
There are two expansions to add to the base game in the Kickstarter project, Secrets of the Past and Storm on the Horizon which add the Mystery and Darkness cards respectively and each comes with 10 heroes. While the base game itself will offer plenty of great play and challenges for many hours of adventuring fun, I can’t recommend adding these expansions enough because they bring into play two new important mechanics, the Darkness and Mystery cards. These mechanics dramatically change the game and are must haves in my opinion because they bring the full effect of the entire game system to bear in all of its terrible glory.
As if this whole project couldn’t get any better, Victory Point Games has pulled out all of the stops by adding miniatures for all heroes and the Necromancer to the base game! Stretch goals will provide both new Power and Event cards and additional miniatures for the heroes in the expansions.
Mini’s are always a huge hit with gamers and while they’re not necessary they do add immersion and increased value to the game, hence their popularity, aside from that they’re going to look damn cool on the board! The 3D sculpts I’ve seen are amazing, capturing the essence of the evocative art used for all of the heroes and the Necromancer.
Some may wonder if Darkest Night 2nd Edition is worth backing on Kickstarter, primarily those who already own the original set. Well, after playing it and really letting the new components, mechanics and powers sink in, I give it a resounding yes! Nothing beats playing an epic game, on an epic scale and these new updates and tweaks bring it to that level and make the game shine the brightest it ever has.
For those who wish to continue playing their 1st Edition copy, VPG has already said they will be offering a true-up kit, which will bring the original version up to date with the 2nd Edition. Not a lot of companies are willing to do this and I think it speaks volumes of the level of commitment Victory Point Games makes to their fans and to their products.
Fans of the original game will find the 2nd Edition a worthy and gorgeous update to a beloved game and thanks to the improved rule book design, the compendium for reference and the new subdeck process it is much easier to get it to the table now. The rulebook has been cleaned up, making it much easier to follow and offers up multiple variants to play at any player count and all of the hero powers are spelled out nicely in the Compendium, eliminating the need to juggle through different rule books and notes from BGG.
The drawback for some will be the price but seeing that the goal is to give the game a complete deluxe treatment with 10 miniatures included in the base game and potentially 20 more with stretch goals, a premium price is to be expected. I definitely believe the value of what Victory Point Games is proposing here to be worth it and Darkest Night very deserving of this ambitious overhaul, but it remains to be seen if backers will share that sentiment for the project.
In short, everything in the series has been combined and updated into a premium format that looks and plays as beautiful as we’ve always wanted it to be. New fans to the series will have a chance to finally get their hands on the entire game in one fell swoop at a great discount which is perfect since the 1st Edition ceased production on April 30th.
With the high-quality upgrades, retooling of the components, art, rule books, new Compendium, new mechanics and the addition of some outstanding miniatures, this is the Darkest Night game we’ve all been waiting for and another Victory Point Games Kickstarter project not to miss!
Company Website: http://www.victorypointgames.com/
Company Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VictoryPointGames
Company Twitter: www.twitter.com/vpgame
Company Google+: http://plus.google.com/113554911224127751312/about
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.
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