Choices, choices, choices, 29 of them to be exact. That is what Darkest Night gives you. 29 characters to choose from. Man, woman, elf, dwarf, it doesn’t matter. This game has a character for everyone all with their own perks and cards. We were excited to start this game! So after taking to much time choosing our characters, we set everything up. Unlike other games we have recently played, this game is cooperative. Even though we like to compete with each other very much, we started this passion because of cooperative board games. We were happy to make time for a cooperative game again.
How to Play.
For the set up, place the board in the middle of the table and place the clue and darkness tracker on the skull. Shuffle and place the events deck, quest deck, darkness deck, mystery deck and artifact nearby. Also place the blights, sparks and item counters close by in a pile. No matter with how many players you play, always choose four heroes total for every game. If you play with two players, each player can control two heroes for example. Divide the heroes in any way that works. Take the standee from the heroes and place them on the monastery. Then take the corresponding hero sheet and place a grace tracker and secrecy tracker on the default spaces and a take a turn tracker. Also take the corresponding hero deck, take the five cards with symbols in the top corners and choose your three starting cards for that hero. Power cards will give you certain advantages depending on the character. Shuffle the remaining cards and place them facedown next to your hero. Take the map cards you want to play with depending on the difficulty or diversity. The rulebook explains very well how to sort the map cards. Lastly, place the necromancer on the ruins and draw the top card from the map deck. Place a blight (enemy) on every location listed on the map card except for the monastery.
The game is played in rounds and not in a specific order. Any hero can take there turn in any order. The goal of the game is to defeat the Necromancer. In order to do this, you will have to gather resources, clues, find power cards and most importantly, gain a holy relic. Without a holy relic, you can’t defeat the necromancer. Each round has a few phases. At the start of your turn with your hero, see if the necromancer is present in the same location as your hero. If this is the case, the necromancer feels your presence and you lose one secrecy. If you don’t have any secrecy left, the necromancer catches you and will attack you instead of drawing an event card in the next phase. If you carry a holy relic you also lose one secrecy at the start of your turn. After the starting phase, draw an event (unless you are in the safe space of the monastery) and resolve it. Then you can perform one action with your hero. You can travel to an adjacent location (you gain one secrecy), you can hide and refresh your power cards and gain secrecy. You can also attack a blight (enemy) or the necromancer itself. To attack a blight, look at the number in the lower corner of the blight card. You have to roll a die higher then the power number from the card. If you have a skeleton with five for example, and you have a power card or item who gives you two extra dices to use in a fight. You only have to roll one 5 or six in order to defeat the skeleton. If you fail and gain a wound, you can prevent this with sacrificing a grace. If you don’t have grace left, your hero dies and you can choose a new one.
You can also search for items or clues. Each location on the map has a search difficulty number. In order to perform a successful search, roll at least one die with the same amount or higher then the search difficulty. For each successful roll, you can take a map card. The map card have all the locations on it with search rewards next to it. Choose one card, take your reward and discard the others. You can gain clues by searching, power cards and other useful items. If you have a power card in your possession that has an action on it, you can also use that in this phase. Meditating is also an option which gives you one spark. Sparks are very useful as you can spend a spark to give you one more dice on the next roll attempt. If you are at the monastery, you can also pray. To pray you can roll two dice, each dice with a result above three will give you one grace up to your default space. You may also refresh your power cards if you pray. Lastly you can retrieve a holy relic. The holy relics are scattered on four places around the map. To retrieve a holy relic, you have to spend ten clues you have found. You can gain clues by completing quests (given to you by events) or searching on the map. After you have performed your action, you can end your turn.
At the end of your turn, if there are any blights in your location with end-of-turn effects (noted on the reference sheet), you have to resolve them first. If a blight attacks you, you resolve the defense from that blight. This can have a number which you have to roll against, or you might have to skip a turn, or draw an event for example.
If all the heroes have taken their turns, the necromancer plots his moves. First he will increase the darkness (move the darkness tracker one space right). When there is to much darkness, you have to face consequences and draw a darkness card which will give the heroes disadvantages. Some quests can help you cast darkness out, giving you more time before you have to draw a darkness card. Then, if there are any quests in play, place one extra time marker on it. Completing quests can given you many rewards, but if you run out of time, you have to face the consequences. After that the necromancer will move. Roll one die and compare the result to the heroes secrecy. If the die roll is higher, the necromancer detects that hero and will move one space closer to that hero. If the die isn’t higher then any of the heroes secrecy, the game board will tell you where to go. Find the matching dice numbers on the board and move the necromancer accordingly. He will then spawn a blight. Draw a map card and look at the location from the necromancer, then add the matching blight. If there are already four blight in the same location, spawn it in the monastery instead. If there are four or more blights in the monastery, you will lose the game. After these steps have been taken by the necromancer, it’s the heroes turn again.
To win the game, you either have to kill the necromancer, or gather three holy relics and gather them at the monastery in order to perform a ritual and cast the darkness out. If you want to kill the necromancer, you need only one holy relic, but the more heroes carry one, the more chance you have to kill him. A holy relic adds one value to your dice roll, making a seven from a six for example. To kill the necromancer, you need to roll a seven, which means a six while carrying a holy relic. The necromancer is a selfish being and will always sacrifice a blight before himself, meaning if there are blights present at the location you fight the necromancer and win, you may choose a blight to destroy but the necromancer will flee. Work together and try to kill the blights to get a clean shot.
Playthrough of the game.
After finally receiving enough clues to gain a holy relic, we were ready to go after the necromancer. It wasn’t going to be easy. There were at least three blights in almost each area that we would have to deal with first. Our heroes had already had fierce battles and their grace was running low. But that didn’t stop us. Healing and gearing up as most as we could, we decided the exorcist carrying the holy relic was our best bet. His secrecy was already low, which automatically drew the necromancer to him, and he had a power card active that with a little luck made him fast travel to an adjacent location. That way, if the necromancer tried to escape, he could maybe go after him. After chasing him for a couple of turns and barely surviving the blights, the necromancer came to us. The exorcist went for the attack and with a lot of power cards and items finally rolled the attack we needed, defeating the necromancer. The darkness was finally cast out and peace lay once again upon the realm.
We were pretty lucky in this game because of good dice rolls, but this game is not easy and actually quite punishing. You need to plan your strategy well, because you have one action per hero. If you move to an adjacent location, that’s it. You need to wait a turn again. There is also a lot of things to remember, like if you move, you gain a secrecy. If you carry a holy grail, you lose a secrecy. Because of all those little things, there were some things we overlooked sometimes. But once you know and understand the game, it’s awesome. The tension is intense through the entire game and because of all the different map cards and events, you never know what you are going to face next. You can even choose what map deck you are going to create. Do you want a classic map deck, only blights with magic, or do you really want a challenge? It’s all possible because of a clever color sorting system on the map cards. There are also so many characters to choose from and each of them have completely different abilities. All of this together makes a great game with a lot of replayability.
Darkest Night is a great thematic strategy game where you have to work together to kill the necromancer. With a lot of completely different characters to choose from, many blights, events and items, this game brings a lot of variety and replayability. It plays really well with two people or with four. The theme of this game is well thought out and the art and components fit the game good. The only minus of Darkest Night is that sometimes there are so many small rules to remember. But of course this can be fixed by simple playing it more!