Nightfall

Published on April 10, 2012
By
Players:
2-5
Multiplayer:Yes, online and pass'n'play
AI:yes
Universal App:Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)
Purchase for iPhone:Use link below to purchase universal app
Purchase for iPad:
Nightfall
Price: $2.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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Nightfall1 500x375 Nightfall ipad screenshot

Nightfall represents the latest tradable card deck building game to come out for the iPad. On the balance of things I am not convinced this game will do as well as others for a number of reasons, but I am otherwise thoroughly impressed with the implementation. In Nightfall, the sun has set for an indeterminate amount of time and a permanent state of night has cast its pall across your happy little corner of the world. As a consequence, hordes of creatures of the nights have risen up to wage a battle of supremacy. These tropes are extremely familiar to anyone who has been around gaming circles for any amount of time.

Gameplay

Nightfall2 500x375 Nightfall ipad screenshot

The objective of the game is to be the player who is wounded the least when the game ends. At the start of the game a number of wound cards will be placed into a deck equal to [10 x players]. When this deck runs out, it triggers the last turn. There are three types of wounds you can get, burns, bites, and bleeds; ideally you’ll have as much of an even spread of wounds as possible.

The game occurs across three stages and a cleanup stage. There is the combat phase where all minions in play are thrown at your enemies, where they can defend or incur wounds. This is fairly straight forward, their’s a damage value, and a number of wounds an individual minion can take. Excess damage is incurred as wounds. There is a chain phase where you play a sequence of orders, which either summons a minion into play or performs an action with immediate effects. The chaining aspect of the game is its most original and unique, which I’ll explain in a moment. Then there is the claim phase, where you use acquired influence to ‘purchase’ cards out of either a larger common set of cards or a smaller private set.

Nightfall4 500x375 Nightfall ipad screenshot

Each card has one of six colours, which is indicated by the large moon in the top left corner, it will have one or two smaller moons adjacent to it which are the linking moons. Don’t worry too much about the terminology, it’s only relevant to chaining and becomes very intuitive very quickly. Rather than having summoning costs or similar rules, you can only play a card of a certain colour if the previous card played has a linking moon of the same colour. That is, a card with a large purple moon may then have a small grey and a small blue moon next to it. That card is purple, but any card with a large grey or a large blue moon can be played immediately afterwards.

Orders chain in this fashion, starting with the player whose turn it is, who may play as many cards as they can chain, followed by each subsequent player. They then resolve in reverse order, which is an interesting balancing mechanism.

The only other major aspect of this game is learning the individual rules of the cards, which may have chaining effects (they resolve during the chaining phase), in play effects (always in effect once in play), and sometimes a kicker effects (effects that are triggered if the moon colour shown matches the moon colour of the previous card).

For me, while I find this to be an interesting mechanic, in practice I find this to create a game that is far more dependent on luck than it is on strategy. As a player, I like to feel that it is my choices and my planning that has the greatest effect on the outcome of the game. In this game, I felt I was more a passenger making reactionary choices in a sequence of events, rather than being able to implement any coherent master plan. Effectively, there wasn’t much I could do at the beginning of the game that would prove more relevant towards the end of the game than the luck of the draw itself.

Nightfall3 500x375 Nightfall ipad screenshot

Implementation

It’s very clear from a casual glane at this game that a lot of talented development has gone into this port. The graphics, user interface, transitions, music, and tutorial are all very well done. I did find that I only kind of knew what I was doing having completed the tutorial though. I knew how to make the moves in isolation, but I had little to no comprehension of the strategies that go into player choices. Additionally, this is where I find the issue invoked above (balance of game more towards luck than strategy) is at its worst. What little player choice I have is very much about the text of the cards.

Nightfall5 500x375 Nightfall ipad screenshot

Unfortunately, I think the game is let down because this is not a game that translates well to the iPad. One of the downfalls I’ve noticed with card game implementation is that they encounter a critical threshold of presentable information. IPad games have consistently encountered the premium nature of space on the user interface and many have had to come up with clever ways to encapsulate that in one screen (Puerto Rico is a rather infamous example). In order for me to make informed choices, I found I had to go into each card in detail each turn as a means of assessing advantages and disadvantages. I found that this significantly slowed down the flow of the game. I would imagine that if this game is played physically, a lot of that information necessary is much more apparent at a glance and that would make my decision-making far more efficient.

Nightfall6 500x375 Nightfall ipad screenshot

This is what I think distinguishes card games from board games. In board games, you’re playing with pieces. Those pieces are symbols of abstract rules that need to be simple enough that can be captured in that sign. Cards, by the fact they have space for text, tend to depart from that simplicity and have a bunch of unique rules written on the text. Now this works when the cards are close to you and legible enough to take in quickly, but horrible when that text is shrunk down to fit on a screen (even if you can maximise them for reference). The few card games that I think have been successful on the iPad are those that have simple rules signified by those cards (Dominion, Bang, and to some extent Ascension). Nightfall doesn’t have that luxury because EVERY card is its own ruleset, rather than invoking a set of generic rules.

Verdict

7/10: great delivery, but problematic port.

Nightfall, 7.0 out of 10 based on 145 ratings

Review By: Angelus Morningstar

Completed a Masters of Jurisprudence at University of Sydney. I am an activist, dramaturge, and instigator of strange mind experiments. I’m a storyteller, and I mostly tell stories about people. These aren’t always stories you’ll find written down, they can be stories told over a coffee, told by firelight, told through art act and lifestyle. Of course, we all tell stories. We love our little fictions, lies and dreams – I just like to embellish a bit more than most. My current project of substantial size is called Eidolon. It can be found here: http://www.eidolon.me
Players:
2-5
Multiplayer:Yes, online and pass'n'play
AI:yes
Universal App:Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)
Purchase for iPhone:Use link below to purchase universal app
Purchase for iPad:
Nightfall
Price: $2.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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13 comments
Carlos Ascanio
Carlos Ascanio

Hello! Nightfall had a price drop, you can buy for 0,99$! Probably is a limited time offer.

Gamerboard
Gamerboard

Great game !!! For me better from Ascetion but need more Cards !!!

Dr. Professor Sir
Dr. Professor Sir

Haha thanks for the change. I didn't mean to come off as an ass, I submitted the comment before I could change it/add on to it. I didn't want new players being discouraged thinking it was something else. I love the tabletop game and the app! I think the game translates very well to i devices, excluding the tutorial which understandably leaves new players at a loss. In fact, I used the online FAQ many times for the tabletop version, and can't imagine some of the confusion new players must see. So while I don't agree with some of what you said, keep up the reviews on this great site!good work.

Gamer
Gamer

Yeah I also think calling it a Tradible Card Game is misleading. Me being one of those people who check this website to buy table top games implementation on iPad and I did buy many of the games reviewed here I wouldn't be pleased to realize that Nightfall is not really a collectible card game bur rather just a deck building game (like Dominion, Thunderstone and Ascension). But of course I already own a physical copy of Nightfall so I already know that. Also, I agree 100% with you on the so-so iPad implementation specially the idea of having to go back-and-forth toggling between my Hand and Deployed Creatures... that UI decision is a little annoying even though I got used to it by now.

Angelus Morningstar
Angelus Morningstar

Hi Bob, I am not going to deny I have a bias against chance, but that doesnt mean I want to eliminate it. Take Kingsburg, where there is a huge amount of chance. It is a game I thoroughly enjoy because there is always a sufficient amount of choices available that you can respond to that chance with strategy. For me the balance comes as to whether game success is more dependent on strategy than on chance. I like Dominion, which is a drafting game but Nightfall feels too dependent on the luck of the draw.

addoo
addoo

Agree with Swift, the "draft" start makes the game easier to control, easier to pick a strategy. Furthermore, it seems more important to be able to chain your cards than knowing exactly what each card does. Having great effects but not being able to play them makes the cards useless. I also agree with Bob: I recognized the cards after only a few games. The draft, the chaining and the additional phases with lots of interaction between players makes this quite different from Dominion. I do agree with Angelus though: the amount of information takes some getting used to, the different and fast changing views took me a while to understand... I didn't know the original board game but I play this on iPad all the time now.

Bob
Bob

While well-written, I don't agree with this review at all. It is the typical review these games tend to get from reviewers who want to eliminate chance as much as possible in the games they play. If you prefer games with as little chance as possible, then a game like Nightfall simply isn't it for you. The same goes for many other card games, I might add, and it sounds a bit unfair to compare Nightfall to Puerto Rico or other board games since it is a completely different genre (in which chance is often allowed more leeway). I also don't have the issue with the card rules the reviewer mentions. I've just played 5 games today and I have all the cards down fairly well, without having to look at the text anymore. The amount of cards are quite limited, which is a much bigger issue with the game in my opinion, than the issues mentioned by the review. Personally, I'd recommend this game quite a bit and I would rate it at the very least 8/10.

Gamerboard
Gamerboard

Fantastic game best deal with 3 and more players !!!

Swift
Swift

I had a similar problem with Nightfall for a while, but I will say that playing with the "advanced start", I think they call it, where you draft cards really helps. Since you end up with two carefully selected "private archives" that only you can buy from, it gives some definition to your strategy, and the potential for nice combos. If you can find two or three core cards that chain into each other in a loop (so a red that chains into a green that chains into a yellow that chains into red, for example), then buying lots of them, with a few more situational cards branching off from that core chain seems to be a very strong strategy.

Angelus Morningstar
Angelus Morningstar

Thanks for the correction, it is a fine distinction but probably an important one to card game afficionados. Also, a game store in Sydney, after hearing of my concerns about this game decided to donate to me a dmo set including martial law. That is pretty awesome.

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