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Conquering the night has never been so fun, challenging or dangerous!

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Ever since 2008 when the first deck-building game (DBG) hit the tables of gamers everywhere, some have longed for more: more theme, more conflict, more interaction, more control in their deck-building experience. Nightfall has delivered and lasted through three (and soon four) expansions including a popular iOS version. Let’s delve into the world of Vampires and Lycans to find out what makes this DBG different and addicting.


Before you avert your eyes and scream: “Back foul Deck-builder!” You will be surprised by some new innovative mechanics that Nightfall introduces to this increasingly crowded genre.

You win by being the “least wounded player” at the table, and if that sounds a bit nasty, well, it is. This whole game is a bloody affair and wounds are difficult to avoid. I mean, there are Vampires and Lycans running around… at night.

Players start with that familiar hand of low-power cards. These 12 cards are all “Minions” (i.e. baddies) and include each of the 4 basic types of Minion used in the game: Lycanthropes, Vampires, Ghouls, and Hunters. This is where the game raises an undead hand up from the crypt of ordinary, and rises into new territory of innovation – beginning with a very cool game setup.

Nightfall draft deck
There are 24 different card stacks included in the base game: 12 Minions and 12 Actions. It is how these cards are chosen each game that is unique. First, players are each dealt 4 cards from the 24-card “Draft Deck” (these are 24 duplicates of the actual cards used in the game and are only used in the game setup). Each player chooses one of the four cards and places it face down in front of them, passing the remaining cards to their left. Players again choose a second card from those passed, and place it in front of them and pass the cards again. (Hey, it’s a draft right?) These two cards chosen by each player are their own personal “Archive” and only the player that drafted them can purchase them during the game. Of the two remaining cards, each player chooses one and places it in the middle of the table. These cards are called “The Commons” and will be available for purchase by all players like most DBGs. Players ditch the remaining cards from the 4 original draft cards. Finally, cards are dealt from the remaining draft deck to fill in the commons area so that the total is 8.

So to recap, there are 8 cards available to purchase for all players in the The Commons area, and 2 cards in each players personal Archive that are only available to them. The game is setup! Hold on to your holy water! On to the gory game play.

Nightfall game in play

Four phases comprise the game turn: Combat, Chain, Claim, and Cleanup.

In the Combat Phase all of your minions rush out and must attack the other players. That’s right…all minions must attack every turn. Once they do, they may be blocked by your opponent’s minions (damaging or killing them) or even better, cause wounds to your opponents. Then all your minions are discarded after attacking. And, remember the weak 12 starting-hand minion cards? Once these attack, they are removed from the game, automatically culling them from your deck. If as a result of being attacked, a player is wounded they take a “Wound” card from the top of the Wound Deck and add it to their discard pile. Ouch!

The Chain Phase is a unique innovation in the game, based on several CCG mechanics from days of old. The acting player may now play a Minion or an Action card. (These are the two card types). Every card has a large colored moon in the upper left corner and one or two smaller colored moons just below it. If the player has a card in hand with a large moon that matches the color of either of the smaller moons on the card they just played, they may “chain” that card to the first. This can continue as long as that player has cards that may chain to the previously played cards.

Nightfall example chain
Now the mayhem begins! Each other player in turn can chain cards onto the acting players chain as long as they have cards that match the required color of the moons. Based on the cards your opponents have, you must be very judicious how and when you start a chain. After all players have played their cards to the chain, chain effects listed on the cards are resolved “last-in-first-out.” In addition, special “Kicker “ effects may take place. Once the Chain effect or Kicker is resolved, if the card is a Minion, it comes into play on the person’s side that played the card. Action cards have their effect, then are discarded.

In the Claim Phase the player uses “Influence” to purchase cards from the Common area or from their private Archive. The resource “influence” is not tangible. There are no cards representing it in the game. Each turn players receive 2 points of Influence and can discard cards from their hand to get 1 point per card discarded. Then, players use that Influence to claim (buy) as many cards (including duplicates) that your Influence allows and place them in their discard pile. Your army of minions of the night grows!

Finally, in the Cleanup Phase, the player may keep any cards in hand and must draw back up to 5 cards. If any Wound cards are in a player’s hand they may discard them to draw 2 cards for each. Any new Wound cards cannot be discarded.

Nightfall wound cards
The game ends when the last Wound card is drawn from the Wound deck. (The Wound Deck has 10 Wound cards for each player in the game) and the player with the least amount of wounds is declared the winner.

The key to Nightfall is confrontation and interaction. It has a deep strategy in the use of the Chain mechanic and the way in which card effects key off of one another. So, in the Claim phase, each card you purchase has a true strategic value in relation to the other cards you have acquired but also other players’ cards. You must build your deck well with a global view to win.

Nightfall is exciting to play and has an added level of tension as you witness the other players’ decks grow in intensity and their minions come streaming across the table to attack you! Other DBGs can feel a little like multiplayer solitaire when compared to Nightfall.


As with many of AEG’s games, the components are of top quality. The box is sturdy and has enough space to carry all expansions. The cards themselves shuffle well. The artwork is very high quality. Some of the images are a bit scary, but not too gory or bloody. Overall, the quality is excellent and beckons you to play!

Learning Curve

The Nightfall DBG is easy to learn and play. The in-game strategies are deep and take repeated play and lots of brain cells to master.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {no}
This is not a typical family game. The mechanics, artwork and subject matter don’t lend themselves to a fun “family” experience. Unless your last name is Cullen, Lucien, or a member of the Adams family.
Strategy Gamer {yes}
In Nightfall, not only card drawing and purchasing, but also drafting, chaining and attacking are all critical aspects of the strategy. There are several different card strategies that can manifest themselves in these different phases. It’s a challenge.
Casual Gamer {yes}
The game plays in 30-45 minutes and is easy to learn. Any casual player could sit right in and hold their own against the hordes of Vampires and Lycans. They will enjoy the fast and interactive game play.
Avid Gamer {yes}
Nightfall presents a cool thematic element, a fresh choice in a DBG and has some challenging strategy choices. Once played it begs to be played again. Avid gamers are playing this…avidly.
Power Gamer {no}
Games of Nightfall are fast and its one weak point is that the cool theme is only loosely tied to the mechanics. Power gamers might want more of an investment in character, plot and pantheon that builds a complex story line though game play.

Final Thoughts

Nightfall breaks new ground (and not in a Vampire sort of way). Simply put, these are the factors that make it a stand out in the DBG genre:

  1. Having the card pool drafted and having each player have their own unique pair of Archive cards to purchase expands the early game strategy, personalizes the game experience, and adds to the long-term replay value.
  2. Unlike other DBGs, during each turn all players may interact with each other. There is no down time. You are either being attacked, attacking or playing cards to a chain. No sitting and waiting.
  3. The resource for the game, Influence, is not on cards but cards can generate it. It’s intangible so it doesn’t take up valuable deck space.
  4. At the end of your turn, you keep the cards in your hand (if you didn’t discard them for Influence) allowing a multi-turn strategy that other DBGs (that require you to discard your entire hand) don’t permit.
  5. Wounds are added to your deck, and clog up the deck strategy but you can gain an end-of-turn benefit from them.
  6. The ability to “chain” cards adds another levels of strategic planning from the drafting of cards during setup to the choice in cards that a player purchases during the game. If your cards can chain well together, you have a viable base strategy, and other players will be attempting to undo that plan.

One final…final thought. Two early complaints about the game were that the early interaction of the cards was a bit stagnant and that the game needed more card variations. Regarding the first point, yes, in the first few turns, you do feel a bit of sameness as you utilize your starter deck of cards. Simple duplicate minions don’t make much sense in a thematic sense. But very quickly, as decks are built, the starting cards disappear; the game takes a huge turn and becomes very intense. Regarding the latter point: Nightfall comes alive with its expansions: Martial Law, Blood Country, Coldest War and coming soon Dark Rages. The additional cards and slight rule tweaks in these releases make an already excellent game even more amazing. We highly recommend experiencing this game with the expansions.

Nightfall is as compelling and addicting as a Vampiric stare, dangerous as a Lycan’s bite, and lingers in your mind like the touch of a Ghoul.

Disclaimer: received a complimentary review copy of this game

User Reviews (14)

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Dragon Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Legend of the Five Rings Fan
Phoenix Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
79 of 86 gamers found this helpful
“The best deck building game(in my opinion)”

Now I will say this up front, as many who have ready my reviews know, I love deck building games, and am quite good at them. I also love crunchy games(games where there is a lot to think about and a decent amount of number crunching to be done in the head). Of all of the deck building games I have played, Nightfall is the one that does it best for my kind of play style, and here is why:

1) The game starts with players ‘drafting’ cards that are to be played (in my playgroup we even draft from 8 cards to give the players more choice, when playing with more experienced people). Two of these cards go into a personal pool that is only for you and 2 into the center pool for all players, allowing for a good bit of mind play/planning before the game even starts.
2) The game is interactive in not only one, but three ways! Verbal negotiation for not being the target of attacks, comboing(mentioned a bit later) and combat itself.
3) Comboing is an amazing mechanic. Reverse execution of cards, and the balance of whos turn to play cards on and whether it is worth the risk to place cards in a certain situation, whether changing the combo color to something a player who is after you can/can’t take advantage of, etc. There is such a rich amount of game control here that it makes many games very different!
4) Wound mechanic, now this has gotten better with newer and newer versions of the game, but the fact that the wound mechanic essentially doubles the ‘wound’ section of your hand is a great comeback mechanic.

cons(because no game is without them sadly):
– Learning curve and grasping reverse execution combo mechanic is VERY difficult for some people especially if they are of a casual gamer mindset.If this is you or a good bit of your group, this game will lead to more frustration then fun, you have been warned! (i tried to teach it to some more casual friends, did not end will at all)
– You will sometimes end up in a situtation where what you drafted first, possibly second turn will have no viable combo. We found drafting the first two (personal pool) cards face down helps alivate people avoiding the draft of cards that combo with you on purpose and makes the game better for it, but it is still at times a problem
– Colour blind people(and friends) have EXTREME difficulty dealing with the moons. And in general the design of the cards is poor, easy to see symbols from across the table would benefit this game a LOT, a redesign ala Thunderstone advanced with new combo symbols, would be greatly appreciated in the future (even if it is just for the expansions)

Overall though amazing game, that if you enjoy deck building you should Definitely at least buy the base set of and play! 🙂

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I play orange
Miniature Painter
Veteran Grader
Intermediate Reviewer
78 of 85 gamers found this helpful
“Deeper than you think, since it's more a deck manager than deck builder.”

This game is a deck builder that gets right to the point. Most deck builders take a while to get going while you build up the deck, spend time cleaning it up before it gets to a point that it feels like its actually functioning.
This game is also not so much a deck-builder because well, you’re deck reaches a streamlined condition so fast, sometimes it feels like you didn’t really build a deck at at. It just quickly evolved from your starting minions to some more powerful ones.

This game is more of a deck manager. The depth of the this game comes more from understanding and anticipating your opponents rather than unlocking the synergies of the cards.

In traditional deck-builders, there is little player interaction and your decisions are really limited to how well you can break down the effectiveness of the cards you drew. Often times, there isn’t really any decision making just the hope that the right combo of cards were drawn from the decisions you made acquiring the cards.

Nightfall offers you a deeper decision making experience with the chaining mechanism. The first couple of games, you’ll be feeling like it really is nothing more than a matter of timing and card availability. After a few games, you start to appreciate that you need to manage your deck. Just because you can chain your whole hand, or get a particular kicker out, its not always the best move, because the cards in hand can be saved for your next draw. And because your deck streamlines down to decent size, it’s much easier to know what might be coming up and how best to manage future chaining.

What most appeals to me about this game, is how deep and brain burning this game can become. Most deck-builders, you’re really not concerned with what is in another persons deck. In Nightfall, you most certainly care and can strategize accordingly.

If you pay decent attention to what cards people are drafting and what starting minions have been exiled from their deck, you have a decent understanding of what their deck is designed or capable of. You can now make decisions according to this knowledge and for brain burner fans, this is massive treat when playing a deck-builder.

Nightfall offers a new experience and depth to gamers who want a deep interactive game play from a deck builder.

Some folks don’t like the chaining affect, which is fine. I don’t believe Nightfall is for everyone and many deck-builder fans prefer the more traditionaly pure experience of something like Dominion. But for gamers who want to play a deck-builder, with deep player interaction, extended management of their hand beyond just heir turn and a slight politicking aspect of choosing who to attack, then Nightfall deserves a serious try beyond a few games.

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Amateur Reviewer
72 of 79 gamers found this helpful
“InD20 Group Reviews Nightfall”

This is a game of drafting and combos that in all honest feels like they served me just potatoes. With the expansion came the meat. If you like a deck building game with great mechanics, then get this and the expansion.


1: I love the drafting mechanic. I have always been a huge fan of drafting in Magic and I think it is one of my favorite parts of this game.

2: Everyone is involved on each players turn. You don’t have a lot of time where you are just sitting there watching people take their turn.

3: The starting deck exiles itself. This will really help your deck building and drafting skills shine through, without having to worry as much about how am I going to get rid of all this junk!

4: It plays fast! The first game might take a while, but after that the games should be 45 minutes or less. You could even play a 2 player game in 10 minutes.

5: More wounds are not always a bad thing. The wounds you have will help you draw more cards during the clean up phase. As long as you don’t have too many this can be really helpful for setting up your next chain. Overall, it is just a nice way to help out the guy that has been wounded the most.

6: Kickers! It is pretty awesome when you can get 2, 3, or more kickers going off in your part of the chain alone. It is even more awesome when you can get a kicker from the chain that someone else had started leading into yours. It is possible though, that it is better to play without the kicker in certain instances. Just something you will have to watch for and figure out on your own when it happens.


1: You could do more harm than good if you are not paying close attention to what you are doing. You could easily end up destroying your minions or hurting yourself because of the order chain resolves. This is really just a con for new players. I would expect with practice, this would no longer be a problem.

2: This game won’t be for everyone. If you have people who are prone to whining because you targeted them in a game or that are not into games where you might get ganged up on if you are winning, this won’t be for them. What I would recommend for people like that is always taking the starting player spot when they sit to the right of you in Agricola, take all of their best routes in Ticket To Ride, and buy a power plant you don’t even need in Power Grid and then buy all of the coal(* you Tim).

3: Not enough card choices. This will easily be fixed with expansions. Since there is already one in the making this won’t be a con for long.

4: Two player games are very unforgiving. One big mistake and you probably just lost. Thankfully, the game goes by quick and you get another chance to redeem yourself.


1: To Chain or not to Chain, that is the question. Try to chain at optimal times whether it is your turn or not on your turn, just pay attention to when it will help you most to jump in.

2: Watch who has the least wounds. This will make it easier to know who is in the lead and who probably needs the next beating. You could just send a big attack to someone while he has no blockers and just take him out of the game right then and there, but that wouldn’t be very nice now would it.

3: Pay attention to the colors each player needs to start their chain. Failure to do this will result in possible surprises when they have more benefit from your turn than you did. Sometimes you can’t stop it from happening, just something good to keep in mind. In Closing Nightfall is a great deck building game that is completely unique from what is currently available. It is very addicting and I expect it to quickly become a staple in our gaming group. I highly recommend Nightfall to all fans of deck building games and beyond.

Larry Fettinger and the Ind20 gaming group approve this message.

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I'm a Player!
70 of 77 gamers found this helpful
“What goes bump in the night”

Let’s be honest – the market is flooded with deck building games. Its hard to not see all the different games coming out onto the market this day that involve a deck building concept. So, its becoming increasingly difficult to find a game that offers something unique. I can honestly say that Nightfall offers some very interesting mechanics.

Mechanically speaking, you start the game with a fixed deck. Each player starts with the same deck, so you can guess to a certain degree what the opponent COULD be playing at first. When you play cards, you start a chain. First you get a chance to play cards, then the opponent can play cards. The way this works is that you play a card, then you can play another card if its moon matches the color that the previous card creates. I know, that’s a bit hard to say – so let’s use an example. I play a werewolf that creates a yellow moon. The next card I play must cost a yellow moon to play. As you build your deck, you need to focus on how the cards can interact with one another to make the most out of the deck building process. Also you need to read the timing for the chain as well, as sometimes playing a card is not the best option for you – I’ve run into a few times where I hurt myself by playing certain cards at certain times. The game goes until all the WOUND cards are removed from the stack, with the player who has the most WOUND cards loosing.

I really like the idea of how you play cards using the chain system. It offers a lot of thinking because you need to time things right as well as how the synergy of the cards can best serve you. I also like how the game has a lot of teeth to it, no pun intended. It has a very aggressive feel to it and I can honestly say that it really does appeal to me – even if it may be a little too aggressive for some players. On the flip side, I feel that the game with just its base set is a bit limiting and the cards don’t always synergize as well as they should. I also think the game is a bit complex at first go, and it would take a few games for some players to get into the groove of the game.

Who would like this game? Well, card floppers for one. I think anybody who enjoys deck building games or who are coming from a CCG/TCG/LCG background they may enjoy this game. Its aggressive and in your face, and that’s what those kinds of games are built on. People who like an aggressive play style would enjoy the game, and people who enjoy a little more depth to their DBGs. Who would not enjoy it? Its a bit more aggressive, so players who don’t like confrontation in their game may shy away from it a bit. People who don’t like card games, and people who don’t like the dark goth-like theme of the game may not enjoy it either. I would definitely suggest trying this game as least once or two, it does provide a terrific game night I can honestly say.

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Gamer - Level 3
Critic - Level 2
68 of 75 gamers found this helpful
“This Game Bites (in a good way)”

This game is one that I want to play more of, just to figure out how all the mechanics of the game work. From Chaining, to getting the Kickers to err…kick in, to Feeding an effect, Nightfall has a lot going for it in terms of game play. The fact that the “clogging” cards (wounds) are actually useful in some way is very interesting from a design standpoint. The direct confrontation aspect will appeal to the MtG vets out there but may alienate some of the more Euro, multi-player solitaire types.

In terms of interface, however, AEG would have been better served by going with a colour / icon combination for the “moons” that tell you what links to what instead of only having colours. I play with people who are colour-blind and they have some difficulty with the cards.

I also do not really love the theme. And I like vampires and werewolves and things that go bump in the night. I’m just not fond of having many of the same-named cards being able to be summoned to fight on opposing forces simultaneously. There’s a bit of a disconnect for me, personally. I would rather be playing the humans, the werewolfs, OR the vampires…not all 3 at the same time. But maybe that’s just me.

P.S. Marshall Law added a lot of interesting things, so if you’re going to try Nightfall, you may wish to invest in Marshall Law instead / as well as it’s a bit of a deeper game from the get go. It’s what’s termed a “Stand Alone Expansion” – a game that can be added to a base game or be played by itself. Great concept.

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Critic - Level 2
68 of 75 gamers found this helpful
“ might be surprised at how much fun you have.”

This review was originally posted on

In the not too distant future, the Earth has been plunged into darkness. Supernatural creatures are rising to power in the eternal moonlight, and the human race is being hunted like game. Vampires, Werewolves, and Ghouls are locked in a mortal battle with the Human “Hunters” who dare to defend mankind. They all fight to claim the inky darkness of this changed world as their own… or so they think. Unknown to all, there are unseen hands pulling the strings from behind the curtain of darkness, making and breaking hidden alliances between both friend and enemy clans. In this land of Nightfall, you are the puppet master, and these creatures your unknowing minions.

Nightfall is a competitive Deck Building game created by first time game designer David Gregg, and published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). The Story of Nightfall’s publication is an interesting one, and a source of inspiration for aspiring game designers. Although Nightfall’s designer, David Gregg, had been a collectible card game player for most of his life, he had only recently discovered designer board games when he joined the popular gaming community in 2009. Inspired by his new found hobby, he began openly working on a game design that would merge the sensibilities of the CCG with some of the popular deck building mechanics found in modern designer games. The game design that was born out of this process was called Chainmaster, named for the unique card chaining mechanism Gregg had devised. Many game designs reach this point of development, and then fade into obscurity, but Gregg’s design was fated for a brush with serendipity; Todd Rowland, the Senior Brand Manager at AEG, had recently pinpointed the need for a competitive deck building game to fill a hole in the game market and AEG’s game catalog. Only a couple of weeks had passed before Rowland ran across the Chainmaster prototype while browsing online message boards. He was impressed by the design, and subsequently, AEG picked up the title for publishing. It’s through this collaboration that Gregg’s first design, Chainmaster, evolved and ultimately found its way to store shelves as the game Nightfall.

In Nightfall, players control a band of supernatural creatures, locked in battle against their opponents. The players compete to build, and utilize a deck of cards representing Vampires, Werewolves, Ghouls, and Humans. Cards are acquired during gameplay to dynamically form a private deck that the player draws from to unleash creatures and actions upon his opponents. Cards can be chained together to form powerful combos, but the cards that are played must be carefully chosen, as other players have the opportunity to add their own cards onto the chain, potentially changing the nature of the original combo entirely. Players use their minion cards to deal damage and block attacks, but any damage that isn’t blocked is issued to the receiving player in the form of wound cards. When all of the wound cards have found their way into the players’ decks, the game ends, and the player with the least amount of wound cards is the winner.


Cards – Being a card game, Nightfall consists almost entirely of cards. The illustrations on the cards are detailed and vibrant, and share the style of a high quality graphic novel. Even though the cards were illustrated by a handful of different artists, they maintain a consistent art style, delivering a pleasing and cohesive package. The illustrations really help to sell the theme, and make me genuinely curious about the stories behind the characters on the cards.

The graphic design of the cards is clean, looks nice, and is functional, but there are some areas that I think could have been improved. There is a lot of information that is communicated on every card, but during my first few plays, the lack of iconography made it difficult for some players to differentiate between the number values on the cards. Players would often try to use the influence cost of a card as the attack power, or vice versa. This confusion went away after a few plays, but the confusion could have been avoided entirely with some icons that better conveyed the purpose of each number. The chaining mechanism also relies heavily on recognizing and matching colors. These colors are presented as tinted moon icons. The moon icons are almost identical apart from the color, and in incandescent lighting, the yellow and white moons can be tricky to differentiate.

The cards themselves have a good quality and thickness. However, moving away from the linen textured cards in Thunderstone, AEG has chosen to use smooth paper stock for Nightfall. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but the back of the cards are almost solid black, so the cards collect noticeable smears and fingerprints when they are handled. Nightfall comes with a coupon for card sleeves, in the box and I would definitely suggest putting the cards in sleeves before playing.

Despite my criticism, when all is said and done, the cards are enjoyable to look at and play with. Most of the concerns about card layout go away after the first few plays, but it is worth mentioning, as it may be a barrier to entry for some.

The Box – It is rare that a game’s box is brought up when talking about components, but Nightfall’s box bears mentioning. Where many deck building games have struggled with the problem of organization, especially with multiple expansions, Nightfall offers an elegant solution. The Nightfall box is large, with a reinforced interior, and two compartments for cards. Custom printed dividers for each of the different card types are included to allow for easy organization and retrieval of the different cards. The cards in Nightfall take up a very small amount of the real estate in the box, with foam spacers taking up the rest of the space. As new expansions are released, spacers can be removed, and the new cards put in their place, allowing for multiple expansions to easily fit in the same box; if the size of the box is any indication, we can expect a lot of expansions in Nightfall’s future.


Popular media has seen a flood of vampire and werewolf related themes lately. This can elicit groans from some people when the word “Vampire” is even mentioned. However, the Vampires in Nightfall are more akin to the violent creatures at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s film From Dusk Till Dawn than the kind that would hang out in a high school cafeteria.

Nightfall paints the picture of an apocalyptic future that gives a nod to classic pulp horror; a time when contemporary literature and role playing games hadn’t painted werewolves and vampires as being dire enemies. This pulp horror connection can be found in the short stories that bookend the game’s instructions, and in the subtle nod to The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the gameplay examples.

What may be my only disappointment with the theme, is that it has the potential to paint a rich narrative, but doesn’t really deliver. The short stories in the manual are fun to read, as are the quotes sprinkled throughout. The illustrations on the cards are wonderful, and have such personality. But, all of those things only seem to hint at a deeper story that never materializes. If none of these things were included in the game, I’m not sure that I would even be mentioning the theme. Most other deck building games have a somewhat pasted on theme, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But, that tease of a deeper story in Nightfall really has me wondering who all of these characters are. In another game I might refer to a card as “The card that lets me deal one damage to a player”, but in Nightfall I see “Lilith Lawrence”, and wonder what her story is, and why she hangs all of those weapons on chains when shelving would be much more economical. There are several references to in the manual, presented as a site where the hunters post messages. The address is real, but it directs to the Nightfall product page. Perhaps AEG has secret plans for the site in the future. I would love to see an ARG style environment where more game fiction might be released.


Although components and theme add to the overall game experience, the meat of a game is in the gameplay, and this is where Nightfall really shines. It pulls from both the collectible card game and in-game deck building genres to produce a fun game that takes the best of both worlds, while leaving the chaff on the cutting room floor.

One of the biggest complaints about pure deck building games is the anticlimactic feeling of building a deck just for the sake of building a deck. The deck building concept was incubated in the CCG world, where building a deck was just a prelude, but using the deck to defeat your opponents was the main event. The deck building game Dominion pioneered the idea of turning deck construction into a game itself, where players would add to their decks as the game progressed, and whoever built the most efficient deck won the game. However, Dominion’s deck building was more about creating an economic engine than building an unstoppable force, unlike its CCG heritage.

Nightfall brings the direct conflict of the CCG back into the deck building genre. It distances itself from the bureaucracy and politics of medieval feudalism, and replaces it with the pure destructive nature of pulp horror. Nightfall is about action, direct conflict, and power. The creatures in Nightfall live and breathe combat; if they can attack another player, they will, and all you can hope to do is direct their rage. There is no economy, no trading, and no gold in Nightfall; if you want something, you take it by force. The currency of Nightfall is “influence”, which roughly translates to the amount of destructive power you are willing to throw at a problem.

Nightfall also addresses some of the perceived weaknesses of the CCG format; most notably, the tendency for money to buy success. The CCG market is built around the concept of random boosters – a small package with a random assortment of cards. CCG players collect cards, and build decks with these cards. They do not know what cards they will get when they purchase a booster, but more powerful cards are usually much rarer in distribution. This usually means that the player who has spent the most money on cards has a higher probability of success. Nightfall levels the playing field by including all of the cards needed to play in the game box. There are no booster packs to buy, or rare cards to unbalance the game. Some might protest that the variation in player decks is part of the fun in CCGs, and Nightfall has a response to this as well. At the beginning of the game, there is a draft in which players pass cards around the table, and select the cards that they will have exclusive access to. This adds a bit of variation and individuality to each player’s deck.


There are 2 main types of cards in Nightfall: Orders, and Wounds.

Orders are the cards that players build their decks with. Orders come in two flavors: action cards and creature cards. Creatures serve the purpose of attacking and blocking for the player, and stay active on the table until the player’s next turn. With Actions, however, the effect is more immediate, and lasts only until the end of the current turn.

Wound cards are put in a player’s deck when he is dealt damage. At the end of the game, the player with the least number of wound cards in his deck wins the game.

Throughout the game, players will be able to acquire order cards from various stacks on the table. These stacks are called “Archives”. There are eight archives, called “Common Archives”, that are available to all players. Each player also has two “Private Archives” that only he has access to.

Each archive is made up of seven identical copies of an order card, but there is an eighth card in each set with the word “Draft” printed across its face. These draft cards add an interesting level of depth to Nightfall, by turning the game setup into part of the game itself. At the start of the game, the draft cards are collected, and each player is given four of them. The player chooses a card from his draft packet that he wishes to include in his private archives, and passes the remaining cards to the next player.

This process continues until there are two cards left in each packet. Then, the player gets to make a very interesting decision. He gets to choose one card that will go into the common archives (which everyone will have access to) and one card that will be removed from the game entirely. If he chooses a card to put in the common archive, it is possible that his opponents will use it against him, but if he removes it from the game entirely, he denies himself the opportunity to utilize it for his own nefarious purposes. This adds a very strategic element to the game, as choices made here can affect the game in dramatic ways.

After the draft is completed, the remaining draft cards are randomly chosen to complete the common archives. Each draft card is replaced with it’s seven matching order cards, private archives are placed next to their owners, and common archives are placed in the middle of the table.

Each player is given an identical prebuilt deck of 12 creature cards, that he shuffles and places face down. He then draws five cards from this deck to form his starting hand.

A pile of wound cards is placed within reach of all the players, and the game proper is ready to begin.


The crux of Nightfall is in its concept of “Chaining”. When a player puts a card into play, it is called “starting a chain”. Each card has 3 moon shaped icons in its upper left corner, one large, and two small. Each moon icon is tinted with a color. The large icon represents the color of the card. The smaller icons determine which cards can be linked to that card. If the smaller icons are green and blue, then only a green or blue card can be linked to it. Adding cards to a chain is the only way to get them into play. If you play your cards right, you can create long chains that bring many actions into effect and lots of creatures onto the table to fight for you.

The cards in a chain don’t actually take effect until the chain is complete, at which point the cards in the chain are “resolved”. Chains are always resolved from the end first. This means that the last card that has been linked to the chain is the first to resolve, so planning the order of your cards can make a big difference in the effect that they produce. The last cards added to the chain often have the biggest effect. This is important to remember, because after you finish your chain, each other player has the opportunity to add to the end of your chain. This means that they can bring their creatures and actions into play on your turn BEFORE you do, often changing the effects that your cards have. The fact that other players’ cards can piggyback on top of yours, during your turn, really keeps the everyone on their toes.

Each player’s turn consists of four phases: Combat, Chain, Claim, and Cleanup.

Combat Phase – In your combat phase, any creatures you have on the table MUST attack. The amount of damage that a creature deals is represented by a red number in the upper right corner. You can choose which player each creature attacks, but each defending player determines which of their creatures block. A creature’s heath is represented by red lines on the edges of the card. When the creature takes damage, the card is rotated to reflect his current health. If a creature takes more damage than he has health, the remaining damage is applied to the defending player in the form of wound cards that go into his discard pile. When the attack phase is over, all attacking creatures, and creatures that have been defeated, go back into their owners’ discard pile. This means that once your attack phase is over, all of your creatures are removed from play, so it is very important to get new cards onto the play field, else you become a target for your opponents.

Chain phase – The second phase in play is the chain phase. This is the phase where you can start a chain to bring cards into the game. As described earlier, cards are chained together based on the colors of the moon icons they display. Each card has text on it that describes the card’s effect when it is resolved in a chain. There are two types of text: Chain text, and Kicker text. The instructions in the chain text are always followed when a card is resolved. Next to the kicker text, however, is another colored moon icon. If this kicker color matches the color of the card that is being linked to, then the kicker text is resolved as well as the normal chain text. As players get more familiar with the chaining in Nightfall, maximizing kickers becomes a large part of the strategy of the game.

Due to the terminology used in Nightfall, the card text can sometimes be a bit confusing for new players. The term “order” is used to refer to any card that is not a wound card, and the term “target” is used to describe the object that a player can chose to affect. So, when a player is able to chose any non-wound card to apply an effect to, it would be referred to in the card text as a “target order”. For example: The action card “Leave Me!” has the text “Chain: You choose the target(s) in target order’s text. Kicker: Resolve the text of that order twice”. Because the word “order” is a homonym with four distinct meanings, and can be used as both a noun and a verb (“I order you to heed my order.”, “order your cards in numerical order.”), reading the correct interpretation can take some practice. To add to the confusion, the word “target” can be different parts of speech as well. After a while it becomes second nature to understand that “order” is always used as a noun in the card text referring to an order card, and “target” is never used as a verb. Putting these keywords in bold text or italics, however, might have saved some frustration. There were players in my game group that were definitely turned off by the card text, even though they play Magic: The Gathering, a game that has similar issues with ambiguous text.

Claim phase – This is the phase where you “purchase” new cards, a process called “claiming” in Nightfall. The player starts his claim phase with 2 “influence points”. Any influence points that were earned due to card effects in the chain phase are added to this value, and the player may also discard any cards from his hand to gain one influence point per card. A player can claim as many order cards as he wishes, as long as he has the influence to pay for them. Claimed cards go directly into the discard pile. This may seem counter intuitive to players who have never played a deck building game before, but when the player’s deck runs out of cards, his discard pile will be shuffled, and the claimed cards in his discard pile will become available. Nightfall cycles through the deck much faster than most other deck building games, so it won’t take long before you see your claimed cards in your hand.

Cleanup phase – During your cleanup phase you replenish your hand by drawing cards to bring it back up to five. After you have drawn cards, you may use the effect of one wound card. In this first installment of Nightfall, all of the wound cards have an effect that lets you discard any wound cards in your hand, and draw twice the number of discarded cards into your hand. This creates a bit of a catch-up mechanic, allowing players with more wound cards to utilize more cards in their starting hand. In future expansions, wound cards with different effects are planned.


Nightfall is a lot of fun, it plays well in all of it’s player configurations from 2-5. For the two player game, a slightly different drafting process is suggested, and the game may not feel quite as dynamic as a 3+ player game, but it is still enjoyable. However, I would definitely strive to play Nightfall with at least 3 players, as it adds more decisions and strategy to the game.

The chaining mechanism is novel, and makes for some very interesting gameplay decisions. Some people may have trouble understanding the card layout, iconography, and text at first, but given a few plays most of those issues go away. The ability to play cards on your opponent’s turn, and bring minions into play in response to something in another player’s chain is a really creative design choice. It basically eradicates downtime when other players are taking their turn, and adds a bit of psychology to the game. You never know what another player has in their hand and how they might affect your chain.

Putting abilities on the wound cards was also inspired. It keeps all of the players competitive by giving a slight advantage to those with more wound cards. The use of wound cards instead of hit points also works to keep everyone involved in the game. There is no player elimination, so everyone can have fun until the game ends, and no one is stuck sulking in the corner because he was eliminated on the second hand.

Although I didn’t mention it in my gameplay description, there is another very creative aspect of Nightfall. All of the character cards in the player’s starting deck are removed from the game instead of discarded. This keeps the game moving much more quickly. In games like Dominion, the end game is often slowed down because players have a lot of low level cards that are no longer relevant clogging up their deck. Nightfall automatically solves this problem by creating a limited lifespan for those low level cards by design.

I think Nightfall is very successful in merging the CCG and the deck building genres, and at 30-45 minutes playing time, it’s the sort of game that can be played multiple times in a sitting. I hesitate to call it “filler”, because there is quite a lot of depth in the game, but that depth is found in layers. Someone can play Nightfall as a beginner, and enjoy the game, but as they become more familiar with the combination of cards, and the different kickers, a whole new level of card management opens up. Although I have only been playing the game for a couple of weeks, from what I have experienced, I think Nightfall has staying power, and that’s not even taking into account the expansions that are planned. In fact, the next expansion to Nightfall, Nightfall: Martial Law, has already been released, and introduces a new gameplay mechanism called “Feeding”.

If you like card games, CCGs, and deck building games, and you enjoy a directly competitive experience, then you should go out and pick up a copy of Nightfall. If you don’t like conflict in games or tend to avoid games that take a few plays before they really click, then I would recommend playing Nightfall before purchasing. But, I would definitely recommend giving it a try, it’s mechanics are unique and refined, and you might be surprised at how much fun you have.

For me, this game is a keeper, and I can’t wait to see how David Gregg and AEG evolve both the game, and the shadowy fiction of Nightfall.

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Amateur Reviewer
61 of 68 gamers found this helpful
“Probably the best deckbuilder”

Dominion is the granddaddy and offers tons of replayability, but I really think Nightfall gives it a run for its money. There is so much good here:

1) You draft. This is a great addition and adds a layer of intrigue to the game. When you draft the resource cards, you are choosing two piles that ONLY YOU can draft from, and you are also choosing one card pile to be removed from the game.

2) There is no downtime. Waiting for other players to complete their turns, especially in other deckbuilders, can be extremely annoying. In Nightfall the chain mechanic gives you something to do every single turn. Deciding when to play your chains is really important too! Playing cards at an inopportune time can really hurt. The last-in-first-out stack nature of the chain is really important, and will familiar to magic players.

3) You have constant interaction with other players. Kind of related to point number 2, but one of my biggest problems with deckbuilders in general is they feel like a group solitaire session. Yeah dominion has attack cards, and Ascension allows you to banish cards which can hamper plans, but overall you are kind of in a bubble. Not so here. You are constantly attacking other players with your minions, giving them wound cards. These wound cards determine who wins the game at the end (but unlike curse cards, a couple wounds can actually speed your deck up!).

4) Chaining is fun. It really is. Buying cards to facilitate creation of huge chains, chaining on someone else at just the right time to foil someone else’s plans…it’s a blast and it keeps you highly engaged.

A possibly significant con:
This game does play with serious political consequences. Since you are able to attack anyone, if you stir up some bad blood early on you can be ganged up on, and in a multiplayer game you won’t have much chance of winning. Since wounds are mixed into your deck there isn’t much of a visual indicator to tell who is winning, but there can be a pretty obvious feel for it. If you take your games too seriously / are a poor loser/ that sort of thing, it might cause some rage. Fair warning.

Definitely buy this game if you are into this style of game, and even if you aren’t a big fan of Dominion/other deckbuilders, there’s enough different here to give it a shot. I’ll say this, my group has dozens and dozens of hours on record with dominion and ascension, but when I bought this game, it was played by a rotating group of people for 12 hours straight, and people wanted to keep playing at the end of the session. I haven’t tried any of the expansions yet but i’ve heard great things. Definitely check this out.

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61 of 68 gamers found this helpful
“Deckbuilding with a bite!”

One of the main criticisms of deck building games, such as Dominion and Ascension, is that you’re not really playing against another human being but instead playing a game of multiplayer solitaire. Nightfall is a game that addressees that balance. It takes many of the deck building mechanics but turns the genre into a game of direct confrontation.

In the world of Nightfall the sun has disappeared and the humanity has been overrun by vampires, werewolves and ghouls. If you’ve played any of White Wolf’s World of Darkness roleplaying games or seen Kate Beckinsale’s shiny bottom in the Underworld films then you’ll be comfortable with the theme. You take control of human and supernatural minions as you attempt to cause as much damage to your opponents as possible. Damage comes in the form of wound cards that are added to your opponents’ deck; when the wound deck runs out the game ends and the player with the least wounds is the winner. Nightfall uses a typical deck building set-up with a twist; a selection of eight sets of cards that players can purchase using influence points are set-up in the centre of the table. This is referred to as the common archive. The twist is that players also have a two card private archive that only they can buy from.

Cards come in two separate forms; minions and orders. Each minion has an attack value (how much damage it does) and a health value. The health value is marked as a series of lines on the edge of the card. When a minion is wounded the card is rotated through 90° to represent how much damage is taken. It’s a simple but effective mechanic, the only issue being that a card’s abilities get easily forgotten when the card is upside down. At the beginning of your turn all of your minions in play have to attack and then they are discarded. There is no holding minions to block against other players, it’s all in and fully represents the savage nature of this game. Orders are instant effect cards that are played during a chain. These have a range of abilities such as drawing more cards and dealing direct damage to players or minions.

Nightfall’s most interesting mechanic is the chain. To put a card into play you start a chain, you can then continue adding cards as long as it continues the chain. Each card contains a large coloured moon and then one or two smaller coloured moons. The larger moon is the chained from colour and the smaller moons tell you what colour you can chain to. When you’ve finished your section of the chain then the chain then progresses to the next player. This continues until all players have either added to the chain or passed. The effects of the cards are then resolved in the reverse order. There is also the kicker effect an additional effect that occurs when a card is chained from a particular colour.

This chain mechanic is fundamental to your success in the game. The more cards you can chain the more minions you can get into play and the more orders you can trigger. If you can get a large number of minions in play just before it’s your turn or chain card after card of direct damage dealing you are going to cause significant damage to your opponents.

In Nightfall you’re going to be taking wounds pretty quickly but having them added to you deck isn’t as bad as you first think. Of course you need to have less wound than your opponents but at the end of each turn you can discard wound cards to draw more cards. This represents your supernatural being becoming more enraged with each wound you get and means that a few wounds in your deck can help your game.

Nightfall is a furious and bloodthirsty game. The mechanics mean that it’s very difficult to sit back and build up your defences. Instead you have to try and cause as much damage as quickly as possible. Careful selection of cards into your deck isn’t just about collecting the most powerful cards but also about creating the chains needed to play those powerful cards. The game plays between 2 and 5 players and scales pretty well. There are more aspects to juggle with more players as you’ll need to keep tabs on which of your opponents appears to have the least wounds and timing when to play your chains becomes important but the chance to play onto a chain on each player’s means that downtime is kept to a minimum.

Nightfall is a complicated game. There are a lot of rules and the first few games are a bit of a struggle just to learn those rules. It gets even more complicated when you consider that every card has its own effects and your starting minions act differently to minions available from the archives. Players then have to get their head around the chaining and kicking mechanic, an issue that isn’t helped by some colours looking the same under certain lighting conditions. Nightfall lacks the simplicity of Dominion but you shouldn’t be playing Nightfall if you want a deck builder. All the other games in this genre involve the collecting of some form of victory point card that then clog up your deck. Nightfall is more a confrontational card game with deck building elements; you don’t need to build your deck to win, you need to cause damage.

The theme of the undead punch up runs throughout the game. The artwork is good (though a little ropey in places) and the characters evoke the dark world in which they live. One place where the theme falls down a little is that each minion is a named individual; this means you could have two identical characters facing off against themselves.

In the past I have described Nightfall as a mad scientist’s attempt to create a hybrid of Dominion and Magic: The Gathering. That description suggests something cruder that what Nightfall actually is. Rather than a ham-fisted butchering of the various mechanics Nightfall is a delicate surgery of the best parts of both genres. The surgeon has carefully crafted a fast and furious confrontational game dripping with bloodthirsty theme.

The good
– Deck building mechanics build into a game with direct player confrontation
– Chaining mechanic means that card combinations are key
– Wound cards have a benefit
– Furious gameplay that forces you into the offensive.

The bad
– Complicated rules that will take a few games to bed in
– Theme isn’t quite fully realised with multiple players owning the same minion

Taken from my blog at

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Amateur Grader
94 of 106 gamers found this helpful
“Too complicated for its own good”

Like many people, I like Dominion but do wish that there was a bit more player interaction. I was excited to try Nightfall, but after playing it several times, I realized it just fell completely flat for me. While it fixes some issues with Dominion, in my opinion it introduces even more.

One of the core new mechanics that this game introduces is the color-chaining system, where the only way to play multiple cards on your own turn and on others’ turns is to chain the color of the card you want to play to one of the previous card’s chain colors. My main complaint (and the complaint of everyone I played with) is that this system felt more important than the card effects themselves. Rather than being able to formulate a strategy of card combos, the only important thing was to make sure the deck you built had good color synergy, so that you were able to put out cards on both your turn and others’ turns. We only cared about the card text as an afterthought.

In addition, the cards have “kickers”, which cause more powerful effects if you can chain them off a specific color. While this sounded like a fun mechanic, in practice all it did was add more complexity to the color system, but again, the actual ability of the kicker wasn’t as important as making sure that the colors match what fits your deck.

There are lots of other interesting mechanics that this game introduced, like the drafting of your own personal archive, and the negotiation/politicking when it comes to deciding who to attack. The catch-up mechanic of the wounds was also something I liked. I do see that there was a good game to be found here, but having to wrap my head around the seemingly arbitrary complexity of the color-chaining system completely overshadowed any fun I had doing everything else in the game.

If the color-chaining system had been simplified to something easier to understand and strategize around, I might have been able to recommend this game. And for those who have the time to really study all the cards and figure out the intricacies of the color system, I can see how people could really like it. But for me, with limited time and a desire to play a wide variety of games rather than just this one, the time I would need to invest in order to appreciate this game is more than I can spend.

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Reviewed My First Game
91 of 106 gamers found this helpful
“Leave Dominion behind”

Nightfall takes all of the elements that I love about the deck building genre and meshes them together with a great horror theme.

I had put this game off for a very long time, thinking it was simply Dominion: Twilight. Besides that, many gamers that had tried it seemed to find the game overly complicated.

Thankfully, I put these opinions of Nightfall aside and decided to form my own opinion, once the Martial Law expansion hit store shelves. Against what I had heard, I found the game very intuitive and the manual a quick read with great examples.

The Chainmaster mechanic that Nightfall is based on is a wonderful new way to get cards to the table in front of you.

This game is certainly not for the timid or for players that do not like direct conflict. The first part of each players turn finds themselves attacking or under attack from other players.

If you are a fan of deckbuilding games, are looking for a new twist on the genre, or you loved the theme of the 2003 film Underworld, give this game a fair shot with some like-minded gamers.

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Critic - Level 2
Amateur Reviewer
74 of 91 gamers found this helpful
“Deckbuilding with plenty of player interaction.”

We’ve really been enjoying Nightfall. Dominion never really clicked for us but this has been hitting the table a lot. The difference is in the amount of direct conflict in Nightfall. The chaining mechanic introduces a lot of tension as your opponents can play cards on your turn and you can play cards on theirs. Nothing beats dropping a killer combo on your opponents turn. The wound cards are really interesting especially with the new wound effect introduced in Martial Law. The player with the fewest wounds at the end of the game is the winner but the wound cards themselves can be played for different advantages when they come up in your hand. The wound effects can really help a player who is trailing to claw their way back to the top. My favorite of the current crop of deck building games.

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Spider Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
62 of 86 gamers found this helpful
“Highly Interactive Deckbuilding”

Nightfall is my go to deckbuilding game when I am looking for a highly interactive boardgame. Not only do you get to chain your cards off of other players but you send your minions to attack other players. There is a certain amount of risk management as you can choose to block opponents attacking minions which leaves you with less minions to attack back with. Unblocked minions deal damage in the form of wounds, which are the way the game ends, the player with the least wounds is the winner at the end of the game. The Wounds are not a total hinderance and provide additional effects to the players and can even provide them a way to get ahead in the game.

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Mantis Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
60 of 84 gamers found this helpful
“Deckbuilding game with lots of interaction”

This is more in depth deckbuilding game. It is a little hard to get used to at first but it is worth the early struggle.

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67 of 97 gamers found this helpful
“Dominion meets magic”

Now I’ve only played this game once so Im just giving my initial impression. Llike my title starts to indicat; if ya threw dominion and magic in a food processor you’d end up with something an awful lot like nightfall. The deck building is similar to dominion, but you must summon creatures to battle like Magic. Unlike magic the game is self contained so you don’t have to take out a housing loan to build a great deck. Basically if you like the aforementioned game mechanics from Magic and Dominion I predict that you will at least like this game, if not to totally love it.


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