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Expansion Review – Nightfall: Eastern Skies

easternskiesI know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating – Nightfall is easily my favorite deck-building game. That’s saying something, because there are an awful lot of deck-building games out there, but I’ll stand by it. And the funny thing is, it’s a horribly flawed game. It’s just so damned fun that I don’t care. The iPad version is total crap and sucks every bit of fun out of the game, but the real-live card game is a blast.

I’m really good at Nightfall. I can buy just the right cards for just the right killer combinations that will destroy my foes and deal so much bloodletting pain that small children will run weeping through the streets. And I always lose – because I’m very good at the game.

The flaw is that when you’re playing Nightfall, you can target whoever you want. If there’s a guy at the table who is really good, you’ll probably target that guy. So that guy will have killer combinations that can destroy everyone, and wicked good defense cards that will absorb all the pain, but every other person at the table is gunning for that one guy and so he tends to lose a lot. Which is fine with me, because it’s sort of a badge of honor to be the scariest dude at the table. And the game is still fun, even if I lose. Note that this problem vanishes entirely if I play a two-player game, but I never do so it’s a moot point.

The latest release for Nightfall, Eastern Skies, is not helping me win any, primarily because the cards in this set are capable of producing some truly terrifying combinations. Eastern Skies introduces new starter cards, new card abilities, and new wounds that completely change the way I’m used to playing the game – but they change it into something much, much better.

Summoning is new for Eastern Skies, and it’s a thing where there’s a deck full ghouls. They are individually weak, but there are cards that can summon lots of them. My favorite is the card that links to itself, so you can play seven in a row, and each one gives you ghouls equal to the number of ghouls in your chain. I summoned 21 of them. It was awesome. I still lost, but it was awesome.

If you have a particularly potent buying strategy, the new wound cards will help immensely. I was able to buy up all those awesome summoning cards in four turns because my helpful opponents kept giving me those great wound cards. They give you extra buying power when you discard them – and so if you have been beaten to a pulp in the first three turns of the game, you will be able to buy an awful lot of cards all at once. Those cards you buy will make you even more intimidating, which means that you will lose the game, but you will have a blast doing it.

Of course, summoning and useful wounds are not the only new additions in Eastern Skies. We also have a totally new set of starter cards, which I love because I had pretty much memorized all the old ones. It used to be pretty easy to determine when you played what – if it was your turn, you lead with the green vampire, because nobody would follow since the ability was wasted if it wasn’t your turn. You got the yellow werewolf out early because he was a good shield. You held onto the blue chick because she would let you draw cards, which is more helpful if it happens when it’s not your turn.

But now, with a whole new starting lineup, you’ll have to reevaluate how they work. The monkey is weird because he is just a stand-in for an actual brawler, while the werewolf will pop in from your discard pile when your enemies least expect it. The zombie guy will swing right past blockers and the pirate dame is great for buying cards, provided you keep her around long enough to count. The new starter cards in Eastern Skies aren’t just a facelift. They’re going to take a few games to figure out the best timing for them.

Another new twist is the link ability. This gives your cards that chance to act as soon as you play them. You might be able to cancel an upcoming chain effect, thus neutering those really nasty cards. You might draw a couple more to replace the one you played (and if you have played Nightfall very often, you know how great that would be). Or you might just activate a particular ability twice, and double up the number of wounds that you manage to give to the guy who is really good, because you have not been counting cards and don’t realize that the quiet dude in the corner has not had one single wound handed to him, while the scary dude has a fifteen-card deck and twelve of them are wounds.

Of course, Eastern Skies introduces a lot more cards, and not all of them use summoning or linking. The rest just do… cool stuff. One guy gets stronger as he gets his ass beat. You’ve got a damage soaker, a semi-permanent guard, and actions that are just plain rotten to everyone who isn’t you. If you like Nightfall, it’s worth owning Eastern Skies just to add to your collection and have more options when you play. And since this ‘expansion’ comes with everything you need to play, you don’t actually have to get the earlier sets to use it – we played right out of the box, with none of the other Nightfall editions, and we had a blast.

Sure, I lost, but I had a blast.

Summary

Pros:
Lots and lots of new bad-ass cards that are super fun to exploit
Linking and summoning are two great new abilities
The new wounds are great if you like buying cards

Cons:
Still doesn’t fix the fact that the best player always loses

Coolstuff is sold out of Eastern Skies, but Cardhaus has a pretty good price on it:

EGG FOO VAMPIRE YOUNG

3 Responses to “Expansion Review – Nightfall: Eastern Skies”

  1. Chris Cisne says:

    How different does Nightfall feel in-person, compared to the app version?

    I really wanted to like the app but just found it got really dull, really quickly, and pulling off the same super-basic chain-combos seemed to be the only worthwhile strategy.

  2. Matt Drake says:

    In person, Nightfall is totally in your face, ultra-interactive, and competitive. In the app, it’s boring, lifeless and bland. In person, there’s trash-talking and laughter and a whole metagame where you try to persuade people to pick on someone else. In the app, the computer tells you the running wound totals and is an indecipherable mass of confusion.

    Short version: real game, awesome. App, suckwater.

  3. Chris Cisne says:

    Ah well, I’ll keep an eye out for it in person then – the idea of Dominion with violence still really appeals to me…

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