A Night To Remember – Nightfall: Martial Law review

The world is not a happy place in Nightfall. A permanent darkness covers the sky and terrible things are abroad. Gangs of… hang on.

Haven’t I said this before?

Ahhh, yes. Way back in May, I reviewed the original Nightfall, AEG’s take on the deck-building genre with the added thrill of confrontation. If you don’t fancy reading it (though you should, it’s a very good review if I say so myself) the upshot is that I really rather enjoyed it.

Martial Law is the first expansion for Nightfall but owning the original is not necessary. Although you can combine cards from both sets, Martial Law is perfectly functional as a standalone set (though mixing things up between the two will enhance the playing experience). The basic game is the same as before, with up to five players battling it out to see who will be the finest creature of the night.

By acquiring and playing combinations of Archive cards, Minions and Orders, you’ll be able to improve and streamline your deck while damaging your opponents. Each card has different coloured moon symbols in the top corner that signify how they can be placed in a chain. The leading player will play as many cards as they please (as long as the chain is kept legal) then others may add to it going clockwise around the table.

A small (but functioning!) chain - the large moon must follow be the same as one of the small moons on the previous card.

This chain of cards is then resolved in reverse, meaning that whoever played last will action their cards first. This, of course, means that it’s very easy for them to screw the other players over. It also means that it’s trickier for their opponents to trigger the effects of their own cards because they could well be cancelled out by the time it gets round to seeing what they actually do.

The main thrust of Nightfall is to attack your opponents. Unlike CCGs, you’re not really attacking their deck or a hero – you’re going for the player themselves. This isn’t a license to whack someone in the arm or over the head though. In reality, should your attacks get through, you force the opposition to take wound cards which gum up their deck and whoever has the least at the end of the game is the winner.

So, enough of the reminders… what new stuff does Martial Law bring to the party?

Plenty is the answer. As it’s a standalone set, there’s enough starter decks and Wound cards for five players to kick off the game as well as the splendid dividers than AEG now throw into their deck-builders. There’s twenty four brand new stacks of Archive cards (twelve each of Minions and Orders). There’s also two major differences to the original set: Feeding and a new type of Wound ability.

The minor one first: the new Wounds rule. Rather than in the original set where you could just get rid of them to get more cards, some now offer you the chance to beef up the damage caused by your minions. It adds a new level to the game, allowing for combinations of getting extra stuff into your hand then getting more power into your attacks.

The big addition is the brand new Feeding idea. This new mechanic only appears on Order cards but allows you to repeat the actions when a card appears in a chain. Each card that offers the Feed option can be played as normal when it appears in a chain but, should you wish to do so, you can then pay the cost to do that action again. In fact you can do it as many times as you please as long as you can afford to do so – particularly useful is you’ve got a powerful card in the chain that will hand out plenty of damage to your opponents!

A couple of examples of cards with Feed abilities. Discard something from your hand, repeat the action. Very nice!

The brand new Archive cards will be a great addition to anyone who’s played the original and is looking for some meatier attacks – the effects of the cards in the Martial Law box do seem to have a bit more complexity behind them. There’s a few more that stay in play until destroyed as well as new ways in which opponents can be attacked, but generally players will find that the rules are as straighforward as normal. As long as you’re sensible and concentrate – because hey, it always helps to think about what you’re actually doing – you’ll be grand.

The artwork is still great, even if it still feels like the target audience is strictly of the surly teen variety. Nightfall: Martial Law is as solid as ever and fans of the original will appreciate the addition of the new Archive cards. It’s a game where aggression is important but how you deal it out is even more so and the new set allows for greater strategies to crush your enemies before you.

The question is as always, if you have the original, should you pick up the expansion? I reckon that it’s worth it, yes. The cards included in Martial Law add a wealth of new options to your game and the addition of the two new mechanics will require a lot of thought to work them into your plans. If you’ve not got the original Nightfall, I’d actually suggest picking up Martial Law first, simply because the additional Feeding element adds a lot to the game. Of course, if you’ve got the funds, grab them both. It’s easily one of the best deck-builders out there if only for the huge level of interaction between players and with another expansion due soon (Blood Country, a true expansion that requires one of the first two releases in the series), Nightfall is here to stay.

Nightfall: Martial Law was published in 2011 by AEG and is available now for around £25-30. Designed by David Gregg, it plays with between two and five and takes about 30-45 minutes. Fully compatible with the original Nightfall, you can mix and match as you like in your bid to become the Lord (or Lady) of the Dark. Now, if only we could find the lightswitch…


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One response to “A Night To Remember – Nightfall: Martial Law review

  1. Pingback: Friday Rules! 30.09.11 | Rules of Play Cardiff

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