The changing face of evil in co-op tabletop game Darkest Night

Title The changing face of evil in co-op tabletop game Darkest Night
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Games
When August 13, 2013

Darkest Night is Victory Point Games' take on an Arkham Horror style co-op game. Each player gets a character with unique abilities. He moves around the map trying to hold back the tide of baddies and retrieve the relics needed to defeat the main baddie..

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Did the penguin come from a tabletop game based on March of the Penguins or Happy Feet???

Do not let his appearance fool you! There's death in those eyes.

"He moves around the map trying to holding [sic] back the tide"

The best playing piece in the history of boardgames is in the (wonderful) Lord of the Rings boardgame by Reiner Knizia (incidentally, the father of modern co-op games). I find the game's Sauron piece--which marches relentlessly toward you on the game's Corruption Track trying to gobble up your hobbit and remove you from the game--genuinely imposing. There's no picture that can adequately get it across, but check out this for some pics and instructions on how to replace its eye with a glowing red LED:

It's not huge or fancy in terms of today's boardgame production values. I think part of its power comes from the fact that it's relatively abstract.

I was so enamored of this playing piece that I worked out ways to put it into other games. I started with games that felt they could use a sense of dread and peril. "Chutes and Ladders with Sauron" turned out to be a fun and playable game. Never quite figured out how to work him into Candy Land, but I liked the idea of him corrupting the friendly candy people, turning Queen Frostine into his black-hearted puppet, for instance.

Anyway, it would work marvelously for your Necromancer if you've got the game and you're tired of your mortal foe crying ice cubes when he loses.

Oof. I remember that LotR boardgame. Nicely done, but so depressing. Dan Becker’s LED enhancement of the game piece is awesome, though!

"The cork must not protrude from the base of Sauron." !!

You know, if we are going to call American board games ameritrash, can we please call euro games eurotrash? It's only fair. :P Nice model BTW , we used something like that in a few WH40k games to represent some goblin monstrosity.

The term "ameritrash" is generally not about a game's country of origin, but the style and design tradition a game belongs to.

In addition, while the term "ameritrash" is used as a pejorative by some, others wear it like a badge of honor. While "eurotrash" is a perfectly good pejorative for euro-style games, many prefer to use "eurosnot" as it connects more directly with the implied "sense of superiority" some people display when dismissing games as ameritrash.

See also:

While not a perfect comparison, the ameritrash vs. eurotrash/snot discussion is somewhat similar to the nintendo/xbox/playstation fanboy or PC vs. consoles-wars in that there are some interesting discussions, but usually it's just pointless :)

I hope that penguin is called Gunter.

I'm curious whether you or others can recommend Darkest Night ... Highly? Moderately? Somewhat? Meh? It sure looks cool. And for the Necromancer replacement, I've got a great "Googar" piece I can use (my son's name for the green, 3-eyed aliens from Toy Story ... Oooohhh!)

Are all the hero pieces in this game males? I'm always on the lookout for engaging co-op games for our group but not if the two women present have to play as boys.

Personally I would give it a moderate recommendation...with the caveat that there is a small expansion that was just released that I haven't tried yet.

I've not won any of the 3 games so far, but I've only played solo. I need to try it with a group at some point. The only issue I have with it is something that Tom mentions in his article on the game: it's kind of bland. The artwork is top notch but the flavor suffers from a lack of any real attempt to create a narrative via the cards...something that similar games like Arkham Horror excel at.

But in spite of that, I really do enjoy it and I'm hoping that the expansions add more flavor as time goes by.

So, can you highly recommend Arkham Horror? Or others in this same vein?
I've played Pandemic, for instance, and found it Meh because I've always played with a "Game Guru" who essentially told everyone else what they ought to do.

Nope, there's a few. I can't remember offhand how many out of the 9 you get, but at least two...probably more.

Alpha gamers who take over in coop games are going to exist no matter what. Games like Sentinels of the Multiverse and Darkest Night help to alleviate that aspect though by giving each user their own decks that they can choose NOT to show others...although you're then working around the alpha gamer at that point. Not the most ideal solution.

As for Arkham Horror, it's a great, great game. Unfortunately, the set up and break down for the game can be a beast. Especially after you start adding in any of the 1276 expansions FFG has released for it.

Still, it's a great way to spend an evening with friends if the preparation doesn't deter you.

I believe there are three chicks. One of the characters, the acolyte, is even totally evil and can screw up the game for everyone else. One advantage Darkest Night has over Arkham Horror is how completely unique each of the characters feels. A game with a prince, a knight, a wizard, and a druid is going to feel very different from a game with a prince, a knight, a priest, and a rogue.

I also have only played it solo, but I intend to press my gaming group into service this week. Stand by for a review in the near future. My initial inclination is that it will have the same problem I have with most co-op, mentioned by a few others in these comments. Namely, you might as well have an alpha player tell everyone what to do. I hate that.

But assuming you can get around that dynamic, I suspect it's a really good game. I don't mind the lack of theming hepcat is talking about. I even disagree a bit with his point. The theming isn't text-based, like in Arkham Horror. But it's in evidence with the pieces and their effects on gameplay. For instance, different blights (monsters and debuffs) are more likely in certain places. You'll find spies in the city and monsters in the swamp. For loot, you train in the castle and you search for treasures in the forest. And the unique characters. The prince is a big sissy who's constantly getting chased down by the necromancer. I can't imagine a game without the knight to clobber things. Who excels with a priest in tow! The druid's animal forms let him flit around like a lone wolf (sometimes literally). The wizard hits hard but needs a, uh, refractory period. I feel there's plenty of theming, but it's driven by mechanics rather than text.

I think that game has just such beautiful art and presentation overall...thankfully, it was not influenced at all by the movies, as it might have been had it been released later. (nothing against the movies, I prefer the original art in the game.)

The game boards are just lovely. I take them out sometimes just to look them over. I think it's a pretty good co-op game, too.

Also the rulebook is terrible.

I love Arkham but it has some flaws, like being long (some would say too long, I would not), fairly random (though player skill can make a real difference), the aforementioned terrible rulebook, the expansions diluting each other if used in bulk, etc.

More general coop recommendations I would make:
Ghost Stories - really hard but very flavorful and fairly straightforward mechanically.
Sentinels of the Multiverse - super thematic, very little setup/teardown time, huge variety and moderate depth.
Space Alert - real-time, so quarterbacking is basically impossible, super tense, nerve wracking even. Also quite challenging and looks to have moderate depth despite mechanics that are pretty simple if difficult to master given the time constraints and constant activity.

Personally my recommended solution to "alpha gamers" taking over the whole game is not playing coop games with that particular person - no reason to let one person spoil the whole group's fun - but I realize that may not be desirable or in some cases practical.