Darkest Night has become one of my "desert island" games. I expected to enjoy the game when I first played it, as it had the hallmarks of many games that I enjoy, and I have grown ever more fond of it over time. It is fully cooperative, has a dark fantasy theme that is just different enough from the standard tropes to make it feel fresh, and it only gets better with the addition of each of its expansions. The only real complaint I've had about the game was the small size of the game and its components.
Darkest Night hits the dark fantasy theme perfectly. The art is great and the game might be the first I’ve ever played that I wish actually had a bigger footprint on the table.
Enter Darkest Night Second Edition. It has everything that makes Darkest Night so special, but on a bigger scale. The board is bigger. The components are bigger. Many of the cards are bigger, and it adds some neat tweaks to the rules that can help players who may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content to have a tighter, more focused experience, while simultaneously increasing replayability for Darkest Night veterans.
Note: All components shown are prototypes and do not necessarily reflect the final product.
Victory Point Games, who usually print their games in house, is taking to Kickstarter for the fourth time in order to give Darkest Night Second Edition the "premier" treatment. Instead of the charmingly sooty, if small, laser cut tokens and cardstock boards that VPG games are known for, Darkest Night Second Edition is going to follow in the footsteps of Dawn of the Zeds: Third Edition, and Nemo's War: Second Edition. These editions are printed over seas, with much higher quality components than their domestically printed versions.
Darkest Night Second Edition isn't simply a component upgrade though. A brand new mechanic revolving around Sparks is introduced in this edition. Sparks are "reserves of energy or willpower that can spur a hero to extraordinary efforts" and can be used to add extra dice, on a one die to one Spark basis, to any die roll the heroes make. Players gain Sparks using the new Meditate action. Action economy is always tight in Darkest Night, so choosing the proper time to Meditate to gain Sparks is crucial, but also necessary. The Necromancer has some dirty tricks that can hurt the heroes if they don't have Sparks in reserve, and taking a few actions to ensure that you have the ability to add dice to crucial rolls can mean the difference between success and failure. There are going to be new player skills on offer as well, and there are a number of them that require Sparks to be activated.
Both the core game and two expansions are on offer in the Kickstarter, which cover all of the content that was released in the first edition and its expansions, and with additional stretch goals potentially adding even more to the game, it can be overwhelming to play with everything all at once. Darkest Night Second Edition's map cards all have a Subdeck Key printed on the bottom showing some combination of six colored circles. The Subdeck Key is used in conjunction with a Map Subdeck table included in the rulebook. Each Map Subdeck tailors the Map deck in a certain way that gives the Necromancer access to various configurations of Blights. If you feel like fighting off swarms of undead monsters, you can use the Overrun Subdeck for example, whereas if you feel like playing against a more cerebral Necromancer who relies on magical effects rather than monsters, you can use the Spiritual Warfare Subdeck. This isn't just a good thing for newer players who may feel overwhelmed by the amount of content though. Each Subdeck gives the game a unique feel, and dramatically increase Darkest Night's already high replayability.
The first edition of Darkest Night is split into a core game, four main expansions, and a character expansion. Darkest Night Second Edition takes all of that content and splits it only three ways, between the core game box, and only two expansions, and changes up the distribution of content in the process. Quests, one of the best, and my personal favorite, additions across all of the first edition expansions, are included in the core game this time around, and the mix of characters has been tweaked. My personal favorite character, the Wayfarer, is in the core box and is joined by the Crusader, Druid, Rogue, Shaman, Channeler, Prince, Seer, and my wife's favorite, the Valkyrie.
The Secrets of the Past expansion is where you'll find the excellent Mystery Cards, and the Storm on the Horizon expansion is for players who really like a challenge, as it includes the dreaded Darkness Cards. Both expansions bolster the hero ranks by including 10 heroes each, as well as more Quest cards, Events, Map cards etc.
Ultimately, Darkest Night Second Edition is putting an awesome coat of paint on what is already one of my favorite board games. If you don't already have it, you should back this edition if you are at all a fan of cooperative board games. With some fun gameplay additions, and a few accessibility tweaks, Darkest Night has never been better, and with tarot-sized cards (which were included in the prototype copy; they are AWESOME) and plastic miniatures for the heroes as stretch goals, it is only going to get better as the funding level increases.
You can pledge for the Kickstarter here.
UPDATE: Victory Point Games has canceled the Kickstarter with plans to relaunch the week of 5/9/16, siting many suggestions from their backers and their fans about changes that could be made to improve the Kickstarter.
UPDATE #2: After taking a lot of input from their potential backers, and making numerous changes, Victory Point has re-launched the Kickstarter. You can find it here.
The prototype copy used for this preview of Darkest Night Second Edition was provided by Victory Point Games.