When I originally reached out to Victory Point Games to request a review copy of Darkest Night, I knew I was interested in the game, but I didn't really know that I would like it as much as I did. The cooperative gameplay, theme, and charming components were an immediate hit with my gaming group, and Darkest Night remains in our regular game-night rotation. Shortly after finishing my review of the base game I sought out and purchased the first three expansions that were available, feeling confident that I would be content with them even if they simply added "more of the same" to the game. While each does add more of what makes the game fun in the first place, together they turn the game into an interesting, modular, tweak-able experience that ends up being greater than the sum of its, already excellent, parts.
Expansion #1 – With An Inner Light
With An Inner Light adds four new characters to the game and contains one of my personal favorite additions to Darkest Night in the form of Quests. Quests are put in to play when called for by certain new Event cards. Each Quest has a flavorful description that describes what the Quest is about and lists a reward for successful completion, a penalty if the players don't complete it, the amount of time the players have to complete the Quest, and the tasks required in order to progress through the Quest.
Quests add a neat burst of storytelling to Darkest Night and give players thematic and interesting ways to acquire rewards that are normally simply acquired by searching at the game's various locations. The Quests also give the players more meaningful decisions to deal with as they must weigh the Quest reward against other potentially pressing issues and against the penalty faced if the Quest isn't completed on time. Players who wish to increase the challenge of the game and morph Quests from a fun option into an absolute necessity can play with the optional Pall of Suffering rule. The Pall of Suffering converts expired Quests into what essentially becomes a shield for the Necromancer, forcing players to place Quest completion at the top of their list of priorities. The flexibility and fun gained via the addition of Quests means that With An Inner Light is an excellent addition to Darkest Night.
With an Inner Light's other additions aren't as exciting as Quests but are still welcome additions. The first is a small one as it introduces a new type of item called the Charm, which can be used to allow any die roll to be re-rolled. While not nearly as interesting nor fun as Quests, they are still a neat little addition to the game. With an Inner Light also includes five new Artifacts cards, adding some welcome variety to the mix.
Expansion #2 – On Shifting Winds
On Shifting Winds is essentially a "more stuff" expansion. It doesn't really add anything to the game that significantly changes the way the game is played and instead adds 4 new heroes, 10 new Artifacts, 2 new items, new Event and Map cards, 2 new immediate effect search results and, most importantly, 8 new Blights.
On it's own, On Shifting Winds is the least exciting of the four expansions on offer. While the other expansions offer some way to vary the gameplay and change the course of the game significantly, On Shifting Winds just gives players more stuff to play with although the additions are still worthwhile, especially the new Blights. Some of the Blight effects are really nasty, such as the Decay Blight that nullifies the effect of all items, including Holy Relics. These new Blights are a welcome addition for players who felt that the base game was a little too easy or those who felt that the Necromancer should have even more dirty tricks up his sleeve.
While not game changing on its own, the additions are still welcome, especially when paired with the other expansions.
Expansion #3 – From The Abyss
Darkest Night's third expansion, From They Abyss, is tailor-made for those players who really want to increase the difficulty of the game and the nastiness of the Necromancer. From The Abyss adds 4 new heroes, 10 new Artifacts and 5 new Event cards, but the real selling point is the deck of 20 Darkness cards.
The Darkness cards replace the normal Darkness effects on the board and instead task the players with drawing a Darkness card when certain thresholds are reached on the Darkness track. At the Standard setting, the Darkness cards are drawn as each regular threshold is reached and the abilities of each is supposed to combine to roughly equal the same difficulty that players would face in a standard game. In practice, the Darkness cards generally tend to make the game much more difficult and tense and, when used in combination with the Pall of Suffering from With An Inner Light, things can go from bad to worse for the heroes very quickly.
For expert players or those who are feeling especially masochistic, From The Abyss offers additional levels of difficulty called Twilight and Midnight, although I have affectionately dubbed them "impossible" and "let's see how fast we can lose." They are nice options to have, though, for players who really appreciate a challenge or for those players who really want to see just how terrible things can get.
Expansion #4 – In Tales Of Old
In Tales Of Old is the most recent expansion for Darkest Night and adds 4 heroes as expected, 3 new items, 7 new Blights and a deck of game changing Mystery cards. The Mystery cards are In Tales Of Old's bread and butter and don't just add something new to the game but fundamentally change the way that the game is played by completely replacing the way that players acquire the game's Holy Relics.
In a standard game of Darkest Night, players simply needed to collect three Keys in order to unlock and take possession of one of the Holy Relics needed to combat and defeat the Necromancer. The Mystery cards completely replace the Key mechanic in the game. Instead of simply searching and finding a Key, players now uncover Mysteries that grant clues as to the whereabouts of the Holy Relics.
Players need to gain a total of 10 Clues in order to gain access to a Holy Relic but are never quite sure exactly how many Clues they will locate nor the steps they will need to take to gather more Clues as each Mystery is revealed. When discovered, these Mysteries will provide the players with some number of Clues and also list objectives that the players can complete in order to obtain further Clues.
Working through these objectives in an attempt to gather Clues is far more interesting than simply gathering three Keys and is much more engaging and thematic. When using Mystery cards, the story of Darkest Night morphs from a simple tale of heroes attempting to defeat the evil Necromancer into something with a much stronger emergent narrative, especially when paired with the Quests from With An Inner Light.
The bottom line: Each of the expansions for Darkest Night adds something special to the game and together they combine with the core content to morph it into a game that neatly sits near the top of my "desert island" games list. Darkest Night was already a favorite in my gaming group and the sheer volume of options presented with the addition of the expansions means that it's going to stay that way for a long time to come. If you enjoy Darkest Night at all there is a ton to love in these expansions, whether you are seeking added difficulty, deeper storytelling, alternate routes to victory, story enhancing Quests, more Blights to contend with, or simply a wider variety of characters to choose from.
All four expansions can be purchased directly from Victory Point Games here. For players who do not have the base game, the Necromancer Bundle is hands down the best way to get it as it includes the base game, With and Inner Light, On Shifting Winds and a Nymph character as well as a bigger box with room to accommodate all expansion content.
The copies of With and Inner Light, On Shifting Winds and From the Abyss used for this review were purchased by the reviewer. The copy of In Tales of Old used for this review was provided by Victory Point Games.
Each expansion for Darkest Night adds value to the game and together they are greater than the sum of their parts. Adding all four expansions to Darkest Night converts it from an excellent experience into a phenomenal one.