Nightfall fans, we hope you’ve been enjoying the previews so far for Dark Rages. This week’s article is a special Designer’s Diary by David Gregg on the design and work that went into this set. We hope you enjoy this insight into the design process!
Nightfall: Dark Rages was by far our best set yet in terms of initial balance. Roughly two-thirds of the original draft didn’t need any tweaks what-so-ever and of the other third, the majority only needed minor cost or stat changes. That doesn’t mean the set was without challenges however as we did have a couple of cards that gave us extreme trouble for quite a while.
“Sanctuary Five”, a special card in it’s own right as you’ve already read, completely broke the game as written in its original form. When it hit a private archive, that player became near untouchable. When it was in the commons, combat was almost always reduced to a stand-still. We really liked the core effect however, so we spent a few weeks and several iterations working on wording it just right. The final balanced version not only exiles itself after use, but also requires you to take on two wounds… the effect is that powerful. Even with the wounds, it’s still a card that I’d prefer to have on hand in a combat heavy game as it can still have a devastating impact on the game.
The other major headache to balance in this set just so happens to be my personal favorite card in all of Nightfall combined and one that I actually came up with while playtesting Nightfall: Blood Country, but just now had the mechanics well enough in place to create. What Should Not Be is exactly that: a monstrosity of a card that creates near limitless potential on the table. Originally the card would be activated and discarded like any other action, but this let the card cycle through the players’ decks too quickly, effectively reducing combat into a game of “who can make the biggest monster”. After slowing down the card via making it an attachment and increasing the cost to prevent it from flooding the table, the card reached a nice balance.
A lot of people might not realize this, but I frequent Board Game Geek and love interacting with the people there. I listen intently to the suggestions that get made toward Nightfall and often jot down ideas for use in later sets. One thing that wasn’t made very clear in the original rulebook is that the players themselves are who are leading these monsters. With players lacking a solid feeling of identity and the community also voicing the desire to create themed decks, we decided to create the avatar mechanic to give a face to the players.
Ideally we want the avatars to influence play-style without giving an unfair advantage over players who don’t want to use the avatars. The avatars are acquired through their own draft prior to the main draft to encourage players to choose avatars that best fit their personal tastes, but then the final choice of whether you’ll use an avatar or not happens after the main draft, as we don’t want to penalize a player all game long simply for preferring ghouls in a ghoul-less setup.
That’s it for our article this week! We’ll leave you with some more awesome artwork, and check in next week for more previews as the release of Nightfall: Dark Rages inches closer!