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That ridiculous witch and her decrepit camera, what harm could come from taking a picture? Had I never looked at that cursed lens none of this would have happened. In a flash I saw where I was going to die and what would kill me, my nightmares have become real.
As I journey through the warped landscape, unable to stir from the dream, it becomes clear, my only hope of waking up is to ensure that no other dreamer survives this Nightmare!
HeroCard Nightmare is two games in one. The first is the basic HeroCard engine, a card-dueling game. The second is a game of deadly deduction that uses HeroCard to resolve conflicts within the game.
TableStar continues to put out games that are compatible with their HeroCard system. I like the combat system that forms the core of each of these games and enjoy it most when it is combined with a strategic game with a bit of minor complexity. HeroCard: Nightmare (TableStar Games, 2007 – Nico Carroll) has a completely different look from the other games in the series, as it is a dark game with a nightmare theme. It's the first game to come ready-to-play with four characters and has a modular hexagonal board.
It's really hard for me to quantify exactly how I feel about Nightmare. The actual game mechanics are that of a deduction game mixed with combat. This works well - the game is probably the best designed game of the series so far - and it really does a great job at presenting a tense feeling; as players move through dreams, attempting to be the only player that survives. This is wonderful; but the artwork, which is done in a very foreboding photographical way, really isn't my style. The game comes across as too dark; and while we can use humor to belay that, I just have a hard time getting folks to play this version. Folks who like ghoulish themes will be absolutely thrilled, though - the game is aptly named!
Before I talk about the game, let me explain the HeroCard engine. Each player takes a deck of cards to represent their character. Interestingly, players can use decks from the other games (i.e. I can use a Shogun deck in the Nightmare game); and other than some theme clashing, they work fairly well. Three Attribute cards are included with each deck to represent the player's Body, Mind, and Attribute "X". These cards have a number on them that ranges from "3" to "10", showing the character's strength in those skills. The rest of the cards in a deck are "Action" cards and are associated with one of the three types of skills. Cards are Fast (play whenever you want); Restricted (play on your own turn); and Exclusive (play on your turn - limit of one). Players arrange their attribute cards on the table. In a duel, a player has four phases. They first discard as many cards as they want to from their hand, then draw up to three more - not exceeding seven. After this, players "clear" up to three cards that they've played on the table, placing them in their discard pile. At this point, the player takes their one exclusive action and as many restricted actions as they can.
Most exclusive actions are attacks. The player must play one "Base" attack card and as many attack modifiers as they wish. However, each card played has a cost in one of the three attribute types. As a player plays a card, they place it on the table, where it stays until cleared. The total cost of all cards on the table cannot exceed the number of the attribute. Therefore, players who play many cards have fewer options available to them on turns. The player being attacked then may play one "Base" block and as many Block modifiers as they have room for, still making sure they stay within their attribute limits. Both players may continue to add modifiers, until they have no more or decide to play no more. If the attacker's total is higher, then they "hit" the opponent; otherwise, play passes to the next player.
The complete game adds a bit more. Each player chooses their nightmare "hero" and then each player is dealt one of seven death scene cards (joy!) and one killer card (out of five). This is the killer and scene that will finish off the player, and they are kept secret from the other players. Seven scene tiles are placed by the players in some manner, so that they are connected. The five killer figures are then placed on different tiles, and then the "dreamer" piece on one of the empty tiles. One player is chosen to go first, and play proceeds clockwise.
On a player's turn, they will follow the normal HeroCard rules, but they also can perform three moves. They may move the dreamer figure, one of the killers, or even move one of the scene tiles to a new spot (although following a few placement rules). Players are attempting to move the dreamer to a scene and/or with a killer that will hurt another player. Players perform an attack to "scare" other players. If the attack succeeds, any player that is scared of the killer and/or scene must discard their hand and redraw, alerting the other players as to whether they are scared or not. If no one is scared, the killer and/or scene tile is removed from the game, moving the dreamer figure to a new spot.
Once a player has figured out the combo to kill another player, they must move the dreamer to the scene along with the killer and announce a kill attack on that player. Players have a duel; and if the defender loses, and the combo matches the cards they have, they are out of the game. If they defend successfully, they can either draw three cards or "clear" three cards. This only applies when three or four players are in the game; when only two players are left, no one gets relief. When a player is eliminated, their scene and killer is also. The game continues until only one player is left alive, at which point they win the game!
Some comments on the game...
So who to recommend this to? I'm not a big fan of it myself, but I must stress that this is ONLY because I don't enjoy the artwork. The game itself is one of light deduction and combat; and while the theme of the dream and monsters works, it's still too much of a clash for me. If this doesn't bother you (and I would recommend going to www.boardgamegeek.com for pictures of the game to find out for yourself), then this is a contender for the best game in the series so far. It's more board game than HeroCard Duels, and that may not be a bad thing.
"Real men play board games"