The Coldest Night is a co-operative game for between 1-4 players about trying to survive the coldest night of your lives. Seeking shelter, the players have started a fire to keep warm, but the supplies of burnable items is running low and the flames are beginning to die down. The fire is presented as a row of 3 cards, starting full, and at the end of each turn the card at the end burns out and is discarded, unless someone added to the fire causing a card to to be pushed off the end early, but no additional cards get removed keeping it at 3.
It’s an odd concept to play a game and feel that it isn’t designed to be won by the players, but here we are and I’ve got to say its lovely!
It’s Getting Chilly
Each turn players get two options to keep this fire going, the first of which is adding as many cards as you like to the fire row and redrawing one from the supply deck. This is the usual action but it isn’t easy. All the fuel cards have two numbers on the top, one for its heat value and one for its ash content. You need the fire to be hot enough to play the better cards, but then those same cards produce a lot of ash so too many makes it harder to play better cards, and here’s the real kicker…you can’t discuss what cards you have with the other players, just what state the fire needs to be in.
The second option is to ‘Scavenge’ where you take the top three cards from the supply deck and distribute them among all the players, you included. This is great, because if someone is saying “the fire has a lot of ash” or “I could do with it being hotter” then you can give them opposite cards so they have something they can play on their turn. But it comes with a great cost, you yourself cannot play a card this turn which causes the fire to dwindle. On top of that, you could accidentally draw one of the three ‘Fire Dwindles’ cards which automatically lessens the fire, keeping the number of cards at 3, but dealing a heavy hit to the heat of this flame. But that’s the least of your worries…
Whenever the fire row has only 2 cards in it, the current player gets frostbite and has to draw a frostbite card face up for all to see. These are the cards that start to mix up the game, adding extra issues for the players and giving other criteria for the state of the fire. You see, the frostbite cards are nasty, you never really want to draw one as they can make it harder to play good cards, stop you drawing cards altogether, or even remove that little bit of communication you had left by making you all play in silence. These cards can be removed by making the fire total a specific number, shown in a snowflake at the top, but that’s an extra level of difficulty the players really didn’t need right now!
Is This A Fun Game
The game is challenging, sure! To the point that, at the time of writing, I still haven’t managed to survive and i’ve played it about 5 times, with different friends and each time we’ve gotten close, but fallen to the cold in the last few turns. The cards left in our hands being too small to give enough heat and most of the players having severe cases of frostbite… but that’s exactly why I like this game.
The game itself is easy, play a few cards, keep the numbers at a level people like, try not to get frostbite. But trying to master it so you win consistently is a real skill, one that I feel I’m getting better at but still need some work. And because the box is small in size and takes up little real estate on the average table, it can be taken anywhere. In my 5 plays about 3 of them were at the pub with us sat getting slightly more worried that this will be the turn the cold takes us, all the while sat near a fire safely with a drink in hand.
If your a big fan of getting beaten by games, or really like this game but want to feel warmer but equally as helpless, I’d highly recommend “The Grizzled”. A very similar game but instead of keeping a fire alive your instead keeping soldiers alive in the First World War, gaining afflictions and reducing shell shock with lovely cups of tea. Its a little more cooperative, the art work is beautiful, and it comes in an even smaller box! Plus the characters you play as were real people, so the makers of it really did their research. Big fan, right here.
The artwork is brilliant, with all the cards giving a cool frosty feeling making you feel the coldness while you play and each card having artwork that, although similar on some cards, has been recoloured to give the feel of different items in a house. The player interaction is limited by the game (and can be limited further with frostbite…Brrrr) but I feel it encourages other ways of communicating between the players. Trying to get your point across to them instead of just telling them what you have, makes for interesting moments round the table.
I do have a couple of issues with the game however. Don’t get me wrong, The Coldest Night is a lovely little game, with a level of challenge that makes me and my friends want to keep trying it so we can beat it. But that does come with two issues in my mind, one being that it isn’t a game you could really start with. If you like playing games to beat them then this definitely isn’t for you, taking multiple games just to come close! And I definitely wouldn’t play this game with someone who is new to boardgames (Nothing like losing on your first try!)as the rule book is a little confusing and strangely designed as one long page rather than a book. The other worry is the lifespan of the game. When me and my friends eventually beat it I’m worried it might lose some of its charm, lose a bit of that challenge to give it a go. That being said, I will keep trying and hopefully that charm stays right where it is, sparkling like embers.