Birmingham 2099, crime is rampant, the streets are filled with violence, technology has developed to an unprecedented level, society is crumbling and people are desperate, you will do whatever you can to escape, you are a Nightlancer.
Nightlancer is a 2-4 player competitive board game with a play time of 2-3 hours. It offers a mix of worker placement, character customisation, push your luck and take that gameplay. As a Nightlancer, players will navigate the crumbling underworld gathering contacts, grabbing opportunities, trading on the black market and taking on missions to earn money. Players can invest in training, exploit opportunities and buy equipment to build up their prospects.
Throughout the game players must hold on to their Ideals, as without Ideals players can’t win the game. On top of this players must control their Heat level. If a player gains too much Heat they must Lay Low and are not able undertake a mission for fear of attracting too much unwanted attention.
There are several unique Nightlancer characters in the game that all come with different starting cards and attributes. The attributes consist of Covert, Streetwise, Technical, Melee, Gunsmith and Marksmen and it is these attributes that are used when facing challenges during missions and events. The attributes of a character match the type of character, so the assassin has a higher Covert attribute than the Weapon Smith, whilst the Weapon Smith has a higher Gunsmith attribute than the Assassin. The attributes can be increased with various weapons, skill upgrades and technologies as players progress through the game and offer a lot of character customisation to the game.
There are three main decks of cards in the game (Black Market, Opportunities and Contacts). Black Market cards are a mix of weapons, gear, armour, cybernetics and single use items such as explosives.
The opportunity cards can give a Nightlancer extra training to increase their skills or an agenda to advance on the Prospects track. Some opportunity cards also increase a player’s ideals.
The Contact Cards can give a Nightlancer a temporary boost to attributes when completing challenges, or reduce attributes if played on other players during their challenge. There are also some game changing actions offered by these cards such as extra opportunities, swapping turn order and making other players increase their Heat Level.
There are also Event Cards and Mission cards. The event cards act as the round marker for the game and set the available missions and events that will be faced. The mission cards are missions that are available for a Nightlancer to attempt to gain extra chips, prospects or opportunities and have multiple challenges to complete. Some of these missions are “Dirty” and will make you lose an Ideal so careful mission selection is a must and a balance between easy challenges with low rewards (Low profile missions) or difficult challenges with high rewards (High profile missions) is essential.
The game is played over a series of rounds controlled by the events deck. At the start of each round a new event is revealed which dictates what missions are available in that round and a specific event that happens with a challenge that players need to pass. Each round has four phases which are completed in the order below.
- Prep Phase.
- Streets Phase.
- Mission Phase.
- End Phase.
Once the events deck has been exhausted the game ends.
The Prep Phase consists of a number of steps that are performed by each player in turn order:
- Downtime Step – Each player receives one health and one resolve up to their maximum. All players take one credit. Each player draws two contact cards and adds them to their hand. Interest (one credit) must be paid on any loans that a player has and the loan can be paid off at this stage.
- Draw Cards Step – The top card of the event deck is revealed and the number of Low Profile and High Profile missions are drawn depending on the player count. The Black Market is refreshed with new items from the Black Market deck.
- Event Step – In turn order all players choose to tackle the event or Lay Low. If the event applies to a player and they have chosen to face it they must attempt the challenge. If they fail a challenge a penalty will apply. Any players opting to Lay Low do not face the challenge and cannot attempt a mission.
- Take Mission Step – In turn order players chose which mission they want to attempt. The first player to attempt a mission is the First Crew on that mission. The second player can choose a different mission, join the First Crew (with the other players consent) or become a Second Crew to compete with the First Crew for the mission rewards.
After all players have taken their turn the Prep Phase ends.
The street phase is the worker placement aspect of the game. There are several locations on the board that a player can go to. This phase of the game represents a player being out in the city performing actions to get them ready for the up and coming mission.
The Back Market lets you buy one of the available items. There are three single action areas that let you draw a new contact, take a chip or play an opportunity card and the number of these spaces available is limited by player count. There are some mixed spaces where a player performs either of the single actions detailed above but have increase their Heat level.
The Euromafia spaces allow you to take a loan of 10 credits or buy prospect points, the value of the prospect points is dictated by that rounds event card. There are also three open spaces which any number of players can occupy and these let you discard a card to reduce a player’s Heat level, gain one Resolve or one Health and discard one Resolve and one Health to gain a Chip.
When all players have used their actions the street phase ends and player’s move on to the Mission Phase.
In turn order, each player attempts to complete their mission. The mission phase consists of several steps that must be performed in the following order. If a Crew is made is made up of more than one Nightlancer they work together to complete the mission.
- Loadout – Before a player undertakes a mission they must decide what equipment they want to take with them. A player can only carry three items of armour, gear or weapons in their loadout. All other items are left behind and cannot be used in the mission.
- Mission Stage 1-3 – Each mission has three challenges, or stages, that must be attempted for the mission to be classed as complete. Each challenge has a choice of two routes. The leader of the Crew chooses which route to take. Each member of the Crew individually totals the number of attribute points they have for that challenge and rolls the dice. The dice roll is added to the player’s attribute score and checked against the value required. If the number is higher than the difficulty of the challenge, the Crew have passed and move on to the second stage of the mission. If they have failed they face the penalty, depending on the penalty the Crew can still proceed to stage two of the mission or might have to abort the mission completely. This is repeated for the rest of the mission.
For example, a player has a choice between a Covert Five and a Streetwise Seven challenge. The player has a base value of four for Covert and three for Streetwise. They decide to follow the Covert route and roll a +2 on the dice. They add this to their Covert score of four achieving a total value of six for Covert. They pass the Covert Five challenge.
- Payment Phase – Assuming that there is only one crew on a mission, all members of that Crew receive the payment for completing the mission as indicated on the mission card.
- Competing Crews – If there are two crews on the same mission (First Crew and Second crew) and they both complete the third stage a “Face-Off” occurs. The first crew to complete the mission must choose either a Melee, Gunfight or Marksmen challenge and roll the dice similar to performing a mission challenge as detailed above. The second crew then decides to either face the challenge or abandon the mission. The Crew with the highest score wins the mission and takes the payment, whilst the other crew loses five health and gains nothing.
After all players have either completed, failed or abandoned their missions the Mission Phase ends.
This is the final phase in the round and consists of performing the following:
- Turn order for the next round is now set based on the level of Heat players have.
- All players discard down to six hand cards.
If there are no event cards left the end game scoring is triggered. The player with the most Prospect Points wins.
Final Thoughts on Nightlancer
First things first, component quality. The game I reviewed was a prototype and I was amazed at the component quality. It was top notch. The cards were of good quality, the artwork was very thematic and the flavour text on the cards added to the theme of the game. There has obviously been a lot of attention and work put in to the game.
On to the gameplay. Nightlancer is a solid, well thought out game that I have enjoyed playing in the limited time that I had. I only wish I could have kept it for a while longer. There was a lot to get to grips with the first time I played it and a lot to remember, but after a few rounds the gameplay flowed nicely and was easy to follow. There is a good stack of Black Market, Opportunity and Contacts cards which adds to its replay-ability.
There are currently eight different Nightlancers to choose from, each having different starting attributes, cards and weapons which really define how you tackle missions. As an Assassin you are better suited to Covert missions rather than going in shooting and I think this really adds to the theme of the game. The different starting attributes of the characters mean that a player will have strength and weaknesses in various areas and adds to the co-operative vs competitive nature of the missions. This adds an extra dimension to which missions you attempt and if you accept help during the missions.
The Heat level track is a nice addition as well and another “resource” to keep track of and manage. The consequences for failing a challenge can be extreme so players have to balance risk vs. reward when picking a mission. The competitive aspect of the missions is good and the face-off at the end adds some player interaction in to the game. The use of the contact cards can really help a player complete a challenge, giving them temporary boosts to their attributes.
They can also be played against a player decreasing their attributes making it harder for them to complete a challenge. The playing of these contact cards during a challenge can really benefit you or hinder you if they are played against you. The contact cards offer a fair bit of 'Take That' in to the game and although not a fan of that mechanism usually, I found that I really enjoyed it in this game and was often playing cards to penalise my opponents during a challenge. Despite that, it made for some fun times and tricky challenges which sit nicely within the context and theme of the game.
Nightlancer is now live on Kickstarter and I don’t doubt that it will do very well. If you are a fan of the cyberpunk genre, don’t mind some worker placement, are happy to work together and against your fellow players, I would definitely recommend that you check out Nightlancer.
You Might Like
- Variable player abilities and starting cards.
- Player Customisation.
- Take That elements.
- This is on definitely on the "Heavy" side.
You Might Not Like
- Take That element can be punishing.
- Game length can be on the long side with four players.
- Element of luck in dice and the cards drawn.
- Not a pick and play game, will take some time to get the hang of it.
You Might Like
Variable player abilities and starting cards.
Take That elements.
This is on definitely on the "Heavy" side.
You Might Not Like
Take That element can be punishing.
Game length can be on the long side with four players.
Element of luck in dice and the cards drawn.
Not a pick and play game, will take some time to get the hang of it.