I guarantee the end of the world will be boring. 100% rubbish. All the people hyped for a zombie apocalypse are going to be sorely disappointed, Hollywood probably got it wrong. The happenings and the lead up will probably be a bit spicy, zombies and whatnot, but the aftermath will be snoozeville and tremendously tedious. You'll have to hunt for food, make a shelter, watch for other people... Lots to do and non of which will be board game related. The people will be the worst too! They'll be after your goods and defences, or maybe your flesh! Guess it depends on which "end of the world" scenario we're talking about.
Until Daylight is a game that takes place after the end of the world, but it is far from boring. There's no opportunity for it to calm down and be slow or tedious, as this scenario involves being quick to avoid guaranteed death. This is from both the other people, and the nasties of the night... It's a cooperative survival game for 3-6 players that takes about an hour to play.
Until Daylight runs across two phases in rounds. You have the Search phase and the Combat phase. All 10 rounds have both phases and the stylings are similar throughout. What differs is the difficulty, and it ramps up quickly if you aren't good at surviving.
To kick off, every player takes a character card along with their unique starting weapons, items and objectives. All players then also take two random secondary objectives - these aren't character specific and so can be completed regardless of character. The the rubble cards (there's a lot of them) are stacked within reach of all players. Finally you decide whether your technologically savvy or not. If you are, you need to download the companion app and run it to begin the game. Alternatively you can use the egg timer and round tracker provided. Both will provide the same result but the app has atmospheric music and has player ease at its heart of design.
The goal of Until Daylight is to survive all 10 rounds and to save one survivor. If any player character dies, the game is lost. In the same way, if you manage the whole game but save no survivors, you lose. The first player is determined by whomever rolls the most headshot (skull) symbols on the combat die. Play can then begin with the Search phase.
During this time, players play quickly to take one action. These can be to take one rubble card into their inventory, use an item, craft an item, trade an item, or do nothing before saying next. The idea is one player is scavenging whilst the others keep watch. The next player cannot take their rubble card or take an action until they have said next. When the egg timer runs out, or the music stops, whoever is the active player is the first player during the combat phase. They receive the horde.
The Combat phase allows players to only activate and take actions once. First off, the horde is released. The number of horde cards picked up is a combination of the player count and the round number. Six players + round one = seven horde cards. These are placed in front of the active player in order, they are the one who will be attacked (as it stands currently). The active player then rolls the die of fate, this will either aid or hinder the group's efforts. This is then resolved and the first player takes their turn. Players can once again craft, trade (five or take), use items, but they can now also attack.
Attacking and Taking Damage
Attacks have a max value of six die and the weapon used will determine this. Items can be used to pump this up, and the leader will double their innate bonus. Melee attacks require no ammo, but ranged attacks do. Using a ranged attack can be done whether you have enemies in front of you or not and you can target enemies in any players area, but missed shots hurt that player. Melee attacks have no risk to them but cannot be used in other player's areas if you have any enemy cards in your area. Once all players have been, the hordes attack rolling dice to do damage. Crafted items and survivors can reduce the attack value by discarding them, but against a massive horde you may be in trouble! Once this is done, the next round begins regardless to whether all enemies are dead.
How It Handles
Until Daylight is cooperative. Never forget this. It is a cooperative game that requires cooperation... lots of it. At least that's what we told ourselves as we selfishly attempted to cash in all our objectives! Having more XP from objectives and other cards is incredibly beneficial as it gives you buffs and makes you the leader. Unfortunately it doesn't stop the horde of raiders and wanderers heading your way. And just because you don't have any horde cards in front of you doesn't mean you can relax. You need to work together. The game is won and lost on your ability to work as a unit. And believe me, you'll experience loss more than win.
Searching For Answers...
The Search Phase is what separates the chaotic action takers from the analysis paralysis sufferers. We have two of each in our group, with me being a chaotic. The timer starts and I have a plan of action, until it's my turn to search. I'm so worried about wasting others' time that I grab a card, place it and bellow "NEXT!" so everyone can be prepared. Of course, the next player then takes a leisurely 15 seconds choosing where their umbrella should be placed amongst their other knickknacks. Frustration isn't the word for it, but it's their play-style that they're comfy with. It can't be prevented or stopped, and ushering them on would only slow them further.
We only used the app to time rounds, never the hour glass, and the app has this really well chosen tune whilst you search.. It really tells you how screwed you are and how little time you have. I believe it's half the reason I panicked whilst playing! Nonetheless, we always managed a Search Phase and found ourselves being tremendously generous early on. We'd share ammo we didn't need, pass on weapons, and even share crafting materials.
In rounds one to three, we were like clockwork. Round four is usually when the first crack appears. One player randomly refuses to trade away something they don't need, and the signal is given. Suddenly, everyone has only one thing on their mind... Completing objectives. What's worse is that some objectives rely on you discarding important resources! They'll never be of value to those discarding them, but they don't care. XP is XP to them!
The Hordes of Horrors
There's something quite surreal about being surrounded by the horde on any round. There's an eclectic selection of wanderers, brutes, raiders, and maybe a survivor or two. How they all came together is not the point, the point is they want to break into your base and devour your skin. You can't let that happen. Being prepared with crafted items from the Search Phase is unbelievably important. It's stunning how quickly you can have eight blokes knocking on your door asking to kill you, and you'll be relying on both your own and others' abilities and bravery to help!
The common sense rule is that you've got to take out your own problems first. That might mean you can't help anyone until you've killed that one raider in your area. Because melee weapons are useless when you've got company, you'll have fewer choices... However! Firearm users won't have this problem, and common sense is completely optional. Raiders are wise to these tricks, but the Wanderers not so much. They're attracted to noise, and therefore make haste when they hear anything.
We used a multitude of tactics to take down the oncoming enemies, but our primary one was to have a series of attacks from players with guns. When you kill enemies with a gun, you attract that many enemies to your area from the area you shot into. Kill four, attract up to four. It also helped us free up those with melee weapons so they could actually help. I mean, it's never so simple and it always ends up going sideways, but it was a system that worked... sometimes.
Until Daylight's colourful cast of characters are unique within their own rights. They have their own traits that are reflected in their abilities, and these will suit your play-style or they won't. It's hard to adopt a style you don't like. It doesn't help that each character has an advantage and a drawback to them. The Hipster for example gets +1 die to all distance weapon attacks. Amazing right? No. He can't use firearms. You're stuck with the bow and arrow combination, and trust me, those arrows are hard to come by! It almost balances the characters out too, ensuring that they can do amazing things but it's a challenge. There's the silver lining that the bow doesn't make noise in this example, but it then reduced our classic strategy's effectiveness. We had to adapt.
The combination of characters in play also made a difference. As a group of six, they had all the good and all the bad. With just our classic four players, we had to choose who to cull, and that meant losing someone with big advantages. All the characters have the potential to help, none felt redundant, however we often went for random choices. Choosing felt like cheating as we'd undeniably go for our preferred playstyle, and who are we to decide who lived and who died!
By about round five we'd often have fallen into a routine based on our characters and would trigger the Search Phase to end on a specific player in order to activate in a set order. Making a plan whilst scrambling for rubble and shouting next is a skill in itself, but it made for active play and quick choices. Any disagreements were settled by the leader (so whoever had thrown away the most valuable stuff!).
The Uphill Climb?
Until Daylight has a steep learning curve in terms of how you win. The bottom line is that you probably won't. There aren't always enough resources, not always enough time, and people don't survive being bitten for long enough. It's a difficult game to win. It's enjoyable, don't get me wrong, and winning shouldn't be everything, but it's tricky. Each round increases the horde's numbers, and spreads them out based on who is the active player after the Search Phase. Stack them up too much and you may very well have too many to take out in one round!
The game is lost in two ways, someone dies or no survivors are saved. Sounds pretty simple, but keeping yourself alive is difficult enough without having to also grab a survivor and keep them around. You'll take a tonne of damage throughout the game, and you are going to suffer. We have won a few times, but played plenty! There's no way to guarantee a win and no surefire method to it either. The luck of the draw with cards, combined with dice rolls means the odds aren't in your favour. And no matter how many buff cards you apply, it only takes a badly timed play to waste it. The games enjoyable and fun despite the constant losing, but it can be won. Just get ready to not win first!
Is It Gruesome?
The artwork and aesthetics in Until Daylight are beautifully gruesome, something we love in all survival horror-esque games. Each character card has disks on them to track health and XP, a functional addition to any game. On top of that, the barricade and trap tokens look like barricades and traps. Always a bonus! The art is excellent and the variety of wanderer art is wonderfully diverse. The monsters, as in the massive nasties, are hideous and the things of nightmares. You can see the progression of whatever it is turning people into these spooks across the cards. A wonderful amount of thought went into this!
Until Daylight is a game we love to lose. The new tactics you'll develop in each game will often result in a better situational awareness of the game in its entirety. There will also be a growing understanding of how you can manipulate the game to complete your objectives before anyone else, but don't get caught up in an XP war. We've lost games because we (me) couldn't bear to have the lowest. Anyone will appreciate this game, but this is one for true cooperative play enthusiasts. You've got to work together through it all and need to be coordinated. After all, it's pretty hideous out there.