Thank you for checking review #33 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.
An Overview of Night of Man
Night of Man is a game designed by Mark H. Walker and is published by Flying Pig Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 60 minute play time.
Night of Man is a card-driven, tactical board game. Set in a post-alien-invasion-of-Earth universe, the squads, heroes, and tanks of Earth’s Militia battle against powerful aliens with enhanced power armor, hover tanks, Mechs, and spider-like robots.
In each turn gamers draw up to a four card hand and may play a card, sometimes more, in each impulse. The cards activate units to move, fire, assault, and use special powers, such as explosive rounds, telekinesis, and more. Special cards, such as critical hit or bullet storm, can also enhance a unit’s attacks.
Each turn continues until three end turn cards have been drawn. Players then choose one card from their hand to keep, the administrative markers are removed from the board, and a new hand is dealt to each player. The players use that new hand, or the card kept from the previous turn, to bid for initiative in the new turn.
Night of Man ships with numerous scenarios, as well as a point system that allows gamers to put together their own battles in no time flat.
Setup and gameplay for 2 Players
This one is a tricky one to describe the setup because each game will be different. There are a set of scenarios to play through, each one dictating the boards used, how they are laid out, the armies fielded by each side, and where they are placed (or enter the board when moved). They also dictate the number of rounds played, the objective for each side, point values for destroying units (if the scenario includes scoring), and how many “End Turn” cards need to be drawn before the round ends.
The one consistent is that the deck of cards will be shuffled and four will be dealt to each player. If an End Turn card is dealt, it is placed face-up and a new one is dealt. The players then each select one card to “bid” for initiative. The player whose card shows a higher value discards the card and goes first, taking their turn with three cards. The losing player keeps their card and will have four to use on their first turn.
On a turn, the player plays one card from their hand. Each card has two possible actions on there, and the player uses only one. Most actions are marked with a green icon, but there are red and yellow ones as well. Red are interrupts, so to speak, allowing you to play them on the other player’s turn. Yellow are able to boost your action, making it so you can play more than one card for the round. After the action on the card is resolved, the player may discard any number of additional cards and draw back up to four. If an End Turn card is drawn, it goes face-up in the pile and a new card is drawn to replace it.
The core concept is simple: move your units toward the enemy and then try to shoot them into oblivion. This is an underexaggeration, to be sure, but it gets the core premise across. Some scenarios involve trying to find an object or gain and maintain control of a certain area of the board. The interesting thing here is that when a unit moves or fires, it gets marked with a token indicating that action is done. Which prevents them from activating for anything else this round unless a card, such as Second Wind, is played to remove those tokens.
The premise and the theme for this game is great. I love the idea that the aliens have come and subjected the Earth to their rule. One side is playing those alien overlords, while the other is playing the role of a resistance of humans. The aliens are, of course, well-armored and hard to kill. The theme was what drew me to this game in the first place, and it didn’t disappoint once I got the game.
The counters are large and chunky and easy to maneuver and manipulate. Which is a good thing, because you’ll be adding them, flipping them, and removing them often. I couldn’t even imagine the headache this could have caused if the counters were really small. They also are clearly distinguishable on the board via color coding, and the artwork of the units and characters is done well. The board itself is a little bland art-wise, but the counters make up for it.
I love multi-use cards so very much. These are great because they not only make you choose between two actions on the card, but they also track the round’s end and are used in combat rather than dice. This might make it sound like you’ll be flipping that deck quickly, and you certainly can, but especially in that first round the deck goes one or two cards per turn. You’ll see a lot of repeated actions throughout the deck, especially Move actions and Fire actions, but there are enough to shake things up.
Combat is simple and dice-free. My wife is one of those who absolutely hates games that use a ton of dice. Her biggest rage during a game happened a few years ago playing Doctor Who Risk, and it was at that point that I knew I couldn’t play a game where combat relied solely upon who rolls better. This is a card-driven system for battle, which not only keeps things simple but also helps to flip through that deck. The modifiers used for range, etc. are relatively easy to grasp and follow, although the first few plays saw me triple-checking I had things right. The vehicles add complexity to the system, but not so much that it can’t be played. You’ll just be likely to have to check the process a few additional times the first play or two incorporating them into the mix. Something you’ll hear me mention often in this review.
There is no getting around it: this game is fun. And that, in spite of anything else, is what you want to find in a board game. Those first two scenarios are introductory, at best, and should be viewed as such. They are the equivalent of the first ten levels you gain in an RPG – meant to get your feet wet before introducing more complexity. The third scenario doesn’t add new rules, but it does provide a few new units and an objective for one side to chase. I’m halfway through this campaign and really enjoying the progress so far. I’ve seen there are other campaign packs, including a solo one, and those are very likely to enter onto my wish list.
The boards are folded in two and, at least with my copy, tends to not lay flat on the table as a result. This is a preference thing only, and worth noting, but it doesn’t end up affecting the gameplay itself.
The rulebook is hit and miss. I thought, upon first read, that it covered things well. And what it contains, it does cover well. But there are omissions throughout, such as what happens if enough End Turn cards are dealt into the opening hands to end the round, or what triggers the powers shown on the units’ counters (It was my third play when I noticed the small “Power” word on some of the cards and was able to make the connection). Or what happens when a unit is on fire from the Infantry’s special power? I’ve seen threads galore mentioning the Handler and his Spiderbots, and with good reason. The other thing I would have liked to see were more visual demonstrations of what was being explained. Blocks of text are great, but a small image (and there are some in here) would help to emphasize that and provide a quick go-to as a refresher.
And so I am torn on the use of cards to trigger the end of a round. Part of me wants to love it and proclaim the brilliance of this concept. It isn’t often that the game gets to a point where both sides can’t do anything (although the alien side is more likely to hit that point first) apart from toss cards and hope to draw a Second Wind or trigger the round’s end. So long as one side is able to do things, the round will keep going (it can end if both players pass consecutively). The variable round length is great in concept: there should be uncertainty in war about how long a battle will take. But what about when you draw all of the End Turn cards at the very start of a round? And if this happens a few turns in a row? On the reverse side, what if they all keep populating at the very bottom of the deck? This game could either run short or really long in those scenarios. I’ve had more games where rounds end super-early than running really long, but the chance is there and some players really won’t like that variable length.
The player aids provided are fine, but there were things that I found myself having to look up time and again in the rule book. So they are things I wish there had been an aid for, so that the finding of this information could have been a little easier. I had to look up what the various numbers on the counters represented, and there are two times when this really happened: the first few plays to get down the leg units, and then just when you get those few parts down the vehicles are thrown into the mix and double the numbers you’re looking at on the unit counters. The same thing goes with the cards. For the most part, things are easy to get down early but once vehicles come into play, I found myself checking and rechecking what the numbers were and when they were used. Finally, there are powers and abilities indicated by small icons on units. These are great, but I had to look those up repeatedly and found myself forgetting what some of them did. None of these three things are game-breakers, and they are all covered well in the rulebook, but I’d prefer not to flip through the book every time I need to reference these things. At least on the counter layout and the card layout.
This is a game I really want to love, and I know with more plays and more exposure I can come to love the game. Right now I simply enjoy the game. It is a nice system, although a little more complex than I initially expected. There are a lot of things to remember, and if you can’t recall which number on the token represents the ABF or the HF, etc. then you’ll be grabbing the rule book often for reference. And that part is why I’ve hesitated so long in teaching the game to my wife. It isn’t bad in the first three scenarios, where you have all leg units, but the vehicles add extra layers and a lot more numbers become relevant. Which also makes more card abilities matter. Which means I need to have a good grasp on those things if I want to teach her in a manner that she can find enjoyable. Having me stop things to reference the rulebook every five minutes wouldn’t exactly be an experience she’d find to be fun.
I do enjoy a scenario system, and so I am glad this has that available to play. But it does also include the important skirmish system. This gives it life beyond the scenario plays, allowing each player to build and field a custom army to battle it out.
I’m still very early into my wargaming career, and I probably secured a copy of this about 6-12 months too soon. It was quite a jump from the Swords & Shields system from Stamford Bridge to this one. However, anyone who has a fair amount of experience with wargames should fare well when playing this game. And this game has been worth the effort I’ve put into learning things and I have no doubt it will continue to be rewarding.
The biggest headache will come from the text-dense reference sheet, no quick reference for what is shown on each counter, and those occasional things that aren’t explained well in the rulebook. Those things can usually be inferred based on how a player chooses to interpret things, but there will be questions that you simply can’t find a clear answer to. Which is always frustrating for a gamer.
Overall I have enjoyed Night of Man, and this is a game that I plan to play more times, both solo to sharpen my understanding of the rules and system as well as with my wife. I’ll need to be solid in my command of the game and what everything means if I want her to enjoy the next plays where we add more complexity and depth to the game. But I am confident this will be one we’ll both enjoy because we like games with conflict and where you need to use tactical maneuvering to be victorious. If you are just exploring wargames, this might not be the right purchase (yet), but if you’ve got a good command of consulting tables and modifiers, this game is definitely worth checking out.
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