Tag Archives: Nightwatch

Joining the Nightwatch to fight endless skeletons

Our group tried out Patrick Todoroff’s Nightwatch today, a coop fantasy/horror monster hunting skirmish game he published a few years ago. We play a lot of cooperative games, mostly Sellswords & Spellslingers and the new scifi variant I’m working on, so we’re always keen to try something new.

Our First Game

We decided to play the intro scenario set as laid out in the book, which was the big bad or Atrocity, as a necromancer, so lots and lots of skeletons for us. Good thing all three of us have lots of skeletons already. Brian choose a ranged fighter, Sean a melee fighter and myself an alchemist. As we were an odd set (in more ways than one), we ended up with Sean getting a d10 minion to balance the pact Brian and I shared (apparently we ran up a gambling debt together).

The first mission is an escort one – get Derek across the table. Here we bumped into the first challenge, as we couldn’t see exactly what stats Derek was supposed to have. We ended up playing him as having a single free move and nothing else – this did make it an 8 turn game (another challenge, it wasn’t clear to us what the term limit was – it is implied to be 7 turns elsewhere).

Nightwatch begins very quietly. There isn’t a single foe on the table in the first Pact turn. We moved as much as we could given we had to wait for Derek, so that meant the Darkness got lots of turn to spawn. The early turns were fairly easy – we shot or used explosive grenades on foes and got rid of them quite easily.

Brian’s ranged fighter faces off against a bow-wielding skeleton over the graveyard

By turn 3 or 4, it was quite different. The Darkness was now spawning many more skeletons than we could handle in a turn, so out came the smoke grenades. These work wonderfully – any foe inside them moves in a random direction, but this also ended up being a place where some more explanation in the rules would have been nice. it wasn’t clear to us what happened with foes outside the smoke – would they move through it, then randomly once they were in it? And if they moved randomly out of the smoke, would they change direction once out of it to move towards the PCs?

Then the end was coming – one way or the other. Two of us got wounded and that meant we lost our d10 action. Thankfully a pair more smoke bombs and then some flashpowder to get my alchemist free followed by the last explosive grenado my alchemist had.

The end. The PCs and Derek are up in the top corner, about to escape while the hordes close in. Another smoke bomb can be seen in the upper right.

Closing thoughts

Overall, we quite liked the game. It played well and fairly quickly – 2 hours for a game including time to build characters and understand the rules. The core of game is the alternating turns between the PCs (the Pact) and the foes (the Darkness). The second major mechanic is around activations – both PCs and the foes activate worked well too – the PCs get three activation dice (d6, d8 and d10) and use them for their actions looking for successes with a 4+. This gives you some options about what you choose to do.

We rather liked the wounding system – it wasn’t everything to nothing, PCs lose their best actions as they get wounded, all the way down to 3 wounds where they can only move, and then dead at 4 wounds. This meant that PCs degrade naturally, although we never had a PC with more than a single wound.

Sean quite liked the fighting system and how the shield bash and other abilities worked, although we forgot about our guild abilities quite often. The abstract different melee/ranged weapons combinations was an interesting way to cover off many types of weapons without naming them all.

The rulebook is well written, but needed another pass to reorganize and clean up bits. We found ourselves flipping through many pieces to find rules, including some basic stuff like Free Move can be used for reload, which isn’t listed on the quick reference. The author did mention that this was basically a home-brewed system expanded into a commercial product, and as someone who is putting the final touches on a beta for playtesting for a ruleset, I know just how hard this can be.

Sellswords has a nice flow chart for foe action that would be good to incorporate, although the wording around how foes act is quite nice – gives players a flavour for how they are supposed to act, not just as mindless creatures.

We’re definitely going to play at least a few more times, likely through the intro scenario. And I’d definitely recommend others try it out, it does play quickly and well.

You can get Nightwatch on DrivethruRPG for $9.