Review: Nyctophobia – horror on the table

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Shrubs shake with my every little movement. Normally, I would not even notice such a quiet sound, but today it seems to me, that the glacier has just collapsed. My breath is loud as the locomotive. Its human mind adapting to the situation, because right now, I am in fatal danger. I have to stay very quiet, because there is a bloodthirsty murderer among the trees and nothing will stop him from killing!

Serial killer movies, in which a crazy murderer chases vulnerable students or family are evergreen of cinemas and television screens. And one such story with a bloody end has also been prepared for us by and specifically by . She has entrusted her work to to get it published. is responsible for the distribution of the entire spooky act to customers around Europe.

The publishing company did not hesitate and dressed it stylishly into a black robe, and set an all-embracing picture of hand with a bloody axe on its lid. Inside, there is a plastic game board full of round holes. It will help to create atmospheric gaming environment – a forest, in which the whole chase of prey and hunter takes place. Players, based on prepared scenarios or their own fantasy setup plastic tokens to create forest, hero pieces and car – the only rescue. Around the board, it is still necessary to spread the four direction cards (north, east, south and west).

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One of the participants will become a killer and receives a deck of cards accordingly. But he has to choose his role, he can be either axeman or a wizard. His opponents get each one of their card characters, a figurine, two health tokens (hearts), stone token and above all dark glasses. Even before the plan is prepared, hunted players have to put glasses on and have them on the nose for the whole time, so they do not know, what’s going on in the forest or even where the roads lead. Only then the killer breaks down the hero’s figures into their starting places and also the plastic car in its position.

Gameflow then alternates between individual runners and their possible killer. The blindfolded gamers require the help of their opponent immediately, because he has to help them find their pawn on the board and put tip of their finger on it. At that point, player must follow his sense and explore the surroundings of his character on all four sides of his world. They can not peek behind the trees or reach across the diagonal.

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Player can then decide, which of the four adjacent positions (only those not blocked by any obstacle) will he like to move. He hopes to avoid getting next to a hunter. After the first move, he will again have the chance to explore the situation around his character and then make a second movement. Both are obligatory.

Before or after the move, hero can also take one action. He can either move once more, throw rock in one direction or hide. If hidden, then from making that decision until his next turn, player can not communicate verbally with his teammates in a hunted team. If he breaks this silence, his hideout is revealed and, in addition, a noise token enters the game (just as it is with throwing a stone).

It is the hunter, who must follow noise, when it comes to him. But first, the player in his role will choose one of two cards in his hand, which not only describes the distance a killer can travel in a given turn, but also any other special ability, he can take. The card also often contains thematic instructions, that gives hunters advise on how to raise the mood and atmosphere.

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Whenever a victim and a murderer find themselves in the neighboring fields on the game map, its time to fight. The frightened, horrified hero has a chance to throw a stone and defeat the killer. If he has one. At the beginning of the game, however, each of the participants has only one of the stones and can only get others by picking them up somewhere in the forest. Stones after the throw always lie, where they ended their movement (usually at the end of a corridor). Hunted person will always lose one heart from this encounter, no matter if he has a rock or not. If, however, it is not possible to defend itself, he esacpes one or two spaces away from the hunter and has a chance to hide.

All hunted heroes have to talk, share their impressions and use word-of-mouth guidance and, above all, orientation in the dark world, they do not see at all. They all have the same goal – to find a car, that’s hiding somewhere on the edge of the forest and report to all other members of the team. At that moment, hero also can spend one action to call for help. At that point, all assailants must survive one more round, before the police arrives and rescue them (the refugee players win). Whenever any of the hunted loses their last point of life, they can not be helped anymore and the entire team is defeated. One by one, they will find their end under a bloody axe. Only one participant in the role of a killer can celebrate at that time.

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Nyctophobia offers a unique gaming experience, where most players can not use their eyes at all. This contributes to the tremendous tension and atmosphere, that works from the first round towards the very end. Players must struggle with uncertainty, and each encounter with a hunter only puts another pole in the fire.

And here is where the essential role of communication among all hunters starts to play its role. The more there is runners, the more chances they have to succeed, because it’s easier and faster for them to find a car. At the same time, however, it is much easier for hunter to catch them in the woods. Thanks to this ambivalence, the matches are exciting in any number from the minimum of three players (one hunter and two victims).

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The role of the hunter is also quite popular in this game, thanks to the feeling of uniqueness and the chances to scare and otherwise influence other players. Rules direct to this, so the hunter can walk around the table and tease his adversaries. At the same time, the assassin has the command to watch the game (be a sort of gamemaster) and should not spoil the others in the way of victory. Here is also the biggest stumbling block, if you come across someone, who wants to go for a prize at any cost. But you will not trust this opponent anymore. Unfortunately, the amount of decisions a hunter does is not big. Often they are predetermined by the presence of sound on the map or choice of two similar cards in hand.

Forest is different every time and it depends only on the hunters as he builds it. There are several recommended placements in the rules. In addition, this role also uses the impact of luck in the form of action cards. There is also a great usage of the sound, that gives players the feeling of being really hunted in the woods. When they are hiding, they must be silent.

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Absolute experience is hindered by two flaws. The first one is only about the honesty of players, who really should only search for four-sided boxes from their hero. But it is difficult to avoid seeing anything more. You simply move your hand a bit further and suddenly, you know something, you should not. A much bigger problem is a situation, that touches you, whenever its not your turn. At that moment, you just sit in deep darkness and the only company is your imagination. This may be enough for some types of players, but we also met testers, who are bored outside of their turn.

Nyctophobia is an absolutely unique experience. The game is surprisingly unpretentious in terms of content and complexity, but in doing so, it does seem to lead you to the feeling, that someone is chasing you. Black out glasses on the nose mean, that most players do not see anything for the whole game, which is exactly, why we enjoy the game, but also why you can be easily bored, when you are not the one actively playing. But if you can hover over these shortcomings, then Nyctophobia is a great gift for horror lovers.

DesignerCatherine Stippell
ArtistPeter Wocken
PublisherPandasaurus Games, Asmodee
Year Published
# of Players3 - 5
User Suggested # of Players Best with 5 players
Recommended with 3, 5 players
(5 voters)
Playing Time45
Mfg Suggested Ages9 and up
User Suggested Ages5 and up
(1 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(1 voters)
CategoryHorror
MechanicMemory, Team-Based Game, Variable Player Powers
FamilyComponents: Blindfolds / Blackout Glasses, Components: Game Trayz Inside, Players: One versus Many
Primary NameNyctophobia
Alternate NamesNictofobia

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Nyctophobia – horror on the table
Final word
Nyctophobia is a horror experience and not because its a bad game. Exactly the opposite. The atmosphere in this murderer story is really dense, because you never know, when and where the murderer jump out on you. Entertainment, when its not your turn is a lot dependent on the hunter himself, who should scare his victims, make fun of them and spice it all a bit. When searching for a car with dark goggles on the nose, you have to rely solely on your touch, while the hunter has all the available informations available at all times. Nyctophobia is one of the few horror games and it definitely proves this experience.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
forest can be different every time
unique gameplay with blindfolded players
simple game
is not unnecessarily long (30 to 45 minutes)
two characters for hunters with separate decks
variants in rules
atmosphere
Cons
players outside the move have nothing to do (not allowed to look!)
can be cheated well
fun depends on the hunter (and his involvement in the game)
the hunter does not have much choice
3.5
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