Solo Chronicles – Darkest Night

One of the best parts of the board gaming experience is finding a fun group of people with whom to play! Sometimes, though, coordinating a game night is easier said than done. We all must occasionally forego the group experience and face the world as the Lonely Only. But fear not! The world of solo-play is a vast and exciting realm! What follows is a chronicle of my journey into the solo-playing world – notes on gameplay, mechanics, rules, difficulty, and overall experience with solo variations of commonly multiplayer games! I hope this will provide some insight as you continue to grow your collection, or explore your already owned games!

Darkest Night (First Edition)Victory Point Games
1-4 Players150 minutes
Ages 12+BGG Weight – 2.78 / 5

Once prosperous, your kingdom has fallen victim to a powerful Necromancer who has shrouded the realm in darkness. His minions traverse the land doing his bidding, and his army, as well as his powers, continue to grow. All hope is lost….or is it? Four heroes band together in a final attempt to defeat this evil being. Each brings unique powers and strategies to the table, and success will come in one of two ways – by defeating the Necromancer in direct combat, or by gathering Holy Relics and performing a ritual to undo his powers. But be warned: the Necromancer grows stronger with every passing moment, so be sure your chosen strategy is the right one. Otherwise you too will fall victim to the Necromancer’s might.

Darkest Night is a cooperative game where players take on the role of the heroes attempting to defeat the Necromancer. Each turn has 4 steps – Perform any start-of-turn actions, draw/resolve an Event card, perform one action, and defend against Blights (monsters). Each equipped with a unique set of powers, the heroes must work together to search the land for Holy Relics and destroy Blights before the kingdom is overrun. Once all of the heroes have had their turn, the Necromancer gets his turn, which entails advancing the Darkness track, moving towards the closest detected hero, and creating more Blights. Victory comes in two forms – ritual or combat. If the heroes collectively uncover three Holy Relics, they can use them in a ritual to break the Necromancer’s powers. Or if a hero gets strong enough, they could directly fight the Necromancer. If, at any point, the Monastery is overrun by Blights, the game ends in failure and the kingdom has fallen into darkness.

DISCLAIMER – This review is for the Darkest Night (First Edition) base game. There is a second edition, and several expansions, but I have not had experience with any of those, so my thoughts are solely based on the First Edition base game. -L

I’m just going to be up-front and let you know that I am not a huge fan of this game solo. The main reason is that this game is for four heroes, regardless of actual player count. So playing solo means that I have to control all four heroes. Controlling one hero, I can do. Controlling two heroes takes more focus, but is usually manageable. But controlling four heroes at once? Madness! At least for me it is. There is so much more for a single person to keep track of, and it can be pretty overwhelming. There are so many variables to keep track of, I often end up making mistakes – forgetting to draw Event cards, accidentally using one hero’s ability when it is a different hero’s turn, forgetting to give one hero a turn in a round because I thought they already had one, etc. If I am lucky, I will catch a mistake in-progress, or one turn later, and can rectify it. But to be honest, of all the mistakes I make while playing Darkest Night, I probably won’t catch 25% of them. Which can either make a game super easy, or super brutal. You might tell me, “Focus!” or “Pay better attention!” but believe me, I’m trying! I just feel like four heroes for one person is too much.

Patience is a virtue, but apparently I have none when it comes to this game. And by that, I mean that I feel like it takes an eternity to accomplish anything in this game. On your turn, you only get one single action. And movement is an action. Picture this – I am trying to move my hero to the opposite end of the kingdom (at least 2 spaces away). I am going to have to spend 2 complete rounds (active hero turn, other hero turns, Necromancer turn, x2) just to get there. And then once I finally get there, I have to wait for the 3rd round to even do anything in that location! I just get frustrated at the fact that something as simple as moving a few spaces takes multiple rounds to accomplish. Since everything takes so long to do, you have to be thinking so far into the future with every turn. That makes it difficult for me to strategize, and the game just feels so inefficient, especially in solo play, when you have to control all of the heroes. It can be tricky enough planning a few turns in advance for a single hero, but being in charge of all heroes just makes the job more complicated. And maybe I’m just not patient enough for this game, but I think that if every hero got two actions per turn, the game would be a lot more manageable.

This will come as no surprise to you, but I enjoy this game more in a group rather than solo. This game is cooperative, and I like being able to talk strategy with my fellow gamers, rather than trying to figure everything out for each of the four heroes by myself. Group play also allows me to focus my attention on one single hero instead of multiple, which makes the game feel less overwhelming to me. And perhaps the second edition or expansions address some of the issues I have with the game, but for the time being, Darkest Night is low on my list of solo games.


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