Designer: Catherine Stippell
Artist: Peter Woken
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Player Count: 3-5
Play Time: 30-45 Mins
We all sit down to play a board game but something is different. You are blindfolded and can’t see anything. In your distress, you reach your hand out to play the game. Your hand is snatched by another and guided to your player piece. You blindly move your finger in all cardinal directions and feel your surroundings. Trees to the south and west, an empty space to the north, and something unfamiliar to the east. It is a player piece. The vampire player speaks. “I have found you!”
In Nyctophobia, players take on the role of classic horror movie characters with one player playing the role of a vampire. There are two versions of the game but the copy that I played was the vampire edition.
Players are hunted by the vampire, while they attempt to rescue a friend from the woods, bring them back to the car, and make their getaway.
The vampire player, or the hunter, attempts to thwart those players by stalking them and killing one of them. Think of this as a “one vs. many” style game.
During the game, the hunted players move along a grid style board avoiding trees and each other all while remaining blindfolded. The game comes with a set of four blackout glasses that each hunted player must wear. These effectively take the visual aspect of what you are doing out of the game and each player must rely on communication, memory, and touch to move about the board.
The vampire player moves around the board as well but in a different manner as the hunted players. While the hunted players take two blind actions per turn—to move or to throw rocks.
The vampire player is not blindfolded, but can only move by playing an action card from his hand. The vampire’s action cards allow him to move the players, move the friend, and other actions.
This game is all about atmosphere. Your sense of sight is stripped and you must rely on your other senses. An air of uncertainty hangs on every action for players. This all sounds like a wonderful gaming experience but falls short in practice.
The players need a lot of help during play as they will not be able to see their pieces. This falls to the hunted player to place the players hand on their pawn. I could see this as being a potential issue if people at the table don’t know each other well. A common circumstance at our open invite Game Night.
The hunted players seem to be at a severe disadvantage from the beginning and must rely on a forgiving hunter (vampire) player for a win. The powers of the hunted player seem unbalanced. In fact, the rulebook explains that it is up to the hunter player to control the pace of the game. I interpret this as the designers answer to this potential imbalance. A better design wouldn’t need such an explanation.
This game does have some creepy moments to it with a unique style of play but a game that I don’t see myself playing often. The gameplay is awkward and clunky. A gaming experience that relies heavily on a Game Master style vampire player who will direct the gaming experience. This will probably just come out for occasions like Spooky Game Nights in October.