Nightfall: Martial Law Review

For those of you that have followed my blog for a while, you may remember that I left off my Nightfall review eager for expansions. (And if you haven't read that review, you should check it out here as I'm going to assume that you're familiar with the base game throughout this review and focus on the differences introduced in Martial Law, even though Martial Law is actually a fully playable game without the base set.)  Well, AEG has finally created the first expansion: Nightfall Martial Law!

There isn't really much that Martial Law introduces that is <i>completely</i> new to the Nightfall franchise. The one thing that is introduced is "Feed." Feed allows a player to have an effect continue occurring as long as they can pay the penalty (such as discarding two cards). Aside from this, Martial Law adds depth to a few ideas that were introduced in Nightfall but not all very fleshed out in the base game. For example, in Martial Law there are more minions that are not discarded every combat phase (like what "Bad Smoke" from the base game) , there are new color chains, and there is a new wound effect (in Nightfall, there was only the single wound effect). Now that I've told you the gist of what makes Martial Law unique, lets get to the pros and cons.

The first pro that I have for Martial Law is that some of the minions have effects that occur when they attack. For example, "Lone Hound" causes you to exile a card from your hand whenever he attacks. Another one, "Mad Jake" allows you to inflict a wound directly on another player whenever he attacks. I think that these extra things that occur while attacking add some strategy to the game. For example, with "Lone Hound", he can be incredibly helpful by allowing you to exile wounds from your hand late in the game, but early in the game, he might actually harm you by forcing you to exile useful cards (after all, you have to attack each turn). With "Mad Jake," you have the ability to attack two different players at the same time, since he can attack one player and cause the direct damage to go to someone else.

The next thing that I like is how more of the new Minions stay in play after combat. One particular minion, "Brynna & Taylor" allows you to draw extra cards during your cleanup phase. Therefore, if you can get several copies of them into play, you can get a significant advantage by drawing more cards than your opponents. This also adds strategy in forcing players to decide between whether they want to defend with these characters, and also causes other players to pay more attention when dealing direct damage to a minion. (Of course, these new minions are completely worthless when playing someone using a lot of "Furious Melee" from the first set which deals two damage to each of Target Player's minions. But maybe that just means that Furious Melee is overpowered.)

My next item is really a neutral more than a pro, and that is Feed. Feed can be useful, but the conditions under which Feed is powerful seem to rarely be met. For example, one card allows you to discard two cards to "Feed" an effect to inflict one point of direct damage (how often do you really have a handful of extra cards?). Another problem that I had with Feed was that the payoff for Feed was often minimal. For example, one card lets you Feed by discarding two cards in order to draw one (which can be useful if you are looking for a certain card but normally not very beneficial), and another lets you Feed by discarding two cards to gain three influence (useful, but not really a major gain). Overall, Feed is a concept that I think will become more useful in future expansions, and will occasionally be pretty impressive now (such as with "Bleak Resurrection" which allows you to Feed by discarding a card to bring a target minion from the discard pile into play - which can be really useful if you have a hand full of minions (and worthless if you don't have a discard pile)!)

However, though there are some neat new elements to Martial Law, I felt like there were a few areas that could have been better. First off, the starting cards are the exact same as those from the base set. Whereas this isn't "bad", it is an area that I thought could have been better. There could have been at a minimum new art on the cards (like they did with Thunderstone: Dragonspire), or, better yet, they could have come out with new starting decks that players could have used to mix up the game. Then, players would have had the option of playing with the old starting decks, the new starting decks, or a combination deck made of one of each card from the old and new.  This could have helped with my biggest con from the base game, which is that the first several turns are all the same - everybody waits until his turn and plays Yuri to gain influence.

The next con that I had with the game was that a lot of the cards seemed somewhat bland to me. One example is a card that allows the player to draw one card (with a kicker that each player must destroy a minion). This card really seems to be a filler card that you would only use to continue a chain. Other cards seemed to have very specialized situations in which they are helpful, but for the bulk of the game they would be fairly useless. For example, "Target player discards down to 5 cards and receives 1 wound per card discarded." When is this card useful? When someone has a ton of cards in their hand. When does that normally happen? When they've discarded a ton of wound cards to draw new cards. Which means - this card is really good at picking on the guy that already has a ton of wounds! Several others seem to target vampires or lyncanthropes. Whereas, I knew this would probably occur at some point (why else put the race on the cards in the first place), overall these cards don't seem to be nearly as good as cards that target minions, because they have very similar effects, but are much harder to use (and, to be fair, their effects normally are much greater if they are able to be pulled off).

Overall, I give Nightfall: Martial Law an 8.0/10. I was honestly a bit disappointed with the set. That's not to say that it is bad - it is just that the base set is phenomenal, and this set is "only" good. I would recommend picking up the base set first, and once you've played it enough that you need to mix it up a bit, pick this one up and mix them together.

I would like to thank AEG for providing a copy of Nightfall: Martial Law for me to review.

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