Darkness Comes Rattling Review – Adding Fantastic Storytelling To A Boardgame

October 19, 2015 by deltagamegirl22

“I couldn’t tell you exactly why Darkness wanted to steal away its mother’s power by swallowing the sun. After all, Mother Moon had never been anything but kind and loving to all her children. I suppose for some creatures, there’s nothing in their belly but ambition and gnawing hunger, always leaving them wanting more…”

Darkness Main

You have to admit that Wyrd Miniatures has always had a way with words. There are few companies that pour this kind of attention into their background stories, and then carry it over into their games so well. This is demonstrated beautifully in Wyrd’s new boardgame, Darkness Comes Rattling.

What Is Darkness Comes Rattling?

Unlike their Malifaux universe, this game takes us to a different time and place, not of steampunk and horror, but more tribal in nature. In this game, the players take on the roles of Warriors from the Tribes of Man in Tallil, who have been chosen to battle Darkness, a colossal snake that has swallowed the sun.

Darkness Components Layout

It is a cooperative game built for 2-6 players that have to work together to complete tasks, manage the corruption overtaking the land of Tallil in the Sun’s absence, and collect weapons to take into battle against Darkness. Only one hero will eventually enter the belly of Darkness to try to free the Sun, and this is not a task to take lightly.

“Darkness, the great serpent, was created in the same instant that Mother Moon created the Sun. There could be no light without shadow, so by creating one, she created the other. Although Mother Moon created Darkness, it was not an act of intentional creation.

Darkness was different from everything else she had created, and where other creatures felt love for Mother Moon, it was jealous of her power.

When its mother fell asleep, Darkness crept up into the sky. Unhinging its jaw like the snake it was, it swallowed the Sun in a single gulp. However, Darkness was burned as it tried to absorb the Sun’s light, and so the snake had to hide away until it could digest its meal.”

Darkness Heroes On Board

This is the point the Warriors are dropped into the game. Players start the game by choosing a Warrior to play. Each Warrior has a character card that displays their health and attributes, as well as a skill represented by a specific color and symbol. These become very important in choosing which events to battle in the corners of Tallil as each Warrior’s skill offers unique bonuses, but the bonuses are only effective when indicated on the events.

In true Wyrd fashion, they offer a nice combination of both male and female Warriors, so everyone can feel well represented on the board. There are no miniatures in this game and characters are represented with standees. Now, an interesting thing with the Warriors is that they have both a human, and spirit side, which is evident on opposite sides of the character cards.

Darkness - Artos Hero

There are even alternate standees for the spirit representation of each Warrior too. Each Warrior has a colored symbol in the top right corner, and these symbols tell players which characters can battle Challenges along there way and provide the ability to reroll one die in their fight.

The Heroes

  • Nyala has three health &  the attribute “Kind but Determined” which offers the ability to suffer one wound to re-roll one die rolled by any warrior. “I don’t want to hurt you, creature. I’m just here to help my people. But if you force my hand, I’ll make your children’s children fear my name.”
  • Artos has four health & the attribute “Unstoppable” which offers the ability to gain a bonus to your challenge value equal to the number of wounds you’ve suffered. “The shadows prey upon our fears, our uncertainties, and our secret shames. they cannot defeat us unless we defeat ourselves.”
  • Kitsune has three health & the attribute “Cunning as a Fox” which offers an ability in the Dawn phase, to suffer one wound to discard one item and gain one equipment piece of your choice. “You don’t want to trouble yourself with me, my Lord. I’m no one of consequence. Surely your time is better spent fighting greater foes than I.”
  • Tokori has three health & has the attribute “Pure of Heart” which offers an ability in the Dawn phase to remove one corruption token of any color from your region. “Darkness has caused a sickness in the land and in its creatures. If we do not cut out the infection, it will spread and consume us all.”
  • Hrafn has three health & the attribute “Swift and Sure” which offers an ability in the Dawn phase to move one Warrior in Tallil up to one space. “If the fleetness of my feet can win the day, then I’ll run with all my heart. But if the beating of that heart is the price, then I will die with a smile.”
  • Lupe has three health & the attribute “Powerful” which offers an ability once a day to increase or decrease the value of any Warrior’s one challenge die by one. “The road ahead of us is a dark one, but know that you can always rely on me. Even if I should fall in battle, I will always walk by your side.”

How Does It Play?

The board itself is a very interesting change of pace, in that it’s round, and consists of large spaces in the centre, representing Tallil, where the Warriors reside, surrounded by the giant serpent, Darkness. While the Warriors work away in Tallil, the Sun token makes it’s way from the head of the snake to it’s tail over the course of many “days.”

Darkness - Game Board Set-Up

Each quadrant of the board represents the Winds from each direction. The Winds play their own important roles in maintaining balance in the game and ensuring the Warriors have the best chance at defeating Darkness. Each Wind direction offers its own unique Challenge Deck that provides interesting circumstances for the Warriors to deal with in an attempt to obtain spirit weapons to go into the belly of Darkness and free the Sun.

The winds can changed in both positive and negative ways throughout the game, and when things go very wrong, the winds can be lost completely. In order for the Warriors to win the game, there must be at least one wind in play at the end of the game.

“Gathering up the greatest warriors of the Tribes, the Elders said to them, “You must find a way to retrieve the Sun from Darkness’ stomach, or all of Tallil will be lost to its all-consuming hunger. Seek the lost spirit weapons, those forged in the old days when the Four Winds watched over the Tribes. Seek the Sunstones, scattered remnants of the Sun that still hold some of its power…”

Turns in Darkness Comes Rattling are represented as “days,” which consist of three phases per day: the Dawn Phase, the Challenge Phase and the Dusk Phase. In the Dawn Phase, each player has four action points to spend in several different ways. For one action point each, they can Move, Scout, Purify or Give.

Darkness - Nyalla Character

A Warrior does not have to spend all of their action points in a turn, but those lost are not saved, and are then gone for the turn. Players may move one space for each action point they spend, and this includes moving back and forth onto the same space if needed. To Scout, a player can flip a Challenge card up on the space they are on.

There are advantages and disadvantages to doing this – knowing is helpful in that you may have the opportunity to move off of the space if it’s something dangerous that you do not wish to fight during your Challenge Phase, however some Challenges have “Scout” effects on them that effect your Warrior immediately, which may or may not work to your advantage.

Darkness - Challenge One

A Purify action can be used to remove a corruption token on the space you occupy if the token is the same color as your ability on your character card. And finally, a Give action allows a player to Give a single item in the Warrior’s possession to another Warrior in the same space. There are Merchant spaces between the four corners of Tallil, which allows players to purchase items with Bones collected along their journey; these are vital to ensuring the success of the Warriors.

The Challenge Phase has each Warrior face a Challenge on the space that they are occupying. A player reads the card and must roll all four Challenge Dice to meet or exceed the target number listed on the card. If they are successful, they collect whatever reward is listed, and if they fail, they suffer whatever consequence is listed.

Darkness - Challenge Two

The result on the black Darkness Die causes an effect of its own. If rattles appear, the Sun token moves along the snake’s body, further into its belly. A ghostly picture indicates a shadow, which adds corruption tokens to the zones in Tallil adjacent to wherever shadows reside.If an eye is rolled, a single corruption token is added to any space in the region that the Warrior is occupying. If there is no Challenge Card on a Warrior’s space, only the Darkness is rolled and followed.

Corruption is represented by the colored triangle tokens and can apply to spaces as well as Warriors. When something acquires three corruption tokens, a Shadow card is placed there instead. A Shadow inflicts a very serious negative slant to whatever Challenge is on that space, making the task increasingly difficult for a Warrior to deal with.

Darkness - Challenge Three

Shadows anger the Winds and cause a negative shift to whichever area a Shadow is placed in. When a Wind is unable to move counter clockwise, it abandons humanity and is removed from play. The Merchants can also be effected by Corruption. If they accumulate three tokens, they assume their dark side. Their token is flipped and the space suffers a darker price for goods.

In the Dusk Phase, the game prepares for the next day and refreshes any empty spaces in Tallil. Every Spirit heals one wound. Reveal any Challenge or Shadow cards that have the reveal icon on them, and shuffle the Darkness cards back into their deck. Then players start a new day.

Darkness - Spirit Characters

When a Warrior suffers wounds, they remove a heart wound token for each suffered. If a Warrior loses all their wound tokens, they lose their physical form, flip their card and assume their spirit character. The player continues the game in this form, suffering wounds as indicated on this side of the card.

If the player loses their last wound on this side, they can no longer use the ability on the card. Spirits are immortal, so their player continues but they cannot perform all tasks as the human form could. They can, however, heal themselves and if they successfully restore their wounds, they are revived and return to the world as a Warrior.

Darkness - Lupe Spirit Card

Meanwhile things are happening in the darkness track. As the Sun travels along the body of the great snake, it inflicts damage according to the symbol. Darkness’ Venom adds one Corruption to each region. Nightfall replaces corruption tokens with a Shadow card in any one region. Portents of Darkness cause resolution of an Event card (nothing good ever happens from an Event Card). And the Rumor symbol is the only symbol offering assistance on that track.

The Rumor heals a wound from any one Warrior and alerts the Warriors to the location of the Sun. At these times only, Warriors can choose to send one of them into Darkness to go after the Sun. This can be a pivotal moment in the game. Without a spirit weapon, among other things,  a Warrior has no chance of success, so they may choose to wait for another opportunity to enter. But, there is always a chance that it may be too late the next time the opportunity presents itself – if it does at all.

Darkness - Cards

If a Warrior enters Darkness, and is fortunate enough to move onto the space with the Sun, the Warrior must battle the topmost Darkness card at +2 Difficulty. A success retrieves the Sun and the Warriors win! A failure, and the Sun moves ahead two spaces. If a Warrior dies in Darkness, the players lose the game.

Final Thoughts

All in all, this game is very fun, and very unique, which equals one very exceptional game. Admittedly, there are a lot of pieces to this game, which requires a bit to set up and you need to have a nice read through the rules before trying to hop in to play. But, the rules are nice and clear and the game has a good, natural flow to it once you get playing and you’ll be hooked!

Darkness - Rulebook

It’s almost impossible to not read the cards aloud in your best narrator voice to set the scene during play (which my son did perfectly!). And though there are not miniatures in this game (which I would really love to see), Wyrd has put a lot of effort into the layout in the box, including a place for everything so all components will be in their rightful place.

Darkness - Token Bag

There’s nothing better than having the necessary spots to put all the little tokens and cards so they aren’t constantly mixing up in the box or spilling all over the place. Oh, and did I mention the lovely, cloth token bag included – what a nice touch! If you are the sort of gamer that enjoys boardgames, or RPG’s, then this is definitely a game worth checking out.

Will you be joining the Tribes of Men to save the Sun when Darkness Comes Rattling?

"There are few companies that pour this kind of attention into their background stories, and then carry it over into their games so well..."

"All in all, this game is very fun, and very unique, which equals one very exceptional game..."