DAY & NIGHT (Mystics.nl, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $53 including shipping from www.dn-boardgame.com)
After thousands of years, Lady Day and Lady Night have grown tired of their tasks of bringing light and dark to the world and seek to retire to a beautiful palace. Unfortunately, there is only room for one of them. But which one? To answer that question, there must be a duel. And that is the fanciful premise of a new two player fantasy-themed game out of The Netherlands designed by Valentijn Eekels called Day & Night.
Day & Night comes with a mounted board which displays a 6 x 8 grid (with an impassible four square center), day and night tiles, day and night chits (called "pawns" in the rules), various stones, two decks of cards, each serving as a Book of Spells (a Day deck and a Night deck) and a rulebook in both English and Dutch.
Players take on the roles of Day and Night, starting at opposite/diagonal positions on the board with all spaces on the board otherwise empty (and thus, "neutral" squares). The goal is to transform the squares of the board into squares favorable to you (Day or Night squares as the case may be) so as to construct a series of 9 linked squares as the basis for a temple. Construct two temples and you win. Each player shuffles their own personal Book of Spells and draws five cards for a starting hand. Each turn consists of four phases: Awakening, Spell Casting, Travelling and Retreating. Day always begins the play.
Each card in a player's hand is a spell. Although each player's spell deck is different, they both operate under similar parameters. For example, casting spells costs time (measured in hours) and each player, upon "awakening", has only 12 hours to use on a turn. Every spell card tells what it does and how many hours it "costs" (from 0 to 8 hours) to cast it. Some spells will transform a neutral square into a day or night square. Other spells allow you to change a day square to a night square (or vice-versa). Still others allow you to draw more cards. Casting spells sometimes requires that certain conditions be met. Some spells for Day require that Night be on a Day tile when being cast. Night, has several different prerequisites. For example, Night may need to be on a Night tile or have converted a Day tile into a Night tile that turn or has already built his first temple. These conditions must be kept in mind to maximize the powers of each player's deck. But the key to successful play is to utilize the unique power of each player: the power to "mystify" for Day and the power to "crystallize" for Night.
Unlike many if not most abstract strategy games, each side is not "equal". Instead, each draws upon different abilities using different spell decks. Under no circumstances, do spells get mixed. Some of the spells in Day's deck allow Day to "mystify" a tile. Mystifying takes place in three stages. Day will place a number of counters (equal to the number mentioned on the spell card played) on a Day-tile. On each of Day's subsequent turns, one counter is removed. When the final counter is removed, that Day-tile becomes a Day temple tile and is now immune from attack by Night. (This can completely destroy Night's chances to win. If Day manages to create Temple tiles in the midst of Night's grouping, Night may find itself unable to create a linked group of 9 tiles.)
Night cannot "mystify" but can "crystallize". Crystallizing a tile consists of two steps. First, Night casts the appropriate spell and places counters on the affected tiles. At that point, not only can Day NOT flip over those tiles but Day cannot travel across them! Positioning can be important when casting specific spells. If the tile that Day is currently occupying (Day's "location-tile" in game terms) is crystallized, then Day cannot move! This prevents Day from "travelling" (see below) and could conceivably leave Day unable to perform any actions! The saving grace here is that when it is again Night's turn, the counters are removed and affected tiles revert to normal.
Once a player has finished spell casting (he may use some, all or none of his 12 allotted hours on a turn), a player may travel. A pawn may move horizontally or vertically (NEVER diagonally) on the board at a cost of 3 hours per space. You can not retrace your steps on a turn (no "back and forth" movement allowed). You might wish to move to make the most of a spell (proximity to your opponent can sometimes be a factor). For each space moved, you may draw a spell card from your deck. This is the easiest (and surest) way to gain new spells. You simply can't depend on drawing a spell card to gain more spells. Hours not spent on a turn, by either spell casting or moving, are lost and may not be carried over to the next turn.
Finally, there is "retreating" which simply means that if you end a turn with more than five spells in your hand, you must discard down to five.
As mentioned, the goal for each player is to construct two temples. When a group of nine such spaces is created, the appropriate player immediately marks these spaces with his stones. From that point on, those temple spaces are inviolate and immune to attacks or conversion from the opposition.
The use of vibrant and rich blue hues dominate the cards and, as the game progresses, the board so you'd better like blue! The spell cards are bigger than cards we've seen in typical Euro fare and that's all to the good although there is still that inexplicable tendency to use small fonts in the text even though plenty of room exists for larger (and easier to read) writing. And, personally, I would have preferred three-dimensional pawns (even generic ones) for use on the board instead of the flat chits used that kind of get lost in the board's overwhelming sea of blue.
Maneuvering to set up blocks of squares is the goal with the fantasy theme giving the game some flavor. Because each player is armed with a different set of spells and, as a result, has different weapons in his arsenal, the game resembles a collectible card game but one with pre-constructed decks. Making the most of each player's particular abilities is key. Day needs to "outposition" Night by mystifying critical tiles to prevent Night from creating temples; Night needs to use his "crystallize" power to freeze Day in place to prevent Day from functioning at her peak. The bottom line is that Day & Night is a hybrid between an abstract game of positioning, a fantasy game (with roleplaying overtones) and a collectible card game. This combination of diverse elements actually works well making this game a good way to spend part of a Day & Night.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Herb Levy
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