Updated: Sep 19, 2019
When I first played Nightfall I thought it was a pretty good, fast and brutal game, but that, no matter how you played, it was more luck than skill as to who won. Then came the second base set, Martial Law and everything changed, not only did the game get even faster and even more brutal, but careful deck building and chaining allowed for the skilled players to come out on top. Now we have the third base set, The Coldest War and it’s the fastest version of Nightfall yet! With the addition of attachment cards the amount of damage players can dish out is huge! But I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s do this right!
In the Coldest War, the game transports us to Russia and the frozen reaches of north eastern Europe, introducing us to characters such as Sophia Otrava and Gregor Dzanic. Both the artwork and the fluff work hard to conjure up an image of a frozen world filled with Nightmares, while the mechanics of the game remain detached enough to keep players who don’t care for the gothic horror theme in the game.
Inside the box you’ll find:
7 each of 12 Actions
7 each of 12 Minions
10 each of 6 Starting Minions
24 Draft Cards
30 Nightfall Wounds
15 Martial Law Wounds
15 Coldest War Wounds
6 Moon Phase Cards
32 Card Dividers
Once again everything is of a good standard and the artwork is nicely done, well, you know, if you like zombies and ghouls! Because this is another “base set” you get another deck of wound cards that basically replaces all your old one, you also get another set of starting cards, but we’ll get to those a little later on.
As with Martial Law, The Coldest War introduces one keyword and one new mechanic.
All Order cards in the base set of Nightfall had either a Chain or In Play Effect, now they might also have a Combat Effect. This effect does not trigger if the card is played in a chain, it only triggers when played from your hand during the combat step.
This means that cards just became even more valuable. Do you play all your cards in the chain or do you hold some back to use in combat? Cards in Nightfall were already doing so much, they were minions and orders, extra influence, you could use them to feed other cards and now you have the Combat Effects to consider too. Will this lead to more player deliberation? Probably not so much, but it certainly means that players can interact and do things on other players turns.
Two new cards in this set, Full Battle Rattle and Still Standing significantly change the way the game plays. Both of these cards are attachments, meaning that when they are played in the chain they must be attached to a minion when they resolve.
Full Battle Rattle adds 2 to the minions strength, this is particularly big for minions that stick around like Bad Smoke or Jarek (from the Coldest War). And presumably these cards can stack, offering even more damage, attach two of these to Big Ghost for example and he’s hitting for 9 damage!
Still Standing continues to complement Full Battle Rattle as it prevents the attached minion from being discarded after it attacks. So imagine Big Ghost with two copies of Full Battle Rattle and a copy of Still Standing, yes, that’s a hit of 9 that isn’t going away unless it’s killed!
These two attachments, especially when they are both in play can lead to some massive attacks and games that will quickly resolve. This is not a bad thing, but it is a game changer and I look forward to seeing more attachments in the future.
Along with a whole host of new cards Coldest War offers a new set of six starting minions. Now I am glad they did this as I already had ten starter decks, I didn’t need more copies. However, in almost all cases I feel like I prefer the original base minions. Happily, the rules allow for mixing and matching as the players see fit.
The six minions are:
Clever Ivan - Chain: Look at the top 4 cards of your deck. You may discard any of them. Replace the rest in any order.
Ivan’s effect feels a little useless as I often discard down to no cards at the end of my turn (using them for influence) so reordering the top four cards of my deck is only helpful to either weed out poor cards or as a boost to orders that would then allow me to draw cards. In that latter case Ivan is more powerful to play on your opponents turn as you can potentially draw Combat Cards to use in your own combat.
JAREK - In Play: At the end of your turn, restore 1 health to this card.
In Play: Do not discard this card at the end of the Combat Phase. Exile when destroyed.
Jarek is a Frankenstein's monster style minion who’s name is anagram of the parts he is made up of. (Josef, Alois, Raiko, Edvard and Karel) The fact that he sticks around and heals makes him a great blocker, but unlike Bad Smoke he won't absorb damage inflicted on you.
Kilo 13 - In Play: When this card is assigned to block, inflict 1 damage on target player. In Play: Exile when destroyed or discarded.
To make the most of Kilo 13 you should play him in your own chain so that he can defend and inflict wounds directly on to other players.
Patrol Zombie - In Play: At the start of any phase, you may exile this card to draw 2 cards.
Patrol Zombie is probably the weakest of the new minions as using his special effect means losing an attack of 2. However teaming him up with Still Standing would alleviate this issue.
Snowstorm - In Play: While this card is attacking, its strength is equal to the number of minions the defending player controls.
Snowstorm is the minion you really have to plan well to use, if you wipe out all opposing minions he attacks for nothing and is discarded and exiled.
Victor One - Your Chain: You may claim 1 order from an opposing private archive.
Victor is possibly one of the best minions from this set, his ability to grant you a card of your choice from an opponent is highly valuable, granting you access to cards you never could have gotten otherwise.
My favourite cards? Glad you ask! In addition to Full Battle Rattle and Still Standing I’d have to vote for Banner 69.
Banner’s combat ability to leap from your hand for an attack of 2 is a decisive strike and one your opponent will find it hard to prepare against.
Unholy resurrection offers a great combat effect, inflicting damage on minions before combat starts (and hopefully wiping out your opponents attackers) While it’s Chain effect can be very devastating if you have concentrated on picking up ghouls!
Smiling Biter offers a minion with an attack of 3 and a good reason to generate a good deal of cards!
Bone Cruncher brings another attack 5 minion to the game, but it is his combat effect that makes this guy so deadly. Discard him from your hand and make a minion’s damage unblockable!
Finally R & D offers some nice card draw (which could go to feeding cards like Smiling Biter) but it’s combat effect allows you to drop a friendly minion from your hand into play, imagine dropping Bone Cruncher, effective as both an attacker or defender!
That is only a small sampling of some of the new effects available in this set, which, as an expansion, I think is great. It adds a lot to the game, particularly the combat and attachment cards. However, as a base set I think it fails. Nightfall is already a pretty tough game to teach, there is a lot going on and it can be brutal, with wounds being handed out all over the place. However in Coldest War you have to learn the basic game plus feed and combat and that’s a lot to take in, the combat effects are like a mini game all of their own.
Don’t get me wrong here, the combat effects are cool and they make what is already one the most interactive deck building games even more so, but they are not designed for new players to master. As I mentioned earlier cards are the only resource in this game and knowing how best to use them is key to winning, a new player would be overwhelmed with choice if they used Coldest War as a base set!
As I recommended with Martial Law, play the base game first, then play Martial Law and then, when you’ve mastered everything else, try The Coldest War.
You may be wondering if I’ll talk about the Moon Phase cards, not in this review as I haven’t yet tried them out, but when I do I’ll post a mini review of them
The Coldest War adds a lot to the base game of Nightfall, it feels like an expansion for players looking to take their game to the next level and I think it delivers on that. It feels faster and there are greater levels of damage, without the feeling of power creep if that makes sense. Overall it’s a great package but I highly recommend new players checking out Nightfall first before attempting The Coldest War.
A review copy of the game was kindly provide by AEG