One of my favorite serial Kickstarter creators, Dave Killingsworth of SolarFlare Games, sent me a copy of this game months ago, and I’ve kind of held off on doing the review because he is the king of changing the rules on me at the last minute. So, instead of playing it three times, per Circus Rules, and then having to “forget” the game to learn it with the revised rules, this time I decided to lag on it a bit so that I could avoid that. As it turns out, he didn’t disappoint – he added new stuff and a new rule book a few weeks ago; as always, they were smart, editorial decisions that made the game easier, more fun, and smarter. I’ll tell you straight away that we all really dug Nightmare Forest: Dead Run (“NF:DR”) and it surprised us how enthralling the gameplay is, especially since it’s a very simple game at its core.
Now, I’d say that Solar Flare games puts out lighter, family-themed games in general, with games like Thrash Car and Dumpster Brawl successfully funding in the past. This game, however, is a departure from their usual fare because it is decidedly darker in setting and features much more grim artwork to accompany it. I absolutely love the look of this game, and from an aesthetic perspective think this is easily their finest effort to date, which is saying a lot because I adore the look of Dumpster Brawl.
Not unlike The Battle for Kemble’s Cascade, NF:DR is the analog version of a digital side-scrolling shoot-em-up style game. The basic premise is that you’re trying to escape a monster-laden forest, and to do so, you must run, shoot, slice, and mainly, push your luck. Gameplay is exceedingly simple to grasp: you start with a pool of dice, and can expend them to do a few things.
First, you can flip the next obstacle card up, and choose how many dice you think it will take to kill it, based on its defense value. Each die has one or two “hits”on it, which hilariously look like exploding condoms, so if you want to press your luck, you could perhaps try rolling one die to fight a 2-strength monster, hoping to kill it on a lucky roll, or instead, roll two dice hoping to get at least one hit on each, which is safer, but limits your turn’s length.
Second, you can choose to loot the forest by rolling a number of dice, and drawing a number of cards equal to the hits rolled, keeping one and discarding any others. When you run out of dice, your turn is over. When a player gets to the end of their track (or receives five wounds, dies, and is eliminated), the game is over. The winner is the person who escaped.
Yes, it sounds simple, and that’s because it really is. There’s a little more to it than just that, but not much. If you read the rules on the Kickstarter project page, you can see what’s there and make your own decision, but I’ll tell you straight away, this is the perfect example of a beer-and-pretzels filler game. It’s completely unpretentious, and it makes no excuses for what it is. To us, it seems to hit all of the sweet spots for this kind of game: it has survivors that can be randomly found and that join you, there’s weapons and items galore, and there’s even a hint of crafting in that you can take two weapons, duct tape them together, and make a super-weapon of sorts. There is a ton of randomness, so you may play the game five times and not see the same monsters, same exact distribution of items, or see a single survivor.
In short, this is a cute, fun, and quick little press-your-luck filler that has an emphasis on fun-first design and evocative art which carries the setting to the players with style. We really liked it more than I thought we would, and of all the Circus Freaks who played it, only I was critical of it in any way. My only criticism, really, is that there are not that many decision points other than how many dice to roll, but even I had to accept the point that it’s a light, push-your-luck filler game and it’s not going to be Risk. The really long and short is that the Circus has spoken, and we really recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun, campy thriller of a filler.
Why This Forest Is A Wet Dream:
– Brisk turns make this a great lunch-hour game
– Some decisions are exceedingly tense
– The strikingly good artwork carries the setting well
– The replay value is very high
Why This Forest Really Is The Stuff of Nightmares:
– It’s, mechanically, very simple
– The condom-burst “hits” look nothing like an explosion
I can’t see how this game isn’t totally worth the $25.00 asking price, especially when SolarFlare has put out high-quality games in the past, which tells me that they know how to make durable, great looking games.
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And my disclaimer, which applies especially to SolarFlare Games, who have more last-minute rule changes than American politics:
Superfly Circus Disclaimer:
This is a PREVIEW of a game, and therefore no score will be listed, and the final product may vary greatly from what I just wrote. We did our level best, in good faith, to tell you all what we RECEIVED, and if the game changes during the production or development cycle, take it up with the publisher if you bought it based on this preview. I can only write about what was received, and as far as I’m concerned, Kickstarter projects are vaporware until they are actually produced and delivered. Whatever you do, don’t use the above preview as anything other than a review of a game BEING DEVELOPED AT THE TIME OF WRITING, and the game is just as likely to be completely different than was described as it is to be exactly as described.