When I was much younger I used to play board games for hours and hours. I remember times I'd play Settlers of Catan often into the wee hours, as the sun crept over the horizon. Despite all of my tabletop shenanigans, I'd never actually explored the concept of single-player board gaming. It's why Games Workshops' much loved Chainsaw Warrior unfortunately passed me by, forever consigned to its dusty boxes and car boot sales. Until 2013's Chainsaw Warrior that is, which lovingly restored an age-old classic for a modern era.
One thing the original tabletop Chainsaw Warrior never got was a sequel though; a chance to reinvent the rulebook. Step forward Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night. Break out the weapons, health packs, and that unforgettable chainsaw, because it's time to save the world, again.
Upon first booting up Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night you're greeted with a beautifully intricate and slightly disturbing main screen. The all-new artwork on offer is a sight to behold, which is just as well because it's going to be the "table" upon which you'll play for the duration of the game. Hopefully future updates will add in more than just the three main areas as background, ideally adjusting to better reflect the area in which you're in at the time.
After selecting your game style from the three difficulty ratings Normal, Hard, and Classic your character's stats are randomly generated and adjusted to reflect that selection. While playing on Normal or Hard if you have a stat that is a little underwhelming you'll be compensated on another stat. The compensation depends on the difficulty of course. In Classic you're starting attributes are at the mercy of total randomization, so fingers crossed if you want to make it out alive.
Once your character has their six attributes and one skill you are ready to choose your inventory. Choosing the correct items is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure your success in defeating Darkness, Chainsaw Warrior's antagonist. Kit selection involves much planning and general knowledge of the game ahead, ensuring repeat playthroughs are usually more fruitful.
If, like me, you just grab the coolest sounding things and set off, your lifespan is likely to be measured in seconds rather than minutes. Before heading off to battle you're shown an artful cut scene with text explaining some background and foreshadowing events to come. It looks amazing and has a thoroughly unique style but it can be difficult to comprehend what's going on. If you want an in-depth reason for killing zombie alligators you're not going to find it here.
The original Chainsaw Warrior was more or less identical to the tabletop game, and with Lords of the Night Auroch Digital has been given the opportunity to stretch its legs a little. Once more you feel as if you're playing a tabletop game, but the sequel has allowed a number of nifty additions and UI changes to make gameplay an altogether smoother experience.
The benefit of any digital tabletop experience is not having to fiddle around with the set-up yourself, instead allowing you to hop straight into the action. You start each game with 60 minutes to save the world from Darkness, and each turn uses up 30 seconds. This seems like an eternity until you near the end of your quest and find yourself desperately needing more time because of setbacks earlier on.
At the beginning of each turn you flip over a card from a deck. And the cards explain the encounter or situation you are faced with. These usually result in enemy cards and your challenge is to select the right weapon for the job, keeping in mind ammo limitations, chosen skills, and what type of enemy you are fighting. Add to this three main categories of enemy and a handful of different types in each category, each with varying stats that influence the outcome of the fight. And then when combat begins, the dice are rolled and added to the enemies' reflex, AKA 'Dodge' stat. If the sum of this is higher than your appropriate base stat the dice are rolled and added to that particular stat; if you have the higher number you win and move on, if it's a draw you lose precious time, and if you have the lower sum your opponent decreases your health and you waste time.
In addition to the battle cards there are a number of others as well. Trap cards can be avoided with the proper equipment or rolling the correct number. Fail though and you must face the consequences of the card. Occasionally Lords of the Night will throw you a bone and actually give you a card or two you want to see, such as "Clear" cards that give you time to reload and recoup, or, a personal favorite of mine, supply drops which allow you to add or change out some of the equipment you have. Another way to get a boost is to get a temple card and accept the challenge. You will fight a stronger enemy called a guardian, each of which has a unique way of trying to kill you. A particularly cruel one is The Slime, who must be taken out in a single strike for fear of instant death. These temple quests are optional but if you think you can take on the guardian you will be rewarded with a blessing from the gods to help you on the rest of your quest. Being able to choose your battles is a great mechanic that new Chainsaw Warrior editions could certainly explore more of.
All said and done, the dice can be your greatest friend or your worst enemy and in most games they are both. You will find yourself winning all sorts of fights and reaching a guardian only to get snake eyes. This is a board game adaptation rogue alike and sometimes you’re simply not going to win, through no fault of your own. Needless to say this makes Chainsaw Warrior Lords of the Night excruciatingly tense and insanely fun at the same time, both of which keep you coming back for more. In this sense it's true to its predecessor, offering an immense challenge that shouldn't be taken lightly.
Even though I found myself kicked to the curb often, I kept coming back for more because I just needed to win. Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night has a hugely addictive gameplay and that's where its key strength lies. With all of the game's great mechanics and fluid fighting dynamics, the board game aesthetic and at times sheer frustration is what sets Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night apart from the rest. If you're a fan or tabletop gaming, rogue-a-likes, replayability or just some honest indie gaming with a refreshingly modest price tag then Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night could be well worth your time. It has everything that makes a tabletop game special with the added glitz, glamour, and zombie shredding that so many of us enjoy exploring in our pastimes.