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Review: Till Dawn

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Till Dawn Box Year Published: 2014
Publisher: 8th Summit/Greyfox 
Players: 4-8(12)
Playtime: 30 minutes

One Sentence Synopsis: Exposure to sun may cause implosion.

Till Dawn is another game that successfully Kickstarted earlier this year.  Published by 8th Summit games with distribution and marketing handled by Greyfox Games, Till Dawn is a 4-8 player push-your-luck-experience(12 w the expansion) where you attempt to amass more blood than your fellow vampires in each round without dying to pesky slayers, and without becoming victim to the sun.  After 3 nights of hunting, vampires total up the blood they’ve banked and the one with the most points is the winner.  We mostly played with 4-5 people, and I can say the advertised playtime of 30 minutes is pretty-much spot on for all player counts.

Setup for the game is easy, and the rules are extremely straightforward.  Players choose one vampire character card apiece, all of which have a short paragraph about that character’s background as well as health information and an area where they collect bonus blood whenever that place comes up.  The hunt deck is then shuffled, and each player is given a health tracking token, one power at random from the power card deck, and their voting cards.  After that, you’re off and hunting for some sweet platelets over the course of 3 nights(3 game rounds).

Zolin Till Dawn Card

Each round is played out the same, with players receiving a new power at the beginning of the round, and then taking turns flipping cards over from the Hunt deck.  Most of the cards depict a location, such as the Stadium, and allow each vampire to collect a number of blood tokens equal to the number on the card.  If they location matches the favorite hunting venue from a player’s character card, that person gets an extra blood from the encounter.  There’s also the possibility of slayer cards coming up which may deal damage to some or all active players, or give the option of losing some points for that round in exchange for not taking damage.

Till Dawn Hunt cards

Night Lingers and Sun Rising cards are also interspersed throughout the hunt deck, and advance or retreat the night tracker which is cleverly incorporated onto the game’s actual box cover.  Each round the night tracker progresses around the spaces on the box based on the Sun Rising cards that are drawn, and ends when the tracker reaches the top left corner of the box, and the sun rises.

Till Dawn Power card

Till Dawn Power Card example.

The press-your-luck element the game is built around comes into play in two ways.  First, the slayer cards that come up throughout each night will gradually deplete each vampire’s health.  Some power cards stop or reduce the effects, or allow healing, but invariably each vampire will start running low on health.  If someone runs out of health completely, all the blood they accrued for the round is lost completely.  To avoid this, players may “retire” at the start of any player’s turn before the next hunt card is flipped.  Doing so allows them to lock in all the blood gained that night by trading the blood tokens for coffins with points values.  Similarly, if the sun rises before a vampire taps out of the round then all blood they gained for that turn is likewise lost. It’s your decision whether to stay in the game for the next card flip, or decide to call it a night and head back to your coffin gorged, alive, and without the need for SPF70.

My group has a good time with Till Dawn as a very light filler game.  The character bios are colorful, and have led us to speculate in some cases as to whether certain ones actually refer to historical figures that seem to match the descriptions.  The press-your-luck elements also make for some good laughs, especially as the final people left in a round hesitate before each card draw and nervously debate aloud whether they should soldier on or play it safe and pack things in.  The artwork is cool and sets a good mood for the overall game, and the components are all of great quality; the box is sturdy(which is must be, since it’s also the board), and the cards snap well.  I also love blood tokens; I like the shape, odd as that may sound, and the color is good shade of red.

Till Dawn Blood and CoffinsWith that said, Till Dawn is not a game I enjoy enough to table on a regular basis.  There’s simply very little depth here; character choices are a complete wash as each one is basically the same, and the power cards are totally random and usually don’t have much of an affect on gameplay. Event cards are a little more substantial than Power cards, but they’re only gained in certain circumstances.  The voting cards that occasionally get flipped from the hunt deck that ask you to place a bet on whether the next card turned will be of a certain symbol are likewise completely random in their outcome, and end up boiling down to luck whether players make some blood.  The only real choice you have is whether to stay out or go home, and even that can be taken away from you in certain instances by other players’ cards, or by a very unlucky card draw.  We had one game where a person was killed, quite literally, in the first card draw of the round, and they went on to die early in both subsequent rounds as well for a grand total of 0 points at the end of the game.  Fun for them, right?  Fortunately each round and game doesn’t take that long, so they were back in the fray soon after.

I’m also a bit disappointed in the theme’s integration.  As I said before, I do like the art, I like the bits, and I even think everything together really sets a good mood for the game.  However, flipping cards and collecting tokens never makes me feel like I’m a vampire on the prowl.  It’s more like I’m someone visiting locations around town with my pals asking for some red pellets.  I can’t help but to think some opportunity was missed to integrate a strategic element for visiting locales and actually confronting victims for varying amounts of blood, or even some mechanic for using blood to purchase abilities to help you in other ways.  I suppose that may slow the game down somewhat and potentially extend the playtime slightly, especially as the player count increases, but in this case I’d gladly tack on another 15-20 minutes if it meant the inclusion of even some very simple additional mechanic(s).

As far as the expansion content goes, I unfortunately can’t speak to how the 12 player games play out since our group hasn’t been able to gather that many people yet for a larger game.  I don’t foresee it affecting playtime much in the game’s current state since everyone is affected the same way by each card coming out, so adding more players doesn’t mean adding more individual turns filled with unique actions.  I can, however, comment on the ring expansion, which I think is a complete waste of time.  The ring itself that was included in the Kickstarter edition is pretty cool to look at, but it really doesn’t add anything to the game unless you’re into roleplaying and want to be able to force people to choose whether to kiss the ring each turn while the clan leader wears it, or have that person pay them some blood.  It does add an Alpha-Werewolf card into the deck as well which interacts with the person wearing the ring in a unique way when it comes out, but it still ends up just feeling a bit gimmicky.

COG Takeaway:   If you like vampires, you’ll like this theme, and if you’ve got a larger group of people who are into very light games accompanied by drinks, or maybe newcomers to the hobby who can appreciate the theme, your $20ish might be well spent on Till Dawn.  Similarly, if you’ve got a group of 8 people or more who want something different from the oft-tabled deduction style games that accommodate large numbers like The ResistanceAvalonOne Night Ultimate Werewolf, or Werewolf, then Till Dawn is worth checking out for a change of pace.  For me, however, I’m just left feeling unfulfilled at the end of 30 minutes.  I’d say if you’re looking specifically for a press-your-luck experience that has even a small amount of depth/strategy, and you’re OK with it possibly running slightly longer and not being able to seat 8+ people, that you’re better off looking elsewhere(King of Tokyo and Infiltration, to name two).

Have you played Till Dawn?  What did you think of it? What Press-Your-Luck games would you recommend?

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Author: bduerksen30 I have an m.a. in history focusing on naval and maritime history in the Atlantic from the seventeenth-early nineteenth centuries. I've worked as a website consultant, and am currently employed as an analyst. I also run the COG Gaming blog for board game reviews, news, and kickstarter highlights. COG Gaming also offers playesting and editing services for new designers, and we're in the process of developing a few titles of our own. Contact me if you're interested in having your game reviewed, previewed, or in one of our other services!

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