Nightwatch

Filled with purpose, the forces of “Mourning Wood” rise from slumber…

My gaming opportunities have been thin on the ground for the last few years, for multiple macro and micro reasons. “Nightwatch” was one of the games that I definitely did not want to fall through the cracks.

L to R: “Kint”, “Widd” and “Teeth” (Hirelings), Guild Mancer “Helga Moneypfennig”, suspected Bretonnian spy “Derek” and Guild Blade “Byron Maiden”

Nightwatch is a co-op miniature wargame, with a flowchart AI approach to the waves of bad guys that attack a small group of PCs. If there was a miniatures game of the Vermintide video game series (itself almost a reskin of the Left 4 Dead series) then it would probably look a lot like Nightwatch.

The premise is one of an elite organisation (think MiB, BPRD, the fancy crossbow suppliers in Van Helsing) in a fantasy medieval world, that sends elite teams of hunters – “Pacts” – to take out scary monsters and their minions. The mechanics of the game are based on the “Exploit Zero” (formerly known as “Hardwired“) rules, which I played a couple of times and really enjoyed, so when I heard about the premise and upcoming release of “Nightwatch” I watched it closely on the authors blog.

The sinister sight of “Mourning Wood”… stick to the path…

Not long before the release of the game, about a year ago now, the author kindly offered me a version of the rules late in the editing stage, and we had a chat about some elements. I got a mention in the “Conclusion” section of the Nightwatch book as a result, which I only spotted last week when playing using the print copy of the rules. That was a fun surprise.

Hireling Widd is cut down mid-anecdote by a faun arrow to the throat…

I finally got to play a couple of games of Nightwatch with Bazpaz last weekend. He provided the venue, terrain and every miniature bar the witch hunter, the Brettonian spy and the hound. Primarily that meant his Sylvaneth (plus faun) force made up the antagonists.

A piteous bleating fills the dank air as Moneypfennig blasts fey forest dwellers with arcane energy…

I love the Sylvaneth designs and I get a kick out of playing games with those figures. I also enjoy imagining them in a morally grey area, where the “heroes” are the invading aggressors, and the “villains” are potentially very creepy elemental spirits who are likely more principled than the stars of the show.

Having a buddy with a load of painted miniatures that you would like to paint and play games with is the next best thing to having them yourself.

Supporting cast prove no match for the dryads thorny grip, and hireling Kint is mulched…

We played two games, the first two of our “The Mark of Greenfinger” campaign, themed around the collapse of an uneasy truce between the human and forest dwellers in the region of “Mourning Wood” close to “Batinburg“. Scenario one involved escorting a suspected Bretonnian spy through a hostile wooded area to testify to the local magistrate, a run and gun scenario where speed was key.

The man known only as “Teeth” provides vital supporting bow fire as Byron and Helga take down arboreal antagonists with a mix of gun, blade and arcana.
Late in the mission, the witch hunters lovingly maintained flintlock gives the forest dwellers an object lesson in the inevitability of “progress”.
Survivors.

Although the Bretonnian steadfastly refuses to speak anything but its peculiar native tongue, the three survivors managed to escort the strange foreigner to temporary safety.

Pursued by the strange and terrifying elemental creatures of Mourning Wood, the second game involved our heroes protecting the same taciturn spy in the ruins of an old farm.

L to R: “Drax” the hireling, “Byron Maiden” and his loyal companion “Elsa”, the inscrutable Brettonian spy “Derek”, “Helga Moneypfennig” and “Teeth”, the old militiaman who never smiles.

Siege games are something that essentially every tabletop gaming toy soldier enthusiast wants to play. I have played and observed several over the years and frankly, most of them are visually striking but turgid affairs that have close to zero gameplay value.

Often missing key ingredients are the ability to make real decisions about where to apply limited resources in defence and the ability to actually move. It also certainly doesn’t hurt to have the waves of attacking forces played by a flow chart, rather than bored players. Neither of those issues came up in our game; it felt like a fun b-movie.

Desperately attempting to catch their breath before their pursuers close in, the “Pact” attempts to cover all approaches, even as the forest comes to life around them…

This mission turned out to be an exciting nail-biter. The ruined farmhouse terrain (from Fogou Models) that The Bazpaz had painted happily turned out to be ideal for purpose.

Evocative of the creepy old refuge building trope in countless movies, while being a clean, practical design for actually gaming with, the ruined farm set was in some ways the unsung hero of the game, doing everything right, with minimum fuss. It is funny how a thing like that can make or break a game of toy soldiers.

Moneypfennig does sterling work, using fantastical fusillades to keep the north side of the building clear of bark-covered behemoths, while Byron and prunes his opponents up close and personal, one branch at a time…
A screaming Spite Revenant creeps, ivy-like to Moneypfennig’s perch, slashing her with barbed thorns…
Elsa starts to play “fetch” with Spite Revenant limbs while Byron punctuates the creepy susurrus of the arboreals with cold steel and the intermittent boom of flintlock…
Knuckling away a nosebleed, Helga begins another incantation as ever more of the forest uproots and advances, all too familiar hate burning in their strange inhuman faces…
Wooden limbs creaking a tree revenant vaults to attack, but is shattered to splinters by a cantrip before it can land…
A respite of only seconds still beats no respite at all… but everything has a cost…
…for even as hoary old veteran “Teeth” holds his own against the elemental host…
…once the slow motion started and the score changed key, “Teeths” fate was certain.
“Oh, I wish I’d looked after me Teeth!” cried the witch hunter uncharacteristically, while very characteristically sidestepping a mystical blade attack and slashing a Revenant to its heartwood…
The forest draws close around Byron even as he commands Elsa to return to his side, where she proves to be a terrifying foe to all that challenge her master…
There is no shortage of native reinforcements however, in number and in quality…
Ylthari, Skahathael and Gallanghan bring great vengeance upon the interlopers, while their sister Branchwych plans to do a little human pruning herself…
The sound of vintage Clannad splits the air as four metre tall devotees of the Sylvaneth god of the hunt, Kurnoth, stride purposefully from the treeline towards their quarry…
And it was so much fun that they did it again. Things are looking pretty scary for anything with a pulse…
Bedlam reigns, blood and sap splattering the old farm walls as the Pact is almost overwhelmed. Calling out a prearranged signal, Byron activates the enchantment in his Sigmarite Talisman and several things happen at once…
For a moment time seems to slows and the air becomes treacle-thick, the talisman glowing as it shifts the witch hunter several metres to his left, out of melee range of the revenants and into the path of Helga, who, eyes ablaze, has conjured a blast that not only shatters several revenants to matchwood, but also magically propels her, the witch hunter and the mysterious Bretonnian to the only part of the ruined farmhouse yet to be reclaimed by the forest…
Exhausted by the exertions of the battle, the wounded Pact members brace themselves, only to see multiple wooden colossi and an Arch Revenant hurtle from the treeline…
Suddenly without a witch hunter to attack, the Revenants turn on Elsa…
…while Kurnoth Hunter greatswords thirst for the blood-sap of the trespassers, who have nowhere else to run…
Unable to escape from the enveloping thicket of warriors to assist her master, Elsa is a dervish, ripping off and crunching limbs in her powerful jaws…
…but valiant as their efforts are, they are not enough to stop Mourning Wood from collecting its grisly due. Credits roll.

There are numerous other aspects of Nightwatch that I could happily blather on further about – I didn’t even mention the very entertaining game mechanisms forcing Helga to pay off a mysterious debt throughout the campaign, and the vow of piety that disrupts Byron’s plans at all the wrong times for example – but this post is already far too long. If you want to find out how that works, then buy the PDF: it costs less than lunch.

As for the fate of Helga, Byron and Elsa… I suspect that now that we have the rules of the game a little clearer in our heads, we will either restart “The Mark of Greenfinger” campaign, or we will do the dirty birdie thing that turned Annie Wilkes into a psychopath, and have our heroes crawl from the rubble of the farmhouse, dust themselves off and gloss over what must have been a pretty messy end. It will be fun either way I expect.

12 Responses

  1. This looks like an absolute blast! Also, Mourning Wood is the most you joke I’ve heard in a while 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am simple creature Mikko, and if puerile naming conventions make me laugh while gaming, ‘aint nobody gonna stop me.

      The game was great fun. I’m looking forward to the next session.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Mourning Wood is an amazing name, and something that I hope someone will eventually use in a dead serious Inq28 sort of thing, completely oblivious to alternative readings.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, this is interesting. For reference, the author is also the one that made Zona Alfa, which i think more people know than the others. Also i didn’t knew he had renamed Hardwired, i wonder why.

    I guess monster fighting wargaming is in my future after all 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • “Hardwired” was challenged by someone who claimed IP ownership for the term. The “Nightwatch” changed the name from “Hardwired” to “Exploit Zero” (which is probably a better name anyway.

      Monster fighting miniature games re always better when the system plays the monsters, IMO. That session was loads of fun 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Awesome, glad you got a game under your belt mate, and it looks like a blast too! Lovely minis, cool terrain, a fun ruleset & good company – perfection 🤌

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ah, I remember our foray into “Exploit Zero” with Grove and Lopez like it was yesterday. I can see those mechanics in Nightwatch, and I hope maybe someday we can meet again to get a game in.
    What a great action packed write up!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Elsa, noooooooo!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Night watch sounds very interesting! Thanks for the write up!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Great pics and stunning write up. Though I too laughed at Mourning Wood…

    Liked by 2 people

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