On Killers, Cards, and Creating. Night of Man Designer Notes

I’m not good at designer notes. To recount the ups and downs, trials, tribulations, and frustrations that have been part of Night of Man (and still are) would take up a book. I know, I’ve written several. I guess A Walk in Hell (AWIH), a game I designed for The Armchair General magazine, birthed the endeavor that was to be Night of ManAWIH was my first card-driven design. The idea of not knowing what your opponent was capable of, a game mechanic that could only reasonably be achieved with card play, fascinated me. Of course cards can do more than that. They let you break the rules, adding uncertainty and flavor. For example, when a player fires a character, squad or vehicle in Night of Man they mark the unit with a Fired marker. This signifies that the unit has acted and can’t act again. But a Second Chance card/action (there are two possible actions on each card) breaks that rule, removing the Fired marker from the unit, allowing the squad or whatever to once again threaten the opposition.

A couple of years (more or less) after I designed AWIH, I played Combat Commander, a game that remains one of my favorite squad-level designs, and a title that influenced Night of Man. I remember playing the game into the wee hours of the morning at Prezcon and enjoying every minute of it. Is Night of Man a science fiction version of Combat Commander? Nope, not even close. Night of Man units and their capabilities owe more to Fallout and Asmodee Edition’s Frontiers than anything else, the infantry mechanic is completely fresh, and the combat results (Shake-Reduce-Eliminate) have been a staple in many of my designs.  By the same token, the resolution of vehicle combat was a scheme that has been floating around in my head for years, an early version first birthed in my Aftermath prototype.


Powers and abilities are my favorite part of the game. It’s not that they are different, or fun, which they are, but rather the immense possibilities that they unlock. Certainly they can be used for crazy stuff such as the Telekinetic Blast, which attacks any infantry of vehicle unit within six squares, and Hands of Time which allows the player controlling the character T’Qual to turn back the hands of time, but also Explosive Rounds and Sniper shots. The system even works for more traditional titles such as our upcoming title on the Vietnam War, titled ’65.

A word on silly stuff. I love it. This is, after all, a ground-pounding science fiction game. There are rules for a character that creates Confusion (shaking the target), Hot Shot sniper rounds that penetrate enemy armored vehicles, Spiderbots, Walkers, and Kaiju, to name but a few spices that flavor the game. That doesn’t mean, however, that Night of Man isn’t a gritty, nut and bolt, squad-level tactical game. Small unit tactics matter, cover matters, suppressing an enemy before assaulting matters, vehicle flank shots matter, line of sight matters. It’s all here, it’s just that I’ve chosen to birth this game engine in the near future with Abrams tanks dueling with enemy Destroyers (The Killers main battle tank equivalent). 


Winning. I can’t tell you how to do that. I can tell you that small unit tactics still work in Night of Man, but you must also be adept at using powers and abilities, as well as passing cards through your hand. You will soon learn when to play and when to hold. For example, there are a plethora of Fire and Move actions in the game. That’s intentional. I think waiting to draw a Fire card is silly. It is war’s basic premise, you shoot at bad guys (be they Aliens or Earthers). On the other hand holding on to an Artillery card until you have a juicy cluster of targets might be a good idea. Only experience will teach you how to do it. I hope gaining that experience is fun. Bottom line, that’s why I designed the game, for people to have fun playing together.   

You can pre-order Night of Man right here

Mark H. Walker served 23 years in the United States Navy, most of them as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal diver. He is the owner of Flying Pig Games, the designer of the aliens-invade-Earth game Night of Man, the author of World at War: Revelation, a creepy, military action, with a love story, alternate history, World War Three novel thing, as well as Desert Moon, an exciting mecha, military science fiction novel with a twist, with plenty of damn science fiction in it despite what any reviewer says, Everyone Dies in the End, and numerous short stories. All the books and stories are available from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing right here. Give them a try. I mean, what the hell? The games? Well that's Flying Pig Games. Retribution the sequel to World at War: Revelation, will release in the summer of 2015.

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