In “Reaping the Rewards,” I take a look at the finished product from a crowdfunding campaign. Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall was originally funded through Kickstarter in September 2022. It was delivered to backers in the fall of 2023 and is now available to purchase. While I did not have a chance to play it before the campaign, I mentioned it in a tabletop roundup. I was sent a copy of the finished game for review.
The world of Atios is covered in a mysterious darkness, and only a few places have kinfire lighthouses to hold it back. You are a Seeker, a professional adventurer who ventures outside the walls of the city.
What Is Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall?
Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall is a narrative adventure game for 1 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 45–60 minutes to play each scenario. It retails for $149.99 and is available to purchase directly from the publisher. (There is an optional upgrade kit for fancier components, but it does not change the gameplay.)
Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall was designed by Kevin Wilson and Adela Kapuścińska and published by Incredible Dream, with art direction by Katarzyna Redesiuk.
Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall Components
Since Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall is a campaign game with a lot of things that you’ll discover along the way, I’ll only show you a portion of those components in order to avoid spoilers. Most of the components are from the first couple of scenarios, and I will try to avoid sharing too much context so that you don’t get story spoilers. Instead of a full components list, I’ll show you the sorts of things that you’ll see as you play, but leave most of it a mystery.
When you first open the box, here’s what you’ll see:
- Box lid board
- Welcome box
- Loot box
- 6 Character boxes
- 21 Scenario folios
The box itself is pretty big, almost a cube, and the lid wraps over two of the sides and attaches magnetically. You remove it and flip it over to form the board. It’s a nice dual-use that allows for a big board without having to figure out extra storage, but the caveat is that you’ll need to be careful when picking up the box—if you try to just grab the sides you’ll just take the lid off.
The welcome box includes some of the components you’ll use for every game, and has a little bit of additional storage space for components that will be unlocked as you play. One thing I did find was that the further you get, the tighter the space gets because many of the folios will add components to the box, and you’ll also have a supply of cards that may eventually outgrow the space available in the welcome box.
Here’s what you start with in the Welcome box:
- Atlas book (not pictured above)
- 13 Ability tokens
- Bag of Destiny
- Health dial
- 14 Enemy chits
- 36 Character chits
- 3 Heart chits
- 4 Standee bases
- 18 Hurt cards
- 18 Weak cards
- 18 Trapped cards
- 18 Stunned cards
- 15 Armor cards
- 25 Exhausted cards
The chits are plastic and are a nice quality. Most importantly, the bag is large enough that you can put the chits in, mix them up, and reach your hand into the bag to pull one out! (At least, for an average human adult hand.)
The one complaint I have about the gameplay components is the health dials—the dual-numbered dial shown above is used for enemies, and each Seeker also has a health dial on their character board (pictured below). For whatever reason, the plastic hubs used for these do not snap tight, so the dials can spin loosely, but also some of the hubs are often in danger of just falling out. (I may need to address these with a bit of glue but I’m always worried I’ll glue it down so it no longer spins.)
Each of the Seeker boxes has a similar set of components:
- Character board with health dial
- Character standee
- 19 cards (including 1 Lantern card)
There’s a nice diversity of characters throughout the game, not only in the playable characters but also those that you’ll encounter over the course of the campaign, which I appreciated.
The back of each Seeker box has a short background story and some details about the character. I like that it tells you what type of player might like each character—do you want to be the tank and take damage for the team? Want to have ranged attacks from a distance? Although the six different characters have a lot of similarities to traditional RPG classes (rogue, bard, sorcerer), they’re also described with a keyword or phrase that helps exemplify their play style. For instance, Asha (pictured above) is a rogue but is also an “opportunist.”
The Loot box has a whole lot of cards in it. As the Kickstarter campaign boasted, there are enough cards in Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall that if laid end to end it would be longer than a soccer field. Of course, that would make the game pretty hard to play so I don’t recommend it.
The Loot box includes a few packs of town cards, four upgrade packs, and several copper, gold, and silver treasure packs. (Note that I forgot to get a photo of the Loot box before we started to play, but all of the cards initially start wrapped in separate plastic packs so you only open a specific pack when instructed to do so.)
You’ll see a few more of the components below as I explain the gameplay, but there are a lot of cardboard standees and additional tokens, as well as lots of cards, stored in the various quest folios.
How to Play Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall
You can download a copy of the rulebooks here. Of note: when you begin, there’s a “Getting Started” rulebook that is actually quite slim—it’s only 14 pages, and some of those are just components or about assembling the health dials. The Kickstarter campaign claimed that you could get started in 15 minutes, and I found that to be partly true: this first booklet gives you the introductory story and sets up the game. As soon as you open the first quest folio, you’ll find the second rulebook, which explains combat. This is the biggest of the rulebooks, but even so it’s not actually that long.
You basically learn the game as you go, so if you’re planning to play the campaign yourself you don’t necessarily need to read my how to play section unless you just really want to know how the game works. I’ll try to keep to a pretty high-level description of it.
Most of the quests will include some narrative portions, where you might make a few decisions, and a battle scene. The first quest just jumps you right into a battle scene, so we’ll start with that.
The common setup includes setting out the board with the Map Atlas and the status cards in their appropriate slots. The bag of destiny always includes all the numbered chits, the 2 darkness chits, and the 3 heart chits. It will also have a number of chits for each character (depending on player count).
Each player starts with their deck shuffled, and their lantern card flipped to the “Lantern Charging” side. Your starting health is highlighted on your dial. Each player draws 7 cards.
Read the story under the flap of the quest folio, and then find Card 1 in that folio to begin!
Most quests after the first will present you with some story before you reach the actual battle. Sometimes you’ll just get to choose from different options as a party. Some cards will have skill checks—for those, players will have to flip cards from their own decks, and look for specific colors. Generally, red cards represent power, green cards represent finesse, and blue cards represent wisdom. Failing to get the right colors may cause you to take damage, or add Exhausted cards to your discard pile.
Some other cards have conundrums: these will show the various character icons above their leanings, but you have to choose one option as a group. If your portrait is shown above the option the group chooses, then you gain a kinfire token—these will come into play later.
Eventually, in each quest, you’ll come to a battle scene card. The card will tell you which page to turn to in the Atlas, and then you’ll get a card showing the enemy setup. This is when you retrieve the enemy sheet(s) from the folio, any enemy standees, and the focus token for each enemy. The card will tell you where to place the enemy and the characters on the map, and also shows which ability tokens to place next to each enemy’s three abilities. The enemy sheet shows its starting health, and below that it says which Seeker it will focus on—things like most or least health, most armor, and so on. Give that player the focus token.
Actions generally are fairly simple: melee attacks hit an enemy in the same space, and ranged attacks hit an enemy exactly 1 space away. Some attacks can do area damage, hitting all enemies in a space, and some attacks will draw the target’s focus to you after the attack.
Turns are determined by the Bag of Destiny: draw a chit from the bag. Black chits will trigger the corresponding enemy ability, and the enemy may move one space toward whoever has the focus token if needed. For instance, if you drew the 3 for the wyvern above, it would trigger its top ability, an 8-damage melee attack, and then refocus if needed. When somebody is hit by an attack, other players may each play a boost card to reduce the damage. (Before drawing a chit, you may spend a Fate token by putting it into the Void box—that lets you draw 4 and choose one. You may spend up to 3 Fate tokens per scenario, but only if you have enough in your supply to begin with.)
If it’s a player chit or a heart token, then the player gets a turn. (Heart chits let you choose one of the players to take a turn.) On your turn, you may play one action card from your hand, and you may also move one space either before or after your action. When you play an action, each other player may play one boost if it matches your action color.
In addition, attacks (both yours and enemies’) can cause status effects: Hurt will cause extra damage at the start of a turn; Weak reduces the amount of damage an attack will do; Stunned cancels an enemy’s action or removes an extra chit of yours from the bag; Trapped prevents you from moving.
Characters can also gain Armor cards—when you get hit, each armor in your hand will reduce damage by 1, and then you discard 1 armor card and retain the rest. Characters can also get Exhausted cards—these will do damage to you if they’re still in your hand when you have to discard and refresh your hand, so you want to try to find other ways to discard them before then (usually relying on another player’s boost card).
Your deck has action cards and boost cards—actions are played when it’s your turn, and boosts are played when it’s somebody else’s turn. Boosts can increase an attack’s damage, give a player extra movement, let them draw or discard cards, and more. If you ever run out of action cards, you must refresh your hand—discard all your remaining cards and draw back up to 7. Also, you refresh your armor to your starting value, and you flip your lantern to its charged side. Your lantern is a special action card, usually quite powerful, and you flip it back to its charging side when you use it.
The battle scene ends when you’ve defeated the enemies, or when any Seeker has been reduced to 0 health. (Some battle cards have other conditions as well.) Win or lose, you’ll finish the scene and continue the story, though of course the rewards are generally better if you win.
In between quests, you will also have the opportunity to visit locations in town, giving you the opportunity to talk to people, buy equipment, and rest up to remove exhausted cards from your deck. Town is also when you’ll have a chance to modify your deck.
Customizing Your Deck
The deck-building part of the game is where you can tweak and modify your character. You don’t really need to know this ahead of time, but if you’re curious about how it works, read on!
Each character has a color bar on their player board that shows their mix of attributes, with a total of 9 points distributed between the three colors. For example, Asha (seen above) has 4 green, 3 blue, and 2 red. Her deck needs to include 9 actions matching those colors; some cards have dual colors so they can count toward either for deck-building. White and black cards can count toward any color.
Each action has a boost card that’s paired with it (and has the same name), so when you build your deck, these pairs are added or removed together. The boost card is often, but not always, the same color as the action card. The particular mix of cards will affect how you fare in the narrative challenges that require skill checks, and it also affects which actions your teammates will be able to boost. Some cards have the character’s portrait on them—those are exclusive to that character and nobody else can use them. Other cards can be used by anyone.
As you gain more cards, you’ll find some that have kinfire icons at the bottom—your deck is limited by the total number of kinfire you have collected, so the more kinfire you gain, the more powerful the cards you can include in your deck. You’ll be told when you are allowed to modify your deck, but otherwise all the cards that you gain over the course of the campaign are placed in a common pool.
Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall
When I first saw that Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall said “45–60 minutes” for the play time, I laughed. I figured this was a classic example of severely underestimating the play time, because I’ve played very few games of this genre that play in under an hour. An adventure game, with tactical battles and narrative choices between quests—surely this is going to be a huge undertaking, right? And when you see the size of the box, it definitely looks like the sort of thing that you’ll need to spend an hour learning to play, and a long time setting up.
So when I opened up the box and saw just a small booklet to read, I was even more intrigued, and I couldn’t wait to dive in. Unfortunately, I did have to wait, because my gaming group that wanted to try it had summer plans and we couldn’t get our schedules to line up until October. Since then, though, we have met once a week to play, and most evenings we’ve played two or three quests at a time because we just want to keep going. In a month and a half, we have played three quarters of the campaign (which has a total of 21 quests), and we’re on track to finish by the end of this month.
Even though this is a campaign with packs to open and things to discover, it’s a game that can be reset and played again because there aren’t any permanent changes—you don’t sticker anything, and you don’t tear anything up. (Just make sure you keep all the treasure pack envelopes so you can refill them later!) I’m already looking forward to playing this with my three kids next summer when everyone is home for break. Since there are some story options that are only available to certain characters, even just changing up the characters will give you a different experience, let alone choosing different paths through the story. (The overarching quest line will remain the same, but the details will vary.)
Aside from the quick start to the game, there are several other things that stood out to me about Kinfire Chronicles. The deck building is a really cool system and I hadn’t really seen something like this before. Rather than adding or removing individual cards from your deck, you’re always swapping pairs. Designer Kevin Wilson had explained in a designer diary that balancing a huge number of cards in a game like this is always difficult—how do you keep one card from being too powerful? How do you introduce more powerful abilities without unbalancing the game? With card pairs, you can have a really powerful action and then balance it by having the corresponding boost be weaker—either because it has a lesser effect, or even by changing its color so that it’s less versatile as a boost. White cards are wild and can be boosted by any color; black cards are colorless and cannot be boosted at all—and sometimes can even have negative boost cards. While each character already starts with a particular feel, you can really tweak your deck to suit your play style.
The game system is quite easy to learn. Actions are, for the most part, pretty straightforward, and any exceptions are spelled out on the cards themselves. All of the status cards have instructions printed right on them, and the four that can affect enemies are double-sided so that you use one side for yourself and the other side for the enemies. Even so, that still allows for a lot of tactical planning in the gameplay itself, as you figure out how to use your cards to defeat the enemies and protect each other.
The Bag of Destiny is an interesting way to determine player order and the actions the enemies take. Because the actions are generally simple—move 1 space, attack either your own space or an adjacent space, go after whoever has the focus token—you don’t spend a lot of time having to figure out what an enemy is going to do. In games like Frosthaven (which, to be sure, I really enjoy as well), having to figure out who an enemy is going to attack, how far they can move, what their range is, can take a bit of time. In Kinfire Chronicles, it tends to be a lot simpler, but the status effects and details can still leave room for variety and flavor. A few of the tokens—the darkness and the hearts—are placed on the time track, and when that fills up all the chits are placed back in the bag to reset. So for a time you can start to see what the enemy is capable of and which actions are exhausted, and you can also see how likely it is that you’ll get another turn before the reset.
The hand-refreshing system is another interesting aspect. You have to reset when you run out of action cards, and there are pros and cons. The pro is that you get to charge your lantern, which is one of your most powerful starting cards; if you have the regular status cards you’ll get to discard those as well. The con is that you’re likely discarding some boost cards that may have helped somebody else; the bigger downside is that if you have exhaustion cards in your hand when you refresh, you lose health, and those cards stay in your system until you manage to make it to an inn. Refreshing your hand also resets your armor to its starting value—so if you’re Khor, the revenant tank, you get 3 armor and it’s nice to refresh; if you’re Feyn the bard you go to 0 armor, so if you managed to accumulate any, sometimes you want to delay refreshing until you’ve taken a couple hits so they don’t go to waste. I like the way that characters may have different reasons to refresh or delay refreshing.
Then there’s the story itself: the story is about these mysterious Starless Nights—anything outside of the light of kinfire can be changed or destroyed, so as you explore you’ll encounter some strange creatures. It reminded me of the movie Annihilation, a sort of unsettling weirdness. You also get to know your characters over the course of the game. Right from the outside, you get a brief bio and some bits of flavor text on the action cards you play, but you also see their motivations in their responses to conundrums, and you learn bits and pieces of their history through the narratives whenever a card comes up that has your portrait on it. We’ve been uncovering our characters’ motivations to become Seekers.
The town exploration aspect is also a lot of fun. I don’t want to give away too much, but your options slowly build up as parts of the city become available to explore. After each quest, you have a limited number of actions to take in town but there are so many places to visit! Sometimes it’s obvious—this place is an equipment shop and you’ll be able to buy cards, that place is an inn for resting and building your deck. But other places aren’t so clear: will visiting the docks give you something to buy, or lead to an encounter? Many places trigger events, and some may even lead you to side quests! (Tip: always take the side quests.)
One of the ways that information is saved in the game is through Memory cards. If you accomplish particular tasks or make certain choices, you’ll be told to take a specific Memory card, which has a brief description of what you remember, along with an illustration. Later on, you may encounter cards that check for specific memories. Did we meet that dwarf at the tavern? Oh, then we can ask this shopkeeper about her. You never know when a particular memory is going to surface and become an important piece of information; likewise, there are often encounters where we wonder what it was that we missed—how do we get that memory?
I gave a broad overview recently of all the campaign games I’ve been playing this year, and I have to say that as much as I’ve enjoyed many of them, Kinfire Chronicles may be one of my favorites. It has a nice mix of story and gameplay and it has never felt like a slog. Some of the other games have parts that it felt like, okay, I just have to get through this one part that is a little more tedious but there’s a lot of other fun bits; Kinfire Chronicles always leaves us eager to play more.
Of course, that does mean that in another couple weeks we’re going to be finished, and from one standpoint it may make you wonder about the value proposition. For instance, Frosthaven at 130 scenarios (many of which may take 2 hours or more to play) is probably going to take me about 2 years to complete, meeting about once a week, and is priced at $250. In comparison, Kinfire Chronicles sells for $150 and will last about 2 months—that seems more expensive, if cost-per-play or cost-per-hour is your primary metric. Even if I play it several times through, I think it’s probable that I won’t hit the same number of hours as the Frosthaven campaign. However, sheer time (or component count) isn’t the only thing that gives a game value, and in this instance I think Kinfire Chronicle‘s brevity is one of its strengths. It manages to tell a compelling story in a form that you and your gaming group may have an easier time seeing through to completion, and I think that makes it more approachable for a wider audience—albeit still one that is willing to spend a premium on a cool experience. (That said, I am going to finish Frosthaven someday! You just wait! … for a while.)
I’m giving Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall our GeekDad Approved seal because I think it’s a fantastic experience, and one that I think would be a lot of fun to share if your family loves adventure games. It’s lighter than a full-fledged RPG but has some similar flavor, and even though the box says 14+ I think experienced kids (perhaps as young as 10) will also be able to handle it, particularly since it’s a cooperative game.
For more information, visit the Kinfire Chronicles website.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.