Monday, October 5, 2009

Dying Lights by Mark Argyle

I originally posted this review in 2003 on I also fixed the spelling.

The basics: Dying Lights is a game that gives you everything that you'd want in a complex space board game like Twilight Imperium, but with half the complex rules and several highly innovative features that help game play rather than enhance it.

The Story: I am a bit odd when it comes to board games, card games and the like. The story in these games is just as important to me as it is in the RPG, which is to say-everything. And the story of Dying Lights does not let me down. The rule book devotes 1/6th of its space to telling the intriguing tale, and helps set the proper mood of the game.

Basically, a bunch of jedi-like psi monks go about mucking with things that they only think they understand in order to create a utopia. As one might expect, this goes horrifically wrong and they end up corrupting the Galaxy's collective unconscious as well as psychically activating all the inhabitants of the galaxy. The practical upshot of which is; the galaxy goes nuts and several cracks in the universe appear, bleeding out all the spiritual energy in the universe.

The inhabitants rapidly come to the conclusion that in order to survive, they have to kill everyone else because the remaining psi power leaves enough for only 1/10 of the people living.

Game play: The thing I like most about the game is the proverbial shot gun tied to the heads of the players. While it has LOADS of flexibility (which I like) it also forces the players to act.

There are three campaign rounds in each turn. At the end of each turn, you loose psi (1 the first, 2 the second, 3 the third etc). Each player starts with five, and while there are ways to get psi in the game (not as easy as it sounds), you can see right away that it forces you to take action.

The game takes place on terrain cards laid out in a somewhat similar fashion to Twilight Imperium, with another set of cards that represent 'Fleet trees' or as the game calls them "Battle Groups". You then move these around on the battle ground and combat ensues.

I won't include all the details of the combat, but it is relatively simple and straight forward, yet also manages to include elements such as tech upgrades, fighters and heavy weapons. An aspect of the game I really like are the 'experience' cards that allow the Admirals of each fleet to gain traits like 'heroic' or 'ruthless' that affect play. The game plays for 2-6 players and the basic set (which I got) seems to support all, although supposedly you can 'customize decks' by manipulating cards, though this is by no means a collectible card game. Everything you need is in the box.

In short, I liked it. It is a game that has a lot of potential and at the same time plays relatively quickly.


  1. Mark Argyle, the creator of Dying Lights, himself died recently. I hope he had the chance to read this review when it first went live. As an acquaintance of his I'm glad you liked it, as a legacy of what he did and strived for.

  2. Yes. He quoted me at one point and sent me the review copy. He was one of my best virtual friends, though I hadn't talked to him for a few years until early August. I am truly sorry about his passing. I just heard about it and posted this as a tribute of sorts.

  3. Nice review, I don't have to murder you.

    ... He was my brother. :)

  4. Your brother was one of the most remarkable people I've ever known...and the world is a sadder place for his passing.