A fun occult themed digital tabletop game of deduction that would be best played with friends.
October Night Games, the first full release from developers October Knight Games is a digital tabletop game for 1-6 players that’s heavily inspired by authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker. The game tasks the player(s) with either opening or sealing a gate that will summon occult creatures. To do this, they will first pick their unique Cultist and a familiar, each of which has a unique ability, and these abilities can form some helpful synergies. They will then be put into 2 teams of 3 players (Changers and Keepers), each with opposing goals. The twist here is that each player is unaware of who is their teammates and who is their enemy, and over the course of 31 in-game days (turns) you will have to figure out who is who, help your team and hinder your enemies as you rush to complete rituals in preparation for the final ritual on Halloween night.
A player has a few options on their turn. They can choose one of 3 locations to visit from the screen pictured above. Each of these locations will be marked with the ritual components that are available there. You can then take the ritual items from there, although you will sometimes take damage while doing so. There are 3 types of damage the player can take, Body, Mind, and Social Standing. If any of these are depleted it will have a range of effects on the player. Lose all Body and you’ll be bedridden for 2 turns, lose all mind and icons on the screen will change to reflect your insanity, and if your Social Standing drops to 0, townspeople will come to your house and you’ll lose some items at the end of your turn. You’ll want to keep each of these values as high as possible for the Final Ritual, however, to give your team the best shot at winning.
Speaking of rituals, they’re a big part of the turn-by-turn gameplay. Once you have the correct ritual components, you can perform a ritual to summon an occult being that will give you advantages, with each subsequent ritual requiring more materials as well as upgraded materials you can create via the game’s Alchemy system. Alchemy allows the player to make more complex ritual materials by combining 3 regular materials in specific orders. It gets a little complex, and the game doesn’t hold your hand too much, leaving a lot of the mechanics up to the player to figure out. There is a manual for the game, available on the steam page, and it’s wonderfully written in character from the perspective of a cultist, but it gives you as little information as needed to get started. It took me an hour or so of going through the game to really nail down how these systems work, and it was a rewarding experience that didn’t feel frustrating to me, but I can see how it could get annoying when playing in a group and could maybe feel unfair to players who don’t understand the mechanics.
Another part of the game is combat. It’s triggered when picking up certain ritual materials, but it seems somewhat random as to what will make it happen, and honestly, I didn’t really find it too engaging. The player and the Enemy each roll dice, with the player able to use a combat item (if they have one) or their ability to alter the outcomes of the dice roll, but it doesn’t really feel much deeper than that. If you win, you can get some extra materials and either way you take whatever damage the enemy rolled. It was the weakest aspect overall for me, but it’s not the main focus.
The other key mechanic of the game is deduction. Every few turns, an event will occur between 3 random Cultists. Each cultist decides how they will resolve the event, with either a Keeper (symbolised by a keyhole) or Changer (symbolised by a key) choice, and the winning choice is shown on the deduction screen, as seen in the above image. The event branches to the Cultists involved, and it’s up to the player to decide who they think made what choice. Each of the Cultists has one of 3 roles, and none of the Cultists in an event will have the same role, so you can use this information over multiple events to make your deductions easier. However, the earlier you figure out who is on your team, the better! Once you’re sure who is who you can send your allies gifts to help them and curses to your enemies to hinder them. This is very helpful, as you’ll want to be in the best shape (and your enemies in their worst) for the Final Ritual.
The Final Ritual plays similarly to a regular combat encounter, however, you don’t get to use your regular items or abilities. You can instead use the item given to you when you pick your role at the start of the game (The Wand, The Book and The Lantern), each of which has a different effect. The Wand gives your teammates an extra dice during their turn, The Book heals your team and can even resurrect the dead. The Lantern inflicts madness on enemies, which hinders their ability to influence the Gate, and their attacks can harm their own teammates, and even themselves. Each player rolls any dice that they’ve earned over the course of the game via rituals, with the symbols on the dice corresponding to each of the Cultists in the game, as well as two Sun symbols that signify the Gate. Roll your own symbol and it allows you to use your Cultist’s Role item. If the player rolls symbols for their teammates, they lose injuries, if they roll an enemies symbol, they gain injuries and any Sun symbols rolled will be added to their teams Gate Points. After each player has rolled, the round is over and the team with the most Gate Points will unlock a seal on the gate. The first team to unlock 4 seals wins the game. It does feel like it can be somewhat random due to the nature of dice rolls, however, you can put it more in your favour by gaining more dice by performing rituals. It’ll probably take most players a few runs of the game before they really figure out the mechanics properly, it’s just down to experimentation, which the game encourages anyway.
In terms of visuals/audio, the game looks and sounds great, with its distinct classical art style and its music, which evokes classic horror movie scores. It’s all very thematically consistent and adds a nice atmosphere to an otherwise very static game.
Because of the secretive nature of the game, it doesn’t offer any standard local multiplayer modes, it’s only LAN or online multiplayer, and because of this, I didn’t have a chance to experience the game as I feel it’s intended, and that is a shame. I can’t say if it would affect my overall rating for the game, but I can see how it would be more fun with a full group of 6 players, especially using the in-game chat feature and the gifting/cursing mechanic to bluff and pull of turns that AI simply wouldn’t because they’re not human. I could see this game being adapted to a physical game pretty easily too.
I enjoyed playing October Night Games, discovering the intricacies of its gameplay systems was fun and gave me a sense of accomplishment when I figured out a mechanic, however, once you’ve gotten past that it can start to become a little lonesome playing solo. There’s a lot of replay value, with varying combinations of Cultists and Familiars, and the core gameplay is engaging. However, playing against AI in a deduction game just can’t give the same enjoyment that I know it would give when playing with a group of friends, which, unfortunately, I didn’t get to try myself.
October Night Games is available now on PC
Tom Woods is a Games Journalist for ICUGamer.com. Follow Tom via Twitter @T_Woods93
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