The Night Cage is a cooperative game from Smirk & Dagger, a company that has previously published the incredibly impressive abstract game Shobu. In this game, 1 – 5 player(s) are trapped in a dark labyrinth with only a candle to aid them in their escape. The game is creepy, dark and something that we were excited to check out.
In this preview, you’ll hear thoughts from Ric, Bob and Ryan after spending time with the game with Smirk & Dagger owner Curt Covert. We played the game on Tabletop Simulator so our comments will focus on gameplay, though we have no concerns about the quality of the final components given Smirk & Dagger’s track record.
Thoughts from Ryan
If you know me, you know how much I love games with a creepy theme. When October rolls around every year, it gives me a reason to revisit and write about some of my favorite games. The Night Cage has an eeriness to it that is rarely found the majority of games. From the very premise of the game all the way through the execution of the gameplay, the game is unsettling. The tile placement mechanic works so well as you move your token through the 7 x 7 grid illuminating tiles.
Tiles are drawn off the stack, simulating the extinguishing of a candle as the game inches closer to the end. The unknown of what lies on the face of the tile you drawn brings so much tension to the game. Will this new tile give me a new maze to escape or possibly the key that I’ve been searching for since the game began? What if this tile reveals a monster that will require me to dash down another hall, losing all the momentum I’ve gained? As your move, your light opens up new pathways and darkens the paths that you are moving further away from.
The Night Cage feels like a puzzle that continues to change as the game unfolds. I was really impressed with everything Curt has shown us and excited about seeing this game in its final form. Even though we’re at the end of this Kickstarter campaign, this is a game that’s worth looking into.
Thoughts from Ric
When we started the demo with Curt from Smirk & Dagger, I was dubious about a few of the things he said. “There’s a lot of tension in the game, and it’s not just from the theme.” “It doesn’t seem to suffer from the ‘ringleader’ issue seen in many cooperative games.” Now, I expect the owner of the publishing company to say that, but I’m a board game cynic. I didn’t believe him.
Well, after our playthrough, I must admit I was wrong. The game certainly has a ton of tension, especially at the end. I think this works really well with a horror theme – I mean, tension with something like Pandemic is great, but throw that tension on top of something that has you on edge from the beginning? Even better.
And throughout The Night Cage, I felt that everyone had something to contribute. We all had ideas on the best way that each tile could be placed in order to help us accomplish our goal. Now some of this could certainly be chalked up to a solid gaming group. However, I think that the mechanics are straightforward enough that everyone can understand quickly, while also providing enough wrinkles to keep things interesting.
I had a great time in my digital experience, but I would love to get to sit in a dark room with the right music and lighting and play through this one. That’s the kind of game night that you’ll be talking about for a while.
Thoughts from Bob
I’m gonna start off by stating what some people already know. I’m not a co-op gamer. I don’t know what it is about co-op games that makes me not interested in them. I’ve played plenty of tabletop RPG campaigns such as a Savage Worlds Star Wars, a fantasy homebrew version, Shadow Run, Cthulhu 7th edition and I’ve enjoyed all of these. For some reason it’s very hard for me to get into cooperative board games.
For me to really enjoy a cooperative board game the theme has to really impress me. I have to feel it. Really feel it. It has to be novel. It needs to evoke a strong sense of demise and then offer a grand return to safety and victory only to smash me back down again. I need to feel that edge, that we could lose it all at any moment and Smirk & Dagger has delivered a wonderfully frightening nail biter that will bring you to the edge as you enter and try to escape, The Night Cage.
With only candles to light our way through winding tile placements as we look for keys to escape monsters that might lie around each corner, throwing ourselves purposefully down caverns, and falling through the void. As the board wrapped from side to side, around and round, so did our minds. I expressed to Curt that the only thing that could bring this more to life was a perfectly scored soundtrack and a table full of actual candles. Apparently they were one step ahead of me and are actually writing a score to go along with the game and including it, along with LED candles in the pledge.
The Night Cage was a seriously spooky cooperative game that thoroughly impressed, kept me on the edge of my seat and one that I can see hitting the table over and over, as long as my candle is burning.
You can check out The Night Cage on Kickstarter through August 5, 2020. After that date you can pre-order the game through their Pledge Manager.