When Nightmares Come | Fortified Niche playtest!

When Nightmares Come banner: Dean from Supernatural firing The Colt but the bullet is replaced by a D10

Do you have a burning desire to pick up a baseball bat and face off against things that go bump into the night? Because this is the game about you. When Nightmares Come pits five Hunters against zombies, ghouls and other beasties fit to crawl out of a portal.

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When Nightmares Come TTS screenshot: a park area in a Pulp Alley city terrain module with a few investigators and one dead default TTS zombie
When Nightmares Come puts you in the shoes of hard-scrabble Hunters. They don’t have official backing, armories brimming with Mk18s and III+ plate carriers, or Chosen One powers. But they are the ones that noticed weird attacks around the town and are ready to face what goes bump in the night armed with the most dangerous contents of their sheds.
When Nightmares Come TTS screenshot: a Hunter closes in on a meeple representing a portal
Whether you play solo or coop, you’ll only ever have five Hunters on the field. They can be tough guys, aspiring mad inventors, or upstart mystics. Each of the classes are matched to one of the three attributes in the game: Body, Mind, Spirit. You get a D10, a D8 and a D6 to put in the stats – and you don’t need to think about it too hard.
When Nightmares Come: three Hunters are facing off against zombies, a Portal and a Nexus.
But there’s a twist: a D10 in, say, Body only matters in the pre-game narrative scene. In battle, your stats – like carrying capacity – are derived from the dice size, yes, but when you activate a Hunter, you can use any dice size for any action. So your wizard can shoot a pistol with a D10, but your range-specc’d Warden is still going to be better at it.
When Nightmares Come:  Hunters on a street
Since When Nightmares Come is a Patrick Todoroff game, the character creation is light and freeform. Unfortunately, that also applies to enemies and the narrative scenes. The former have rules how to construct them – with special abilities and power tears – but no mechanical backing for their categorization (demons, vampires, etc.) detailed early in the book.
When Nightmares Come TTS screenshot: a Hunter battles a monster next to a hedgerow.
For narrative scenes, a lot of effort is taken to provide them with fluff, but mechanically, it’s likely to be a single roll that only impacts the Hunter deployment. For all the connections Hunters they have to the city’s major groups or neighborhoods, they only serve to modify that roll. The connections don’t impact the campaign game either: there’s no heat tracker to represent police tracking armed vigilantes (you) or fun pre/post game actions that come from you knowing the right folks.
When Nightmares Come TTS screenshot: a wide view of a smoky city street with Hunters fighting monsters
On the other hand, When Nightmares Come campaign system has one killer feature: fixed length. It’s meant to run for six skirmishes that gradually increase in difficulty before making you face off against the big bad. Considering how fast the games are, you can do that in a day or two. This is a refreshingly realistic attitude towards campaign play. Most people don’t have time or can’t keep the group together for long. I would know, I’ve run Necromunda campaigns. So unlike with most games, running a full campaign of When Nightmares Come is achievable without becoming the blocking detachment at your FLGS.
When Nightmares Come TTS screenshot: a Hunter showdown vs. a greater monster
Altogether, When Nightmares Come takes a horror staple (civvies with makeshift guns investigate monsters) and puts it on the miniature wargaming table. It has the lightness of design we have come to expect from Patrick Todoroff, but this approach does not work well in the narrative section. The purposefully short campaign is great, though – a lesson both games and monster-of-the-week TV series should learn!

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