Parallel universe called Neemoss is merging with ours, and slowly pouring its armies of monstrosities into an innocent, unsuspecting lands. Deformed beasts and Witches who command them start lurking in the shadows, sharpening their fangs and claws, ready to dine. The only people able to stop them are local village heroes and brawlers armed with swords, crossbows and having a very limited knowledge of their otherworldly enemy.
Dark Rituals: Malleus Maleficarum has popped up on Kickstarter just 2 days ago and is shaping up to be a major title of January. DG Games must really like horror and monster hunting themes, as their second offering is heading in a direction similar to Vampire Hunters from 2016. Don’t get fooled though, as even while the theme might sound familiar, the mechanics and your goals are almost the polar opposite.
Heroes Against Witches
First of all: Dark Rituals is not your typical co-op game. While most players have to work together to get a chance at defeating the forces of evil, their enemy is actually being controlled by another player – the so-called “Witch Master”.
Asymmetric co-op games are often said to be less popular on Kickstarter, but last year’s Claustrophobia 1643 campaign proved, that it’s not really the case. All you need is some originality spice in your recipe.
Action and Reaction
To pull it off, authors focused on speeding up the gameplay. The game is not played in typical, alternated turns. Instead the hero team decides who gets to perform an action. There are limited stamina points per round, that prevent abusing that rule, but it still makes the game much more dynamic, and adds more freedom.
Stamina points, apart from actions, can also be spent on “reactions” – played outside of your turn. This may for example mean protecting yourself from an upcoming attack, so leaving some points “just in case” is a pretty good idea, if you want to stay alive.
Strength in Numbers
While the heroes have to think of their tactics together and cooperate, Witch Master is allowed to not only control multiple witch and monster characters at once, but also summon some new ones. His pool of stamina is also limited, but much bigger – to allow controlling multiple minions.
Interestingly, in solo mode, player takes on the role of Witch Master, while the heroes get turned into an automated AI deck, he has to defeat with his chaotic armies.
Dark Rituals: Malleus Maleficarum on Kickstarter
The game is being crowdfunded right now, and has already managed to collect over $280.000. Backers can pledge to either get a core version or the one expanded with a nordic themed gameplay add-on called “The Cursed Fjord”. Minis feel high quality, don’t have to be put together and look great when painted. The story is also interesting and the authors have spent a lot of campaign space to explain it (which we sadly don’t see that often).
“Yeah, the minis are just begging to be painted! Also: the lore of Dark Rituals reminds me of Witcher games, thanks to its inspiration with middle ages and folk tales. Love the theme.”
All in all, Dark Rituals seems really solid, and it’s been a while since I’ve been impressed by an asymmetric co-op game. If you’re interested in the campaign, check out the link below.