I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for supernatural mysteries solved using a combination of brains, bravery and big ol’ guns. If you are like me, good news for us both, because When Nightmares Come is an upcoming miniatures game that looks to bring the paranormal investigation and otherworldly monsters seen in the likes of Call of Cthulhu, Arkham Horror and X-Files to a co-op skirmish wargame.
Patrick Todoroff’s tight 80-page rulebook pops players into the shoes of everyday people turned paranormal detectives under the banner of the Nightwatch. Like the brains-and-brawn investigators of classic horror RPG Call of Cthulhu and the Arkham Horror series, they can be a mixture of academic researcher-inventors, gun-wielding fighters and supernaturally gifted magic-users, represented by When Nightmares Come’s three core character classes: Wrights, Wardens and Weavers.
The players’ party - with the option to play solo, controlling all five characters, or divvy them up between a group in co-op - tool up with a combination of weaponry, contraptions and spells and set out to patrol the streets of their local precinct, whether that’s the game’s premade setting of Deacon Falls or the players’ own world.
The game’s roughly 90-minute sessions shift from story-centric narrative scenes as the group explores and interacts with their environment and its inhabitants to tactical engagements as they inevitably encounter creatures known as Dark Spawn - which could be anything from eldritch monsters, cultists and hellspawn to zombies, vampires and werewolves, depending on the players’ preference.
Whether influencing people and gathering clues or getting into scraps, the game is driven by three core stats representing Mind, Body and Spirit, each with either a six-, eight- or ten-sided die assigned. The assigned die is rolled to attack, dodge and overcome tests, aiming for a four or more to succeed, but also influences each character’s abilities - with body affecting movement range and the number of available equipment slots, mind determining how much magical arcana a character can extract, and spirit giving a character resolve to resist the mental strain of their experiences.
The light ruleset aims for pacey fights without skimping on rules that support tactical options from terrain to morale, as player characters and monsters alternate taking their turns. Monsters are broken into four distinct types that influence their movement, number of actions and traits, with minions paving the way to a far tougher final boss known as an atrocity who comes closer to the players’ own hunters in terms of abilities and strength.
While When Nightmares Come’s wargaming heart and two-part structure - narrative setup culminating in a battle - make it more combat-centric than some other investigation-focused games, its setting-agnostic ruleset loose enough to support anything from X-Files alien conspiracies to Cthulhu cults and vampire hunts - even within the same ongoing campaign - sounds like a very promising mixture of both atmospheric roleplaying and tactical wargaming.
Adding to the appeal is the fact that, like many of publisher Osprey Games’ wargames, When Nightmares Come is also miniatures-agnostic. All you’ll need is the £15 rulebook and a couple dozen models - using your existing Warhammer collection or the figures from a board game like Mansions of Madness, even - to play when it releases on March 28th.