Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of Nights of Fire from Mighty Boards.
What is this game about?
Nights of Fire is a follow-up to Days of Ire, a game about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. While Days of Ire focuses on a week that was ultimately victorious for the Hungarians and that resulted in Soviet withdrawal from Budapest, Nights of Fire focuses on the Soviets' revenge. Not long after their ignominious departure, the Soviets returned with the full force of their army, and there was no way for the Hungarians to win in terms of military strength. This means that Nights of Fire is not about achieving victory in combat—instead, it is a battle for moral victory, in which the Soviets try to save face and suppress the Hungarians before things get too messy, while the Revolutionaries stall the Soviet forces and help civilians escape in order to humiliate their invaders on the international stage.
While Days of Ire had a Pandemic-like feel to it, Nights of Fire is more of a light war game in which opposing forces vie for control of various districts in the city. Both sides use cards to control their forces and "pay for" in-game actions.
How does it play solo?
Nights of Fire can pit two Hungarian players against one Soviet player, or it can be played solo against an AI deck named for General Konev, who commanded the invading forces. Whenever you draw cards from the Konev deck, expect Soviet forces to mobilize and carry out brutal attacks. You'll be using your own cards for action points, which can pay for an array of in-game actions from saving civilians to disabling tanks. You'll also need to move your dwindling supply of fighters around the board and use them to best effect before they are inevitably killed.
Nights of Fire is not a bad game, but I don't like it as much as Days of Ire. While DoI was not perfect, I did love the way that its historical theme fully saturated the game, right down to the images on the board and cards. Nights of Fire has more generic imagery and lacks a lot of that historical flavor, which was disappointing.
That said, I like that Nights of Fire made some bold choices in terms of its victory conditions. It really does create the feeling of fighting a losing battle, desperately scraping together every resource you have to keep going for just a little bit longer. The Soviet forces are relentless, and no matter how many tanks you disable, they will only refresh during the next turn to come after you all over again. This makes Nights of Fire feel very different from other games I've played.
The gameplay aspects that make Nights of Fire different, however, are not entirely good. Given that the game is about a nasty slog towards inevitable defeat (even if you win!), it can stretch a couple of turns too long. This is especially true because as your forces and resources run low, you can do less and less each turn, and find yourself doing more of the same actions repetitively just to survive. As a historical point about being stuck in a losing battle, this makes sense. But in terms of playing a game, it kills a bit of the fun.
Do I recommend it?
Nights of Fire isn't a bad game, especially if you love this time period or are looking for a game that feels like a hybrid between a Euro and a war game. But you're not missing an essential gaming experience if you give it a pass.
Overall Rating: 3 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars .— I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.