‘THE STIFLING DARK’ Board Game Review

The Stifling Dark is a blend of mystery and survival horror, wrapped up in an asymmetrical horror game made by Sophisticated Cerberus Games. You must work together to find clues about your locations, and whoever is stalking you in the dark. Your light is your best weapon against The Stifling Dark.

The Stifling Dark is for 3-5 players, with most players making up the investigators and one taking the role of the adversary.

The investigators must work together to learn about their location, their unseen adversary, and how to escape. Each investigator has their own abilities making for some fun combinations and strategies. There is another element working against them, however: the dark.

One of The Stifling Dark‘s standout features is its lighting mechanic. There are areas of different lighting levels throughout each scenario or “map”. Pitch Black, Dim, and Bright Spaces. The investigators are slowed down in the dark and cannot see where the adversary is while in these spaces. The Adversary, however, can move freely in the dark, stalking its prey unseen. Dim areas have no penalty or bonus, the investigators and adversaries can use them equally. Bright spaces (usually caused by a flashlight) immediately reveal the adversary, as well as any clues or usable items that may be hidden.

Light isn’t the only component of being aware of your surroundings. There are also map hazards that will cause noise tokens to be placed, giving investigators an idea of where their stalker could be if passed through.

As for the Adversary, there are multiple to choose from, each with its own back story and mechanics. While being able to move freely in the dark, you have to be mindful of light sources or anything that could cause a sound to give you away, giving the game a nice balance of strategy for both sides, rather than the killer just being a powerhouse that has absolute control.

Admittedly, in a time where at least the videogame market is seeing some fatigue in asymmetrical horror games, with almost every one of them being accused of being a clone of another (rightfully or not), The Stifling Dark may sound like a less accessible clone of those games. Not everyone wants to bother setting up a board game, especially if there’s any complexity to it when they can just boot up a videogame right?

Here’s the thing. We had more fun with The Stifling Dark than any of those video games. Where the videogames lose the horror and tension after a few playthroughs, The Stifling Dark didn’t. You can’t see a huge chunk of the board no matter how you arrange your flashlights, with nothing more than maybe some noise tokens as the killer crunches in the dark brings far more tension than its videogame contemporaries. There is no increased heartbeat volume to let you know you’re in danger, there is no, keeping an eye out over the whole map for each other as one of you works at an action. There are no updates or patches that throw the balance out of wack. The Stifling Dark is a game that always feels how the other games only feel the first few times you play them.

The Stifling Dark is one of the most immersive horror board games I’ve played, between the lighting and sound mechanics, the mystery and hidden movement, and the strategy. It’s a little bit on the complex side and may take some time to fully understand, but it’s worth the effort. I strongly suggest that you don’t write this off as another clone. You can pre-order a copy of The Stifling Darkright here ]!

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