clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Night Cage makes co-op board gaming scary fun

Escape before your candle burns out

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

Horror board games can be surprisingly effective methods of inducing terror. Usually it’s not from frightening art or gruesome settings, but from their ability to render you and your friends as utterly hopeless as the poor lot being terrorized in a horror flick. With its minimalist design and straightforward gameplay, The Night Cage may be the prime example of just how a board game do so much with so seemingly little.

The Night Cage takes place on a 6-by-6 grid (or it’s 7-by-7 if you’re playing with five people) where players take turns placing tiles that represent the corridors of the maze. Light and darkness are the name of the game here, with a candle in your hand extending your sight only as far as the directly adjacent tiles. Once you move from a tile, any tiles you can no longer see are subsumed by the darkness, forever.

This labyrinth is ever-shifting, with no edges or bottom; instead, you merely continue from the opposite side. Should you fall into a pit, you merely fall back into the Night Cage. Escape is only possible if every player finds a key and congregates on a gate tile. Remember that tiles disappear if you lose sight of them, meaning that once a gate or key is discovered, it can be very costly to leave it behind.

Others reside in the Night Cage, including wax eaters that will snuff out your candle, and bigger monsters that threaten to consume everything you’ve uncovered in the maze. You do have one hope: the ability to gather your nerves, allowing you to move further on a later turn or even charge past a monster.

Whatever you do, you had better do it quick; as you place and discard more tiles, the stack quickly empties. Should you completely run out, the game is over, and all the players will remain trapped in the Night Cage forever.

Win or fail, the Night Cage is a thrilling cooperative game that encourages thoughtful teamwork. Everyone has the same knowledge and same skill set, so working together is a matter of thinking through each possible action, step by step. The random assortment of tiles (including some with extra-difficult monsters for advanced players) makes each game a unique challenge, and the atmosphere provided by the stark game art and components is exquisitely chilling. There’s even a creepy soundtrack provided by the game’s creators.

You can see how deep we delved into The Night Cage in our Let’s Play video at the top of this post. If you enjoy it, be sure to check out the rest of our Overboard episodes on our YouTube channel.