The Stifling Dark Board Game Review

10 July 2024
Escape horrors and darkness with flashlights in a hidden movement game that does things a little differently, in The Stifling Dark. Our review looks at whether this should be the game to scare you!

Written by Charlie Theel

Hidden movement games do a wonderful job of conveying tension. Typically, one player secretly tracks their position on a separate map or pad of paper, while the rest of the group scours a board in search of the intruder. The Stifling Dark wields this format to craft a terrifying horror game where the hidden entity is a supernatural foe, intent on hunting down and eviscerating a group of investigators that have wandered into their domain. It’s full of atmosphere and utilises this style of game wonderfully.

What is The Stifling Dark Board Game?

While the general story is that a group of investigators are searching for confirmation of the villain, the details are actually more varied. There are 14 different investigators, each with their own abilities and personality. There are three different adversaries with wildly asymmetrical powers and gameplay. And there are two separate maps, each containing their own identity and quirks.

Content continues after advertisements

How do you play?

The investigators are always trying to gather evidence. The way this is accomplished changes map to map, but it’s broadly a process of wandering across the board and collecting tokens from areas. The twist is that these tokens cannot be seen. In order for them to appear, players must place plastic flashlight templates on the board, positioning them carefully to cover as many spaces as possible. These are neat physical pieces, reminiscent of weapon templates in Warhammer or a similar miniatures game. If the flashlight covers a space where an evidence token exists on the adversary’s personal mini map, then they place it on the main board and it’s available to be collected. 

While this is rad and a neat little mechanism, it gains most of its oomph with how it interacts with the terrifying creature the investigators oppose. This is the only way to make the enemy vulnerable and reveal their position. It’s how the group protects themselves and controls the map. This is really the heart of The Stifling Dark, as it provides the foundation for the game’s tactical decisions and positioning. It interacts with the adversary’s hidden movement superbly, providing a thick layer of tension.

Part of this game’s strength is in how it reverses expectations. Often in these sorts of games the hidden entity is the weaker of the two sides. In The Stifling Dark, the hidden foe is the one who is deadly. The investigators can’t actually harm the killer, instead they must collect evidence to trigger the end game, all while being hunted. Their only protection are little beams of light they wield like shields.

Related Article: Like games that make you feel a little uncertain? Check out our best games for Halloween for a similar vibe. 

The Stifling Dark Review

This is a fascinating game. It lands on so many excellent little stylistic choices, suffering only under a relatively heavy layer of finicky details. The multitude of tokens and cards can be suffocating at times. This contrasts with the appreciated elegance of genre games like Fury of Dracula and Specter Ops. This title is not clean or streamlined, instead, each map and adversary have their own suite of components and rules that must be referenced. When the investigator team has gathered enough evidence to trigger the end game, they must then choose between three options, each with their own sets of components and nuanced reference cards. All of this is neat, but it’s a cost that some won’t want to pay. 

The result is a game that is focused on a particular experience. It needs the right group that’s willing to put in the work to appreciate what it offers, which limits its broad appeal. I find the systems and nuance compelling, but it’s certainly not the type of game one would bring to the table often. When you can muster up the will, however, it screams like a banshee. 

Should you play it? Yes. While The Stifling Dark is imperfect and somewhat unwieldy, it offers a suspenseful dance of terror that is unique in this genre. It offers an engaging experience that is wild and dramatic, and it provides memorable sessions that are full of spectacle and bloodshed.

Try The Stifling Dark if you like Fury of Draculaboth games provide a thoughtful chase in the dark. A group of fragile humans must prepare to confront evil and vanquish it for good. These two titles come at this theme from a different angle, but they touch on similar motifs and contain similar vibes.

Buy The Stifling Dark from Amazon

About The Stifling Dark

Designer: Jeremy Geenen, Ethan Janssen, Matt Rayford

Publisher: Sophisticated Cerberus Games

Time: 120 minutes

Players: 2-5

Ages: 14+

Price: £65


No comments