The game is from the backstory of the True Blood HBO series. When I say backstory, I mean way back, back to the late Middle Ages when the vampires' world was split between two factions, the ruling Authority and the Monarchy, former rulers who clung to older and more overly violent ways. This isn't a game about Sookie Stackhouse and vampire lover quadrangles. It's a game of cutthroat Medieval-vampire politics.
Several reviews have noted that the game has similarities to Three-Dragon Ante (3DA). True. Also, apparently to Richard James' Lords of Scotland, which came as a surprise to me since I'd missed that Lords of Scotland from Z-Man is a game with mechanics partially inspired by 3DA.
I originally designed Three-Dragon Ante (3DA) to be a sort of anti-poker, a quasi-gambling game that used micro-rewards and kept everyone playing instead of encouraging constant folding. 3DA lacked wagering dynamics and didn't do much with bluffing. Night Eternal starts with mechanics similar to 3DA but structures them around a contest for two separate pools of blood each battle, one from the Monarchy and one from the Authority. You can only win one of the two blood pools and one of the two starts double the size of the other. Consequently, bluffing about which prize you're aiming at is a big part of the game's strategy. Micro-rewards compete with temptations to go for the two macro-rewards.
Corey Jones of Cryptozoic wanted this game to be something that the vampires of the world of True Blood played to stay in touch with the past. In the old days they probably played it using humans as currency. So another design theme is that the game is a bit nasty, especially the abilities of the Immortals cards, unique vampires that come out of a deck that's separate from the normal Agent cards. Get hold of a few Immortals cards and you've got a shot at springing a nasty surprise on the opposition, but to obtain the Immortal you either had to play low or play smart. The one friend who I won't recommend the game to recently told me that her three children had finally learned how to play games together without fighting. Night Eternal is the wrong game for that family until they have a couple more years of gaming-without-conflict under their belt.
I'll have more to say about the game, here and elsewhere, but at the moment I'm about to get on a plane to fly to London for Dragonmeet. So I'll finish with a couple promo card images from the artist, Kieran Yanner. Yes, if you're an RPG fan you've been seeing Kieran's splendid work in Numenera. I was thrilled to find that he was the artist for Night Eternal.