I wrote this just a bit ago for a website I've been working on, Watchtower Industries. Now, I could be a dick and link you to the page it's on so you could read it there, or I could actually paste it here in its entirety because I actually want you to read it. I think I'll do the latter and even give you guys a better version with hastily googled pictures.
Here at Watchtower Industries, we enjoy a good virtual escape from reality. Murdering turtles on a plumber's acid trip, shredding through robot minions as the world's most way past cool hedgehog, capturing little monsters and making them our slaves; all of these make for some excellent pastimes. However, we do occasionally venture out into the big world outside and find ways to entertain ourselves without technology's shackles to bog us down. One of our favorites ways to do so is undoubtedly Nightman.
The Origin of Nightman
It all started one weekend when a friend of the Watchtower suggested we play a game on the playground equipment that had recently been erected down the street from my house back home. She said it was called "Ghosts in the Graveyard" and that it was a lot of fun when she learned it from her friends. We began to play and had the time of our lives. The game went on into the wee hours of the morning and everybody had a blast playing. Unlike so many other games I've played, there were no real winning and losing clauses that sparked arguments and no real glaring issues with what few rules there were. I couldn't even believe that I hadn't heard of this game sooner. However, I soon realized exactly why I hadn't heard of this game sooner: "Ghosts in the Graveyard" is nothing like what we were playing. A quick internet search confirmed this and I decided that we had to think of a name for this child of misinformation. The unanimous decision was to call it "Nightman", after a song that Charlie writes in the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
episode "Sweet Dee is Dating a Retarded Person". I highly recommend the show if you haven't seen it, but at the very least, check out this clip:
How to Play
By now I'm sure you're just itching to call up your friends and play a game of Nightman, but you haven't even learned the rules yet! Just lend me your attention for a bit longer and I'll teach you how to get a healthy game going.
Nightman is basically a game of tag taken to extreme by blindfolding the person who is designated "it" (or "the Nightman", as he/she will be referred to from now on) and restricting the rest of the players to walking on the equipment only. The Nightman starts his or her round by counting to 30 and spinning around in a circle in on of the predetermined starting points (which are usually a few feet away from the equipment). After they finish counting, the player must blindly make their way toward the equipment (it's alright for players to tell the Nightman if he or she is walking off in the wrong direction) and try to tag a player. If a player is tagged by the Nightman, the Nightman must guess who the player is in order to pass the title onto them and start a new round. If the Nightman guesses wrong, then he or she must return to one of the starting points and count again. Also, if a player steps on the ground and the Nightman hears them, the Nightman can shout a predetermined word (in our games, bird is usually the word, because everybody's heard about the bird) to acknowledge that person's disregard for the "equipment only" rule and make them the new Nightman. Of course, that person must be on the ground at the time the word is shouted, so the other players may need to weigh in on that person's fate if it was a close call. It's also usually a good idea to restrict the number of times the Nightman can say the word so they don't just spam it (we usually restrict it to 10 times).
Some key things for the Nightman to remember:
-You are blind
-You can go anywhere, ground or equipment (though it takes some guts to climb blind)
-You are trying to tag someone or catch them on the ground so they take your place
-You must guess their identity if you tag them, but they become the Nightman regardless if you shout the word while they're on ground
Some key things for the players to remember:
-You can only walk on pieces of playground equipment
-You can touch the ground, but you are at risk of becoming the Nightman
Now you have a basic rundown of the rules. There are some more aspects of Nightman that make for some really interesting and fun games, but I'll talk strategy later. Before that, I'd like to talk about location and players.
Finding a Playground
In order to play a solid game of Nightman, you'll need to find a playground of a decent size. There should be a lot of equipment in close proximity so players can maneuver from one to another without touching the ground. The most ideal equipment is a play structure that links a number of items together with walkways. You might be able to manage without such a structure, but it'll likely be more difficult to play without one. To determine how well equipped your playground is, pretend the ground is lava and that you will die a fiery and horrific death if you touch it. If you can make your way around most of the playground without dying, then you're probably looking at a solid Nightman location. Another thing to consider is the material on the ground: noise is an integral part of Nightman and it's important that the Nightman can hear players should they venture onto the ground. Wood chips and pea gravel are great for this purpose, but sand and other quiet materials will cause problems. If you have no other choice, feel free to change the rules a bit and allow the other players to shout when one of their own is on the ground, making them the new Nightman. This is usually frowned upon, but it's a necessary change if the game is played on quiet ground.
Forming a Good Group of Players
Obviously, you're going to want to play with your friends, but make sure they know the rules first. Nightman is a simple game to learn and play, but it won't be fun unless your friends understand that there's no real winning or losing; it's just a fun game that may have you wandering blind around a playground if you're not careful. Also, make sure that you have a good number of players to fit the size of your playground. There's no real minimum (well, I guess at least three is probably ideally for some semblance of fun), but there's no maximum either (unless there are so many people that they can't fit on the equipment together). No one especially likes to be the Nightman (it's a lot more fun to duck and dodge than be ducked and dodged), but it's pretty rare that any one person stays Nightman for long if you have enough people, no matter how good everyone else gets. When first starting out, it's pretty likely that the players will cry out when captured by the Nightman, making it easy to guess their identity most of the time. Eventually they may get better at containing themselves despite the adrenaline-pumping few seconds before they're caught, but by then, the group should have a pretty good feel for the types of clothes and materials each person is wearing, making it easier to guess. Chances are pretty good that most everyone will be Nightman eventually and somewhat equally. Just make sure to emphasize the casualness of the game to your players and they will eventually get in the spirit and focus more on having fun than avoiding the Nightman.
Advanced Rules and Strategy
Now, here's where the fun stuff comes in. Nightman is a flexible game and I encourage players to modify the rules in whatever way they think will make the game more enjoyable for them or fix any balance issues that may arise. All the games that my group as played thus far have been based on the same set of equipment, so it's given us all a lot of time to get a feel for what works and what doesn't. As we played, we found some areas better than others for the purpose of evading the Nightman and began to see what works and what doesn't. I found places where I could seemingly dodge the Nightman forever and other places out in the middle of nowhere with little chance of escape should the Nightman wander my way, but I had a blast no matter where I decided to go. Most of the fun of playing Nightman is in the stories of creative hiding positions and epically close calls with the Nightman you have after the game is over. It's for this reason I thought I'd share some of the strategic evolutions of the game as we played and why you might want to ban them or embrace them depending on how fun they make the game for your group.
-Cell phones and Other Sounds (Players)
It becomes apparent pretty quickly that noise is the enemy when evading the Nightman, but it's not just your enemy. The other players are certainly more your friend than the Nightman, but that doesn't mean you can't try to screw them over. Cell phones are great for this purpose, especially when the other players forget to turn them off. Calling them mid-game is a fine way to get the Nightman on their trail and save your own neck if the Nightman is getting a little too close for comfort. Another favorite of mine is playing a ringtone on your own phone and leaving it somewhere on the equipment to draw attention from yourself as you run away. The rest of my group tends to enjoy scooping up a handful of wood chips as the Nightman is counting so they can throw them at each other. Just make sure that you don't throw directly at the other players (they'll make more noise hitting the metal of the equipment and your friends won't hate you quite as much) and don't throw them at the Nightman at all (they're already blind and disoriented, there's no need to pelt them with wood).
-Player Mannerisms (Nightman)
As I already touched on earlier, it's pretty safe to assume the players are going to get smarter, making them harder to catch and identify. However, knowing your friends and their mannerisms can make your life a lot easier. Even if you're playing with someone you don't know very well, it won't take a whole lot of time to pick up on their habits and reactions to the Nightman. Don't forget to take note of these as a player, because you'll need them as the Nightman. The cry of first-timers as you first lay your hands on them will do nicely for a short while, and then the feel of their clothes, but eventually they'll wise up and make less distinguishing parts of their body available to be tagged (legs, for example, if many are wearing the same type of pants) or even dress for the occasion when playing on a different night entirely. A great way to circumvent these variations in strategy is to go for the things they can't change or at least, can't change without some effort. As a player, I've been grabbed by the crotch more than once by the Nightman and I can't do a whole lot about it. I'm smart enough to keep my mouth shut so they can't recognize my voice, but they still know that I'm a male and that I'm one of the few that doesn't lose their shit when my nuts get grabbed. It's all about physical form, from sex organs (I don't condone blindly groping women, but it will probably give away her identity if she slaps you in the face or makes a comment) to body build to hair style. Also, while less fool-proof than physical observations, your friends might favor certain locations over others, which is something to note, even if that changes the second you catch them.
-Fucking with the Nightman (Players)
Quite possibly my favorite thing to do in any given game of Nightman. When the Nightman is counting to 30 and blindly spinning around at their starting point, the players are free to walk wherever they want and make as much noise as they want. Obviously, it's probably a good idea to shut up and be on equipment when the Nightman hits 30 (unless you're really into it and want to live dangerously), but until then, harassing the Nightman is free game. I usually enjoy running circles around the Nightman as they count and singing a song of some sort, usually pissing them off enough to try to chase me and end up restarting their count. Even better is when I get all the other players to join me in song around the Nightman. My desire to make the Nightman hate me often forces to find a decent spot on the equipment in much less time than I'd have had I not been a total jerk, but it's all in the fun of the game, so I don't really care. It also brings me to my next point, which is:
-Having Fun at the Expense of Winning (Players/Nightman)
It really doesn't matter if you're a player or the Nightman, as long as you're having fun with it. I've been trying to stress this throughout this page, but I think I need to give some examples of how you can have fun while putting yourself in danger of "losing". As I said, I love to screw with the Nightman, but that gives me significantly less time to find a reasonable place to escape the Nightman. On our usual equipment, one of the Nightman's starting locations is right near a long line of twisty metal bars that are mostly separate from the rest of the equipment. If I'm low on time, I might be able to do nothing more than jump on those bars, crouch as low as I can, and hope the Nightman doesn't get me. Sometimes I might just stand on a slide as still as possible for the same reason and other times, I might opt for the tiny plastic windowsill that can just barely fit my legs enough for me to sit on and offer no real way to escape if the Nightman approaches. No matter where I am, I'm always having fun, because I get to hold my breath as the Nightman brushes past me and laugh about how close it was when the round is over. I still get to watch everyone else from wherever I am and stare in awe as someone lifts themselves off the loud platform they were on and dangle their feet just inches above the Nightman's head. I can scream "HEY I'M OVER HERE HEY" while holding a friend in place, knowing full well that I'm just as likely to get caught as he is. And if I'm the Nightman, I still get to hear the hilarious things my friends are doing to sell each other out and likely find them quick enough for it to get too old. It's amazing how much fun you can have no matter what role you're playing and how "bad" you're doing at the game.
Why aren't you playing yet?
Hopefully by now, I've sold you on the game and you're already calling up your friends to play. It's really more fun that I think I could ever express in words, but you'll just have to experience it for yourself and see what you think. It's probably worth noting also that we generally play at night when it's warmer out. The fact that it's nighttime really doesn't matter too much when the Nightman is blindfolded anyway, but it's less likely that little kids are using the playground in the dark, so we usually make that the time to play. As far as the temperature goes, you can use your own discretion, but last time we played in the winter, someone ended up breaking their tail bone on the icy equipment. Regardless of weather and time of day, I hope that you'll play this with friends that will enjoy it and play it safe in the process. It's by no means a safe game when it gets rolling and it's easy for someone to get hurt, so make sure you use your best judgment and only play with people who are old enough to understand their limits and take it somewhat easy. It's no fun when your little brother or sister takes a spill on the equipment because they were running to fast and cries their eyes out over it, so make sure you play with a group that can walk it off if they rail their head on something (which I've done a few times).
Nightman is simply a blast to play and it's a great excuse to get outside and have some fun. I sincerely hope you'll get a group together to play and have a enjoyable (but safe) time.
LOOK WHO CAME: