Living the Nightmare – General Tips and Strategies

Basic guide outlining the general game principles and successful strategies. This includes an overview of perks, masks, weapon types and tips.

Strategy Guide with Tips

Introduction and General Game Elements

Hello, and thanks for checking out this guide. Though I’m not sure I’d call myself an expert, I have beaten this game and since there are no other guides, I decided to make the first one.

Living the Nightmare is the first officially released game by Reanimate Games, and while it’s a sweet game, there are some aspects I found confusing, odd or obscure and I’d like to share information about them, as I wish I had them explained to me.

This guide will assume a general familiarity with the game’s controls and GUI elements. Both the manual and the tutorial give a good explanation in to how to operate the game. It is strongly suggested you try out both, particularly the tutorial, as it actually serves for backstory to the main game.


Living the Nightmare is a (mostly) turn-based strategy game. You have an amount of resources which you must manage, with the aim of optimizing for your survival and progress. Some are explicit, such as equipment durability, hearts, actions and active items. But there are also resources that aren’t as obvious but still important, such as positioning, enemy spawning and rulesets.

The goal of the game is to defeat several bosses in combat and thus clear a “run”. In order to face a boss you must first activate special map locations known as Carrion Shrines. And in order for them to be active, you need to kill a set number of enemies.

Notably, you kill enemies and reach shrines by making use of your resources. You will, ideally, nearly always have a weapon equipped in order to defeat enemies. Killing monsters consumes part of your resources: weapons get used up by attacking, risking enemies means your hearts can be taken out by getting attacked, etc. But enemies are also the random source of these resources. This generates moments when sometimes you might want to fish for equipment, or you might want to “stock up” for the upcoming boss. The point of all this is to think of the game experience in terms of maximizing the utility of your resources. You will become a better player the more you can squeeze out of your given tools.

Game concepts of note

By “game concepts” I’m going to talk about game elements that are present, but not named or sufficiently explained inside the game itself. Or some, like stomping that are explained on the manual, but not to their full extent.

The first, and most important element I will talk about is Action Economy. I believe actions are the single most important resource you have, because they measure how much choice you have over the game state, and therefore what you can control. Nearly everything you do takes up actions. Moving takes actions, attacking takes actions. So you really want to make the most out of the actions you have in a given turn. But while getting more actions is generally the best way to expand your action economy, there are also things tied to your perks and equipment. A weapon that deals more damage and hits more squares is strictly better than a weapon that deals less damage and only hits one square. Likewise, it’s also better to “line up” enemies to kill several without having to move too much.

Bosses in particular are all about clever use of your actions. Some, like the Hydra can effectively stalemate you if you don’t have enough actions to reach it.

With this in mind is why I will suggest what I believe the best perks, masks and weapons are.

The second concept I want to talk about is Unwinnable Situations. If you’re ever standing on a splatter tile (instant death) surrounded by enemies on all sides you can’t kill in this turn, or have gotten surrounded by Carrion Vipers and Acid Baths with no safe tile in reach, you’re in an unwinnable situation. The best way to deal with those situations is two or three turns before they happen. Unwinnable situations are the run-killers. Avoid unwinnable situations by always having an escape route, calculating future enemy actions and maintaining at least one emergency item, such as the Purifying Salts. For example, ideally, you should always have at least one bullet for surprise ranged enemy spawns. Before you engage in a turn’s actions think not just about what you’re about to do, but how you will end after you’ve done it. You can do this for the most part because…

Enemy actions are (almost always) predictable. Monsters will almost always (unless blocked by other monsters or terrain) go towards you and attack you. Since most monsters have a range of 1 (“melee”) and a movement of 1, that means that with any mask you can outrun most monsters. And if you can outrun them, you can pick them up one by one, even with your fists. Therefore the only really dangerous and tricky monsters are the ones that move several tiles per turn, or have ranged attacks: Sidewinders, Slaveners and their upgraded versions, along with Acid Baths are the most dangerous enemies in my opinion. Ranged attacks are the source of most of my losses.

Think of it this way. Every hex an enemy can attack in their turn is “controlled” by them. So the more hexes they threaten, the more space they control, and the less choices you have. But even those enemies will always move towards you if you do not end up in their attack range. A high level strategy involves “taunting” an enemy into moving into a hex that will block that awful Sidewinder and keep it off you for a while.

It’s worth noting that because of the above, being able to right-click enemies and pan out routes is incredibly important. Shortened sight range is a very, very bad state to be in.

This leads me to the final concept I want to introduce: Positioning. Ending a turn blocked off by trees on four sides, and with several enemies converging on your only two accessible hexes is a bad position to be in. A wide open field is better, especially during the first two world states. Later though, Acid Baths and Trappers will swarm up on you so it’s not that ideal. There is sadly, no absolute better position to be in, it depends a lot on what equipment you have. Tight chokepoints favour high damage, one handed weapons. Sparse obstacles can let you funnel enemies into groups of three, perfect for shotguns or power tools. Lots of trees and height differences may block you from reaching that awful Slavener Spitter that already took two of your hearts.

For bosses, however, since they don’t give a crap about trees or rocks, you almost always want a wide, clear open field. They don’t get stuck behind trees, but you do. So if you already cleared two shrines and are five kills from that kickass boss music, run away until you find a good clear field first.

So, in summary: Yes, weapons are important, but those are not your only tools. Having lots of actions, trying to kill as many enemies in one attack, making sure you choose the most efficient route to reach a shrine in terms of movement and using the terrain to your advantage. The more you control the game-space, the better your odds of success are.

This Game Is Turn Based… Until It’s Not.

While the game behaves, most of the time, as a turn based game, you can break the game’s logic here and there. Do not click on enemies too quickly, I’ve had moments where I waste an action “attacking” an enemy I just killed. Or lose on a good mask because I killed two enemies too quickly. and the game just imposes the second one on you.

There are two odd mechanics you are invited to exploit within the game’s turn based environment. Dodging exploding enemies, and squashing.

Dodging Explosions

Dodging exploding enemies is simple to grasp, but tricky to execute. Enemies such as the Volatile Worm will explode once damaged. Anything in the six surrounding tiles will be caught in its explosion, including terrain. If you have no firearms, or spears, you can avoid eating the whooping two hearts of damage by moving to an adjacent hex in real time. That means you actually need to click clearly and quickly which hex away you want to move to before the worm explodes. The amount of time you have varies, sometimes it’s a generous four seconds, some times it’s nearly instant. For the most part, I don’t suggest risking it. Use a firearm instead.

It’s also worth noting that if you are one kill away from the next milestone, you won’t have a chance to dodge! So don’t hit an exploding worm when you have 9/14/19 kills!

Squashing / Stomping

While squashing is mentioned in the game manual, it’s not very clear what it means. Basically, a lot of enemies have a small chance to spawn a Haunter enemy (including Haunters themselves!) and some enemies, like the Worm Food, will always spawn up to three worm enemies once killed. If you can spare it, it’s always a good idea to move to a hex occupied by an enemy once your final attack hits. Thankfully you have a lot of time due to the gratuitous gibs death animation. This is especially good for the Worm Food line of enemies, a successful squash will immediately kill the three worm spawns and net you FOUR kills for the price of two actions.

Same limitation applies as above! If you are one kill away from a milestone, you won’t have the chance to squash that enemy! It’s not as bad as eating two hearts of damage, but you still worth keeping in mind.


With the information given above, I hope I can back up the following claims as to which weapons, masks and perks are the best.

My criteria is the following, action economy rules supreme. So the equipment that lets you maximize actions will be the better one.


You will rarely have much of a choice in which weapon to use. Mostly you will get a weapon and use it until its durability is less than five, then a new weapon choice will pop up. There are some exceptions to this. Sometimes, you will get lucky and enemies will drop weapons constantly. Or you may get the Puzzle Cube item, and oh boy, will these beefed up monsters have such sights to show you. The most common way to have a “choice” in which weapons to use, however, is by visiting Places of Power and finding their Treasure Chest.

We have four close combat (CC) weapon types and three firearm weapon types. For CC weapons, we have one-handed melee, two-handed melee, power tools and spears. For guns we have pistols, shotguns and rifles.

Most of the time, weapons within the same type will be either straight upgrades or downgrades from one another. For example, the Machete is just a strictly better Knife, and the Chainsaw is a strictly better Head Trimmer. Weapons that hit more hexes are better than weapons with less threat range, and more damage is always better. There are some things to note about weapon properties. Some weapons have critical strike, or stun. Critical strike is better, since killing an enemy outright is better than stunning it. Both can get you out of a bad spot, by cancelling an enemy you couldn’t otherwise kill. But since these are chance based, they are too unreliable to count on, so don’t do it. Knockback is pretty bad. While there are some enemies you can just keep away forever from with clever use of knockback, enemies with ranged attacks or >2 hexes of movement (you know, the actually dangerous enemies) will force you to move towards them with every strike, or you’ll eat damage next turn. It also makes it harder to “stomp” on enemies. This costs you an extra action and may compromise your positioning, so I suggest avoiding knockback weapons if you can.

So, which close combat weapon group is the best? I think it’s spears. The only weapon group that could compete is power tools, with their general high damage and generous 3-hex attack range. Spears, however, are like having a gun with >20 durability and no need for bullets. You can still kill two enemies in one attack (and you should, spear durability is precious), but you save so many actions by having an extra hex range. While you can kill enemies three at a time with power tools, you still need to be next to them. And that’s only for common fodder. Spears really shine against bosses, by letting you deal with their tricky attack patterns much more safely. Try cheesing a Wicker/Burning Man with a spear weapon and you’ll see what I mean.

Summary for CC Weapons: Avoid knockback weapons, prefer spears if you have a choice.

Now, let’s talk about firearms. There’s a lot less complexity involved, and all firearms come in strict tiers. You have revolvers, which are superseded by the Magnum, shotguns which evolve into the SPAS-12, and the rifles which become sniper rifles. Shotguns can hit up to 4 hexes at once, but it’s rare to line up so many enemies that neatly. Rifles and snipers can hit up to an amazing 3 hex range. The only thing good about revolvers is that they are better than nothing. Magnums have plenty of ammo at least. But other than that, rifles beat pistols easily.

So, which is better? Nearly all of the time, and especially after you beat your second boss and are hounded by Acid Baths and Executeds, you want Rifles. Being able to do away with these pesky long-range enemies in tough situations is just too good to pass on. The SPAS-12 is decent in the mid-game, the burst range can save your hide from getting mobbed. But it’s far more likely that enemies will out-range you than swarm you.

Summary for firearms: Rifles. Almost always go for rifles.

Magic Hands

There are three “weapons” that fall outside your normal arsenal: thunderfist, pyrokinesis and blood rage. These items take over your full kit. Your mask, CC weapon and firearm will be removed and you’re stuck in this “mode” for its durability. Also while you may still have active items, you can’t actually use them. So right away this tells us you have no “get out of a bad situation” tools when you enter these states.

These states are activated from special items, or as a result of activating an Arcane Shrine. For the most part, I think they are pretty bad and should be avoided. Pyrokinesis relies upon you setting things on fire and then luring enemies to those fire hexes, but bad news, bosses appear to be immune to fire hexes. Even more bad news, Volatile Worms will walk up to the fire, explode and hit you anyways, so you always need to be at least 2 tiles away from exploding enemies. Thunderfists grant you 2 points of damage per punch, and the damage spreads to connected enemies, giving you a respectable clearing power. Blood Rage is the best one, I think, it refills your full actions on every kill. You can chain kills and blitz through enemy lines very quickly. This is particularly useful for the Hydra bosses.

Once you punch out all of these magic punches’ durability, however, you’ll be left with a pseudo-mask and no weapons! So you could end up basically screwed and forced to punch bosses to death. So while these are definitely cool, I don’t think they are that useful. There are reasons to use them, however. Trading away a crap mask (Like Raizo), or as mentioned above, Blood Rage can help you kill the otherwise annoying Hydra bosses.

Summary: Don’t use magic fists if you can help it. Don’t use arcane shrines if you have good gear.


Masks are super good. You really, really, really want to always have a mask. Even the worst mask is better than nothing, as all masks give you at least +1 Action. Once you learn to play carefully, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever go without one. Being reduced to 2 actions in World Stage 2 is basically a death sentence, so don’t let that durability go to 0.

It’s very rare that you get to choose between masks, but here’s a mask tier list. I’m not 100% sure if this tier list is definitive, but it should be a good enough guide. I’m starting from best to worst masks:

Execution Hood (Hearts -2, Actions+2)

Since I believe action economy is paramount, I believe this is the best mask. Yes, -2 hearts is quite limiting, but the amount of options this mask gives you should save you from far more damage than those -2. Ideally though, that -2 should be a non-issue. I suggest you don’t play expecting to get hit. Even then consider that you retain your previous HP as temporary hearts. This mask and the Will+ Perk will let you dance around bosses, always stay ahead of enemies and have more choices than the game has planned for. It’s really that good.

Betrayer (Hearts +1, Actions +1, Damage +1 But it is kill or be killed)

The flavour text on this mask is ominous and not informative at all. What it means is that the mask may damage you, very rarely. For most practical purposes, consider it to just give you +1 to all damage. The only time the mask “betrayed” me and dealt damage to me was when I went away from keyboard for a long while and then decided to click on the mask for it’s lore. It’s very rare and under normal play it shouldn’t happen. Anyways, this +1 damage applies to your fists, weapons and firearms. More damage means you need less attacks to kill enemies, and thus you save on actions durability, and bullets. The only thing this mask doesn’t give you is more movement.

Thornshroud (Hearts 0, Actions, +1, Attackers take 1 Damage, Farsight)

Again, while you shouldn’t play expecting to get hit, this mask’s special ability will at least save you from getting combo’d to death if surrounded. This mask will kill Sidewinders that slip past and get you. The real good part is the Farsight, however. More information means you can plan your future turns better.

Skull Cage (Hearts +2, Actions +1, Stuns Attackers)

Similar to the above, this mask will save you from getting combo’d if you’re in a bad position. But you shouldn’t get into bad positions in the first place. Spitting Slaveners being stunned will let you catch up to them and kill them though, and the +2 hearts makes you somewhat beefier.

Symbiote (Hearts +1, Actions +1, Protects Hosts From Ranged Attacks)

So remember that part of the guide where I said ranged enemies are the most common run-killers? Yeah, well, this mask helps with that. The problem is that every acid spit it deflects takes away from its durability. Wearing this mask in World Stage 2 will save your from a lot of damage, but then leave you with no mask. So if you’re in that position, better start running towards a treasure chest or hope you have a Featureless Mask active item in the ready.

Tenryu (Hearts+1, Actions +1, Smites an Enemy every 10 kills)

This is just your basic mask, except with a neat extra ability. Every 10 kills you do, it will smite a nearby random enemy, killing it outright. You don’t get to control which enemy, and 10 kills is quite a lot actually. So don’t rely on it, just think of it as a small help.

The Mask (Hearts +3, Durability 20, Actions +1)

I don’t bother much with counting durability, but with double the durability of most masks, it’s one of this mask’s features. This is just a better standard mask. It will make you tough, it will take a lot of hits, but that’s it. It’s just a good mask.

Famine (Hearts 0, Actions +1, +4 (Temporary) Hearts, Prevents Heart Drops)

Famine is an odd mask. It will give you a lot of durability short term, but you will slowly die and there’s nothing you can do about it. With +4 hearts, it’s very unlikely you’ll die before you swap to a better mask. It won’t hurt you, but don’t stick with it for too long.

Sacrifice (Hearts -1, Actions +1, Slightly Increases Heart Drops)

The only reason this mask is better than the standard masks is that you manage to cheat death quite often with it. But again, this mask’s whole deal is centred around recovering from getting hit, which you shouldn’t do anyways.

Death Mask (Hearts 0, Actions +1, 20% Chance to Negate Damage)

Another “standard mask, but slightly better”. And very slightly at that. The only thing that this mask has over the standard ones is that you could get lucky and avoid more than one heart of damage. But that’s it. It’s almost functionally the same as the previous one.

Burlap Sack (Hearts +1, Actions +1) & Brown Bag (Hearts +1, Actions +1)

These are the “standard masks”. They do nothing special, just give you another heart and an action. The burlap sack has slightly more durability, if that matters. You usually get these at the start of the game, then switch to something better and never look back.

Condemned (Hearts +1, Actions +1, All Damage +1, Vision Reduced)

There are only two masks worse than the standard ones in my opinion. And this is one of them. You’d think “hey you just praised +1 damage a while ago, why is this so low?”. Well, reduced vision really, really sucks. Being hit from a blindspot by ranged enemies and walking into an until then invisible enemy range will kill you pretty fast. Against bosses, particularly the Phantoms? Could be suicidal. Yes, vision is that important.

Raizo (Hearts +1, Actions +1, Substitution no Jutsu)

This is just a standard mask with a penalty. What “substitution no jutsu” means is that every time you get hit, you will teleport 3-7 hexes away, randomly. The good part: you will very randomly get lucky and telefrag an enemy. The bad, you lose control of your positioning and you can get hit, get teleported into an unwinnable situation, get hit again, repeat, and run lost. Controlling your game state is very important, this mask randomises it. This mask will, most of the time, penalise getting hit with even more damage. Only wear it if the alternative is nothing, and be super careful until you can switch to something better.

Summary: Execution Hood or Betrayer if you can. Avoid Raizo and Condemned.


You get to pick between 3 perks every time you activate a Carrion Shrine. Perks can pretty much make or break a run, and is one of the parts where RNG can wreck you the most.

I’ll get straight to the point. Will is the best perk. Will+ wins runs. It’s just one more action, forever. With one more action you can escape that troublesome boss’ attack range. You can reach the Hydra. You can squeeze that extra attack that finishes an enemy that would otherwise kill you. Action economy is king, this perk gives you that. Always pick Will.

The second best perk is Destroyer. 10% and then 15% chance to refund an action when you kill an enemy. It’s not as good as the safety of always having one more action, but if you get lucky you can have turns that are absolutely devastating. After picking WIll, pick Destroyer.

Then we have Professional and Hunter. Not 100% sure if Professional is better than Hunter, but I think it is. Firearms are your main “get out of a bad spot” tool. Professional makes every firearm have +1 damage and come with full bullets. For weapons such as the revolver, that basically means one bullet is now worth 2. Professional in World Stage 2 saves lives by sniping away those awful Acid Baths. Professional+, the Sniper Rifle and the Betrayer Mask can cheese you past even the third boss. Hunter saves you a lot of actions by letting you ignore height difference in hexes, and Hunter+ gives you a small chance to shoot without consuming bullets.

I’d put here the Mask Durability Perk. You really don’t want to be without a mask, and more durability can do wonders for masks such as the Symbiote. It’s not gonna win you runs, but it’s always helping you.

Now we have Clown. Clown gives you a small chance to stun enemies every time you hit them. The good: this applies to all attacks. You’ll be hitting enemies enough that you’ll get your fair share of stuns, which makes life easier. The bad: it’s a small chance, and if you’re playing the game correctly, you should be killing or kiting enemies without any need for a random chance at stunning them.

Further down we have the weapon boost perks. There’s one for single handed CC, two-handed, and spears. Since I believe spears are the best close combat weapons, I think Fiend is the only of these perks worth taking. The main problem with these perks is that you can’t really rely on getting the weapon whose type you got a perk for. Unlike Professional, which applies to all firearms, and you should always have a firearm ready. So these perks are more of a “if you get a weapon of this type the game becomes substantially easier until its durability runs out”. Fiend+ spears are super good, however, and can earn you a run if you get that lucky.

Now we have Deep Kin. Its only use is if you want to move to the lake biome and just stick there for the rest of the run. Deep Kin+ makes you immune to grave chill. Why would you plan on getting hit by Haunters in the first place though?

The perk that lowers the chance of a bad event in an arcane shrine is doubtful. Arcane shrines should only be used in desperate times, and spending a whole perk on something you’ll only activate three or so times, if you’re lucky, is wasteful. The expanded duration perks for thunderfists, pyrokinesis and blood rage are pretty bad. As mentioned previously, I don’t think those are good “weapons”. Of those, blood rage is the most decent, and so should be the only one worth considering. But you could very well spend the rest of your run without seeing any of those “weapons”, so, why pick them?

Finally we have the worst perk, Tyrant. No more bullet drops, but more heart drops. More bullets would save you more hearts than whatever you’d get from this. It’s just better to control the battlefield with more firearm uses than hoping to recover if you’re hit. Never pick Tyrant.

Summary: Will is the best perk, then Destroyer, then Professional or Hunter. Mask Durability or Fiend if there’s nothing better. Never pick Tyrant.

Egor Opleuha
About Egor Opleuha 6927 Articles
Egor Opleuha, also known as Juzzzie, is the Editor-in-Chief of Gameplay Tips. He is a writer with more than 12 years of experience in writing and editing online content. His favorite game was and still is the third part of the legendary Heroes of Might and Magic saga. He prefers to spend all his free time playing retro games and new indie games.

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