Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Arkham Horror | Call of Cthulhu

Arkham Horror: Call of Cthulhu

Welcome to the town of Arkham where the year is 1926. Something sinister lurks in the shadows behind the speakeasies. Monsters have been popping up all over town and something ancient and evil is waiting to break through to our world. Only a handful of investigators stand in the way. They must risk their sanity and their lives to keep Arkham from falling into devastation.

Arkham Horror: Call of Cthulhu is a cooperative board game for 1-8 players and takes 2-4 hours to play. It’s extremely complex and is recommended that all players be 12+.

Game Play

The game begins with all players choosing a character. These characters come with skills and items that will help them to defeat the horrors that pop up throughout the game.

Each round, the characters move around Arkham, collecting items and clues to help them win. Beware, though, the monsters are also moving and each round brings the Ancient One closer to breaking through the barriers into our world. Characters must defeat the smaller monsters or risk being killed. This is accomplished by rolling dice—the number of dice depending on the character’s abilities and the strength of the monster.

As play progresses, portals to other dimensions open throughout the town of Arkham, allowing monsters to enter and wreak havoc. Players must go through these portals and survive the horrors on the other side in order to close them. If the players close enough portals before the Ancient One crosses into Arkham, they win. If not, they must defeat this monstrous abomination and somehow survive the process.Arkham Horror revised box.jpg

Game Experience

Holy hellspawn, this game is complicated. We spent almost as long reading the rules as we did playing for the first time.

The overall concept is straightforward: kill monsters and close portals before the Ancient One comes through. But how you do that is subject to hundreds of rules and strategies. Once you understand those, however, the game is fast paced and fun. Strategizing with your fellow players forms the main playtime of the game. The game isn’t pure strategy, as the players are subject to the randomness of die rolls and card draws.

The game pieces are well made and admiring the artistry of the cards is valuable all on its own. There are a lot of pieces to track, so be organized.

Arkham is a game with high replay value, making it well worth purchasing. Make sure you have others who are invested in playing as well, because complicated games aren’t for everyone. Take the time to read the rules thoroughly before you play and designate someone as the rule keeper so you can ask questions as they arise (and, boy, do they arise!).

Final Thoughts

For a faster, simpler version of Arkham Horror, look for Arkham Horror: The Card Game (which I previously reviewed). There is also an updated version, that I have not yet played.

I loved Arkham Horror. I’ve been wanting to play for a while and finally got the opportunity. I was hooked twenty minutes into play time. I’ll be buying this one for myself.

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Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Mysterium

Introduction

There’s been a murder at Warwick Manor and only one witness can help investigators find the culprit. Unfortunately, that witness is a ghost. A special team of psychic investigators must interpret visions the ghost gives them to solve the mystery before the murderer gets away.

Mysterium is a cooperative murder mystery game for 2-7 players and takes about 45 minutes to play.

Game Play

Players form a team of investigators trying to solve a murder. The goal of the game is to find the perpetrator, location, and murder weapon.

One player has the role of The Ghost. They know which suspects the players must find. They have a deck of Vision Cards that they use to guide the other players.

In each round, the Ghost gives each psychic detective player one or more cards that the player uses to determine which suspect to guess. After each psychic has made a guess about the suspect, the ghost reveals if they were correct. Once a psychic finds their suspect, they then move on to guessing the location, then the weapon used in the murder.

The psychics only have seven rounds to find their group of suspects, locations, and weapons. If they do that successfully, the ghost gives one final set of clues that lead to the ultimate perpetrator.

MysteriumGame Experience

There are two different experiences of play: that of the ghost and that of the investigators.

As the ghost, you have the fun of guiding the other players, but also the responsibility if your clues lead them down the wrong path. Since Mysterium is a cooperative game, you become the most important person to the success of the team.

As an investigator, you are responsible for deciding where the clues point. The ghost can only provide you with an abstract picture clue, they can’t tell you what pieces of that picture apply. The fun for you is to draw commonalities between the clues and see where they lead.

Your game play with Mysterium is only as good as the people you play with. The first few games can be a real struggle as you try to understand how the people you play with think. But it is a lot of fun to discuss with others and play to the way they think.

Mysterium is a visually stunning game. The Gothic theme runs throughout. The art of the clues is magnificent. There are so many details in the cards to keep you interested in the game for many games of play. Each game changes based into the clues and the people playing.

Final Thoughts

If you loved Clue as a child, Mysterium is a great game for you. There isn’t the certainty of Clue, but you don’t have to worry about the monotony either. The hints are more subject to interpretation and knowing the people you play with is essential.

I really like Mysterium for the ability to replay over and over without having the same situation appear twice. I enjoy playing the part of The Ghost, but it’s fun to rotate that responsibility. I highly recommend playing this and think it will make a good inclusion to any game collection.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Kittens in a Blender

Why are there kittens? Why are they in a blender? Good questions, but shelve your disbelief for one moment and embrace the fact that you will be putting kittens in a blender and gleefully pressing the big red button.

Kittens in a Blender is a party game for 2-8 players (ages 8+, otherwise there are too many tears) and takes about thirty minutes to play.

Game Play

First, choose a color. The many, many kittens are divided into teams by color. Your objective is to save the kittens of your team and shred everyone else’s.

Next, shuffle the deck of cards and deal a hand to each player. Kittens in a Blender contains several types of cards for players to use: Kitten cards, Movement cards, and Blend cards. On their turn, each player must play exactly two cards.

There are three play areas: the blender, the counter, and the box. Kitten cards are played in any of these areas and moved using Move cards. If a kitten is in the blender when any player plays a Blend card, that kitten is blended and removed from the game. If a kitten is in the box when a Blend card is played, then the kitten is saved and placed under the box for safe-keeping. When all the Blend cards have been played, the players count the total number of their kittens that were saved and the person with the most wins.

Game Experience

There is a lot of cringing involved in playing Kittens in a Blender. Am I really the type of person who sends adorable kittens to their doom? After a few rounds, you get over that feeling and start murdering cats with no remorse.

The game creators seem to revel in this. Rather than supplying generic kitten cards, each one has an adorable name and picture to match. Over time, players gain attachments to certain kitties (my favorite is a bulldog-faced kitten named Princess), to the point where they will sacrifice others of their own to save a favorite.

The adorable art style underlines the macabre humor of the game. Each kitten is equally loveable and undeserving of its fate. You’re just a monster for playing this game and worse for enjoying it.

Final Thoughts

I know what you’re thinking: is Kittens in a Blender really a horror game? I guess that depends on who answers, but if you were to ask my 9 year-old cousin, my mother-in-law, or several of my more innocent friends, the idea of putting even fake kittens into a blender and hitting the button is plenty horrific. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then maybe you’re the perfect person to play the game.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Werebeasts

Game Review: WereBeasts

Introduction

Do you love werewolves? Do you wish you had a game with more than just werewolves? There’s a whole world of crazy beasts out there. Werekittens, wereclowns, werezombies, weresharks, wereghosts, werehouses… Excellent.

Werebeasts is a card collecting party game for 3-10 players and takes about fifteen minutes to play.

Game Play

At the beginning, each player is secretly given two goal cards. These are the werebeasts that they will try to collect throughout the game.

During their turn, a player can accuse another player of having a specific goal card. If they guess correctly, the other is removed from the game and the player get their cards. Guess carefully, however, because if you’re wrong, you are removed from the game and the accused get your cards.

After leveraging their accusations (if any), the player then draws a card face up. Other players bid on the card using the cards in front of them. Players try to collect their assigned goals without giving away what their goals are.

Whoever has the most beasts of their goal type when the game ends wins.

Game Experience

Werebeasts is suited to younger players as a card collection game. It is also good for older audiences who want a simple party game.

You would think that it would be easy to guess what others are trying to collect. Not so. Once players know what to look for, they know how to cover their tracks. The secret to Werebeasts is to know the other players. The dynamic changes over time, making Werebeasts an increasingly difficult game of bluffs.

Werebeasts has a simple set up, with a few sets of cards and pieces. All of these are well made and exceptionally detailed. The cards are sturdy and would stand up well to a lot of play time (including by children). The art style suits the game premise, as a cross between cartoon-cute and mock horror.

Final Thoughts

Werebeasts is a good party game for a large crowd. It is a fast, easy game to learn. I thought that it would be overly simplistic, but it was surprisingly engaging.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Game Review: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Introduction

Arkham, Massachusetts: an idyllic New England town complete with mysterious disappearances, mangled bodies, and a suffocating sense of doom that lingers over every home. Strange things have always happened here, but it seems something more malevolent is at work this time. Something that wants to come through…

Arkham Horror: The Card Game hails from the same game universe as Arkham Horror, Elder Sign (previously reviewed for HorrorAddicts.net), and Eldritch Horror. It uses a familiar play style, following a Lovecraftian storyline with the addition of obstacles and monsters drawn at random. Players embody characters who have health and sanity, things they risk in order to investigate and defeat the evil lurking just on the other side of our reality.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a narrative game for 1-2 players (expansions allow up to 4 players) and takes 1-2 hours to play.

Game Play

Game play consists of characters exploring their environment (represented by cards) and fighting obstacles that appear there. Finding clues allows the investigators to proceed through the storyline, revealing new locations, items, monsters, and characters. If they advance to the end of the story, they win. But with each round, the horrors advance as well—monsters appear and attack and the situation grows ever grimmer.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is set up with D&D style campaigns, each containing several scenarios. Characters evolve with experience gained during these scenarios, so as you go further into the campaign, your character has more abilities to help you face challenges that are more difficult. Players can go through an entire campaign at once, or tackle each of the scenarios one at a time. Each scenario takes an hour or two (depending on player experience and the desired difficulty), so if you want to play through an entire campaign, be prepared to stay a while.

Game Experience

Often, I review games for a larger group of people (around 5), so this is a refreshing change of pace. Arkham Horror: The Card Game can be played solo or with a partner. You can combine two core games to be able to play with up to four players. I actually played this one by myself, which was an interesting experience, for sure. The game loses something when you don’t talk strategy with others around you. I would recommend playing with the recommended two players or expanding the game to four.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a faster, more compact version of the infamous original Arkham Horror and retains most of those features.

The real draw of Arkham Horror: The Card Game is the Lovecraft aesthetic throughout. The game contains quotes from actual Lovecraft stories, which are just as spine tingling as you would expect. The art has a detective noir theme, albeit with a dark twist (is that blood on the cards?). It’s a gruesome, horrifying good time and is best suited for late nights and dim lights.

Final Thoughts

As with other narrative style games, replay may become an issue. So much of the play hinges on the story, so once that is played out, replay holds fewer mysteries. There are expansions for Arkham, which helps, and different monsters and difficulty values can make replaying more challenging. However, if you are mainly interested in the story, you may want to try this game out at a board game café first.

I enjoyed Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of narrative games. The additional character building elements that allow the game to change with time are a great asset, as well.

I’ve been reviewing an awful lot of Lovecraft themed games, lately. I can’t help it; I love them so much. The dark mythos, the mystery, the monsters… isn’t that every Horror Addict’s dream?

 

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: Elder Sign

Game Review: Elder Sign

The artifacts in the museum are more than they seem. The collection is opening barriers between our world and other dimensions where an ancient evil lurks, waiting to cross over.

Elder Sign uses the universe of H.P. Lovecraft to create a brilliant atmosphere of supernatural suspense and adventure. Players form a team of investigators trying to prevent an Ancient One from crossing into our world. They do this by collecting Elder Signs and defeating smaller monsters throughout the museum. Players can gain items and powers that aid in this and work together toward success. Failure brings the Ancient One closer to unleashing its wrath on humanity.

Elder Sign is a cooperative dice game for 1-8 players and takes about 90 minutes to play.

Game Play

Before play starts, the players choose an Ancient One to battle in the coming game. Each has a different power that makes gameplay more interesting. Some are more difficult to defeat than others. Players also choose characters. These also have special abilities that give them an advantage in certain encounters.

Throughout the game, characters attempt tasks to succeed in Adventures and gain rewards. Some of these rewards are Elder Signs, which are used to seal away the Ancient One before it can cross over into our world. But beware, failure has dire consequences and can bring the monster even closer.

All the while, time ticks forward, bringing the Ancient One closer to our world. Strange events happen every midnight that make gameplay harder. If players fail to seal the Ancient One, they must fight it in a nearly impossible, last-ditch battle for humanity.

Game Experience

Elder Sign is beautiful. The art is in a lovely dark fantasy style that is perfect for the Lovecraft mythos that it represents. Symbols use are straightforward and easily identified, which is a benefit in complicated gameplay. Each Adventure card has a snippet of a story on it, giving insight into the perilous world of the museum. Reading these bits was an enchanting part of the game.

Despite appearing extremely complicated, Elder Sign is actually straightforward. There is some work in learning the game mechanics, but once you have a handle on that, play runs smoothly. I recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself with the manual before starting and allocate extra time for your first playthrough. Once you have the hang of it, though, you will be able to play many more times.

A benefit of Elder Sign is that the game is actually winnable. Some cooperative games (like Dead Men Tell No Tales, which we also reviewed here at Horror Addicts) are nearly impossible to defeat. Players can succeed in Elder Sign, provided they put thought and strategy into their gameplay and have reasonable luck with dice. It isn’t a guaranteed win, by any means, but players can expect a reasonable return for their effort.

Final Thoughts

What I liked best about Elder Sign (and I liked a lot of things about Elder Sign) was how re-playable it was. There are a variety of Ancient Ones to fight against, but even without that, the different adventures, characters, and items change gameplay significantly. Each game experience is unique. This is a game that I would consider well worth the money to add to my own collection.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: T.I.M.E. Stories

Game Review: T.I.M.E. Stories

Something awful is happening at the asylum. Patients disappear and frightening creatures appear on the grounds. You and your team are time travelers sent to investigate the cause of the strange events.

T.I.M.E. Stories sits at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy, but it’s no kids’ game. Violence and horror lurk behind every decision. At the core of the game is a mystery that must be solved in order to win and save yourselves.

T.I.M.E. Stories is a cooperative narrative board game for 2-4 players and takes between two and four hours to play.

Game Play

T.I.M.E. Stories works much like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book (or, more appropriately, for Horror Addicts, the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” books by R.L. Stine).

Players begin by choosing their characters. Each has strengths and weaknesses which will affect how you play the game. Some scenarios call for brute strength while others would benefit from a silver tongue. Be careful, though; you’re inhabiting the body of a lunatic, so there are some quirks and traps in each character’s behavior (some can’t be left alone, some can’t deliver a killing blow in combat).

To play, the team explores rooms, discovers items, and talks to characters. What you do affects what happens immediately in the game—offering more rooms to explore and more information about what is going on—but some effects will last much longer. This all happens on a time crunch and the longer you take, the more likely your team will have to start all over again (you are a time traveler after all).

The team wins when they solve the mystery and successfully

Game Experience

T.I.M.E. Stories is definitely a story game. There are elements of game play (combat and challenges), but for the most part, the team doesn’t “win” or “lose”. Players don’t defeat each other and the game never really beats the players. The fun is in making decisions and discovering the story along the way.

Since the majority of the base game is themed around a 1920’s asylum, the atmosphere is heavily horror related (with monsters, lunatics, and mad doctors). The art reinforces this. It is stunning and gruesome in equal measure, perfect for the story. The mystery itself is soaked in blood.

The game is nominally themed as science fiction, which allows you to expand the game (with other stories in new locations) and to keep playing a game that might otherwise be too hard (by restarting when all players die). However, while playing, you are immersed in the world of the story (the asylum), so, the science fiction elements become jarring when they are reintroduced.

This adds to T.I.M.E. Stories‘ complexity. This game isn’t for people new to board games or the faint of heart. There are a lot of pieces and parts to game play. The board, while beautiful, is not immediately easy to understand. If you wish to play, either find a veteran to explain or take the time to familiarize yourself with the manual.

Final Thoughts

While T.I.M.E. Stories was a fun and interesting game, the truth is, it isn’t a game you can play over and over. Unlike a “Give Yourself Goosebumps”, the story here has a definite path to follow and does not diverge greatly. There is only one major story included and once you’ve figured that out, the game loses its appeal. You already know the twists and ending. Given that most of the fun of the game is in exploring and discovering what is going on, that’s a big disadvantage.

There are seven expansion packs for T.I.M.E. Stories, so you can play some different stories, but from an investment point of view, it isn’t cost effective to buy. If you really want to experience this game (and I do recommend playing), visit a board game café that has T.I.M.E. Stories and its expansions.