Designer: Angelo de Maio
Publisher: Quined Games
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 45 – 90 minutes
Times played: 4 (3 regular game, 1 master game), with a copy I purchased
Theme can be important in games; it can draw someone in to trying a game, it can add to the playing experience and if it is well done the game mechanics will interact well with the theme. A theme for the sake of theme can be less so, particularly if it feels pasted on or artificial.
Theme to me is somewhat important, but not usually a key factor – I generally pay more attention to the mechanics. However, every Halloween my husband and I make it a point to play a horror-themed game while we hand out candy to our trick-or-treaters – Elder Sign, Arkham Horror the Card Game, Dungeon Dice and Claustrophobia have all made an appearance. I’d never bothered with a game named directly for the holiday, or any other holiday, for that matter, since my experience with those games has not been good. Reading the description of Halloween from Quined Games had me intrigued, though – it sounded like there was a real game there, complete with ghost minis and a giant pumpkin.
In Halloween, it is your goal to be the scariest Demon Lord of all time by scaring the local town with your ghosts.
There is a game board that represents the town with six different locations and eight spaces for action cards; eight random bonus cards are dealt into these spaces from a deck of 52.
A bonus token is placed on each location to start the game. Next to the board there are tokens representing ghosts in five different colors, dice in the ghost colors (ranging from four to ten sided) and haunt point tokens as well as twenty-five ghosts – five each in five different colors. Three of the lowest-level ghosts (blue) start on the board at the police station.
Each player has a board with three action tracks available to them as well as twelve action discs, four advancement makers, four action markers, six haunt tokens, a haunt point marker and a player aid card. (Note – the picture below is the board for the Master variant, which has 4 tracks).
On your turn you get three actions. The actions available to you are indicated on your player board. To start the game your advancement markers are on the blue ghost – level 1. That means your actions can be taken only with blue ghosts – as you move up on the track you can take actions with ghosts at that level or below. Each track has six available actions; when you take a particular action on a track you place your action disk on that action; until you rest that disc will stay there and that action will be unavailable to you on that track.
Actions you can take include:
- Summon more ghosts – if there are at least two ghosts of the same color on a location, you can add another ghost of the same color and gain a ghost token in that color.
- Scare – gain scare points equal to the value of the ghost you used to scare. Scare points are needed to upgrade your ghosts to a higher level.
- Upgrade – spend the required number of scare points to upgrade a ghost equal to or lower to where you are on the track being used for this action. Take a ghost token of the color you have upgraded the ghost to, and immediately move one of your ghost advancement markers to that color ghost – it does not have to be the marker on the track where you took the action.
- Move – move a ghost to an orthogonally-adjacent space. If there is a bonus token there, pick it up. You can use a bonus tile at any point on your turn and you may have up to three in your possession.
- Fight – attack another ghost in the same building. Roll the die for the color ghost you are attacking with and choose an opponent to roll the appropriate die for the ghost you are attacking (note – you cannot attack ghosts of the same color). If you win, you remove the defeated ghost from the board and get a ghost token in that color. If you tie or lose, nothing happens.
- Haunt – every player can haunt each location once during the game. Each location has a point track chart; when you haunt you place your haunt token on the space that matches the color of the ghost you used to haunt; each space can only be used once, so if another player has already taken that spot you will have to haunt that location with a different color of ghost.
- Rest- your action disks do not come off the board automatically, so eventually you will need to rest to retrieve them and free up some actions. Choose one track and remove all the action disks; they can be used this turn on a track that has not yet been used.
At any point on your turn you can choose to occupy an action card by spending the ghost tokens listed on the card and placing an action disk on the card; you immediately receive three haunt points for doing so. Cards will give you privileges, abilities or end game bonuses. Cards can be occupied by more than one player, but all other players already on the card can choose to either take one haunt point or remove all the action disks from one section of their board.
Once a player has placed all six of their haunt tokens the game is over or has a marker on five action cards the game will come to a close; play continues until the end of the current round and players then add up their haunt points plus any bonuses from action cards and the player with the most points wins. Ties are broken by ghost tokens.
There is a master variant for the game; there are no action cards and your action board has four tracks to choose from, although you do not get more actions or more action disks.
My Thoughts on the Game
I like the game. It struck me as a being somewhat unique when I read the description before I bought it, and that held up- – it doesn’t remind me of any other game. The tension between what actions to take, when to take them and how to strategically upgrade lead to interesting decisions and occasionally some tough choices. There is a lot of player interaction in the sense that you have to be thinking about what other players might do; you don’t want to leave them with a big opportunity and your best play might be to change the setup on the board to limit their options. You can always do something that is beneficial to you, even if it is just resting to get your pieces back and see what is available to you on your next turn, since the board changes constantly.
I do think the game has high replayability. The fact that there are so many action cards when so few are used per game ensures that the game will always have a different start, and in the games I have played there have been different paths to victory and as long as the other players are paying attention your path can be slowed.
Game time on the box says 45-90 minutes, but I think playing with experienced players it would regularly be 45 minutes or less.
The master variant is interesting. You lose the action cards, but you gain an action track. You still only have three actions, though. I have only tried it once, but it did seem to make for a very different game. No action cards made it a little harder to get what you needed, but they aren’t essential. Having more action choices ended up slowing the game down a bit. I will need to try it again to fully form an opinion.
The rules are generally well-written and clear; there is a section that points out frequently missed rules and I would suggest reading that a couple of times before you play; we had the upgrade rule wrong (even though it is written clearly) and it made a huge difference in our game. None of the rules are particularly complicated, but there is a lot to keep track of, so it’s helpful. The examples are also good.
This seems to be the year of the unique start player marker and this game is no exception; the game comes with a nice wooden pumpkin that serves no purpose other than indicating who started the game. The rest of the components are also nice; the cardboard bits are sturdy and seem like they will hold up well.
Oh, and I’ll be keeping this game and breaking it out next October 31st.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers
I love it:
I like it: Tery
Not for me: