Dale Yu: First Impressions of Horrified

Horrified

  • Designer: Prospero Hall
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Players: 1-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Ravensburger

Horrified was one of the hotly advertised games at GenCon 2019 – or at least one that I kept hearing people talk about.  In this game, a group of Heroes work together in the most haunted village in the world, battling against some of the most famous movie monsters of old.  In Horrified, six different classic movie monsters are available (Dracula, Frankenstein and his Bride, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, WolfMan, the Mummy and the Invisible Man), and your group will fight against 2-4 of these baddies, who for some reason have decided to descend upon your little town at the same time.  Each Monster has specific and unique defeat criteria – and in order to win, the team must vanquish all the Monsters. The players will lose if they let the Terror Level get too high or if they run out of cards in the Monster deck (meaning they have taken too much time to defeat the Monsters).

The board shows the village and the 20+ possible locations in that village. Each player chooses a Hero (or is randomly given a Hero) and takes the Reference card for said Hero.  The mover starts on the space listed on the Reference card. The Hero card also tells you the unique special ability of the Hero as well as how many actions he/she gets on a normal turn.  Each player gets one Perk card at random. The Item tokens are placed in the bag and 12 are drawn out – each placed on the board at the location stated on the token itself. The group then decides what level of difficulty they want in the game, and then choose 2, 3, or 4 monsters to fight against.  The corresponding Monster mats are laid out in Frenzy Order (this value is seen on the upper left of each monster mat). A deck of Monster cards is shuffled and placed next to the board. The Villager tokens are also placed next to the board. During the game, they will be placed on the board. In order to gain Bonus Perk cards, you can move these Villagers to their safety location as shown on the top of their figure.

Turns are taken around the board, and in each turn, there is a Hero Phase followed by a Monster Phase.  In the Hero Phase, the active player takes actions up to his limit, using any combination of:

·         Move – Move to any adjacent space, you may take any number of Villagers with you

·         Guide – Move a Villager into your space from an adjacent one, or push a Villager from your space into an adjacent space

·         Pick Up – Take any or all Items from your current space

·         Share – Give/Redistribute items amongst any/all Heroes in your space

·         Advance – Use an Item to Advance a Monster’s Task – Any items of the same color can be played together in a single action

·         Defeat – If the Monster’s Task is Complete, use the appropriate Items to defeat the monster – Any items of the same color can be played together in a single action

·         Special Ability – use the Special Ability on your Hero card

Perk cards are special – there is no action cost to play one, and any player can play one in any Hero Phase.  To do so, you discard a Perk card and do what it says. In order for everyone to know what the possible abilities are, players should keep all their Perk Cards face up on the table in front of themselves.

In the Monster Phase, the top card from the Monster Deck is drawn (there are 30 total in the Deck), and the three parts of the cards are done from top to bottom.  First, the large number in the top center tells you how many item tokens to draw from the bag and distribute on the board. Then, read the event in the center of the card; if this involves a specific Monster (it will be color coded to help you identify this), you do the event ONLY IF the stated Monster is in your game.  Finally, the bottom strip tells you which Monsters move and attack. Monsters always move towards the nearest Villager or Hero, and they will stop if they reach a space with a human in it. Then, if they end their movement in a space with a human, they will roll the number of dice stated on the Monster Card. The results might trigger the special Power of the Monster (marked on the Monster Mat) or they could inflict a hit on the human target.  Most times, there are multiple monsters noted – if the depicted monster is not in your game, you simply ignore their movement/attack. The cards also refer to a Frenzied Monster – there is a Frenzy token which is shuttled amongst the Monsters in your game, and whichever one has the Frenzy token on it gets to act when the Frenzied icon is seen.

If a Hero is hit, they can choose to lose an Item token per hit.  If they are out of Item tokens or choose not to lose an Item, the hit defeats them.  The terror level increases by one, and the Hero is moved to the Hospital space where they will start their next turn from.  The defeated Hero does not lose any items (and this is why you might choose to be defeated rather than losing an Item). Villagers are automatically defeated if they are hit, and they are removed from the board.  The Terror Level still increases by one when a Villager is defeated.

Once the Monster phase is over, play moves to the next Hero who then goes through his Hero Phase followed by another Monster Phase…  The game is won by the Heroes if they are able to defeat all the Monsters in the game. The players lose if they either run out of time (no more cards in the Monster deck) or if the Terror Level reaches the maximum (7th space) on the track.

My thoughts on the game

On paper, Horrified has a lot going for it.  It is backed by a major publishing house. It appeals to much of the general public due to the instantly recognizable movie characters from Universal.  It uses the currently hot cooperative game mechanism. It was getting center stage at the Ravensburger booth at GenCon, and there were lines of people waiting to play it.

When I got a demo as part of my meeting with Ravensburger, I thought that it might be a good intro level coop game.  My first game was with non-gamers, and with a full complement of 5 players. We specifically chose the two easiest monsters as recommended by the rules, and we had a decent time of it.  The game was pretty close, and we snuck out the win by smashing the last coffin and having exactly 6 yellow item points with the Terror level at 6. It was an enjoyable time, and there were plenty of renditions of Monster Mash sung in the background.

For that entry level group, this was a really good fit.  There are some decisions to be made, but a lot of the strategy is streamlined.  Each monster has a fixed set of criteria needed to defeat it, and knowing these from the start of the game really helps keep people on task.  As with most co-op games, there is an element of quarterbacking that you could encounter, but our group was very alpha-free, and we all were able to chime in with our thoughts.  One thing which helped a bit was that there was a monster phase at the end of each player’s turn, and with the changes to the board caused by each Monster phase, there was constant re-evaluation of what players should do.  This caused us to talk a bit more (I think). Overall, the group liked the game a lot, and at least one of the players asked to borrow my copy for a party they were having over the weekend.

My next game was a 2p game, and this one had a decidedly different feel.  We chose to play the standard game (3 monsters), and as we played, I noted a few differences from the full table in the previous week.     First, the rules offer no scaling for different player counts. The game continues to alternate between Player Phases and Monster Phases, but there are just fewer Players on the board.   The number of cards in Monster deck stays the same, but some of them fizzle as there is no special action caused by the card if the Monster shown isn’t in the game. However, this is no different than if you have 5 players; so essentially no scaling here. However, as there are no extra Heroes in the game, harder to collect stuff and trade because the size of the board doesn’t change.  Each hero has proportionally more ground to cover. I mean, this could have been solved by always having 4 or 5 player figures in the game, and each human could control multiple players if needed – but this isn’t suggested in the rules.

Maybe some folks will like the way that this presents an added challenge; but I think that it is a balancing issue that could have been dealt with appropriately in the rules.  The 2p game simply plays quite differently than the 5p, and it is unclear whether this is by design or not. The sweet spot might actually be around 4p though. With 5 players, there were a few turns where players didn’t have much to do – if the Monster card didn’t poop anything out near them (and they had already saved any nearby villagers) – then really you’re just moving to an area where you hopefully can’t be attacked by a monster.  Furthermore, the game has a weird inverse tension. As you partially win the game, it actually tends to get easier – because any defeated monsters are removed from the game – which means fewer monsters move/attack in the monster phase AND more monster card effects can be skipped because there are fewer monsters in play.

I really like the idea of the game, and I think as an entry level game meant for the mass market, it has plenty of appeal.  I would guess that most of those folks aren’t concerned with player count balance and things of that nature, and by all accounts, this game is doing well commercially.  I don’t require familiar intellectual property on the cover to cause me to buy a game, and I’d much prefer the game inside to be solid than having beautiful recognizable cover art.  In the end, I’m not the target audience for this game (nor for Jaws, nor for Villanous), and that’s ok. It would have been interesting to see how a game like this would have turned out with more development, but this game pretty much falls right in line with most of the other Prospero Hall/Big G/etc. games in recent years.  If you recognize those names you’re likely not a casual gamer (as those names are almost never on the box/rules), and I would feel safe in saying that you might have the same issues that I do. Otherwise, get this game, it’s a fine entry level cooperative game. And, if sales are as good for the mass market targeted games (Villanous, Jaws, Horrified) as I think they will be, this hopefully will allow Ravensburger to also continue producing well designed and well developed strategy games such as El Dorado and Carpe Diem – games that are more in my wheelhouse than this.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Horrified

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: First Impressions of Horrified – Herman Watts

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