Review

Review

Dangerous Games: 'Ghost Stories' Board Game Review

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The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
 
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Ghost Stories (Repos Production, 2008)
 
Life in your village is peaceful, quiet. It's a normal village tucked away in the Middle Empire, the folks of this town live peacefully. If they only knew all the dark secrets you know… they would run for their lives. You are a Taoist priest known as a Fat-Si, and it is your job to guard the border between the living world and hell. The Lord of the Nine Hells has long been toiling away, searching for a way to escape. Now he and his minions are clawing their way back to Earth and it's up to you and your fellow priests to keep them at bay!
 
Ghost Stories is a cooperative board game for one to four players. In it, players play the roles of priests trying to destroy the swarms of ghosts that are attempting to overrun their village. In order to win the game, players must work together to defeat Wu-Feng, the Lord of the Nine Hells. He's a big baddie, and he shows up at the end, but it'll be a hard road to even make it to him.
 
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Gameplay Mechanics
 
The central mechanics in this game involve card draws and dice rolls. The board is a central board of nine random "village tiles" and each player has a home base that gets placed adjacent to the tiles. You draw ghost cards and place them on the corresponding open spaces in the players' home bases. Each player is one of four colors, and their bases (and many of the ghosts) match that color. Ghosts can effect players, haunt village tiles, and cause random effects when they are placed down.
 
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To win the game, players must combine their efforts and help each other when they are in trouble. Village tiles can be used to gain special benefits. If a ghost has haunted that tile no benefit will be gained. So players are constantly fighting off ghosts, exercising haunted tiles, and trying to roll dice to banish the evil beings. There's a lot to juggle, and it gets overwhelming fast. Only through a little luck and a lot of teamwork will the players have any chance at success.
 
Replay Value
 
This game has a ton of replay value. The central tiles are always randomized, so it's always different. Imagine taking a copy of Monopoly and cutting up all the properties pieces on the board, then randomly assigning them. It would completely change the game. Such is the effect the shuffling of these central tiles has on Ghost Stories. Plus you never know which ghost you'll draw. Add in the two expansions and you'll never play the same game twice.
 
Overall Impressions
 
This is a classic cooperative game. Sometimes the problem with coop games is that they're too easy or hard. It's difficult to balance the challenge of a game when it's your game design against four clever players. But Ghost Stories, by creating a frantic, overwhelming feeling, accomplishes a perfect balance. You won't always win, but you won't always lose either. I didn't think I would be crazy about the setting and flavor of the game, but the eerie Chinese horror feel of it all is a wonderful addition. Check it out… before the barriers between the living and dead crumble!
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