Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ghost Stories board game

Ah yes, there are more types of games than video games. I sometimes forget this.

After getting hooked on Dominion over Christmas break this past year, I was excited to remember how fun it can be to play games that aren't on a computer screen. Lucky for me, I soon found out that a new friend from school was an avid board game player (board gamer?). We bonded over our February research cruise, during which we played many rounds of Dominion. Since classes have ended, we've started to have occasional gaming parties.

It was at one such party that I was introduced to a game called Ghost Stories. It's a cooperative game in which the players (four seemed the ideal number) are Taoist monks with kick-ass fighting skills who must defend their village from invading monsters led by Wu-Feng, Lord of the Nine Hells. The design of the game is of Oriental influence, which was a refreshing change after the medieval Europe flavor of Dominion. And though we lost to the monsters in both of the rounds we played, I still had a lot of fun.

Here's the gist of how the game works: An unseen Wu-Feng card is selected out of the Wu-Feng deck (so you get a random "boss" monster for each game), and placed near the bottom of the normal monster deck (there are quite a lot of them). At the beginning of each player's turn, a monster card is drawn and placed in a spot around the edge of the board, which consists of nine tiles arranged in a 3x3 square. To defeat a monster, a player must move her monk to the tile adjacent to the monster, then roll three dice that have a different color on each side. The monster card indicates how many of which color the player needs to roll to defeat it, though there are colored tokens a player can acquire that may be spent to augment an insufficient roll. Each player has a unique power, such as rolling an extra die, or selecting a colored token each turn. The monsters too have special powers, such as forcing players to use one less die while the monster's in play, or introducing the dreaded ghosts that begin to move across the board to "haunt" tiles. Each of the nine tiles has a special ability, such as granting extra tokens, reviving a fallen teammate, or killing a monster in exchange for a point of health, which players can use on their turns in lieu of attacking. If a tile gets haunted, though, the ability is no longer available, and if too many tiles get haunted then the players lose the game. Players win by defeating Wu-Feng, but lose if they all die (obviously) or if the monster deck is used up before Wu-Feng is vanquished.

The monsters start coming out really fast (some monsters' special power is to make you draw another monster immediately), and some are very tough. Things are complicated by a Curse die that you have to roll in various situations to get a random disadvantage, such as losing a point of health (you start with 4). The game is stressful, but that makes it exciting. The game is also really hard; we never even made it to the Wu-Feng card, as Wu-Feng's minions finished us off first. I think we were even playing with the "easy" version of the rules. Ouch. But I still had a great time.

I like the cooperative gameplay style, where everyone is working together and rooting for each other. When I play multiplayer video games, I prefer PvE to PvP, so I guess this is the equivalent of that. It keeps a friendly environment.

I've never played Arkham Horror, but I understand this game is similar, but simpler and shorter (the game takes about an hour--maybe less, if you die fast like we did ;). If you like board games, I highly recommend Ghost Stories. The game is challenging, the atmosphere is ominous (best played after dark), and any progress made is highly satisfying. But not as satisfying as defeating Wu-Feng will be. I'm ready for a rematch.


Greg Christopher said...

Never seen it before and I have a great board game store near my house. Looks interesting.

Eleni said...

I haven't played that many board games recently, so I don't have too many to compare it to. But my friend who belongs to a board game club and has played a lot of different games says it's her favorite. So that counts for something :)

Kathy S said...

That sounds like fun :)

Eleni said...

It is! And it looks like I'll get my rematch tomorrow night :)

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