1-5 players, Cooperative, Monster Manipulating Action Frenzy
I have had my eyes on this one since it released but it gradually got buried beneath a torrential downpour of other games. Just so very little time to buy and play ALL the new games. That said, when I received this one as a birthday gift I was super excited! I ran upstairs and gingerly open the box and was delighted to see a warning label plastered on the back on the board about how horrific (in a good way) the game is. I literally sat there at my table and played three back to back games trying out all the monsters and characters. Suffice it to say I was enjoying the time I put into it.
Overview of Gameplay
In Horrified you and up to five players will be working together to thwart the evil machinations of a variety of Universal’s Monsters. The game setup varies a bit depending on which monsters you choose to go against, and how many! A beginner’s game (as stated in the rulebook) is to go against Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon at the same time but you could mix and match any of the six monsters or if you find that too easy then you can add more monsters to the mix. Each monster has a completely unique way to defeat it so finding that balance of enjoyment is entirely up to the player.
The game is also very straight forward in gameplay. On a players turn they get as many actions as their character card states (between 3-5). On your turn you can move around the board, activate your unique player power, interact with tokens in your space, trade with other players in your space and of course interact with specific locations and possibly monsters in your space. Once you have taken all your actions you will draw a monster card and perform the actions listed on the card which usually involve adding more item tokens to specific places on the board, performing a specific monster action and then finally moving specific monsters around the board and attacking players. There are also some village cards mixed in there that will add villager tokens to the board. These villagers, if rescued and moved by players, will award special bonus power cards to the rescuer. These cards can be used anytime without using an action to help players in various ways.
Around and around these turns will go until players have successfully dispatched all the monsters and then the players win! HOWEVER, players need to be wary as this is a long and dangerous road full of hiccups and burps. If the monster deck ever runs out and players can no longer draw from it, game over and players lose. There is also a terror track that runs along the top of the board. Every time a monster annihilates a villager or a player, the terror token will move up a space. If it ever reaches the skull icon on the track, game over players lose. The game actually plays very quickly as well since there is an artificial time limit in the form of the monster deck so you have to be careful to plan out your strategies and actions as a team if you hope to survive Horrified!
The components are really nice, especially for a game that’s as inexpensive as Horrified is. There are miniatures for each of the monsters and they are color coded to match their monster sheets so you can easily tell them apart. Although if someone confuses Dracula with Frankenstein then I think they have bigger problems to contend with than color coded minis. ALSO, before anyone starts getting up in arms about Frankenstein, YES, I know its Frankenstein’s monster but for simplicity sake that’s what I’m calling the beast. Also the instruction manual points this out as well which was a nice touch.
Speaking of nice touches, there are an abundance of them with this game. Apart from the monster minis, the monster setup cards are just awesome. Each one details how to defeat that specific monster and has unique tokens that interact with its card in some way. For example, the Mummy card has six scarab tokens that are numbered and mixed up. You are to get to the museum space on the board and, using items that you have picked up, move those tokens around until you line up the correct number combination. The Wolfman has a vial token on his card that sits under those line squiggly tubes. Players are to go to the laboratory and add certain item tokens to his card which act as specific ingredients to create a cure! After all the ingredients have been added, the player gets to collect the vial to try and administer it to the Wolfman.
The cards are very nicely done and feel of a good quality and even though there are only three dice in the game, they have a nice heft to them and feel premium. Heck, even the standees used in the game for the characters and villagers are nicely done. The villager standees have a nice cut to them to differentiate them from the player standees. Although the font on them is very small and kind of hard to see the names of specific villagers. Overall they did a bang up job on the components, nothing is crazy over the top but everything that is here is nicely done.
The game board itself is also very bright and vivid. You can easily see locations and the spots are big enough to easily hold the various minis/standees/tokens that will be filling them. It does take a bit of memorization starting out to find locations for item tokens but since players will be plopping these babes down at the end of each turn, it very quickly becomes second nature to know exactly where they go.
The box itself is pretty nice, it has a kind of matte finish on the outside which looks very nice. Although there were stickers used to seal the game instead of the standard plastic wrap, I had zero trouble peeling off the stickers leaving no residue behind. The insert is a folded cardboard affair which holds the cards really well and has a spot for the miniatures but you will still need to bag up the rest of the components. Luckily the game comes included with a nice cloth bad from which to draw all the item tokens so you can easily store all those in that.
The game isn’t all that strenuous to setup from the box with the most difficult aspect being the setup of the particular monsters and their sheets. And even then, it’s as simple as flipping one of the other monster sheets that you are not using and following the easy steps printed on there. Because of this the insert works out just fine as it is and I don’t believe a formed insert would decrease setup time any.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Horrified hits all the right notes when it comes to being visual appealing. They did an excellent job with the artwork and theming here and even if you are not a fan of the classic universal monsters, the game still exudes a menacing aura about it. How each monster has a particular way to defeat it really brings out the theme with them and gives you that feeling that you are actually making a difference. Granted, most of the monster’s sheets have to do with some simple number manipulation with the item tokens. For example, with Dracula you have to move to particular locations with his coffin tokens and then discard red tokens that add up to at least 6 (there are three different colored tokens all with random numbers). This effectively crushes the coffin at that location, and once you have done this to all four coffins you must then confront Dracula by moving into his space and then discarding red tokens that add up to at least 9.
So, yes, a lot of the monsters end up having you manipulate the different colors/numbers on those tokens but it always feels much more thematic than that. The tokens used such as the coffins or the vial for the cure for Wolfman, they always make the game feel like I am actually accomplishing more than just adding up numbers. Because of that, this game really brings out the theme in spades.
The rulebook was written very well and had a nice format about it. There are picture examples and plenty of explanations all over the place for the different monsters. There is a section towards the back of the book that is dedicated to each monster which gives a very thorough rundown of each one. Beyond the rulebook itself you can find more instructions printed on the back of each monster sheet for their setups which is super helpful. BEYOND that there are reference cards included as well which layout the actions and turn structure. I mean they basically thought of everything with this game to make it as easy as possible for new players to jump in and start having fun!
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
Being a cooperative game, you would expect a certain degree of player interaction and let me tell ya, this game does not let you down! Even during other players turns anyone can play one of those fancy smancy Perk cards which can aid players during these trying times. And it’s in everyone’s best interest that EVERYONE does well, you will win as a team and you will lose as a team. Because of that players can interact and trade with each other and it’s always a good idea to discuss strategy with your team on the best methods to tackle all these horrific monsters.
The turns actually go around pretty quickly as well. There are a handful of actions but it is pretty evident what you can or cannot do on your turn so the threat of analysis paralysis isn’t as relevant here as in other games. And I am happy to say that I had an extremely fun time playing the game! Playing through my very first learning game against Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon I lost pretty miserably due to taking my time and the monster deck running out. My second game I paid much more attention to that and won against the Mummy and Wolfman. I won again with my third play-through against Frankenstein and his Bride and the Invisible man, but I started to get cocky. For my fourth play I opted to take on THREE monsters at the same time, which the rulebook says is the Standard difficulty. I was being very careful not to take my time and planning out all the proper strategies to take them all down and was making decent progress. However, I did not account for the abundance of villagers that would get destroyed by the monsters, which sent the terror track off the rails and I ended up losing. Even writing this I am teased by the thought of whipping the game back out and trying my hand at a different combination of monsters.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
During my four plays I tried the game out solo, two, three and four player counts. I have to say this is one of those rare games that I think works and is balanced well at all counts! The way they balance this is similar to the way they balance the Arkham Horror style games. Where at the end of each players turn, they draw a monster card and the monsters wander around and terrorize etc. So, with less players, the less monster cards are being drawn out which means the slower the monster deck runs out. BUT, with less players, the less ground you can cover too so it’s an interesting balance.
As far as replayability goes, this game is quite high in that department. I mean there are 6 COMPLETELY different monsters (Frankenstein and his Bride work together) to choose from and you can mix and match them to create different strategic situations. You can add more monsters to make the game more difficult or remove some to make it easier. Each of the playable characters is slightly different as well ranging from having different abilities to how many actions they get in a turn. That said, the explorer is very powerful and even though she only has 3 actions, her special ability allows her to basically teleport to any non-water space on the board. So, if you find a particular group of monsters a bit too hard try giving her a shot!
Positive Final Thoughts
There’s really not much I didn’t like about this game to be honest. It’s a fast, easy to learn game with very high thematic ties that also has a fair amount of teamwork and strategy involved. They did a great job differentiating each monster to give them replayability and honestly the game would have been fine with all that. But they threw in a Perk deck and some villagers for that extra bit of flavor which adds even more strategy to the game. The components are all very nice and well done and the colors and artwork throughout are excellent.
Negative Final Thoughts
Now, after playing four games I was starting to itch for a bit of a “deeper” experience. The game is pretty simple and that’s not a bad thing BUT after tasting the flavor of the game, I’m left wanting a richer, more thought-provoking encounter. This game is like that delicious pre-dessert before the main course (that’s a thing, right?). It’s sweet and it ignites the taste buds but it doesn’t completely fill me up. It’s got just enough strategy to be exciting and fun but not enough to be exciting and clever.
Also, I wish the item tokens actually interacted with the different monsters differently than JUST the color and number printed on them. I mean there are crosses and garlic and all kinds of pictures on these tokens. Wouldn’t be cool to have to find some garlic and that could help you in some way against Dracula?
The Bottom Line
This very nearly reached my top ten games, if only it was a bit deeper it would have for sure shot on to that list. That said, I HIGHLY recommend this one if you are looking for a fast and fun co-op game that can be played in an hour. You don’t have to reference the rulebook at all and it is easily picked up by new players. This is one that I will for sure keep in my collection and will be waiting with baited breath for an expansion to spice things up a bit!
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