Apr. 3rd, 2012

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

Fans of the old Chinese ghost story and similar monster movies might enjoy the Ghost Stories boardgame. It's a cooperative game for up to 4 players, where a bunch of Taoist scholar-priests must defeat a horde of ghosts and other unfriendly spirits. Each player has a different elemental affinity that both determines the types of ghost that specifically drains their chi, and the nature of their powers. [They did get the colours slightly wrong though.*}

As with most such games it's "nice day for getting rid of a pesky isolated ghost, everything's fine, we're winning, no worries ... oh Buddha, we are all going to the Hell of Incompetent Scholar-Priests, help, help, help..." sort of game.

That being said, we won, but it was the most fortuitous of happenstance and one must devoutly honour one's ancestors that it happened. The Big Bad (or Boss for those less into Buffyisms - one of the people I played with had never seen Buffy but liked Big Bad better than Boss**) was the one Big Bad that had to be spiked by a Buddha before being eliminated, and we had fortuitously placed a Buddha there (which was fortunate because the ability to move the Big Bad onto a Buddha had been lost to a haunting, and the ability to unhaunt an area had been lost to a haunting). Any other Big Bad would have crushed the Buddha without noticing. This allowed your humble correspondent to step in and send the Big Bad back to the Hell it came from, on the round before everyone was going to die from an excess of spirits swallowing our essential chi.

The players powers are well-balanced and different (and they actually get a choice of two ways they may use them, but they are then stuck with that choice the whole game). No player has an advantage over any other, although the Fate die is really nasty, so the player immune to it is advantageous in dealing with those. Admittedly the worst result was rolled for the two players that were affected most by it - loss of all Taoist tokens - which definitely contributed to the "oh no" edge to the game, and resulted in me head-butting most of the powerful demons (effective, but it hurts). It really is a game where you have to trust the other players will deal with your mess while you are dealing with theirs. Theoretically there is one winner of the game (if everybody doesn't lose), but I feel it's better if that part of the rules is never looked at. All the standard types of Chinese ghost and demons are there, most with their own specialities and powers.

Another interesting boardgame which I didn't get to play was Niagara. I found it interesting because it uses a slotted board, in which large plastic disks are slide into on one end. These are the movement spaces. More disks are fed into one end of the board as the rainfall increases. Naturally this carries the canoes on each plastic disk further down the river, until the exit the far edge (over the falls). It's designed to be played on the game box too, so naturally the falls occupy the far edge of the game board. A nicely designed fork in the river separates the disks into two streams just before the end, to tempt people to go for the jewels near the waterfalls.

[* I was blue, and my ghosts were water and ooze ghosts. Technically I should have been black. The bad guys were black instead, when really they should have been white. But I suppose that might have been rather more confusing to westerners. Wood was green; fire was red; and earth was yellow. The blue Tao token was a Bagua mirror for reflecting bad chi, the red token was incense, the yellow token was sticky rice, the wood token was a golden bell, and the black token was grave money.]

[** And none of them had seen any of the films that this game had been based on. Or in fact, any Chinese, Japanese or Korean film. =80]

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Ian Borchardt

October 2012

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