Monday, February 28, 2011

Le Havre

LE HAVRE  by Lookout Games
Published in 2008


Le Havre tells a story about the developement and growth of the French city of Le Havre

Each player assumes a role of a businessman, trying to get rich by managing the flow of goods from the harbour of Le Havre, and turning them into cash and property. Buildings and ships are built or bought, workers must be fed or paid, and the best business strategies ensure the best profits.








Le Havre is one of the few really good economy games, that actually offer an enjoyable solo experience. Like all money-making games, Le Havre is much better with more than one player... but the interesting, yet simple mechanics can be turned into a very nice solo game as well.

The board is cramped with markers, so setting the game up will take some time. Of course, I could just keep the markers in a big bowl, or something, but I rather put them to their designated spaces. Everything looks nicer that way!








Most of the cards represent the buildings, that may be bought or built. The building proposals are in three stacks, and only the top buildings may be aquired. This means that the more advanced buildings may not be aquired at the early stages of the game.

Each game also has a small number of special buildings, which are randomly drawn.





The other cards keep track of the game rounds. When a round ends, each player must pay an increasing number of food for his workers. This is the only thing that every player MUST take care of while playing the game - every other course of action is completely optional.
After the round has ended, the round card becomes a ship card, which may then be built or bought.

THE GAME BEGINS:

At the beginning, I am going to need some building materials, so I grab wood and clay from the offerings.

I visit the Building Firm to build a Fishery with some wood and clay.
This will help me with my food production throughout the whole game.








I also build a Marketplace. This basic building provides me with a small amount of any basic goods I want. The more 'craftsman's' buildings I have, the more goods I can get from the Marketplace.

I visit the Marketplace to pick up some iron, wood and coal. Also, I get a tip about the special building that the town will contstruct soon...


The First round ends.
I pay my employees with some fish. The Town constructs a Kiln, an extremely useful building that allows me to make bricks out of clay, with a very good efficiency.









I aquire three new buildings:

I use the Construction Company to build a Bakehouse and a Charcoal Kiln.

Then I buy a Clay Mound. This is a good investment, as the Clay Mound costs very little money, but grants me an endless supply of clay.





I take a large amount of wood from the offering. Then I use some of the wood, as well as clay to build a Smokehouse. This greatly improves my food production, as now I can smoke the fish that my Fishery produces, increasing its food value.
And just in time for the end of the second round, I smoke large quantities of fish, producing ample amounts of food for my workers.

The Town constructs an Abattoir - a slaughterhouse. Slaughtering cattle would be the most efficient way to produce food, but cattle is not that easy to come by.


I buy the Kiln, that was mentioned before.

After this, I use it to turn clay into bricks. Some wood is burned to produce the necessary amount of energy for this.








I visit the Marketplace again; this time I can pick up much more goods than before, as I own 5 Craftsman's buildings.

I empty the iron offer - now I could start building some more advanced buildings.. But first I need to take care of the food for this round, so I use my Fishery and my Smokehouse to produce smoked fish. Some money is also gained in process.

I build a Wharf. Now I would do good to build some ships to assist me in my continuously rising demand for food. The main function of ships is that they bring free food after every round.


A round ends, and I have to use all my fish to pay the food cost.

The Town builds a Diner, which is a good place to make some money, as is buys wood, bread and smoked fish with a high price.









I build an Iron Ship. For this, I had to modernise my Wharf by adding some bricks to it.

Ships produce food, and they can also ship goods overseas for a good profit.







I burn some coal to operate my bakehouse; a load of bread is baked. Also, the annual fishing & smoking takes place, to ensure that I have enough food.



I just got rich!
Lots of wood, bread and smoked fish were sold to the Diner. This raises my balance so high that I could buy just about any building I want to.

The rest of the fish goes for my employees.





I go ahead I buy The Abattoir, as well as a Colliery. Some more bricks are made at the Kiln.

With the help of the Construction Company, two new buildings are built: A Tannery and a Shipping Line. Tannery converts hides into leather, while Shipping Line manages the trade overseas.

A big herd of cattle is processed in the Abattoir. The resulting meat is enough to feed my people when the round ends.

I have the Ironworks constructed.
Another round ends, and the town constructs an Iron Mine with a coal seam. I won't need it though, as I have my own Ironworks and a Colliery.



I own pretty many buildings already!











I build a Steel Mill. This very valuable building would allow me to create steel, which is turn could be used to build the best of the ships. But a slight miscalculation is made as I find myself void of any coal for energy...
Without energy, I cannot make steel, construct ships, or even smoke fish.

And as of now, I don't have enough food.
I have to hoard massive amounts of normal, unsmoked fish and offer that for the workers.

The round ends and the town builds the last building; a Cokery. The last round begins.

I have some coal mined from my Colliery, and then take it to the Cokery to turn it into coke. Coke provides a superior amount of energy - even enough to make steel.



The Steel Production has begun.

I while later, the steel is fashioned into a sturdy steel ship.








I end up using the town's Iron Mine after all, as I needed both iron and coal - and fast, since the last round is ending soon.
And just before the round ends, I construct another steel ship.

Now there is only one more move left to make. I use it to take all the money from the offering space. This money had been piling up during the course of the game.

Game Over! Only a small amount of goods are left in my possession, which is a good thing, since the goods are worth nothing when the game ends.



Now it's time to count the scores...

Money: 28    Property: 176    Total: 204

CONCLUSION:

A rather successful game. Not my best score though, which is 214 in a solo game. The special buildings in this game were good, and they were playing a big part in my success. Escpecially the Kiln: Usually I have always been low on bricks, but this time the Kiln provided me quite enough of them. The Diner could have been used more, but I didn't seem to find time for this.

The feel of the game is great! There are quite a few ways to make money in this game, and managing the resources is so much fun.
In solo game, there is usually no trouble at all to meet the food requirements, but still it's interesting to find a way to produce the food. (even if the Fishery & Smokehouse- combo seems the easiest way)

The appearance of the game is cartoonish, but this is all right. Le Havre is a light game with easy-going attitude - photorealistic images would not have been necessary.

RATING: 10 /10

SOLO RATING: 7 /10

Le Havre is the best economic board game I have ever played. Now I haven't played that many economic games, but then, I'm not that big of a fan of them. However, this game is great, and I enjoy playing it alone, as well as with somebody.

The solo game has some downsides though: First of all, many of the buildings are not used in the solo game. In fact, only the very basic ones are... All the "intresting" buildings are not.
The other thing is, that no matter how good the game is, playing just for scores is not that rewarding. In solo Le Havre, there is no victory conditions and no other goals than to make more money than you have made in your previous games.

A good thing about the solo game is its duration; "only" an hour. Multiplayer Le Havre is likely to get really long, even up to three hours.
But even with the negative things mentioned, Le Havre is one of the very few economic board games, that are fun to play alone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game

A TOUCH OF EVIL: THE SUPERNATURAL GAME  
by Flying Frog Productions                Published in 2008

A Touch of Evil is a board game of horror and adventure.
The game takes place at some time during the early 19th century, in a small, secluded village named Shadowbrook. An evil creature has made its lair near Shadowbrook and is now threatening the village and its population. Strange and terrifying events are happening, people are getting murdered and monsters roam the countryside.
But a glimmer of hope emerges, as a small group of heroes arrive at the village, aiming to rid it from this evil presence, once and for all.

A Touch of Evil is a large game. It contains some 250 cards, a nice assortment of tokens and markers, 16 dice, game board and large hero- and villain character sheets. A nice, large space is needed to play this game comfortably, and as the next picture will show, there is a lot going on at the table:

And compare this to the chaotic last picture, that pictures how the table looks at the end of the game!
But with the multitude of components, comes a very stylized game with strong theme and interesting mechanics.
The game has two modes of play: Competitive and Cooperative.
In competitive game, all the heroes are only looking after themselves, trying to be the first one to slay the Villain. The heroes don't actually fight against each other, but many of the Event- cards can be used to hinder the progress of other heroes.
In cooperative game, all the heroes team up against a much stronger villain.

This game is a cooperative game, with two heroes: Karl, the Soldier, and Victor, the Playwright.

The Villain is Werewolf; a brutish beast with some very tough fighting abilities.








The board represents the village of Shadowbrook, and some of the countryside surrounding it. Places of interest are at the corners: Hanbrook manor, ruins of an abandoned keep, the Olde Woods, and a mysterious windmill all offer a multitude of possible encounters, items and allies to be discovered.

The town is run by 6 Town Elders, who have their own secrets... Some of them may be of great help during the last showdown against the Werewolf, but they may also be in league with it.



THE GAME BEGINS:

Book Burning! Reverend Harding has some delusions about witchcraft, ordering some of the books in village to be burned. A Book of Lore and a Book of Town History is removed from the stock.
Karl is heading at the Olde Woods, taking a break at the Covered Bridge. While he is there, the Werewolf attacks him! Karl receives a minor injury, but gains some investigation. A fast start!

Victor searches the Manor and finds a beautiful cross from there. This holy item is not very helpful against werewolves, but it may be used to prevent a wound. Meanwhile, Karl reaches the Woods and finds some healing herbs from there.

Karl looks into the secrets of magistrate Kroft. Kroft is revealed to be a Servant of Darkness - "the Executioner"! He immediately joins the Werewolf at its lair.






Lord Hanbrook is suspicious about the heroes, and has some townspeople to attack them. Victor manages to talk his way out of this, but Karl gets a beating... He uses his healing herbs to tend to his injuries.

The Villain attacks - and kills - doctor Manning, one of the town elders. Another possible ally gone.. the Evil is very active in this game.

Next attack: This time Victor is ambushed by the Werewolf, while he is crossing though the fields. Victor survives, but gets badly wounded. A rough start for both of the heroes.








Karl visits the Doctor's Office for some medical attention.
Victor searches the Windmill, finding a wooden stake. Again, not the best weapon against a werewolf. A cross and a wooden stake.. Vampires would be trembling right now.

The Villain shows itself at the village Church, but luckily no one was in there at the moment. After this, it attacks reverend Harding, but Harding survives. This level of activity is very unusual indeed...

Victor is attacked by one of the Werewolf's minions - Feral Kin - and knocked unconscious. Another Feral Kin attacks Karl at the same time, but he survives the attack with his 'veteran'- ability, as well as kills the creature.

One of the townspeople is murdered at the Manor!
Murders leave clues behind, but they also advance the "shadow track", bringing the town closer and closer to its final demise.

The Villain also gains more strength, as the shadow track advances.






Victor holds a reassuring speech at the Church, easing the minds of the panicking townspeople. These kind of actions bring the shadow track few spaces backwards. He gains some investigation in process.

The two-timing Victor allows Lady Hanbrook to be killed by the Werewolf! Why does he do this, no one knows...

Now only three of the six town elders are left; two have been killed and one joined the Villain.







Victor uses all the investigation he had gathered, and buys a Horse for quicker movement, and a Silver Shot.
Finally a good weapon against werewolves! So far, neither one of the heroes possesses any firearms to shoot the silver with, but one will be found somewhere...

Karl finds some interesting places: He discovers a secret passage from the Manor, which leads him to the marsh near the Abandoned Keep. There he encounters "Ghosts in the fog"... Karl survives this unharmed, and gains a lot of investigation.

Victor meets Karl and gives him the Silver Shot. This is a good move, since the Soldier is much more effective in combat than the Actor.

Karl has an impressive amount of investigation.
He is planning to go to the village Blacksmith and buy a musket with it.










The secrets of all the town elders have now been revealed. As for the three elders left, no big secrets were found.
Karl finds out where the Werewolf is keeping its lair; at the Marsh. A combat there will be difficult both for the heroes, and for the Villain...

Meanwhile Victor finds a strange trail of bones from the Olde Woods.. He follows it and gains some investigation.

A Highwayman attacks Victor at the Abandoned Keep, badly injuring him and stealing away his cross.









Karl finally gets to buy the musket. Now, with his musket loaded with silver shots, he is about ready to go against the Werewolf.

The shadow track keeps on advancing, making the Villain even more powerful... The attack against the Werewolf must be made quickly!







A Chill Wind rises, diminishing the combat abilities of all the heroes. Luckily a it doesn't last long.
Victor buys a pistol to support his combat.

While preparing for the last fight, Karl stumbles on to another musket at the Abandoned Keep. Well, two muskets are better than one!

Someone is murdered at the Olde Woods. There was some militia patrolling around those parts, but apparently they saw nothing.










THE SHOWDOWN BEGINS:
Time is running out, so Karl and Victor venture into the marshes, at the Werewolf's Lair.
Lord Hanbrook and Reverend Harding join the heroes, backing Karl up while he uses his muskets to fire silver shots at the Werewolf. Victor is seriously underpowered in this fight, but he offers everything he can to help the other heroes in this important battle.

Magistrate Kroft, now known as The Executioner, appears from the Lair, fighting on the Villains side.

The Werewolf, being a lot faster than any of the heroes, furiously attacks Karl and the elders. Karl and Lord Hanbrook are injured.

Karl's counter-attack! The large number of dice tells of the attack's power. Karl gives everything he has for this first combat round, so the results must be good.

The Werewolf receives 8 hits, a very good opening, since 15 is the required number of hits to kill this beast.



Karl also kills the Magistrate.

Victor manages to trick the Werewolf into killing his horse, sparing Victor himself from any damage. Victor scores one hit to the monster.

Karl uses the healing herbs to heal himself.
Lord Hanbrook and reverend Harding are killed by the Werewolf. This will advance the shadow track past zero, to the negative scores, so it's official now: Either the Villain is killed in this combat, or all will be lost!

Karl scores four hits to the Werewolf. Now only two more is needed to kill it...

The Werewolf knocks Victor out of the combat, before the Actor manages finish the beast off... Now it's all up to Karl to do it. If only he would survive the beast's next attack...

Karl gets seriously wounded by the Werewolf's attack, but stays on his feet, allowing him to execute his counter-attack...

...which is a success! The Werewolf dies from a hit of Karl's silver shot...
        Game over, successfully!



CONCLUSION:

A very nice game! Not just because I won it, but because it was challenging and it had some nice events and encounters in it. Also the final showdown was very interesting to play through.

I have to confess; sometimes I play the solo game without the "cooperative shadow track".. This makes the game easier, as the Villain does not gain strength as the track advances. This time, however, I did use the cooperative track, and it was worth it: The game had just the right difficulty level.
A Touch of Evil has a "basic game", and an "advanced game". I play with a mixture of these, using the Advanced Villain abilities, but Basic Minion chart. The advanced Minion chart brings some more rules into the game, and in my opinion, that the game has enough complexity as it is.

As mentioned before, the game does have a lot of things to keep in mind. Some might say the game is heavy, and sure enough, a Touch of Evil may not be for those who like their games simple and easy.
The rulebook is thick, but don't let this to scare you away; the rules are very consistent.

Components are durable and beautiful, and the artwork is of high quality.
One thing about the cards; they are quite difficult to shuffle. They seem to be laminated for added protection, which is a good thing, but this actually does make the shuffling somewhat troublesome. But if I have enough time to play this game (which may take up to 2 hours with just me alone), I'm sure I have enough time to go through the shuffling.

RATING: 9 /10

SOLO RATING: 8 /10

Like with most of the heavily themed adventure games, A Touch of Evil is heavy for just one player. I wouldn't pick more than two heroes for each of my solo games, as even these two sometimes are too much to control. Every now and then, I may forget to use some of the event cards I have, or I may overlook some minor detail of the rules.. just because there is so many things to remember.

But if one doesn't mind the weight of this game, A Touch of Evil is a very nice experience for soloing, as well as for multiplaying.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thunderstone

THUNDERSTONE  by Alderac Entertainment Group
Published in 2009

Thunderstone is a "pure" card game, meaning that there are no other components than cards. No tokens, no dice.. but about 530 cards to play with. 
The story goes: Evil creatures, known as Doom Knights are looking for items called Thunderstones. If they find all of these stones, they could fulfill a prophecy of corruption over the lands. The first of the Thunderstones has been discovered in the Dungeons of Grimhold, and the Doom Knights are sending their minions to collect it. The players must gather a group of brave heroes, armed with fine weapons and powerful spells, to enter the Dungeons of Grimhold and claim the Thunderstone before the Doom Knights get to it.

Thunderstone has a great re-playability value; only 4 of the 11 heroes, 3 of the 8 types of monsters and 8 of the 19 piles village cards are used per game. These cards may be hand picked, but they may as well be randomly drawn. Village cards, including the heroes, form the 'village', while the deck of monster cards with one thunderstone in it, form the 'dungeon', along with three monsters that are currently face up in the 'dungeon hall'. Only these three monsters may be attacked.


The speciality of a solo-Thunderstone is the fact that the monsters keep on advancing, even if the dungeon hall is already full. This may cause the monsters to "attack" the village, which will cause negative points at the end of the game. In multiplayer Thunderstone this does not happen.


In this game, my heroes are the following:
Chalice Quester - Fighters / clerics, who can cure diseases and support the combat.

Lorigg Thief - Weak fighters... but they generate gold and light.

Amazon Archer - Fighters who have an increased attack score while attacking deeper into the dungeon hall.

Selurin Magician - Wizards, with high magic attack abilities.


All of these heroes may later be upgraded to higher levels. For this act, some experience cards must be spent. Experience is gained by slaying monsters.




The monsters in this game are Dragons, Undead humanoids and Oozes. Dragons are the toughest monsters of all, so this will not be an easy game. The undead, on the other hand, spread diseases which lower the combat abilities of my group.
The starting hand in every game consists of six Militia (the basic fighters, who can be upgraded to "real" heroes"), 2 daggers (basic weapons), 2 iron rations (food items increase the strength of the heroes) and 2 torches (produces light, which is needed to fight off the darkness penalties). 


THE GAME BEGINS:

The dungeon hall is empty at the beginning, so the first few moments are best to be used for village actions. My starting hand has a pretty good gold value, so I get to buy an Amazon Archer.

Harbringer is the first monster to come out to the dungeon hall. This undead creature can be destroyed rather easily - its only speciality is an ability to destroy a spell I might have. At this point of the game, I have no spells, so this doesn't scare me.




The militia are abundant at the beginning of the game. They are nearly useless, as they have a very low attack score, they can't use most of the weapons and they don't produce gold.






A spear is bought. Spear adds to the attack score, and it may be thrown (and lost) to increase this bonus.

A red dragon, "Tyxr the Old" comes out. This beast is way too powerful for my party to destroy at this early point of the game.

I bought Goodberries.
This food item not only increases the strength of a hero, but also transforms the normal attack of this hero into a magical attack. Also, for some reason, this is the only item that produces a victory point at the end of the game.




"Mythlurian", a green dragon appears. This dragon is slightly weaker than the red one, but still very powerful.




The dungeon hall is now full, which means that after this point, the monsters will keep on entering the village, if I don't do something to stop them.








The Harbringer is destroyed before it reaches the village. A band of two militia with torches and a dagger was enough to do this.A third dragon - a white one called "Skaladak" enters the hall. This dragon is even weaker than the green one, but still probably too strong for my group... Especially when it is at the darkest area of the hall.
The red dragon enters the first rank of the hall, where it uses its 'breach' effect; I have two less cards to use during my next turn. And as predicted, the dragon gets through during the next turn.
A lantern is bought to bring some light into darkness, and the fifth monster to appear is an ooze creature called a Red Jelly.


Success! One of the dragons gets slain.
An Amazon with a spear, backed up with three militia manages to kill the white dragon off. The spear is thrown and lost in the fight.



This kill is big enough to hold the monsters at bay during my next turn.





A Chalice Quester is recruited. Right after this, I get a chance to upgrade him, so he becomes a Chalice Defender. I also get to buy a Lightstone Gem, the best and the brightest of all the light-producing items.

At the same time, another dragon attacks the village. I buy a feast for my group. This item increases strength and attack for all of the heroes present. Another white dragon appears... Lots of dragons to deal with.




An undead creature called Famine is destroyed. It infects my party with a disease during the fight.





A powerful Selurin Magician is recruited. These people can conjure up vast amounts of magical attack powers, especially if I get to level them up.Meanwhile, my disease-ridden militia is too weak to fight, so I visit the village to buy a short sword.
A successful raid at the dungeon hall: The Chalice Defender, an Amazon Archer and one militiaman slays a green dragon! Lightstone gem provided enough light. The militia was destroyed, but that is a very reasonable price to pay for such a great kill.




I visited the village, bought a spear and then upgraded the Chalice Defender to Chalice Paladin. I now have my first level 3 hero - these heroes are not only very effective in combat, but also provide victory points at the end of the game.




Next turn I get no heroes at all. During this downtime, a Black Slime manages to slip into the village. The good thing is, that I had enough gold to buy the most expensive asset in stock: The Fireball spell. Fireballs produce magic attack and light, and they don't even need a hero to use them.Another Chalice Quester is hired. The most powerful monster so far, a blue dragon named "Uyril Unending" enters the dungeon hall.
Time passes without me accomplishing anything significant... I hire a Trainer to turn my militia into experience.




The most powerful monster in the whole game makes entrance to the dungeon hall: "Ebon Fume", the black dragon. This creature would be a great kill, granting nice amounts of experience, victory points, and even a trophy effect for future combats... But it is nearly impossible to defeat with its immunity to magic attacks and huge amount of health.









The dungeon hall has became a very dangerous place. The Ebon Fume has advanced to the first rank, and other ranks have been occupied by some Noxious Slags.. These Ooze monsters are resistant to magic, and immune to most weapons. This would be the time to kill the black dragon, but I doubt I have such a strength at my disposal.And no luck: The dragon attacks the village, bringing loads of negative victory points. I probable won't win this game...Finally my heroes team up. A formidable group is formed: The Chalice Paladin, Chalice Quester, Amazon Archer and a Selurin Magician backed up with a lightstone gem venture to the deepest part of the dungeon hall and slays a red dragon! The Amazon is destroyed by the dragon, but a short sword is gained as spoils. But even this mighty party would probably have been unable to kill the black dragon - that is how strong it was...

The Thunderstone is found. In order to claim it, I need to kill a Gray Ooze- monster.

I also bought last of the fireball- spells, and trained one of my militia as a Selurin Magician.




The Thunderstone is claimed! A Chalice Quester with a short sword and a lightstone gem killed the Gray Ooze, and returned to the village with the Thunderstone.But what is left of the village, after all the monsters that have gotten past my heroes, and attacked it... It's time to count the scores. I'm having a bad feeling about this.



Negative 27 points! I think it's safe to say that the village was ruined, and the lone Quester who returned with the Thunderstone, was greeted with a horde of monsters...

CONCLUSION:

Phew! The dragons are difficult! This game went badly, that much is for sure, but any game of Thunderstone with some of its most difficult monsters in the dungeon, is a challenge.
The original Thunderstone game does not come with solo-rules, but these can be found from the Alderac Entertainment Groups website, as well as from the rules of the Wrath of the Elements expansion set for Thunderstone. In these rules, there are three different difficulty levels (this game was with the medium). The difficulty is also affected by the cards - especially the monster cards - picked to be used.

You need luck to win a game of Thunderstone. This is one of the bad qualities of games like these; when you draw your hand, you can quickly see what you can do, and what you can't do on that turn. Of course it is a lot of fun, and sometimes even quite challenging to analyse every possible action you could take, but at the end, it all comes down to your card-drawing luck of the day. Of course, with most of the games including some dice-rolling, the case is about the same, but somehow it seems so harsh with the cards... I guess it is supposed to be this way, after all, this is a solitaire.

The cards are of very high quality: Durable enough, and very nice to look at. The pictures on the cards enable one to really sink into the game, and I for one like to picture the combat situations in my head, making them much more than just adding up the numbers.
Talking about the numbers, it may take some time to memorise the meanings of all the numbers on the cards. Health, strength, weight, exp value, VP value, light and cost are pretty much just numbers, without very clear markings about what they are supposed to represent. But at least for me, this in not a big deal, perhaps a little annoying during the first game...

RATING: 7 /10

SOLO RATING: 8 /10

Thunderstone is not a cooperative game. If played with more than one player, the players try to score as much victory points as possible. Some of the card effects only affect other players, so these cards are much less usable in a solo game. This is a downside with the solo gaming, but having said that, I must add that Thunderstone is still one of the best solitaires for me.
When playing this game alone, there is no hurry, and you can sink into the game tactics, and its gorgeous artwork very nicely. I'm sure that a multiplayer Thunderstone is a very nice experience as well, but for me this game is - above all - for soloing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ghost Stories

GHOST STORIES  by Repos Production
Published in 2008

Like Pandemic, Ghost Stories is a fully cooperative board game that came out during 2008. Unlike Pandemic however, Ghost Stories tells a whole different story:
Lord of the Nine Hells, Wu-Feng is aspiring to reincarnate his body after a defeat he suffered many years ago. His ashes are buried in the graveyard of a small village, located in a Middle Empire, and he needs them to live once again. So now an army of ghosts is marching towards this village, followed by Wu-Feng's own incarnation! The only thing that is standing between the ashes, and Wu-Feng's army, are four Taoist priests, controlled by the players...

The gaming area is rather a compilation of smaller tiles, than an actual board. In the middle, there are 9 tiles that form the village area, where the priests move around. These "buildings" are placed randomly, and they depict places, where the priests may ask all kinds of help from the villagers.
The four larger tiles surrounding the village are player boards. All of the four boards are used, even if there is less than four priests in the game. The attacking ghosts are always placed on these boards, and from there they may cast curses to the priest whose board they occupy. Also, the village tiles next to the ghosts may get haunted, which renders them unusable.

 
Below is a picture of the "tools" that the priests use while exorcising the ghosts: Dice, with different colours instead of numbers, and magical components. These components may be used to add results to the dice rolls.










THE GAME BEGINS: 

The game begins with the arrival of the first ghost. A Rotten Soul appears, and the green priest exorcises it right away. Normally, the Rotten Soul would curse the priest who exorcises it, but the green priest has the "Strength of a Mountain" special ability, which makes him immune to curses.
The blue priest has an ability called "Heavenly Gust". This makes him faster than the other priests, allowing him to exorcise ghosts AND visit the village during the same turn. He uses his speed to initiate a prayer at the Circle of Prayer, and to exorcise another ghost that just appeared. The prayer weakens all blue ghosts. The exorcised ghost's curse destroyes all of the priest's components.

A Fury of Depth and a Soul Eater arrives.
These two powerful ghosts have active curse abilities, meaning they cast curses on every passing turn.















A ghost - or rather a skeleton - called a Restless Dead begins its march towards the village graveyard. This creature is a "haunter", so it will haunt village tiles if it's not stopped in time. Luckily this haunter is defeated by the green priest.
The Fury of Depth curses the Buddha Temple, haunting it in process.
Three ghosts appear all of the sudden: Severed Heads, Fallen Monks and an Ooze Devil. The Severed Heads diminsh the power of all the priests by seizing one of the dice away. Fallen Monks, on the other hand, block the use of the green priest's special abilities. Fortunately, these two are not that difficult to exorcise, and the blue priest manages to get rid of them both with a single exorcism, recovering the priests' abilities back.

Red priest uses his Yin-Yang power to save the Buddha Temple. Every priest has one use of this power. After use, it must be recovered somehow, before it can be used again.









The Soul Eater curses the yellow priest, causing him to lose some of his Qi. Qi is the life-force of the priests. Something should be done about these "tormentors", for their curses can make things difficult.
The yellow priest fights back to the Soul Eater, performing an exceptionally good exorcism and defeating the ghost. Yellow priest also had some coins to back the exorcism up, but he didn't even need to use them yet. The yellow priest has a lot of components, since his "Bottomless Pockets" special ability generates components from nothing.

Some haunters are approaching from the mountains. The green priest tries to stop them.. and manages to destroy a haunter called Bleeding Eyes.










At this point, the game is going well. There are a lot of open slots for the ghosts to occupy.

The riverside is being pressed hard; the Fury of Depth haunts the Buddha Temple again, while the Ooze Devil draws closer to the Sorcerer's Hut.

3 ghosts appear again! The priests better keep up the pace, or things will quickly go out of their hands.















The blue priest uses his Yin-Yang to change the type of prayer without actually being present at the Circle of Prayer. The prayer becomes blue again. The priest then moves to confront the pestilent Fury of Depth, which finally gets exorcised. As a reward for this heroic act, the priest gains his Yin-Yang back.
The yellow priest gets to spend his coins, while exorcising the Dark Wraith. Also, the Ooze Devil meets its end by the green.

The powerful Lich arrives with his curses. At the same time, a monstrosity called Flesh Devourer is destroyed by the red priest and his incenses.









Bad news from the swamp: A Hopping Vampire approaches, the Lich curses and haunts the Watchtower, and the yellow priest loses Qi for having so many ghosts on his board. He tries to exorcise the Lich, but can't quite make it.
The game goes smoothly. New ghosts appear in a regular fashion, but the Hopping Vampire is defeated before he could do any damage.
Liches curse brings yellow priest's Qi down to one.. zero would mean death. But the priest fights back with the help of his components and the now-yellow prayer at the Circle, defeating the Lich. He gains one Qi back with this victory.
The Circle of Prayer becomes haunted, removing the prayer's effect. This part of the village is very important, so green priest uses his Yin-Yang to save the Circle. Another prayer is started.

The blue monk uses his Heavenly Gust to take a break at the Tea House, while exorcising the Restless Spirit at the same time. That's multitasking!










Things are hectic at the village.
The Circle of Prayer get haunted again, and there are only two unoccupied slots for the ghosts to arrive in.

And it still takes some time until the reincarnation of Wu-Feng appears.







Blue priest visits the village's Sorcerer for help. The Sorcerer destroys a ghost called a Scarlet Evildoer, but with a cost; the priest loses one Qi.
The red and yellow priests clear the air a little bit; total of four lesser ghosts are exorcised by these two heroes. Yellow had to use all of his components in process, but he will get more...

A mighty ghost named Shapeless Evil appears, and haunts the Herbalist's Shop all of the sudden.















The blue priest uses the Taoist Altar to save the Herbalist's shop, but two more buildings get haunted! Now three buildings have been haunted, fourth one meaning the end of the game. There are four haunters around the village, so situation is beginning to look grim. Also, the next ghost to appear will be Wu-Feng himself!
Red priest uses the Sorcerer to destroy one of the haunters.

He is here! Wu-Feng reincarnates, and not just in any which form, but in the form of the dreaded Hope Killer, who might just well be the most powerful form of them all.
His name seems to have some weight on it, as all hope appears to be lost; the Hope Killer has to be subjected to four different kinds of damage, and at this point it is clear that the priests don't have enough time to gather the components needed for this exorcism.




All priests are now low on Qi, haunters still lurk around the village and the Hope Killer is present. It is only a matter of time until some of the priests die... The Hope Killer laughs mockingly in his picture, and he has a reason for it.

And sure enough, blue priest dies, overwhelmed by the ghosts... He could be brought back to life from the Graveyard, but soon there will be none left to do this deed.









Then it is red priest's turn to go, after which the yellow one dies... The green priest is mighty, but he can't hold all the ghosts off by himself, so he must die too.
And so the village - and perhaps the whole world - is doomed! Game over.


CONCLUSION:

I lost the game, which is no surprise - Ghost Stories is a very difficult game to win. The difficulty level is adjustable, and this game was played with the following settings: 3 Qi per priest, 1 incarnation, and the fourth haunted tile ends the game. These settings would put the difficulty of the game somewhere between "initiation" and "normal"! So yes, playing with the "hell" level is something I wouldn't try any time soon.
Anyway, this was a good game, very challenging and interesting to the end. Of course, the great final showdown between the priests and this Hope Killer was left unseen.

One notable thing about the Ghost Stories, is its atmosphere of sheer panic. When the game begins to draw at its end, the players will feel that there are too many ghosts, too little time, and too many ways to lose the game. Every mistake made is potentially a very harmful thing, and this encourages to really give some thought about what each of priests should be doing.

The game rules are not that complicated, though some memorization is needed for the game to be smooth. After a one good initiative session, everything should make sense, and the next game will be much more enjoyable.

The artwork in Ghost Stories is nice and supports the theme very well. Some of the ghosts actually look dangerous and perhaps even scary. The overall look of the game may seem a bit too colourful, but all the details are still easy to perceive.

RATING: 9 /10

SOLO RATING: 8 /10

Solo game may get a bit heavy for some players, especially if controlling all the four priests. Still, I always play with the full house, as leaving some of the priests out will introduce some new tokens to the game, and - to my opinion - complicate the game further.