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.

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. You do not control four taoists in solo player mode, instead you have all their powers in the form of 3 power tokens, the same as in 3 and 2 player. You spend them and then get them back by ending your turn in the center square.

    Rephrase: ending turn, not staying for 1 turn.

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  3. Yes, that is the official way.
    However, I like the game better this way; seems to make the game simpler and maybe a little bit easier (which I find only desirable with the difficulty being what it is :D).

    But thanks for pointing it out Ardiana, I probably should have mentioned this in the blogtext!

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  4. Tried it today! I do agree, I think I will control two of the taoists next time to see how different the game play turns out to be! After I finished, that was my first thought.

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