Designed by: Friedemann Friese
Released by: 2F Games
3 - 7 Players, 45 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
You can count on Herr Friedemann Friese to design fairly unique games with clever mechanisms. You can also count on the games having titles containing words beginning with the letter "F". You can also pretty much be assured that the box containing the game will be green. What you cannot predict, however, is whether the game will be a deep strategy game on the order of Funkenschlag or a light romp such as Wucherer (one of his rare games NOT containing the letter "F").
In spite of this uncertainty, it is always worth investigating any new offering from the "green" man. Last year's Fische, Fluppen & Frikadellen had a very unique mechanism -- players switched tables during the course of the game -- and was able to accommodate up to 15 players. Of course, to handle this many players, three games had to be purchased, which was a very clever marketing idea.
Friedemann's offering this year is Finstere Flure, which continues the story began in FF&F. After finding the three fetishes, you rush to France to free the imprisoned fairy from the clutches of the evil Furst Fieso. You must make your way through his sinister fortress and avoid his evil monster. Run for your lives!
The artwork captures the campy, horror comic book style of the 50's & 60's. This should serve as sufficient warning that the game is intended to be a light romp and not something terribly deep or burdened with strategic options. Yes, there are decisions to be made, but they are mostly tactical in nature and not terribly taxing.
The board depicts a large ballroom (or is it a courtyard?) inside Fieso's fortress. A square grid regulates movement of the players three characters, who must make their way across the courtyard and exit the fortress. The problem is that they are being stalked by a hideous monster whose only task is to slaughter the trespassers. There are some stones scattered about the courtyard, behind which players can attempt to hide from the monster.
Each player has three characters (four if playing with less than 5 players) represented by round wooden tokens with caricatures on both sides. Each side has a different movement allowance, the total adding to "7". Each time a character is moved, it is inverted, so that its movement allowance will be different on the next turn. This turn-to-turn difference in movement allowance forces the players to make some interesting tactical decisions each turn.
Players move all of their characters, one at a time, after which the monster enters the courtyard from the far side and moves towards the nearest visible character. The movement of the monster follows a set pattern on each and every square he enters. He will look ahead, to the left and to the right and then move towards the closest visible character. If no character is visible, or if two characters are an equal distance from him, he will continue moving straight ahead. The distance the monster moves is determined by eight movement tiles and ranges from 5 - 10 spaces. There are also two particularly deadly tiles which force the monster to keep moving until he kills one or two victims. Nasty.
Knowing how the monster moves provides the players with the opportunity to position their pieces in such a fashion that the monster will chase opponents characters and move away from your characters. Of course, your opponents will be trying to accomplish the same goal, so the monster often moves in ways that you don't expect -- occasionally with gory results.
Complicating matters is the fact that if the monster moves into a wall, he will magically appear on the other side of the courtyard. The wall spaces are letter-coded to facilitate this transporting. This sudden appearance of the monster on the opposite side of the board can certainly foil the plans of the players, and players often attempt to position their characters so as to force this magical jumping.
The stones provide opportunity to hide, and characters can push them. This also opens up some nice tactical options, as characters push stones then jump behind them to hide. However, the monster is strong and is capable of pushing the stones. If a hapless character happens to get caught between the rock and a hard place (aka, the wall), the result is, well, messy.
All is not lost, however, if a character perishes -- well, at least during the first seven turns of the game. If this occurs, the character is removed from the board and may re-enter on the next turn. If a character dies after the 7th turn, however, he remains dead and is out of the game.
There are other types of items that can be placed onto the board, including blood pools, turning stones, crystals and more. All of these have special effects that add more spice and provide more tactical options.
The game lasts 14 turns, with the eight monster movement tiles being re-shuffled after seven have been revealed. The ultimate objective is to be the first player to successfully get two characters (or 3 characters with less than five players) out of the exit. If the game ends prior to a player accomplishing this task, then the player who exited the most characters is victorious.
As mentioned, there are tactical decisions to be made regarding movement. There are opportunities for clever movements, often at the expense of your opponents characters. Still, the game is at its heart a run-from-the-monster, beer & pretzels affair. It is a fun romp filled with laughter, groans of frustration and, of course, scary monster sounds. Even though it may not be in the same league as Herr Friese's Funkenschlag in terms of depth and strategy, it still is quite fun to play, and has been reasonably well received. Indeed, it was named as finalists for both the International Gamers Awards and the Deutsche Spiel Preis. Not bad for a small publisher from Deutschland!