I had just received this game a few days earlier as a gift, so it was
still setting in my 'new' game stack. I often keep a stack of my new
games set aside so everyone can peruse them. This one caught Joey's eye
and he requested that we play. We were joined by John, Dave and
Spouey. We randomly determined who would be Max the Ghost and it was
The game is very reminiscent of Scotland Yard, a game I haven't played
in probably 10+ years. So, I can't accurately compare the two in detail
as my memory on SY is cloudy, at best. Still, the basic idea is the
same: Catch an elusive ghost (thief in SY). One player represents the
ghost, while the other players act in concert to corner the spirit and
force him/her/it to reveal him/her/itself.
The board, with delightful artwork by Doris Matthaus, depicts a mansion
containing 54 rooms. Max will move from room to adjacent room, able to
filter through walls, ceiling, etc. The ghost-chasers also must move
from room to adjacent room, but are confined by traditional passageways
(doors, trap doors, etc.). No moving through solid walls, ceilings or
floors for the mere mortals. What makes the game difficult, of course,
is that Max is invisible. Thus, his whereabouts are never known with
certainty by his/her/its (OK ... we'll call it "him" from now on!)
pursuers. The player controlling Max is armed with a deck of 54 cards,
one for each room. To move, he simply places one card face-down in
front of him. His pursuers must use deduction, logic and guesswork in
attempting to ascertain the path he is taking.
The players do get some help from time to time, however. There are five
placards included, each with space for 4 - 6 little animals. These
animal tokens (cats, rats, bats, owls and, of course, hedgehogs) are
scattered about the exterior of the home and one-by-one are placed back
into their placards. At the beginning of each 'round', the
ghost-chasers choose one of the placards and after Max and each player
has moved, one animal token is placed into the placard. When the
placard is filled, Max must reveal himself and display the cards to show
the path he took to arrive at his current location. These occasional
glimpses of Max's location greatly assist the players in their attempts
to corner the spirit. Choosing which placard to use for a particular
round is also important as it dictates the number of turns before Max is
forced to again reveal himself. No jokes, please. If all placards are
filled and Max has not been caught, he wins. The ghost-chasers win if
one of the players enters a room where Max is located.
Max's movements are restricted in that he cannot enter the same room
twice during the course of the game. This gives the ghost-chasers more
knowledge to work with and helps them in their pursuit. It also makes
playing Max a challenge as you are constantly worried about boxing
yourself in. I played Max in a later game and was constantly making
examining the board before moving to make sure I allowed myself ample
room with which to maneuver around my pursuers.
The game can be tailored to make it easier or more difficult for Max.
He can receive 0, 1 or 2 'rest' cards, which allow him to NOT move and
remain in his current room. Of course, players don't know when or if he
has used these cards until a round is completed and all of the cards he
played that round are displayed. Also, Max can receive 0, 1 or 2
'double-entry' cards, which allow him to re-enter a room he had
previously occupied during the game. Max MUST display the double-entry
card when used, but does not have to indicate which room he has
re-entered until the conclusion of that round. Finally, Max can
receive, if agreed upon, a 'locked door' card. This allows Max to lock
one door in the mansion out of several possibilities. A ghost-chaster
encountering this locked door must spend an entire turn unlocking the
door. This often provides Max with a chance to scurry through a room
which has a ghost-chaster threatening immediately next door.
The ghost-chasers also have a trick up their sleeve in the form of a
ghost trap. Once per game, upon leaving a room, a player can leave the
trap. If Max enters that room, he must reveal himself. A useful tool,
but no where near as useful as Max's tricks. If Max is armed with ALL
of his tricks, he is very difficult to catch without a bit of luck.
In order to play effectively, players must be able to accurately
remember which rooms Max has previously visited. Plus, they must use
some logic, deduction and guesswork to discern the path he is likely to
take. They then must maneuver their ghost-chasers in attempts to
'box-in' the spirit, eventually entering the room in which he is
located. All of these tactics require the players to openly discuss the
possibilities, which also aids the Max player as he can gain insight
into the plans of his pursuers. The game can be a bit of a
'brain-drain', but it isn't overly burdensome.
In our game, John was visibly struggling, thinking and re-thinking his
possible movement routes. He was being quite devious and was successful
in eluding us even when we had him seemingly cornered. Spouey, Joey and
Dave were all on the right side of the home, while I was guarding the
left side. Unfortunately for me, John zipped to the right side during
the first round and never returned to my side. Thus, my involvement,
other than suggestions, was a bit dull.
Eventually, we figured John was attempting to re-enter the left side of
the house by trying to sneak past us through the central tower passage.
Joey surmised his location and moved into the correct room, forcing Max
to reveal himself. A victory for the ghost-chasers on turn 17!
The rest of the group thoroughly enjoyed the game and the deductive
challenges it presented. I concede that the game is a good one, but it
simply isn't one of my favorite type of games.
Ratings: Joey 8, Spouey 7, Dave 7, Greg 6