This review is a translation from BBG user Moondraco's blog. All the credit goes to him.
The Possession is the last game by Óscar Arévalo (Seven Swords, Stalag 17), edited by Spanish publisher Gen X Games. This boardgame supports 3-5 players. It was presented at the Festival Internacional de Juegos de Córdoba and it starred internationally at Spiel 2014. The game has been edited in Spanish, English and German, and will be available in European stores in november (US dates TBD). So, what is this all about?
First thing to notice is that Arévalo is a big film fan. His previous game, Seven Swords, was based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Now he offers a game based in a reference among horror movies: Sam Reimi's The Evil Dead. Like the movie, five guys enter a misterious house where they find and ancient book. The problem begins when some of them starts to desire fresh blood: their friends'.
Like most of the games that try to evoque a film, The Possession is an absolutely thematic boardgame. The mechanics are at the service of the theme. What we've got here is an ameritrash-like game with randomless and visceral action (literally!) with a very genuine graphic art. Let's see what The Possession has to offer.
What does it look like?
We don't like to do unboxing videos. Instead, we'll show you some pics of the great art of The Possession. All credits go to Víctor P. Corbella and AGRpriority, Spanish boardgame specialized printshop. Please, keep on reading after you see these stunning pieces of art
In The Possession, your character can be just fine or possessed. The game is completely different depending of the state of your character. This state can change every turn. Therefore, this is not a strategic game, but a tactical one.
The goals of the “healthy” characters are:
1.- Have, at least, one of the pages of the Necronomicon.
2.- Find a key.
3.- Use the key in order to go into the basement or the attic.
4.- Once you have all of the above, burn the pages of the Necronomicon in a room with an altar.
If they succesfully do this, they break the curse and win the game. If they don't, then one of the book pages burnt with no effect and they have to try again.
On the other hand, the goals of the possessed characters are:
1.- Causing damage to the “healthy” characters, obteining trophy counters in the process.
2.- Causing MORE damage
3.- Not to get dismembered. Literally, just look at the picture below. If they get fully dismembered, they lose the game.
Any time all the players are possessed, the player whose character has the most trophy counters wins the game.
The originality of the game, at the design level, resides in that, at the beginning of each turn, all players must roll the Possession Die. Depending on the die roll, your character will be (or not) possessed for the remain of the turn. Although this roll is not completely random (the more life points you have, the less chances to become possessed), there's randomness enough not to plan a long-term strategy. Believe me: the game is absolutely different if you're playing as a healthy character or as a possessed one. Knowing how to adapt in each situtation will be critical in order to win the game, one way or another.
If you need any further information about game rules, you can find the rulebook here in BGG in English, Spanish and German.
That little thing
That little thing in The Possession is its theme, and how the designer has perfectly fitted the mechanics and got a fun game which honours the movies it's based on. The Possession is not a psichological terror game: it's a scary, possessions, blood and limbs set in pieces game. A total challenge for a game designer. And here comes the big question: does The Possession succeed when trying to be scary and feel the burden of finding yourself in a locked house with a near-to-be possessed mate?
Yes, it definitely does. Humans who are possessed with only a few life points have a lot of actions every turn: they're total killing chop machines. Add rooms with actual living limbs flying around, a tree at the entrance trying to catch us with its branches... there's no a safe place to run to. The house become in a total hell for the humans, who can't find a weapon or a key without suffering horrible wounds or dismemberments.
Mechanically speaking, the game works perfectly fine. Humans have to take risks if they want to take more actions through their turn, while possessed players must be careful about their attacks since it's easy to dismember them (and kick them out from the game). You need to think carefully what to do in your turn so you don't lose your precious actions, and keep an eye in the rest of the players. While this turn you have to run away from Helena, maybe the next one Rachel get possessed and she'll try to kill you. O maybe it'll be you, ready to burn the Necronomicon, who become enraged risking your own safety.
This last point is maybe something you're not gonna like. It may not be funny to be forced to change your plan. As a player, it's hard to accept that one die forces you to delay your win when you're so close. Playing as possessed is not in any way less funny: the problem is to change your strategy every turn. But maybe you like this.
The Possession is, in my opinion, a very good thematic game. Its theme, along with its mechanics, can put away some hard gamers.
Best of: The little damage puzzle-board. Thanks to it, you could physically dismember the possessed characters that dare to attack you. But watch out! That little arm won't stay just laying on the floor. Just great. Funniest gore boardgame ever!
Not so good: There should be a mechanic so, if you get dismembered as a possessed character, your human version lose life points.
You'll like it if: You love tense, unexpected situations. You like to adapt to the cruel die fate. Believe me, if the players go into the theme and have a good sense of humor, laughs are guarenteed. Of course, you absolutely will like the game if you're a fan of the horror genre.
You won't like it if: You hate horror, gore, random games or to change and adapt your strategy every turn because of the die. Probably you're not gonna like it if your playing group don't like thematic games: this game need all the players to dive deep into the theme.
Hope this is useful. Blood and cheers!