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Plastic tubs come with warning labels making sure you don’t place a baby inside and seal it. I had a hot water heater that had several warning images which read like a hilarious comic strip with the protagonist ending in fiery death. Likewise, the Emperors of Eternal Evil did their due diligence with the following caution:
“Psycho Raiders is a very visceral experience and we have rated it X. Anyone under the age of 18 is NOT permitted to play. Pregnant or players with a fragile or nervous disposition are strongly encouraged NOT TO PLAY THIS GAME!”
I’m afflicted with hyper-tension and have an innocuous heart murmur but I live life on the edge and toughed this one out for you guys; thank god I wasn’t pregnant.
Kill! Kill! Kill!
So up front, this thing is as crazy as that tongue in cheek warning label. It’s a hex and counter wargame simulation of a slasher horror flick and it’s physically packaged in a magazine format that screams low-fi and underground. It’s reminiscent of an early 90’s Metal Zine and it feels like you’ve come across something your parents have forbidden and you shouldn’t own. It has that special unique feeling like you’ve just discovered a band no one’s heard of and that sense of ownership and rebellion that’s deeply associated.
The magazine is chocked full of obscene, evocative, and hilarious artwork. There’s little comic strips that make you chuckle, large drawings featuring gore and nudity, and a constant sense of the perverse that has you wondering what’s going through these guys minds? That’s ultimately why we love this team as their designs come from so far out of left field that it can’t help but be a home run. The whole thing just reeks of care and passion that it rips through your chest and pulls viciously on all of your heartstrings.
Components here are even cruder than its predecessor Cave Evil. You get one counter sheet with plain but effective artwork, a paper map which is pretty solid and evocative, and several sheets of cards that you must cut out. You need to supply your own 6-siders and will need to photocopy small character sheets. The rules make up the bulk of the magazine, interspersed with a couple of drawings and a nice centerfold with a scantily clad woman in a gas mask. The rules themselves are simple and easy enough to grasp so you will be able to get playing this one pretty quickly. There’s also a generous amount of optional rules found near the back that add some depth and additional bite.
If Psycho Raiders was released as a traditional game without the phenomenal package it would likely be uninspiring and a bit sub-par. The game is purposely unbalanced and seeks to simulate the horrific events that occurred in its 1978 story featuring a group of campers fleeing the Psycho Raiders. If the campers are caught early they will be cut down mercilessly by the hunters as death comes swift and without prejudice. Players can get eliminated right away and the game does not coddle you, grinding your broken skull into the mud as a reward for committing mistake or tactical error. However, it needs this overarching sense of punishment and execution to deliver upon its promise of intensity and terror – which it succeeds at admirably.
As the wall of fire cuts Randy off, he finds himself surrounded and ready to fight like a cornered rat.
The tension and horrific nature of the game is the main selling point. This constant sense of danger and being up against the odds makes playing the campers a tense and harrowing experience. Your main weapon is hiding which features a neat and simple mechanic of allowing you to place down duplicate counters of your character and you write down the number corresponding to your actual position. From the perspective of playing a Psycho Raider you feel like this terrible god, hunting these filthy animals down so that you can hack them apart and feast on their remains.
In addition to the atmosphere the game is just packed with small clever touches. This is the same quality that endeared me to Cave Evil and it’s what these guys do exceptionally well. You have stuff like a blow torch which is relatively weak unless your target is being grappled by another player. The damage system is stellar in that each point of damage causes you to drop a stat by 1. The tough choice between reducing your fighting Strength or your Speed is painful. If a blow would reduce your stats to 0, you draw a KILL card. If the type of weapon used against you is present on the card (Fist, Melee, Gun, or Fire), you die instantly. The cards have a great illustration of a particularly gruesome death and work to elevate the experience in their own right. There’s also a great townsfolk mechanic with NPCs being present on the map that can be alerted in order to help the campers. The problem is that some of them may be sinister and under the control of the Psycho Raiders. Alert the Sheriff seeking help and you will be crying into your pillow when you find out he’s an evil bastard and he’s here to eat your soul.
From horny teen to headless carcass in a blink of an eye.
If you can appreciate the theme and atmosphere and are in it for the experience – then the game just works and works well. At its heart it’s a fantastic story generator as you will run into games where Dawn is ripped apart by a Machete and Randy almost makes it off the map before being obliterated against the wall of the chapel by the Raiders black van. You can hotwire cars, break into buildings, scrounge up magnificent weapons like sticks and rocks or shotguns. You can even have your face caved in by an inbred hillbilly named Spud or your flaming remains ran over by a tractor. If none of that excites you then you’re dead to me.
This review was originally written for 2d6.org. To view other reviews written by Charlie Theel check out this Geeklist.