That's my perp! Futsie, all right - crazy as a coot! He's got to be stopped!
Many years ago I remember reading a book called The Great Ghost Rescue By Eve Ibbotson. The book quickly became a firm favourite, so much so that I awarded it with one of my much sought after Puffin Post club bookplates. The story itself concerns a family of ghosts who are thrown out of their spooky castle when plans are put in place to redevelop it into a swanky holiday resort. Tinkerbot Games Ghostel shares a similar theme, with the desolate Creepstone Manor about to be turned into a hotel. However, the ghosts are not about to take this lying down and set out to scare away the unwanted guests.
Each night a bunch of foolhardy visitors will book into the Hotel’s nine rooms. The players’ ghosts will then attempt to scare off as many visitors as they can, earning points into the bargain. They do this by rolling three terror dice and then moving their ghost from room to adjacent room scaring the living daylights out of the unfortunate guests.
The guests get ready for a
good nights sleep - chance
would be a fine thing
Some of these visitors are harder to scare than others, which is reflected in their courage rating. Guests also have a spooky score, which reflects the points awarded to the players depending on how successful their hauntings are. However, even the most stout-hearted of guests may have a hidden fear (think Indiana Jones) some guests have a phobia (yes including snakes), and players can take advantage of these weaknesses by using phobia cards to put unfortunate guests even more ill at ease.
This handsome devil is a bit of a
scardycat with a courage rating of
only 5 and he is scared of snakes.
Some guest cards have an extra effect when ghosts visit their rooms, these include forcing players to sacrifice cards or preventing ghosts from moving on to other rooms.
The Morning After
After the previous night’s guests have fled for the hills players get the chance to spend some of their hard earned spooky points to purchase some extra special abilities. There are three types of cards; terror bonuses give permanent advantages such as allowing ghosts to upgrade to eight sided dice, Scare Tactic cards let you exploit guest’s phobias and finally Spooky favours grant a range of benefits such as rerolls or barriers to block off other ghosts.
When there are not enough guests left to fill all of the rooms the game ends, and the ghost with the most spooky points wins.
Ghost of a Chance
When I play a dice game the first question that usually comes to my mind is how the game balances out high and low rolls. Ghostel works by awarding all the players who contribute to scaring of a guest with some points. Low rolls may mean that you will not score the top points but nevertheless no matter how low your rolls, if you can position then intelligently then you should be able to score at least some points (the lowest a player can score in a scare is the third place points; it’s impossible to score nothing). Then there are special guest abilities that force you to reroll 1’s and 6’s and abilities that allow you to increase you dice roll but not beyond its maximum value.
Another balancing mechanic is that the player in first place has to play first, allowing other players to follow and possibly out-spook the leader.
Headless to Headless
With two players each player takes on the role of two ghosts, playing them independently of each other until the end of the game when both scores are added together. This change turns a fairly straight forward family game into a more involved tactical battle, it reminds me in a way of two player Five Tribes in that you can string turns together for maximum effect.
Ghostel is a fun family game, with a nasty sting in the tail when playing with two. I like how you are constantly weighing up the advantages of spending your hard earned points to purchase special ability cards that will hopefully pay off in the end. The cards themselves add some unpredictability and prevent the turns from becoming too obvious. They increase the number of available decisions without adding too much complexity.
Although the prototype that I reviewed was unfinished the cartoon artwork looks great and if the 3D ghosts make it into the final game then that will be great as they look really cool. The rulebook is also very well put together with loads of gameplay examples.
Ghostel is a very well produced game with a fun theme and solid mechanics. I like how it transforms from a straightforward family game into a more involved two player experience. If this sounds like your sort of thing then why not consider spending a few nights at Creepstone Manor.
This review is based on a prototype offered to me for review by the games designers. Here is a list of all my reviews, some with puns that I really should be ashamed of.