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Subject: Child's Play Review rss

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Vampire (or Die Nacht der Vampire), designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Horst-Rainer Rösner, is a light, kid-friendly game about hunting vampires. It is a recent thrift purchase of mine, made specifically with my 6 year old son in mind. This review is being written after a handful of 2-player games against my son.

Components:
In your fairly standard sized long box you get the following:

A deck of 'chase' cards, with numbers 1-4 plus bats.
A deck of vampire movement cards
Wooden 'vampire hunter' figures
The wooden garlic token
Coffin tokens with numbers 1 to 5
Vampire guests with numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5
Vampire butlers, three with the number 3, 4 and 5
The count (a vampire with a number of 10)
The game board
Plastic stairs
The castle backdrop
A plastic insert to hold the bits
The rule book, with rules in many languages

The quality of the components is quite good -- standard quality for a Ravensburger game. It took me a while to figure out how to pack everything into the insert, but once I did I appreciated the thought that went into it.

The standout of the components is the board itself. On one side is the castle grounds, marked off in a grid. The other side is largely a frame -- the plastic stairs snap into the large hole on this side of the board. The castle backdrop slides into the back of the stairs, giving the board a nice 3D feel to it. It's largely superfluous, but it looks good.

The only complaint I have, and it's minor, is that the frame may be a bit too thin near the fold, where ther are obvious signs of stress on my board.

The artwork is light, cartoony and very kid friendly. One needs only look at the picture on the box front -- where a vampire "hunter" is depicted throwing a clove of garlic and bouncing it off a lady vampire's head. The game art follows this example.

Overall, the production values are about what you would expect -- likely a bit more with the cool 3D board.

Gameplay:
Old timers may remember a video game called "Space Invaders". Even older folks may remember the concept of a "shooting gallery" where ducks slide by on a track and you, the rube, need to knock them down with a wildly inaccurate and horribly underpowered air gun. Well, Vampire is a board-game equivalent of that concept (though the Space Invaders analogy breaks when you realize that the Vampires don't approach you at all).

On your turn, you can do one of the following:

1 - Move your hunter and then move the vampires
2 - Collect three 'chase cards' and then move the vampires
3 - Move the vampires and then throw some garlic.

The vampires are placed in the tracks on the stairs and move by way of the vampire deck. The first card is turned over and then vampires in the appropriate rows shuffle over from right to left. A small number of vampires on each rank are placed on the stairs, while the others are held in reserve.

Chase cards are the hunter's only weapons against these creatures of the night. You will need some in your arsenal before you can dispatch the vile minions of undeath.

When you want to attack a vampire, you declare your intent and then see how the vampires move. As you can only target vampires that are in your column, there's a chance that the one you were targeting has moved out of the way, or another moved in your path. If there's still an available target you declare how many cards you will use in the attempt. Most cards will move the garlic closer to the vampire while others may force you to take some steps back (along with your garlic). If the garlic hits a vampire, you capture it and place it in your scoring pile. If you're far enough to the left of the board you can also capture its coffin, which is also worth points. Vampires and coffins are replaced until there are none left. Eventually the Count is forced onto the stairs, and the game ends when he is hit. You then count up the points you have, and the player with the most wins!

Thoughts:
Not surprising, given the theme and artwork, Vampire is a very light game. It is very much a "kids" or "family" game, and in that regard, it succeeds admirably. The greatest testament I can give to this game is that my son has requested to play it on more than one occasion.

The rules are very simple for a child to understand. It's also possible for them to be competitive against an older, more experienced gamer.

While the choices in the game do not require an enormous amount of brain power, there are still some interesting options available to you. Do you stick to the right hand side of the board where it's less likely you will be pushed back (and can therefore use fewer cards per throw), or do you to to the left, where the vampires are further away, but the more valuable coffins reside? Do you conserve your stack of chase cards, or go all out? Do you get in better position, knowing that the vampires can move away from you, or throw from where you are and risk not being able to reach anything? It's not enough to cause "analysis paralysis", even in a young child, but it does give you something to think about.

The upkeep in the game can be a bit fiddly, what with the constant shifting of the vampires and replacing vampires and coffins as needed. This is probably what makes it more of a family game as opposed to a totally kids game. At 6, my son is apt to miss some upkeep if I were not there to correct him.

Child's Play (or what your child can get from this game):
This game reinforces decision making in many ways. As players are limited to one action per turn, your child must decide which action to take. There's also the choice between going for the 'low hanging fruit' on the right hand side of the board or the riskier but higher scoring opportunities on the left. Finally, there's the risk vs reward aspect of how many cards to use in an attack.

Planning is also an aspect of the game, albeit on a very small level. Often, a player will plan a small number of moves in advance so that he is positioned in the square he wants to be in with the number of cards he needs at the time that a vampire is ready to be splatted.

Who will like this game?
Young children, most likely, and they are most definitely the target audience. Parents of young children can get some enjoyment out of it as well.

Who will not like this game?
For the serious gamer without kids, Vampire will probably fall short. It may be fun as simple filler, but not beyond that.

As a game for children or family, the game succeeds. As a gamer's game, there just isn't enough there.

Recommendations: If you know a child who loves to play games and make vampires go "Splat!", this would be an excellent purchase.

As a family game that comes out on occasion, you may want to buy this if you can find it on sale.

Serious gamers are unlikely to enjoy this without a child playing with them.

The greatest endorsement I can give is that of my 6 year old son. He loves the game and will play it any chance he gets. On the other hand, I have no desire to play this game without him, and I don't see myself doing so (until his younger sister starts playing games at least...)

Summary:
Components: Very good.
Rules: Good.
Gameplay: Very light, suitable for children and families.
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