"He's no good to me dead."
Being a fan of horror-themed games, card games, and relatively simple and quick games that are easy to learn and teach others, it is no surprise that I ended up buying Torches and Pitchforks.
Components: The game comes in a small box of good, sturdy quality that doesn't take up much space. Inside the box, you get a rulebook and a very large stack of cards. These cards and a six-sided die are all that is needed for play. The cards are the same size, shape, thickness, and texture as found in a standard deck of playing cards. The only bummer with the cards is that everything is printed in black and white, which is a shame because the artwork is very well done and I feel color would have added to it. This, of course, doesn't in any way detract from the gameplay, and even without color, the cards still look great.
Theme: I have indicated above that this is a horror-themed card game, but it is also has a humor theme. Normally, as a horror fan in all forums, I don't feel that the two go well together. But in this case, it really does work. As a matter of fact, the light, humorous feel actually adds to the game in my opinion, and goes very well with the artwork and text of the cards. Many are actually quite funny.
Setup: The cards are divided into three catergories (Monster cards, Mob cards, and Towsfolk Cards). Each player is dealt six townsfolk cards; this represents his or her beginning mob. The very vast Mob deck, which makes the meat of the game, is shuffled and five cards are dealt to each player. The remaining cards form a facedown deck in the middle of the table. The Monster deck is shuffled and placed facedown near the Mob deck. The Mob cards are all unique and kept secret from the other players, each player keeping his mob cards in his hand. The townsfolk cards are all unique in name and appearance, but identical in function (i.e. they each add +1 to the player's fighting score). Because the townsfolk cards are no mystery, each player lays his townsfolk cards faceup in front of him in his play area.
Gameplay: The idea is that each player controls a mob of townsfolk who are trying to kill a horde of monsters invading his or her town. The object is to be the first player to score 30 points. On a player's turn, he will draw back up to five cards if he has fewer than that in his hand. Then he will flip over the top card on the Monster deck, showing the card to all. Now there are two types of Monster card that it could be: A creature card or an event card. If it is an event card, the card will direct some action to take place that affects all players. More likely than not, it will be a creature card; this means that the player drawing the card has to choose to fight or flee that creature. Each creature has a "kill" rating and a "power" rating. The player drawing the creature card must decide to fight or flee before any other cards are played (if the Monster card drawn turns out to be an event card, no fleeing can take place and the outcome cannot be avoided). Once a player chooses to fight, he cannot flee, and vice versa. If the player chooses to fight, combat ensues. To win the combat, the player's mob strength must be greater than the power of the creature they are facing. The base mob strength is determined by how many living townsfolk currently make up the player's mob, but that is just the beginning. Cards depicting weapons, etc., can be played on the townsfolk, which stay in effect from battle to battle. Also, the player fighting the creature has the option of playing instant, one-time effect cards from his hand of Mob cards to increase his mob's chances of success during the course of this battle, by either increasing his mob strength for the current battle or by decreasing that of the creature he is fighting. On the other hand, the opposing players can play Mob cards too, which have the effect of lowering the fighting player's mob strength for the battle (or in some cases permanently), or giving the creature a nice boost of strength to ensure that the player loses the battle. This is obviously a "screw your opponent" type game where you want to beat the monsters, but want the monsters to in turn beat your opponents. After any cards are played, by the player whose turn it is or his opponents, the final tally is made of the creature's power and the player's mob strength. The higher one wins with a tie going to the creature. If the player wins, he puts the creature in front of him and gets points equal to the power rating of the creature (remember, 30 points wins). If he loses, he loses a number of townsfolk equal to the kill rating of the creature. Any killed townsfolk cards are flipped facedown to indicate that they are dead, thus reducing the player's mob strength. Any enhancements on a townsfolk who is killed are lost permanently. In the case of a creature winning, the creature is put facedown in a separate pile of cards called "The Moors", which is formed of creatures that either win in combat or are fled from if the player chooses to flee instead of fight. Speaking of fleeing, if the player initially chooses to flee instead of fight, he rolls a six-sided die, and then must choose and discard a number of cards from his hand equal to the number rolled. If this is possible, the fleeing is successful and the monster is placed in the Moors. If the roll is higher than the number of cards in hand, you get to keep all of your cards, but must fight the creature. After combat or fleeing, there is a hunt phase, but a player can only hunt if he did not fight this turn (i.e, if his Monster deck draw produced an event card instead of a creature card, or if he successfully fled his creature). To hunt the player shuffles all monsters in the Moors and draws one randomly. He must fight that creature, and fleeing is not an option. Combat is handled the same way as normal combat. Then comes the Recoup phase, in which the player may put any enhancements from his hand onto the townsfolk in his mob. These enhancements come in the form of leaders (each player can have only one leader in play at any time), weapons, or other townsfolk which are part of the Mob deck and can be played in addition to the initial six from the Townsfolk deck divied out at the beginning of the game. The weapons enhancements either add a set number to the mob strength, or may require a die-roll to determine outcome. Also during the recoup phase, a player may turn over one of his dead townsfolk, if any, symbolizing that one of his dead members has been replaced. Lastly, the player may discard as many cards as he wants from what is left in his hand, then it's the next player's turn.
Fun factor:This game works, because the cards in a player's hand can come in many forms, and the other player's never know what to expect. If I choose to fight, will another player throw a card to enhance the creature or hurt me? And if so, do I have a card in my hand to counter his card, or enhance my own mob strength if need be for this battle? Or maybe the other player(s) has nothing of use right now, and the fact that I have barely more mob strength than the creature has power will be enough for victory. If I chance it and lose, this particular creature is going to put a hurting on my mob. What to do?
Replayability: The game contains a large quantity of cards, not all of which will be drawn during the course of any one game, so this is very much a non-collectible card game. It is very possible to play the game quite a few times without playing all of the cards contained therein. This type of variety obviously adds to the replayability of the game.
Overall: Overall, this is a simple card game that is definitely enjoyable for the right crowd, and works well with two players as well as five. The cards have nice artwork and are well conceived, and work well with the theme. A fun game that always brings a smile to the table. I recommend it.
P.S. If any aspect of any of my reviews is unclear, I welcome any questions that might help clear something up.
One thing that I actually liked about the black and white cards was that it fit the theme of old horror/sci-fi B-movies. I'm sure that cost was a factor also, but I felt that it fit thematically as well.