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Subject: A mild set-collection game with a minor push-your-luck element rss

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Caleb
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Seminole
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My daughter (just turned 4) loves Alex Randolph's classic Ghosts! game. We started her on it a couple of months ago and she quickly grasped all the rules. Truly clever tactical play still eludes her, of course, and I guess if I wanted to I could probably beat her every single time, but if I play a bit sub-optimally and make the occasional suggestion to her, she can more than hold her own.

One of the major draws to her was the ghosts themselves, and as I was putting a small Boards & Bits order together for her birthday I saw this for around $8.50 so I threw it in.

I've owned several of these Adlung Spiele card games and never been too impressed with any of them, but I figured I'd take a chance on one geared specifically toward the younger set (5+ on the box).

The title is "Spirits and Ghosts" in English and you get a deck of 65 game cards plus 1 rules summary card and the rules themselves in a small tuck box. Rules are in German, English, French, and Italian.

Each card has 2 elements: a ghost in one of 5 colors and a door in the background that is either a curtain, a metal grille, or a wooden door. In each color there are 3 cards with curtains, 4 with wooden doors, and 6 with metal grilles.

The interesting thing about this is that the backs of the cards are NOT all the same. Each back shows "Count Peppermint's" castle (I'll not bore you with the backstory here...), but in front of the castle, each card back shows one or two ghosts (if 2, both will be in different colors). If the card back shows 1 ghost, then the face of the card will be that color ghost. If it shows two ghosts, then the face of the card will be a ghost in one of those 2 colors. So you can sometimes be certain, and sometimes have a 50/50 chance of knowing what each card has, just by looking at the back. Of course, you don't know if the card will have a curtain, door, or grille.


Rules recap starts here:
The game starts with the draw pile on the table and the top 2 cards turned face up. A player may take 1 card; if it has a curtain, they may take another card until they take one that has a door or a grille. You may take from the 2 face up cards (they are not replenished till the end of your turn) or from the face-down pile, which is where the "hints" on the card backs become important.

Ghosts taken on a player's turn are placed face up in front of them - no cards are ever held "in hand" in the game, making it ideal for little kids.

If a player takes a curtain card, they may, instead of taking another card from the face-ups or the draw pile, steal a card of the same color, but only one showing a grille, from another player.

Once a player has 3 ghosts of the same color face-up in front of them, they are scored. This player puts all 3 in their score pile; the other players score their ghosts of the same color, but may only keep cards with a wooden door - curtains and grilles are discarded (theme: the ghosts can escape through curtains and grilles, but not wooden doors. Or something). So the player who "goes out" in a color will always score 3, and the other players may score 0-2 points in that color.
Rules recap ends here

thumbsup Door cards are valuable because they score even when another player triggers scoring in that color, and because they are safe from being stolen. But, when you take a door card, your turn is over.

thumbsup Curtain cards are valuable because they allow you another turn if you take them, and allow you to use that second turn to steal a card. They are safe from being stolen themselves, but do not score if another player triggers scoring in that color.

thumbsdown Grille cards are the weakest because they stop your turn, do not score when another player triggers scoring, and are susceptible to being stolen. But they're the most frequent in the deck.

We played a 2-player game, and it went pretty quickly. With the 2-player game, it seemed like the best choice was often to take from the draw pile, because it frequently occurred that the 2 face-up cards were non-curtain colors we weren't collecting, while the face-down card was sometimes in the color we wanted or had a 50/50 chance of being a color we wanted. Also, the face down card just might be a curtain, allowing a second move. I'm sure that with more players, all the colors will be "in demand" and the face up cards will be taken more often.

The ghosts are all very "cute" and whimsically drawn, so no fear of nightmares after playing this.

There is a mild "push-your-luck" element as you can take from the face-down draw deck hoping for a curtain to extend your turn...but you may end up stuck with a color you don't really need, particularly if it has a grille and won't score if someone else goes out in that color and may actually be stolen.

The cards are of decent quality and a good size for shuffling.

The rules are typical Adlung-Spiele, but with a bit of squinting and puzzling you can make them out. I have to assume they're better in the original German and just don't get a very detailed proofreading treatment of the English rules.

I'm certain the game would be pure chaos with 6 players and I'll bet its sweet spot is 3 or 4. We had a good time with it with just the 2 of us, and I'm sure we'll be playing "Spirits and Ghosts" regularly.

EDIT: to fix the ending point of the rules recap and added the paragraph on the push-your-luck element
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