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Subject: Wu Feng.... We're coming for you! - A review of Ghost Stories rss

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Andy
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Introduction
Ghost Stories is another in the current wave of Cooperative games... in which the players work as a team to defeat the game...



It is produced by Belgian firm Repos Production, who also brought us the popular negotiation/party game, Ca$h 'n Gun$.

The game is inspired by oriental mythology, and the players take on the roles of Taoist monks battling against the evil spirits that are attacking their village. The army of spirits has been amassed by Wu Feng, and in order to win the game, players must survive the onslaught of spirits, and ultimately defeat the incarnation(s) of Wu Feng himself.

Components

The box is packed with a variety of good quality cardboard and plastic components, two decks of cards and some custom dice, as follows:

- 4 player boards... these are on reasonably thick cardboard, though perhaps a little thinner than some of the more high-quality game boards.

(red and blue boards)
-images courtesy Limpide

- 9 Villager tiles... these are on the same quality thick cardboard as the player boards, and together with those boards form the play area. The Village tiles are arranged randomly in a 3x3 grid, so that the layout is different every time you play.
-image courtesy Sothis

- Deck of 55 ghost cards... these form the opponents that you will be fighting during the game and come in 5 colours (the 4 player colours and an additional black type). For 4 players, all 55 cards will be used. For fewer players, 5 cards are removed per missing player. These cards are full colour, with really high quality artwork, however, in some sets, there is a problem with the size of the cards. In my copy all but 1 of the ghost cards were the same size... with that odd card being fractionally larger... Other BGGers have commented that more or all of their cards are of the larger size.

- Deck of 10 Wu Feng Incarnation cards... these are the same quality and size as the ghost cards, with different coloured backs so that you can tell them apart. Only a few of these (1 at initiate level) are used per play, adding to the replayability of the game.

- 4 plastic Taoist Monk playing figures... these are reasonably detailed, and are coloured to match the 4 player colours.

- 8 plastic haunters... These are very imposing looking miniatures in black, which are reminiscent of Dementors in the Harry Potter movies.
(not an actual game situation)

- 2 plastic Buddha figures... Highly detailed gold figures. These are used in the game to protect areas and kill off ghosts.
-image courtesy Toynan

- Various cardboard tokens, including 20 Tao tokens in 5 types (the 4 player colours and an additional black type) and 20 Qi life tokens... These are on the same thick cardstock as the player boards and Village tiles and have similarly attractive and thematic artwork.

-images courtesy Sothis

- 4 Tao dice, 3 white and 1 grey, all with coloured spots representing the 4 player colours and additionally black and white sides. These are average size dice, with a reasonable heft to them.

- 1 Curse die in black with 2 blank sides and 4 sides with symbols in white. This is slightly larger than the Tao dice, but of the same type of plastic, so has a proportionally heavier weight to it.
-image courtesy Sothis

The components are all good quality, with some really colourful and lavish artwork... It's also worth noting that, while some of the ghost cards are duplicated, the artwork is not.. so for example, the two "Sharp-Nailed Mistresses" cards have different artwork...




Gameplay

Players take it in turns, and each turn consists of Yin and Yang phases.

In the Yin phase a player deals with the ghosts in his play area, activating their special abilities if any, losing a life point if the 3 slots in his area are full, and drawing a new ghost if there is space... Ghosts are colour coded, and when drawn are placed on the same coloured players' board... black ghosts are placed on the active players board. If there is no space available on the appropriate board, the active player chooses where to put the ghost.

The Yang phase is when the player gets to move his monk and either fight the ghosts near him, or use the ability of the village space he is on. Depending on where he is, the Villagers will allow him to either collect resource tokens, move ghosts and/or other monks.. get help from the Buddhas, kill a ghost outright at the cost of a life point, and other things that affect the ghosts or players in various ways.

In addition to the help the monks can receive from the villagers, they each have a special ability that is unique to them... and each colour has a choice of 2 abilities at the start of the game, depending on which side of the player board is used.

By killing ghosts and getting help from the villagers, the monks have to survive the onslaught of ghosts, until the incarnation(s) of Wu Feng appears... at harder difficultly levels, there can be more than 1 incarnation... the players must then Kill the Incarnation of Wu Feng before the remainder of the ghost deck runs out (usually a further 10 ghost cards).

The only way to win is to defeat Wu Feng... however the players can lose in a number of ways.. for example if all of the monks have lost their last life point... or if the ghost deck has run out... or if a fixed number of the village tiles have become haunted.. at initiate level, this is 4 of the 9 tiles.

-image courtesy Inkygirl

Personal Thoughts

Pros

- The theme is very rich, and the mechanics do a very good job of applying the pressure, and torment, of facing off against all the ghosts.. it's a constant battle, and the pressure rarely lets up until the game is over.

- It plays reasonably quickly... our games have all been just over the published 60 minutes... and is quite addictive too... lending itself to 2 or 3 consecutive games... particularly if you lost the previous play.

- While this is a purely co-operative game, the monks are vulnerable to the attacks of the ghosts, so there is also an element of looking out for oneself... as well as just keeping the overall goal ticking along. However a monk should not be afraid to sacrifice himself if it improves the chances of victory... since a Monk can be brought back to life during the game... and may even win from beyond the grave).

Cons

- Rolling dice to exorcise the ghosts can be rather hit or miss, especially as it is based on matching colours rather than exceeding a total. Sometimes you will either get very lucky, or indeed very unlucky... and you can lose the game, despite a good overall strategy, because of a few bad die rolls. The rolls can be mitigated by collecting the Tao tokens, but then certain game rules mitigate that mitigation by preventing you from using tokens, or by taking away some of your dice.

- On occasions, the game can feel a bit repetitive... as you are doing the same things pretty much every turn... often simply adding ghosts and moving to fight those or other ghosts.


Summary

Ghost Stories is a good, solid co-operative boardgame which is lavishly produced, with a high replayability factor. The theme is well integrated into the mechanisms of the game, and it is challenging and tense even at the easiest level. However the rather unpredictable dice based combat may put some people off.

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Rod Batten
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Thanks for the well-written and well laid out review!
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Sheldon
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This just came in the mail today, totally stoked to try it out! laugh
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CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
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Another Essen Game that has me a little torn. Some say impossibly hard, others dislike the dice. Neither of these things concern me as much as a game where turns can feel like the same thing over and over again.

Jury remains out. Thanks for the review.
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Toasted Jones
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Played this twice, got battered twice, but would still come back for more!
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jan w
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Very nice concise review tackeling all aspects of the game!

Thank you very much for this!
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Liam
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Thanks for the review Grim. Seems a solid overview.

I know you weren't explicitly trying to but you've sold it to me - ordered.
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