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Subject: Mr. Vampire Killer, or On Spiritual Boxing in Board Games rss

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Daniel Davis
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"Godard is, for me, intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film."
--Werner Herzog


Mr. Vampire

I am a huge fan of martial arts cinema, especially those involving the mystical arts of spiritual boxing and Taoist magic. With over 300 martial arts films seen, I consider myself an expert of sorts on the genre, and I am always interested in things relating to these films. I am also a fan of board games drenched in theme. I love when a game enhances its already-solid mechanics with great art, an interesting setting, a captivating narrative, and a chance for the players to really get into the characters they are playing. Needless to say, Ghost Stories was practically tailor-made for me.

Based upon movies like Mr. Vampire, A Chinese Ghost Story, Boxer's Omen, Spiritual Boxer, Spooky Encounters, and other martial arts films filled with hopping vampires, ghostly vixens, and Taoist wizards, Ghost Stories perfectly capture the essence of its theme and includes interesting play-mechanics. These kinds of martial arts films are often incredibly frantic and crazy, as they usually feature a lone man defending a villa or a small group of hostages from an onslaught Chinese ghosts and demons. Steeped in Chinese mythology, these films depict magical spells and the mystical arts of spiritual boxing, and so, too, does this game.



Initially I was concerned that the game would not offer the same frantic pace of the movies on which it is based. I'm happy to report that my fears were unfounded; the game is a perfect representation of those films, and it uses its theme expertly. This is not a game on which a theme has been thoughtlessly grafted. Rather, Ghost Stories is a perfect marriage of its thematic elements and game-play mechanics: an example of form and function.

Each of the players takes the roll of a Taoist monk/wizard. The players must work together to defend a hapless village from a seemingly never-ending assault of dark and deadly spirits. Each turn a new threat is introduced, often times triggering a chain reaction of additional threats, and with each passing turn the tension rises and the suspense builds. The players can take advantage of the village resources by visiting a Buddhist temple, drinking a cup of magical tea, offering up a prayer, or by employing the village guards to help push back the advancing demons, among others. But as the ghostly numbers begin to pile up, the village becomes haunted, thus removing the powers of the individual village spaces.



Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead

This game takes a great deal of planning, and yet it still feels fast, action packed, and exciting. During each turn a player must accomplish something beneficial. One wasted turn or mistake can be all it takes to see the village overrun and totally haunted, thus ending the game.

Ghost Stories is a very challenging game. I've played four times thus far, and haven't even come close to winning. However, it's still a blast to play. The games are short enough that it never feels as though a lost game is wasted time. Rather, it feels like training, like preparing for the next match. This is, again, a way the game strengthens its martial arts theme.


Boxer's Omen

Ghost Stories is quickly becoming one of my favorite games. I find myself thinking about it during the day, and while playing it I totally get involved in the narrative and the scenario. It is a game I want to play all the time, and I'm really looking forward to the first win. I can wholeheartedly recommend this game to fans of heavily thematic games, and to fans of games with great mechanics. It really does offer the best of both worlds.



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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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The Herbie Nichols Project - Dr. Cyclops' Dream
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Bravo!
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Daniel Davis
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Sphere wrote:
Bravo!


Thanks.

This is my first review for a board game. I come from a background of writing reviews for movies and books, so it's a bit different. I didn't want to get bogged down in the rules, but, rather, I wanted to touch upon the things that really make this game stand out, namely the expertly used theme.

Hope I did that.
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Randy Schaub
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As a fan/ nerd of the genre, this review contains all the info I wanted to know. Gracias.

 
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Gary Bradley
United Kingdom
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Bought on the strength of this review. Also a major fan of HK ghost story movies. Encounters is my fav for the KF, but Mr Vampire 4 is the funniest.
 
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