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Subject: Sad disappointment rss

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Clare C
United Kingdom
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I had such great memories of playing this with my granny when I was little. So, on a trip home for Christmas I found it in my wardrobe and persuaded Phil to play it with me.

The first thing to do was to remember the rules. Not difficult - they're so simple that they're printed on the inside of the box lid. The second jolt to the memory is that it's quite hard to set up the game board, and indeed unless you completely take it apart (a feat that would take absolutely ages) it doesn't all fit back in the box. Annoying. Luckily the last time it had been played, probably about 15 years ago, it hadn't been completely dismantled and so we could get going after just a few steps of assembly.

The basic idea of the game is a trek through a haunted house. Roll a standard d6 to move, then spin a spinner. The key novelty is the various mechanical traps that are activated by dropping a glow-in-the-dark skull down the central tower on a specific spinner outcome. The skull can go one of four ways, and in each direction some part of the game board moves and may tip game pieces over. Very cool indeed. Sadly, most of the coolness can be experienced just by dropping the skull through the tower and seeing what happens, without actually playing the game. For the game itself turns out to be rubbish.

A couple of lucky dice rolls and I was well ahead of Phil. The odd skull drop that occurred didn't affect either of us. Then disaster struck, for him at least. He spun the "scared stiff" icon, meaning that his piece had to don a zombie face and couldn't move again until he spun a foot. Which he didn't on his next turn, or the turn after that, or the turn after that... Eventually I "let him off" the zombie mask and he could move again. By then, though, I was so far ahead that he had absolutely no chance of winning. I climbed the staircase and slammed the coffin lid shut, laying the skull to rest forever...

Three disappointing things about this game, then:

1) It's absolutely down to chance. There is no skill involved whatsoever.
2) The "scared stiff" outcome, though involving a cool mask, actually makes the gameplay worse for all involved. One player doesn't get to move, and the other has no sense of competition.
3) The best bit of the game, the skull drop, happens relatively infrequently and actually affects the gameplay even less. There are very few squares affected by the skull's drop, and given that the skull can go one of four ways each time there is a slim chance of it actually hitting any of the pieces.

All in all, a fun board but a rubbish game.
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Julian Simpson
England
Wigton
Cumbria
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Thanks for a great review. I must confess that I agree with you about the game but I do feel obliged to chip in in defence of one of my (6 year old) son's favourite games.

Whilst I agree with your criticisms I feel that they are particularly pronounced in a two-player game but far less so when played with more (we normally play with three). Take for example the dropping of the skull - in a two player game when you move onto a danger area then you only have to survive two spins before you are in a position to escape - in a three player game it is three, and so on. The more players there are the more likely the dropping of the skull is going to affect you.

The 'scared stiff' result can tend to paralyse a player particularly if he/she is unable to roll a 'move again' (I would prefer a greater percentage chance of being able to free yourself from being scared stiff). This can be boring for the player concerned if it happens when he/she is immobilised on a normal square, but when it happens on a danger square then it can get quite exciting being unable to move and wondering whether the dropping of the skull is going to take you out.

All in all I agree with you - a fun board but not a great game. You're not going to get anything out of it as an adult but when played with young children it can be quite entertaining watching them get excited about where the skull is going to go - mine insist on dropping it whenever they can - even when they know that it can't affect anyone.
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Mike James
United Kingdom
Lee On Solent
Hampshire
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Yes, I too have very fond memories of this game - I guess that when I was young the total randomness of it simply wasn't an issue; the fun of it came from being able to imagine that you were exploring the house, so it was just about theme.

I miss that about being very young; fifteen years ago I could enjoy a simple roll and move game just through using my imagination, but now I need auctions, special actions, power cards, secret missions, eight different types of dice, FAQ's, Meeples, resource management, boxes so big you could use them as coffins, and so on!
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Clare C
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Hi Julian - you say "mine insist on dropping [the skull] whenever they can - even when they know that it can't affect anyone." I can relate to that! I remember doing the same when I was little, and was sorely tempted to do the same this time round. I can also see that it would be better with more players. Sadly as an only child (and with no children myself) I almost never play games with more than one other person. cry

I know just what you mean Mike. Though even now, I still really like - indeed pretty much have to have - a game with a fun board!
 
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phil parvin
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Hello there - I am the mysterious 'Phil' that Clare played Ghost Castle with.

I agree with what you've all said. I'm sure the game gets better with more players, as the number of people it is possible to knock over gets larger and the board gets more crowded. With two players, there's too much room for one person to race ahead with no possibility of being being stopped.

Of course, it's supposed to be a kid's game, so i shouldn't be too hard on it. the board is fun to look at, and i'm sure that younger players get a kick out of knocking people over and sending them back to the beginning. especially if that person is their dad! i'm not such a fan of games that have boards that you have to construct though. they remind me a bit too much of Mousetrap, which I always hated.

Maybe we should get some more people over next time!

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