Game Design: Bevan Clatworthy Game Development: Gino Brancazio & Tony Beard Illustration: Tyler Johnson Graphic Design: Rachel Dobbs Rulebook Editing: Dustin Schwartz Resident Pun-Thom: Devon Zoccole A 60 minute game for 2-4 Players Aged 14+
Giggle (Red) Boo (White) Tinker (Blue) Creak (Black)
Published by TINKERBOT Games
1 x Game Board
4 Ghost Miniatures
8 Ghostly Barriers
4 Score Tokens
32 Six-sided Dice
4 x 8 sided dice
1 x Creepy Cultist Expansion (KS edition) cards
This is basically a strategy dice and card game where the board represents the rooms of Creepstone Manor which is a dark and lonely hundred-year-old hotel that is now the haunt of Spookie the Ghost and you, his minions. Unfortunately someone has begun using the Manor as an Hotel again and Guests keep arriving which upsets Spookie's peace. So Spookie has gathered his ghostly minions and sent you out on minion missions to scare the living beings away. Many of the Guests are scared of something specific such as Spiders, Snakes, Clowns etc so if you can scare them with the very thing they are afeared of you get a bonus, but first you need to gain the cards that have the necessary Scare Symbol on them.
Played in Phases, Night time and Day time, the players get to roll at least three dice to create their Scare Factor. To get players in the mood the dice are referred to as Terror Dice and each player has a set of D6 +1 D8 in their colour of choice (their choice being the colour of the Ghost they have chosen to represent, Red, Blue, White or Black).
The first phase is at Night and all players roll their Terror dice. All the Ghost figures are in the attic of the Hotel and the Guests are filling their rooms; this is when the empty rooms are filled from the Guest card stack. On the first turn the players will roll three D6 and these dice are used one at a time after you have placed your Ghost in a room. On your first turn you place your Ghost figure into one of the rooms, generally the one where you want to scare the Guest from. Guests have a Scare Factor (Courage) number on their card and it is this you have to equal or better. They also have a Spookie Score for the card showing the points for 1st place, 2nd place and then 3rd and 4th place - the player whose dice total on the card takes the points for 1st place and so on.
When you move your Ghost to a room you place one of your dice onto the card. On your next turn you must move your Ghost to an adjacent card and place another die on that card. Your final (3rd) turn and you must move your Ghost again. You can move it back to the first card (the one you started on) and place your last die on it or you can move it to any adjacent Room and drop the die there. The idea is to be the player whose die total on the Guest card is the highest so you can get the highest points total.
After the first Round when all the points have been marked on the Score Track the players are given the opportunity to buy One or Two cards from the three special decks: Spookies Favours (cost 3pts), Terror Bonus (cost 3pts) or Scare Tactics (cost 2pts). To begin with the Terror Bonus cards are probably the best buy, though you may not buy more than one of any type of card in a turn, because they are placed out front of you face up and count throughout the game. These cards generally allow you to roll an extra die or your 8 sided die though no matter how many dice you roll you can still only use three in your turn.
Scare Tactics cards feature two different Phobias (the things that Guests are scared of) and you hold these cards in your hand until you play them - they are one-shot only - and then they are discarded. When you play a Scare Tactics card where one of the Phobias matches the one on the card your Ghost is on then you place a Phobia Token on the card with your die on top of it, this die then counts double its value. Some Guests have such a large Courage value that it is almost impossible to kick them out in one turn so any dice on them remain and count for the next turn. However they are turned down by one pip unless they were already on one pip and then they are discarded. Spookie Favours cards have special effects and also are one-shot only. When you buy cards you spend your points and thus have to move your marker backwards. I like the idea of spending your points to gain bonuses. It's not a new mechanic but it is a good one and here it works extremely well.
Also on some special Guest cards you will find a Cult icon to the left of the illustration. If you manage to kick this Guest out of their room then you gain a randomly drawn Cultist token which you can use at any time in your turn to gain its advantage. Some Guests do not have a Phobia but they have other icons in place of them. These icons are clearly explained on the player's aid cards and help to form strategies. There are some extra special promo cards available, I have "Connie" which has another Guest sharing her room, thus to clear the room you have to beat the total value of both Courage values. This can raise the target quite high but then you also get to win the points for both cards, which makes this a possible game-winner.
In the list of components there is mention of Barrier Tokens and indeed there are 2 Barrier tokens of each player colour. However after the component listing there is no mention of Barrier tokens in the entire rules book. At first we were perturbed and confused by this and then we had a thought, "perhaps they are mentioned on some of the cards you can buy" and indeed they are, along with how to use them. I have to admit that in all the games of GHOSTEL we have played only once has a Barrier been used and that made no real difference as it only blocks entry to a card from one direction (no, I don't mean the singing group), they are welcome on any card but I doubt they would want to stay at this crazy spooky Hotel.
From its box art (which is fine by the way) GHOSTEL looks like it may be a kids game but the information supplied says it's for 14 year olds and upwards. I am pretty sure the Ghost chromed theme will not scare anyone unless perhaps they are very young or they believe that The Blair Witch Project was actually true, so the age of 14+ is probably a bit too high. We figure that 9 year olds could easily handle the game mechanics, wouldn't be put off by the theme and could probably work out some reasonable tactics for playing. This is a family game bordering on a core boardgamer's game and as such it is both simple and effective but also challenging and thought provoking. A game definitely worth looking out for.
R.Dean Taylor once sang "There's a Ghost in my House" this is that song in reverse - "There are Humans in my house ....."