Horrified Board Game Review

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review

There is one problem with writing a review for Horrified, the latest game from Prospero Hall and published by Ravensburger and that is where to start gushing about this lightweight, horror co-op game. 

The premise of Horrified is that the Quaint Town USA is being overrun by Monsters.  And not just any old monsters, no, these are the most fearsome and famous monsters of all time.  Monsters immortalized in film (specifically by Universal Studios), Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, The Invisible Man and of course Frankenstein's Monster and his Bride.  Your job is obviously, therefore, to dispatch said monsters and save the town.

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review - In Play

In standard co-op fashion, each player will be a hero with unique abilities and with an action point allowance, these actions allow you to move around, move townsfolk, blah, blah, blah...in fact the heroes and their actions are probably the least interesting thing about this game.  As it should be.  No one reads Dracula or watches the movie to watch and cheer-on Van Helsing, Harker, or Whats-his-name.  No, those books, movies and this game are all about the monsters.

There are six in total and each game you’ll select two or more (depending on the difficulty of the game you want) to face-off against.  Each monster is defeated in a different but fundamentally 'pick-up-and-deliver style' way.  However, what you have to pick up, where from and delivering to, even how you do it and sometimes even when, all changes how each monster plays out.  

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review - The Creature from the Balck Lagoon

These variable monster defeat-conditions make for a fantastic, variable and dynamic game. One monster plus another monster doesn’t mean you simply have two objectives to overcome, you have three, one for each and their combination.  It is here that Horrified separates itself from the pack of many other co-op games, it isn’t a puzzle that has an optimal solution because each game, each combination of monsters and of heroes presents a completely different challenge that needs a different solution.  Each monster also differs in their special abilities, one which is triggered each time a specific symbol is rolled on the attack dice and another from the Monster deck of cards.

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review - Rampaging Monsters

Horrified perfectly captures the essence of the classic horror movie, the game isn’t simply about defeating the monsters per se, it’s really about the plight against them, about ordinary people becoming heroes and saviours to a whole town. The three types of tokens in this game that litter the board (blue scientific items, yellow religious items and red physical items) aren’t just abstract cubes or cards to collect. They have a rhythm and purpose to them, yes, you’ll find various firearms in the Precinct, scientific equipment at the Laboratory and religious items at the Church, but the Mansion, Theatre and Shop hold all sorts of equipment that can be turned against the monsters.

These tokens aren’t just colourful tokens with little pictures on them, for the Invisible Man, for example, the tokens represent evidence of his crimes that need to be collected from specific locations, for him, the colour and value do not matter, just their location. With the Wolfman however, you are required to collect blue tokens of values 1, 2, and 3 in order to create the Cure. For the Mummy, you’ll need religious artefacts to help break the centuries-old curse that has reanimated the once-great pharaoh. For each monster the tokens mean something different, they become more or less useful/valuable depending on not just the monsters you are facing but the phase of dealing with the monster too.   

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review - Defeating the Monsters

Horrified isn’t just a case of: collect tokens from here, go there, discard tokens, advance this track, defeat monster.  Repeat.  Win game. Although, physically that’s what you’ll be doing, Horrified manages to mask these actions so that each Monster feels like a different puzzle and challenge in their own right.  In doing so, the game creates a feeling of struggle, it captures the plight of the ordinary human against a dangerous monster. There is gut wrenching failure each time a townsperson gets snuffed out, or a hero gets hospitalised (both of which advance the Terror track that can end the game in a loss) or a valuable item is used to soak up an otherwise plan-cripping attack from a monster.   

The choices here imbue the game with a sense of drama and tension, I’ve laboured over the decision to advance the progress to defeat this monster over that one or that one.  Since any player can ‘deliver’ the necessary components to the required location, Horrified is a true collaborative co-op game, each player making very valuable contributions to the story that is unfolding, there won’t be any players left out , everyone around the table gets to play an important role in the game, regardless of the character they have.  

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review - Maria in the Bran

It’s important to remember that Horrified is challenging players to become heroes, to not just defeat the monsters but to also save the town.  This is realised with the townsfolk; standees that appear every so often throughout the game.  The townsfolk are like Lemmings, they need to be escorted to their safe location, they add another complication, almost like a subplot to the game, but one that feels right at home within the theme.  Your task then becomes divided, putting yourself in harm's way, securing them in their safe location  and defeating the monsters.  Now consider that the monsters aren’t just going to stand around waiting for you and that there are civilians in danger too, meaning that your turn by turn choices aren’t nearly as simple as they appear on the surface. That’s not to say that your choices are complicated or difficult, but they are a narrative progressing your game, your story in your own way.

Horrified is elegant in its design, it feels and looks like the whole experience from seeing the box art, to opening the box, reading the rules and playing the game, each step along the process of experiencing the game has been carefully and meticulously crafted.  Each aspect of this game individually is simple but so well executed. Prospero Hall is using premium ingredients and are masterfully mixing them together and preparing them in a luxurious manner to create a game that is so well constructed, so thoughtfully put together you can just fall into it, play it and simply enjoy every moment with it.

It’s a light-weight, gateway game that has accessible, uncomplicated mechanics, a great theme and production value that allows players to just get on with playing.  I had high hopes for this game and I was blown away by it.  I've heard good things about Jaws and Villainous, but after playing this game I'm really interested to give these other games from this designer/publisher team a go.

Polyhedron Collider Horrified Board Game Review - Warning

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. 

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