The Fear Factor

scary-jackolantern-300pxSome years ago I wrote an article called The Problem with Horror Games where I talked about how horror-themed games don’t tend to be scary at all. I offered one potential exception, the second edition of Fury of Dracula (2005), and said that cooperative games might generally offer a solution for the problem of fear-free gaming.

Almost a decade later, the cooperative field has grown considerably, and I think it continues to have the closest thing you’ll find to genuine fear in tabletop games. So, in honor of Halloween, I wanted to offer some thoughts on game mechanics that are great for horror games because of their introduction of genuine fear — with many of them drawn from cooperative play. Continue reading

Anatomy of a Reimagination: Eldritch Horror

Though it’s been out for about two years, I just played Eldritch Horror (2013) for the first time last month. I was quickly won over by the game, as I happily fought nameless horrors and investigated blasphemous locations. Though Eldritch Horror only notes “inspiration” from Arkham Horror (1987, 2005), I’d call it a revision — or else a “reimagination” — because this newer game rather cleverly reinvents most of the mechanics from Arkham Horror, but using a totally new design paradigm. The result is a clear evolution of design. Continue reading

Brawl of Cthulhu — A Lovecraftian Gamopedia

Some time ago, I wrote an article discussing many of the Cthulhu games on the market. Six years later, I’ve decided to return to the topic by looking at some of the major Cthulhu games that have appeared since. However, rather than just creating a partial list of new games, I’ve also reprinted (and revised) all my previous mini-reviews, to make this a comprehensive look at Cthulhoid games.

The one limitation is that these are just the games I’m familiar with. Most I’ve played, but for the one where I just read the rules, I’ve noted that. There are still a few notables missing, such as The Hills Rise Wild, and Munchkin Cthulhu. I may add them to this article with a quiet edit some time in the future. (And, if you’ve got a Cthulhu game that you’d like me to play and add to this list, drop me a line in the comments.)

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A Deckbuilding Look at Eaten by Zombies

Eaten by Zombies!Deckbuilders have been appearing in many different forms in the last year or two, and the small-press Eaten by Zombies! (2011) by Mayday Games is another that pushes the genre in unique and new directions. That’s not just because it features a well-themed zombie apocalypse, but also because Eaten by Zombies! uses cards and currencies in new ways.

The Game

Eaten by Zombies! is a game of out-surviving your opponents, so that you’re the last (wo)man standing in the zombie apocalypse.

On a standard turn you choose to either fight zombies or flee, depending on the amount of fight or flee ability you have in your hand. If you flee at all or if you fail at fighting, then you’re wounded by zombies, which removes (trashes) cards from your deck. If you succeed at your fighting or fleeing, then you get to use your fight/flee ability to also buy new cards for your deck.

When a player dies, they become a zombie and get to start playing cards to make the zombies better. Eventually the last human standing wins (unless one of a couple of sudden-death victory conditions occur).

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Co-Op Interviews: Richard Launius — Arkham Horror

Arkham HorrorLast month I started a discussion of co-op games with an article I called “Gaming Evolution: Co-Op Games, Part One: Honored Ancestors”. It talks about some of the primordial co-op games which helped to create the genre in the 1980s and 1990s. Before I move on to more recent games, I’m going to be publishing a couple of interviews with some of the designers of those co-op originators, to further document the games that the modern co-op boom ultimately looks back to as its foundation.

This month I’m talking to Richard Launius. He’s best known for his design of Arkham Horror. He was thus perhaps the first entrant in the “American co-op” subgenre of games which is best represented in the modern day by Fantasy Flight Games … who not by chance counts Arkham Horror among its stable of American co-op games.
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The Problem with Horror Games

scary-jackolantern-300pxHalloween is just around the corner, and with it the ghosts and goblins that come out on the day. Since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, it’s a great time to get together with some of your friends, and play some of your spookiest games.

Except, I think that most horror games fail pretty badly at capturing the essence of the genre.

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Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Part Two: Three Mini Reviews

Over at Skotos I’m continuing my work on Xenagia, our new science-fiction, fantasy, and horror community. Thus these three genres remain foremost in my mind, and I’m continuing my series here discussing them. If you missed it, you should read my first article on this topic, which covered history and ten top games in the genres.

The interesting thing about the fantasy, science-fiction, and horror genres is how completely they describe hobbyist game production in the United States from the mid ’70s to the late ’90s. Aside from historical military conflicts, if a hobbyist game came out in the United States, the odds were at least 50/50 that it was a genre game. I still have about half a bookshelf full of Dragon PassThe Riddle of the RingDuneKings & Things, Hacker, and other similar games from this period.

However there were always three games that really stood out to me as the definitive American hobbyist games, and which got much love and play over the years until I discovered Eurogames: Cosmic EncounterIlluminati, and Wiz-war. I played all three for the first time in college and they largely defined my board game playing for a decade. They’ve now all fallen out of favor, especially by crowds won over by Eurogames, but they’re still worth a look, so here’s my thoughts on them:
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