Working my way through the recent catalog of design collective Prospero Hall — including the rather good Jaws and How to Rob a Bank — I’ve been struck by just how different each title is from its peers. Until Horrified. In this one, the spin is that each play features two or three of the game’s six unique monsters, resulting in dozens of possible combinations and interactions. You know, much like last year’s Villainous.
Except when you get right down to it, Horrified is its own beast. For one thing, it’s a cooperative game. For another… well, let’s talk.
I don’t often talk about how much a game costs. There’s a reason for that. Essentially, a game’s cost is so subjective — and variable — that nearly anything I could say wouldn’t actually be about the game, it would be about my economic circumstances. Which, sure, might tip you off to the fact that Kingdom Death: Monster is a scooch beyond my price range.
I picked up How to Rob a Bank at Target for ten dollars. It’s silly, quick, and colorful. For ten dollars. And you can bet your butt that’s going to impact how I think about it.
I tend to be exacting when it comes to licensing properties for board games. If you’re going to be granted a license, use it. Don’t just slap a deck-builder over the top and call it good.
In that regard, Jaws doesn’t smell of fresh spackle and cheap paint. That’s brine with undertones of chum. Jaws takes the essence of the film’s two halves — the grumbling tension of the beaches, the snarling tension of the open ocean — and writes them in ink and cardboard. It’s suspense incarnate, lurking under the surface with three tons of muscle and a razor-filled mouth as wide as a sharking boat.
In other words, the board game adaptation of Jaws does right by its source material. There isn’t much more to say than that.
Black Mirror‘s “Nosedive” is the sort of thing certain people might call “relevant.” A kinda-sorta utopian state with an ugly undercurrent, check. Suspicion of how much trust we invest in social media, check. The assumption that score aggregators will ruin everything about our society, oh yes I am so with you. Never mind that Community‘s “App Development and Condiments” did the same thing (and far more joyously) over two years earlier. No really, don’t worry about it. The more we’re complaining about social media, the happier this duck gets.
And now there’s a board game, published by Asmodee but currently without a listed designer or artist — which is oddly appropriate, given the game’s roots in dystopian fiction. Also appropriate is that, in direct parallel with the social media hellscape “Nosedive” was caterwauling about, the game is total and absolute poo.
Villainous sports a killer hook. And that’s only half-intended as a pun. Yes, because Captain Hook is one of the game’s six villains. But also because each villain gets to do their own thing. Just because Maleficent wants to choke King Stefan’s fantasy kingdom with curses doesn’t diminish Hook’s vendetta against Peter Pan. Just because Ursula wants to crown herself queen of the sea doesn’t mean the Queen of Hearts wants to do anything but play croquet. There’s no universal metric of evil here.
Oh, except that only one villain can win. But that goes without saying.