Ben: Did you hear about Mr. Hall? Apparently the bandaged stranger at the inn, you know the one from out of town, threw Hall down the stairs. The doctors say they aren’t sure if Mr. Hall will make it.
Lydia: I hadn’t heard! Well, have you heard from Kay recently? Apparently she saw a creature in the lagoon last Saturday.
Ben: No, that can’t be true. She must have lost her glasses again.
Lydia: It’s true. There are strange things happening in our village. You know the Ancient Egypt wing of the museum is haunted, right?
Ben: Of course. Everyone knows that. Say you’ll never guess who I ran into this morning? Victor Frankenstein.
Lydia: How did that go? Was he as strange as usual?
Ben: Indeed. He was going on and on about how he’s close to creating a new species of life or something. Can you believe it? He thinks he can make something come to life with all those bones he’s stolen.
Lydia: What a wild story. It seems so cruel that the upstanding members of our village have to deal with all of the craziness these days. Did you hear Larry was hospitalized after he was bitten by a wolf trying to save Gwen’s friend, Jenny?
Ben: How awful. Larry is such a wonderful man.
What were once small-town rumours have turned into a horrific reality for Ben, Lydia, and the other villagers as they grasp the fact that their quaint village is now overrun by Monsters.
In Horrified, you and up to four other players each take on the role of a Hero in the hopes of cooperatively ridding your village of these horrendous Monsters for good — and creating a safe space for Ben and Lydia to go about their daily gossip routine.
We’ve just begun to learn about the water and its secrets, just as we’ve only touched on outer space.
Something Evil’s Lurking In The Dark – The Monsters
In a game of Horrified, players can take on between 2 (an easy game) and 4 Monsters (a challenging game). To win the game each Monster must be defeated; but in order to defeat a Monster, players must first complete a task. To make things more difficult, each Monster has their own unique task and condition for defeat. Let’s now look at the Monsters in more detail.
The Invisible Man: He is very sneaky — he’s invisible after all — and he’s been committing crimes in the village and getting away with them all because no one believes he exists. It’s up to players to first gather evidence against him and present it to the police (the task). Once this is accomplished, the players must trap the Invisible Man to defeat him.
Dracula: He has hidden four coffins in the village so players are first tasked with smashing these coffins. Then, once all four are destroyed, players must overcome Dracula to defeat him.
Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Creature from the Black Lagoon is still an urban legend, even if it is somehow terrorizing the village. The players’ first task is to find the Creature’s hidden lair and then drive it away (to defeat it).
Wolf Man: The Wolf Man, or Larry as he is remembered in the village, is a good man who is haunted by this terrible affliction. The players are first tasked with discovering a cure for him and then administering the cure, thus “defeating” him.
The Mummy: The players must break the Mummy’s curse by aligning scarabs on a tablet and then, once the tablet is activated, entombing (defeating) the Mummy for eternity.
Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein*: Frankenstein and the Bride are a packaged deal and they run around the village terrified of everything…and subsequently terrifying everyone. Think of them as giant, scary-looking babies — learning about the world for the very first time, but in adult form. It is up to the players to teach Frankenstein and the Bride about human ways (the task) and once they’ve learned enough about humanity, the 2 Monsters must meet so they can live happily ever after and quit terrorizing the village (their “defeat”).
*Yes, the rulebook does address the issue of Frankenstein actually being the scientist’s name, not the monster’s and explains why they’ve chosen to use the term anyway.
To complete any of the Monsters’ tasks or to defeat them, players have to gather specific Items, located throughout the village, that they will use (and then discard) at specific locations. For example, to help develop a cure for the Wolf Man, you have to use blue (intellectual) Items at the laboratory or to smash one of Dracula’s coffins, you must use red (physical) items.
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
You’re Fighting For Your Life – A Player Turn
Your turn consists of two phases: the Hero Phase and the Monster Phase. During the Hero Phase, you’ll perform a number of actions before moving into the Monster Phase, which is when Monsters move and attack, and when events occur (Monsters perform a special action or Villagers enter the game). After you’ve completed these two phases, play passes to the next player in clockwise order.
Stand And Face The Hounds Of Hell – The Hero Phase and Actions
The top of each Hero’s Badge determines the number of actions they can perform on their turn.
Actions can be performed in any order and multiple times on your turn. The Hero actions are:
- Move to an adjacent space (and take as many Villagers as you like with you). Monsters don’t hinder movement, but if you end your turn on a space with a Monster, you risk getting attacked in the Monster Phase.
- Guide a Villager from your Hero’s space to an adjacent space or from an adjacent space to your space.
- Pick Up any number of Items in your Hero’s space.
- Share — give or take — as many Items as you’d like with Heroes on your space. This action isn’t a 1:1 exchange and doesn’t even need to involve you as long as the Heroes doing the sharing are on your space.
- Perform your Hero’s Special Action (on your Hero Badge). In the picture above, the Explorer has a Special Action, the Scientist has an ongoing Special Ability, and the Mayor doesn’t have either.
- Advance a Monster’s task if you’re at the specific location and have the correct Item.
- Defeat a Monster after you’ve completed the Monster’s task.
No Mere Mortal Can Resist – Villagers
You might be wondering what the purpose of the Villagers are in Horrified. Heroes can bring a Villager to their safe location (indicated at the top of their standee) and as a reward the Hero receives a Perk Card. The Villager is also removed from the board, which is important because Monsters like to terrorize Heroes and Villagers alike, but unlike Heroes, they are basically defenseless.
Hope That This Is Just Imagination – Perk Cards
Perk Cards are little bonuses that a player can use during the Hero Phase on any player’s turn and it doesn’t cost an action. These Cards often allow players to move more freely, move a Monster, or perform more actions.
How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love we have of life even in the excess of misery!
You Hear The Creature Creepin’ Up Behind – The Monster Phase
After the Hero Phase is the Monster Phase, in which a card is drawn and resolved from the Monster deck. On this card, you’ll find three things to resolve: Items, Event, and the Monster Strike.
To resolve the Items, draw the indicated number of Item tokens from the bag and add them to their location, which is found on the bottom of the Item token. Then resolve the Event. Villager (gray) cards must always be resolved, but Events for Monsters are only resolved if that Monster is in your game. If not, ignore the Event. (In the picture above, if the Invisible Man wasn’t in the game, players would ignore the Thief Event.)
Finally, resolve the Monster Strike at the bottom of the card: any Monster’s symbol that’s depicted will move and possibly attack. Like the Events, if the Monster isn’t in your game, simply ignore its symbol. The cards are designed in such a way that you rarely have a Monster Phase where no Monster Strikes occur.
Monsters move towards the nearest person (Hero or Villager) and stop moving once they’ve reached one, even if they have movement left. Monsters already in spaces with a person present won’t move at all.
Then the Monsters represented on the card attack with the indicated number of dice only if there is a person present in their space. If there is both a Villager and a Hero, the Monster targets the Hero — and if there are multiple Heroes, the current player chooses who it attacks before rolling. The results of the dice could be blank (nothing happens), show the “!” mark (the Monster’s power is activated) or have a “Hit” symbol (you get smacked).
Each Monster has their own unique power that is activated when the ! is rolled. I’m not going to go into detail for each here, but in general, the power throws a big wrench in your game plan and can be pretty annoying.
The Monster attacks are bad news; for each Hit symbol, the attacked Hero may discard an Item (remember Items are how you complete Monsters’ tasks and then defeat them to win the game). If they can’t or don’t want to, the Hero is defeated and removed from the board. They start their next turn at the hospital. Additionally, if a Hero is defeated, the Terror Level is increased one space. This represents the fear in the village and if the Terror Level ever reaches the last (skull) space, the Monsters take over and you’ve failed the Villagers…and also lose the game.
Villagers won’t have Items to discard so if they are ever hit by a Monster, they’re defeated immediately, removed from the board, and cause the Terror Level to increase one space.
I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none.
Horror Looks You Right Between the Eyes – Game End
The game ends in defeat if the Terror level reaches its last space or if you need to draw a card from the Monster deck in the Monster Phase and there are none. Players win the game immediately if all Monsters are defeated.
The Midnight Hour Is Close At Hand – Final Thoughts
For years, Matt Leacock — designer of Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and Forbidden Desert — owned the cooperative gateway game market. In 2019 Horrified, a game that is just as approachable, tense, and enjoyable to play as Leacock’s cooperative games, emerged on the scene. (And in a time when playing Pandemic might feel a little too real, it’s nice to have an awesome alternative that has the same cooperative style and weight.)
Horrified is such a well-designed game; the replayability is high because of all the different Monsters and Hero roles in the game along with the varying difficulty levels, but none of this bogs the players’ experience down with upkeep. The way the Monsters are managed — using a single deck of cards — is so streamlined, clever, and beautiful. The ease of play thanks to this deck of cards and the cards’ clear iconography is what made me fall in love with Horrified. (Okay, maybe I’m being a little hyperbolic, but I really love the way designers Prospero Hall implemented the Monster cards in the game.)
My love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods.
Seriously, though, when you consider that Horrified features 7 asymmetric Monsters all with different tasks, defeat conditions, and abilities, you probably think that there is no way it could be a game to introduce non-gamers to board games. But everything is detailed so well and so clearly outlined in the rulebook and on the components that you could read the rulebook once — and then never again. The game is also a breeze to learn and teach, which is exactly what you want from a gateway game.
Horrified is part of that special breed of gateway games that will also be enjoyed by gamers, even after you and your non-gamer friends play the heck out of it. (My first game was played with a group of seasoned Euro gamers.) Like most great cooperative games, Horrified starts off slow, creating a false sense of security for the players. This isn’t too bad, you might think to yourself. After a few turns, the pace ramps up and you are hit with the real challenge of the game (and if the standard game turns out to be too easy, increase the difficulty).
Other than being enamored with the game’s design — ah, those cards! — I love how different and thematic all the Monsters feel. When Dracula is in your game, it feels like you are constantly being pestered by him as he flies around the village on the hunt. The Invisible Man plays it cool and pretends to be minding his own business in the far reaches of the village when all of a sudden he stealthily creeps up beside you and attacks. The Creature isn’t much of a terror and you don’t always feel its presence…until you’re standing beside a body of water and splash, there it is!
“One” of my favourite Monsters to play against is Frankenstein and the Bride; they both sort of aimlessly wander the village and the players must guide them to more desirable locations, preferably far away from the action. But it feels like as soon as you lead them to where you want them to go and turn your back, they pop back out and start wandering all over again. Trying to handle Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein is like the daily struggle of a kindergarten teacher who must corral 20+ tiny independent humans throughout the day.
Horrified is an incredible cooperative game that is easy to learn and teach and can be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike. I mean it’s with good reason that it was on our Most Anticipated of Gen Con 2019 list, why we include it on our Gift Guide, and why it was nominated for four Diamond Climber Awards in 2019 (and won two). Even when the unusual COVID-19 times cease and I can get back to comfortably playing Pandemic, Horrified will continue to nest cozily on my game shelf and regularly make it to the table. Horrified is more than just a Pandemic replacement, it is a game that truly stands on its own.
Thematic Music For Playing Horrified
Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in my attempts to find the entire original scores for each movie online, but I’ve linked a portion of the soundtracks here so you can create your own score mashup.
- Dracula (1931)
- Frankenstein (1931)
- The Mummy (1932)
- The Invisible Man (1933)
- The Wolf Man (1941)
- The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.
Thanks to Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Rod Temperton, Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi for writing such quotable material, along with all those who wrote for The Wolf Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Mummy original movies.
Great review! I agree – this game has been a great experience both for me and my non-gamer friends that I’ve introduced it to.
Thanks Kyle : )