Overview: Trevor Cram, the guy behind Super Showdown, has another game on Kickstarter. Titled Woe to the Living, it’s a pocket-sized game about haunting victims and settings, and it doubles as a regular poker deck. I can’t give you a full review, but here’s a quick run-down of the game. The Kickstarter campaign ends Thursday night, so if you want to pick up a copy, now’s the time to do it. [UPDATE: the Kickstarter campaign funded successfully, and the game is now available for purchase.]
Players: 3 to 5
Ages: 13 and up (mostly for theme)
Playing Time: 15 minutes
Retail: $9 on Kickstarter, plus other reward levels available
Theme: You are the sinister beings haunting your prey, and your goal is to build up terror — but not too much, or your prey will be scared to death, which does you no good. The artwork comes from public domain images of classic pulp horror, so expect a lot of screaming bosomy women, Jimmy Stewart-ish guys, and lots of creepy monsters.
I’ve just seen a demo copy, but the game is pretty simple: a set of 52 cards, with two extra cards for the instructions. The cards have poker symbols on them which aren’t used in the Woe to the Living game, but let you use the deck as a regular poker deck if you wish. The only information that’s really used in the game is the “Terror Level” (the red number in the bottom corner of each card) and whether the card is a Victim (black border) or a Setting (white border). There are 32 Settings and 20 Victims.
Here’s a link to the rules as included in the game.
Shuffle the deck, and give each player a prey card. (The first round it is face up, but in subsequent rounds it is put face down and only the player knows what it is.)
Deal each player three cards. Each player chooses a card and puts it face down in front of them: this is their “departed” card.
On your turn, draw one card from the haunting grounds (the main deck). Then draw any player’s departed card into your hand, and then play one of your cards to replace the departed (face down).
When everyone has taken three turns (you’ll have five cards in your hand), everyone takes their departed card back into their hand, and reveals their hands. If you have the least victims or the least settings, you discard your prey card. (And if everyone would discard prey, then everyone keeps them.) In a 3-player game, you only discard if you haunted the least prey.
Deal passes to the right, and another round starts.
The game is played over 4 rounds. At the end of each round, some people will keep their “prey” and some will lose them. At the end of the game, the player with the second-highest total terror level wins. (The highest terror level scared their prey to death.)
Honestly, I had a little trouble figuring out the game. The rules are short to fit on two cards, but they end up being a little too brief. You can check out the gameplay video on the Kickstarter page, where they play out a sample round. Ultimately the game depends on your ability to bluff and read the other players’ intentions, because the cards themselves don’t hold a lot of information. I’m not much of a poker player, though, and I had a hard time knowing — even if I did know what the other player was attempting — what my best approach was. In our five player game, everyone was trying to keep their prey, but most of us ended up discarding them because we had either the fewest settings or fewest victims each round.
I haven’t had the chance to try this with many other players yet, so it’s possible I’m missing something. I really liked Super Showdown, which uses some bluffing and prediction to make a pretty cool 2-player game. If you like pulp horror, it may be worth it just as a fun deck of cards. Also, if you missed the Super Showdown Kickstarter campaign, you can get it for $15 added to any pledge on this campaign and I encourage you to grab that while you can.
Wired: Classic pulp horror images set the mood for a spooky haunting game.
Tired: A little difficult to figure out; still not sure what exactly the strategy is.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.