Reaping the Rewards: Can You Survive a Horror Movie as the ‘Final Girl’?

Gaming GeekDad Approved Reviews Tabletop Games

The killer has been picking off your friends, one by one. Do you have what it takes to to stop his unholy reign of terror once and for all?

In “Reaping the Rewards,” I take a look at the finished product from a crowdfunding campaign. Final Girl was originally funded through Kickstarter in May 2020, and was delivered to backers in November 2021, and is available for purchase now. I originally covered Final Girl in one of my Kickstarter Quick Picks, but did not have a chance to review the game until now.

What Is Final Girl?

Final Girl is a game of dice rolling, hand management, pick up and deliver, and variable powers. It’s for only one player, ages 14 and up, and takes about 30-45 minutes to play. Because the game is inspired by classic horror films, Final Girl is only suitable for older teens and adults. It’s currently available to purchase at Van Ryder Games’ website. A Core Box retails for $19.99, but must be combined with one or more “Feature Film” boxes, each of which also retails for $19.99.

Final Girl was designed by Evan Derrick and A.J. Porfirio,  and published by Van Ryder Games, with illustrations by Tyler Johnson and Roland MacDonald.

The all-in Final Girl pledge. Image by Paul Benson.

Final Girl Components

I was sent the “Full Fright in 3D” pledge, which included all the Feature Film boxes, stretch goals, and miniatures. I was also sent the optional play mat set and Kickstarter-exclusive Mystery Box.

As Final Girl is a somewhat unique game in that you always combine the Core Box with one or more Feature Film boxes to play, I’m going to focus mostly on the components in the Core Box, and then what you will generally find in a Feature Film box.

Contents of the core box. Image by Paul Benson.

The Core Box

Here’s what you’ll find inside the box:

  • 2-sided Player Board
  • 6 Custom Dice
  • 23 Action Cards
  • 21 Victim Meeples
  • 1 Final Girl Meeple
  • 2 Killer Meeples
  • 3 Special Victim Meeples
  • 9 Black Final Health Tokens
  • 2 White Final Health Tokens
  • Time Marker
  • Bloodlust Marker
  • 3 Victim Holding Cards and Matching Icons
  • 25 Health Markers
  • 9 Tracking Markers
The player board. Image by Paul Benson.

The small player board packs in a lot, but in a very clear way. Besides an always-appreciated turn summary, there are two different tracks: The Time track and the Horror track. Time is your currency in the game, and can be spent to purchase cards.  The Horror track determines how many dice you may roll when you take actions or resolve events. There are also spaces on the board to place your Final Girl card, health tokens, and any items your Final Girl acquires. The reverse side of the board is the “Extreme Horror Mode” board. The fundamental difference between the two boards is that when you use the Extreme Horror board, you’ll start each round with 5 Time instead of 6.

The Final Girl custom dice. Image by Paul Benson.

The custom six-sided dice will be used both in taking actions, known as taking a Horror Roll, and sometimes when resolving events. Each result of 1-2 counts as a failure, 5-6 as a success, and 3-4 can be turned into successes by discarding 2 cards from your hand. Some cards will also modify your dice rolls.

A couple of the different action cards. Image by Paul Benson.

The action cards are very easy to understand, with clear iconography that is also illustrated on the back of the rulebook for easy reference while you’re learning the game. They show what actions you can take, depending on how many(or few) successes you roll on the dice while making your Horror Roll. The hourglass in the bottom right corner of the card indicates the cost in Time for taking the card into your hand.

Killer, Final Girl, and Victim meeples. Image by Paul Benson.

There’s a good amount of wood in the relatively small Core Box. All of the markers are painted wood, as are the various meeples included for the Killer, Final Girl, and the various Victims. For more immersion, there’s also an optional box of miniatures available for $24.99, which includes figures for all of the Killers and Final Girls currently available for Final Girl:

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As you can see, the figures are all quite small, but very nicely detailed and very characterful.

Feature Film Box

Each Feature Film box contains 2 different Final Girls, as well as both a Killer and a Location. The boxes are double-sided, so that if you can access the boards and components for the Location and the Killer separately. In fact, the box covers for each side are magnetic, and on the reverse sides of the covers are the matching boards for the Killer or Location.

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Let’s take a look at the Final Girl: Happy Trails Horror box to see what you’ll find inside. First, we’ll take a look at the Killer, Hans the Butcher:

All of the components to use Hans in a game. Image by Paul Benson.

With Hans, you get:

  • 1 Killer board
  • 3 Finale cards
  • 3 Dark Power cards
  • 1 Epic Dark Power card
  • 2 Final Girl cards
  • 16 Terror Cards

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the box with Camp Happy Trails:

Camp Happy Trail components. Image by Paul Benson.

With the Camp Happy Trail location, you’ll get:

  • 1 Location board
  • 10 Event cards
  • 5 Setup cards
  • 8 Terror cards
  • 18 Item cards
  • 6 various tokens

All of the Feature Film boxes have the same types of components, but are specifically designed for the particular Killer and Location and will have some additional rules as well. Also, hidden under each of the 2 trays in every Feature Film box are special Item cards, which are to be used only with one of the Final Girls found in that particular box.

Asami’s signature item. Image by Paul Benson.

As many board gamers are fans of play mats, let me show off these two that together retail for $29.99, though they’re currently sold out on the Van Ryder website.

The two optional play mats. Image by Paul Benson.

These mats have stitched edges, and as with the miniatures help set the mood for your games. My only minor gripe with them is that they’re missing the round summary that’s so useful on the Player board. Hopefully Van Ryder Games will either be getting more printed up for their webstore, or will have them available during their Final Girl Season 2 Kickstarter in January(more on that Kickstarter towards the end of this review.)

How to Play Final Girl

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of Final Girl is to defeat the Killer, in most cases by reducing them to zero health.

The setup for a game of Final Girl, using just the base components. Image by Paul Benson.

Setup

Choose a Killer and Location for your game, as well as a Final Girl.

Core Box Setup

Place the Player board on the table, on either the normal difficulty side or the Extreme Horror Mode side. Place the Final Girl card below the board with the Victim Saved spaces showing.

Place the six custom dice to the side.

Take the Action cards and create an Action Tableau, laying out the cards in increasing cost. All of the zero cost Action cards will form your starting hand. Set all the meeples, markers, and Victim Holding Boards aside for the moment.

Feature Film Box Setup

First, be sure to check the included instructions for a Feature Film box before setting up to see if there are any new rules that will change the setup for your game.

Place the chosen Killer board on the table above the Player board, and the chosen Location board immediately to the right of the Killer board.

Shuffle the KIller’s Finale cards(which show the Killer’s upper torso on the card backs) and place one facedown on its matching spot on the Killer board. Do the same for the Killer’s Dark Power cards, which show the Killer’s lower torso on the card backs. The remaining Finale and Dark Power cards go back in the box.

One of the Killer boards set up for the start of a game. Image by Paul Benson.

Take the Killer’s Terror cards, and shuffle them together with the Location’s Terror cards. Deal out 10 of these cards to form the Terror Deck, which you will place to the right of the Location board. Set the remaining Terror cards aside.

Shuffle the Location’s Item cards, and deal out three piles of four facedown above the Location board. Then, flip the top card of each pile faceup. Place the remaining Item cards back in their box.

Shuffle the Location’s Setup cards and draw one. Follow the visual instruction on the card to place the Killer, Final Girl, and Victim meeples, then place the Setup card above the Location board.

Mix the 9 black Final Health markers facedown(the heart with the +1 die should be showing). Then draw two, and without looking at the faces, place one at the bottom circle of the Killer’s board, and one at the top circle of the Player board.

Look at the starting health for both the Killer and the Final Girl, then place Health markers on both their boards so that the number of Health markers is one less than their total health(the Final Health marker also counts as a Health marker).

Place the Bloodlust marker at the bottom of the Killer’s Bloodlust track, and the hourglass-shaped Time marker on the blue “6” space of the Time track.

Place the 2nd Killer meeple on the circular Horror track, at the indicated starting Horror level shown on the Killer board.

Shuffle the Location’s Event cards, placing them facedown next to the Location bard. Draw the top card and follow any instructions listed, then you can start the game.

The starting event from my first game of Final Girl. Image by Paul Benson.

Gameplay

A turn of Final Girl is played over a series of 5 phases.

1. Action Phase

During this phase, you will play Action cards from your hand. Most action cards will require a Horror Roll, where the outcome will determine how successful you are in taking that particular action. Some cards will allow you to modify your Horror Roll.

Here are some of the general actions you can take:

  • Movement: move up to the number of spaces indicated by your movement action card. Movement is from one adjacent space to another, and you may move to and from the Killer’s space without penalty. You may also take up to 2 Victims with you as you move, but they will not follow you into the Killer’s space.
  • Saving Victims: If at any point you are on a green Exit space, you may save any number of victims that are on that space. Place the meeples for any Saved Victims on open Victim Saved spaces on your Final Girl card, taking the associated bonuses. If you fill all the spaces on the Final Girl card, remove the meeples and flip over the card, revealing the Final Girl Ultimate Ability which can now be used.
An Ultimate Ability, and a Saved Victim side of two Final Girl cards. Image by Paul Benson.
  • Searching for Items: If you are on a Search space, as indicated by a wrench icon, you can play a Search Action card from your hand, make a Horror Roll, and then follow the instructions. Some Items must be equipped in one or both of the Final Girl’s hand slots to be used, while others can be kept in her backpack.
  • Attacking: Play an Action card from your hand that deals damage, make a Horror Roll, then apply the effects. For each damage mark shown, remove that many wounds from the Killer. If you have a Weapon equipped, then it may modify the damage done.
  • Discarding Action Cards to Gain Time: various effects on cards will cause you to gain or lose Time. You may always discard as many cards from your hand as you wish, and for each card discarded, you will gain +1 Time.

Note: when you see the Hockey Mask symbol, you must increase the Horror track by 1. Conversely, if it’s a Hockey Mask symbol with a slash through it, you will decrease the Horror Track by 1.

The Action Phase ends when you:

  • decide to stop
  • run out of cards to play
  • an Action Card result shows a big red X
  • The Time marker goes below zero.

2. Planning Phase

In this phase, you will spend any additional remaining Time on the Time Track to purchase cards from the Action Tableau and put them in your hand. You may never have more than 10 cards in your hand.

After purchasing cards, reset the Time to 6, and return the cards you played in the Action Phase to the Action Tableau.

3. Killer Phase

First, resolve the action on the Killer’s card. Then, draw a Terror card, and follow the instructions on that card.

One of the Terror cards from the Haunting of Creech Manor Feature Film box. Image by Paul Benson.

4. Panic Phase

If a Victim was killed in this turn, you will panic all Victims that are in the Killer’s space. For each Victim, roll a die. Each Victim will move in the direction that their die result indicates for the space they are in. If a matching number isn’t shown, then the Victim stays in the space with the Killer.

5. Upkeep Phase

If there are no Terror cards left in the deck, then reveal the Killer’s Finale Card. Otherwise, you may rearrange Items in the Final Girl’s backpack and hand slots.

One of Gepetto’s possible Finale cards. Image by Paul Benson.

Game End

A game of Final Girl will end one of two possible ways: You will defeat the Killer and win, or the Killer will kill you, and you’ll lose.

Final Girl is GeekDad Approved!

Why You Should Play Final Girl

I’m going to preface this by repeating something I said when I wrote my preview of Final Girl last year: I’m not really a fan of solo games. For me, a big part of the enjoyment of playing a board game is sitting around the table with friends and family. So, for better or worse, I knew that I might have a bit of a bias against Final Girl going into the review, despite my love of horror movies and horror-themed board games.

The good news is, Final Girl plays so well, my biggest regret of it being a solo game was not being able to share my gameplay experiences with anyone at the table, instead having to tell the tales of my hard-fought victories and ignominious defeats after the fact. And this is a game that will have you recounting the stories of your plays to your friends.

In my first playthrough, I barely survived against Hans at Camp Happy Trails. I had found the Archery Bow at the cabins, and managed to lure Hans into range. I had just enough Time to get off two shots with the bow, but it wasn’t enough! He still had one health left. But wait, I remembered that I could discard a card in my hand to gain a Time, which allowed me to take one more shot and put him into the ground. However, the Final Health Marker is random. When I flipped Hans’ marker over, he rose back up, just like in a horror film. Thankfully, he only had one health remaining, and ultimately I was able to finish him off for good, but it was a very close thing.

Hans goes down for good. Image by Paul Benson.

Fighting against the Poltergeist, I wasn’t so lucky. Each of the Feature Film boxes, aside from Happy Trails Horror, adds new rules. In Haunting of Creech Manor, the Poltergeist is the only Killer that you cannot damage. Instead, to win you must find the little girl Caroline, and lead her to safety outside of the house. The card for Caroline is randomly shuffled into one of the Item decks. And as luck would have it, it turned out she was hiding up in the attic. I only found that out at the end of the game, after the Poltergeist called down lightning on me, frying me to a crisp.

Ready to try and find Caroline in Creech Manor. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find her. Image by Paul Benson.

The phrase “dripping with theme” is much-overused in board game reviews, but it’s also very accurate in the case of Final Girl. A.J. Porfirio and Evan Derrick love horror films, and they’ve injected that love into every part of the game, creating a fittingly cinematic experience.  For example, the Frightmare on Maple Lane Feature Film box is an obvious homage to Nightmare on Elm Street, and introduces a mechanic where to defeat Dr. Fright, you must fall asleep and fight him in your dreams. Van Ryder Games has even created a series of “Gruesome Death Books.” They’re free to download from their website, and provide narratives for different Victims’ deaths, depending on which Location you’re playing on, and which Killer performs the deed. By the end of a game you’d have a full plot to your own horror film!

Final Girl is a challenging game, but not frustratingly so. I personally played through each of the Feature Film boxes once, and ended with a 2-3 win/loss ratio. There would be times that I’d feel that I was in serious trouble, and then I’d search for an item and pull a game-changer, like the Strongman’s Hammer when I was fighting Gepetto at the Carnival of Blood. That did a huge three points of damaging, crushing Gepetto’s skull. But then, there were also other times I played where I’d get the sinking feeling that this was one of those horror movies that was not going to have a happy ending.

The Killers start off fairly manageable, but become more powerful with the more Victims they kill and the longer the game goes on. Time is not on your side, as you’re constantly choosing between spending time for actions, or saving it to purchase better cards for your next Action Phase. And just like in a horror film, your best laid plans could collapse like a house of cards when the Killer takes their turn. Final Girls can also become stronger by finding items and saving enough Victims to reveal their Ultimate Ability.

I really like the Feature Film system, where you can play Final Girl with a copy of the core box and any one Feature Film box. However, variety and replayability grow exponentially the more Feature Film boxes that you own. Not only do you have two unique Final Girls included in each box, but all of the Killers and Locations are interchangeable. Van Ryder Games also included with the Kickstarter shipments a Lore & Scenario book, which not only fleshes out the backstories of the Killers, but creates narrative scenarios that pull components from multiple Feature Film boxes to create their own unique challenges. While this book is currently unavailable on the Van Ryder website, they are planning on printing more.

And speaking of more, Van Ryder Games has already announced a Season 2 Kickstarter campaign for Final Girl, which will launch on January 11, 2022. They’re developing five new Feature Films, along with a lot more as you can see below.

The Kickstarter campaign. Image by Paul Benson.

If you’re a fan of horror movies, you owe it to yourself to check out Final Girl. It’s a highly-immersive experience that captures the cat and mouse tension of the heroine trying to stay alive and defeat the monster. And even if you’re not a big horror-movie fan, the gameplay itself provides a compelling solitaire experience. Final Girl was adapted from the award-winning Hostage Negotiator series’ gameplay engine, but a lot of work and care was put into making this not a simple reskin, but its own unique game. With just the Core Box and one Feature Film box, you’ll have countless hours of gameplay to enjoy. It’s the perfect game to take with you on that weekend all alone, in a cabin in the woods…

For more information or to purchase Final Girl visit the Van Ryder Games website.


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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