Ghost Castle is back, perhaps you never knew it the first time around, but it’s back now.
The early seventies game, Which Witch?, was a classic, race-to-the-finish board game with a tower-powered trap gimmick that made it instantly recognisable. So recognisable that people still reference it when talking about Ghost Castle‘s first run, which came about in the mid-eighties. At the time it was targeting a very specific, 6-12 age group. Those players are now in their mid-forties or fifties, putting them in prime position for picking up this 2021 reissuing of the classic.
Ghost Castle is a simple race-to-the-finish game with a few fun twists. For a start, each player controls two pieces, and they get to choose which one of them they move once they’ve moved their dice, for a second, there’s no catch-up (or even, really, targetted sabotage) mechanic in play, and thirdly — and most importantly — there’s a cool, randomised trap system that dominates the board. As I said in the opening, once you’ve seen it before, you’ll instantly recognise it.
Ghost Castle‘s pop-up assemblage all rotates around a central column that a little ghost sits atop of. The ghost has a marble loaded into and when pressed (as indicated by the dice roll) it deposits the marble into a small plastic piece that sends it in one of four directions. Each direction corresponds to a room of the house; One sends it down the stairs, one flips a floor up, another opens a secret passageway and a further one spits a ball out across a walkway. If any player’s pieces are hit by the ball, or are in the affected area, then they are sent back to a green space. There’s also a nice shortcut in the middle of one of the trap routes, where you risk being hit by a ball spinning out of a bookcase, but can shortcut through an opening passageway.
This risk-reward, and that of carefully choosing which of your two pieces to move as to avoid the danger tiles, is the entire appeal of the game, which without this feature (cool or not) would risk being simpler in mechanics than Pachisi/Ludo. However, this does make it stand out and was something that my seven-year-old daughter really enjoyed. The theming, of a spooky house, was pretty fun, but could easily have been swapped out to be a variety of other themes (zoo, funhouse, prison-break, you name it) and perhaps shows its age in going with that classic, quirky haunted house… That said, it’s great for October/Halloween!
I do want to give a big shout-out to the member of the team who decided to include deconstruction and packing away instructions in Ghost Castle, stacked/slotted cardboard constructs (especially when there are kids about) don’t tend to last long, so this was a really clever addition.
Ghost Castle is available now via Amazon.