If you love the idea of running around the locations of classic horror movies such as Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Invisible Man, then Horrified might be just what you’re looking for. This wholly cooperative game pits up to five players against a variable number of monsters — each of which has its own way of either beating the players or being defeated.
Horrified is nothing short of being the best kind of fun you can have around a table with friends. The premise is simple; you just choose a character (either deliberately or randomly) from a handful of fairly classic Pandemic style options (each with their own unique ability) and then pick some monsters. An intro game would feature two preset monsters, but players can face off against up to four if they want a very stiff challenge.
Whilst the player characters have roles (and abilities to suit) but no names, the monsters are straight out of some of Universal Studios most iconic films from between 1930 and 1950. Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein and The Bride, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man and of course, The Creature From the Black Lagoon all feature, and each of them have some very specific and unique conditions associated with them.
For example, to defeat Frankenstein and The Bride (who will both roam around the board, making them twice as threatening as each other individual monster) the player will need to have the monsters meet after their humanity has been increased to a certain level. If they ever meet before this, the terror level in the local village will increase, and if it is ever at its peak, the players will lose. Since Frankenstein and his bride move towards each other every turn, the players need to act fast.
The Mummy, on the other hand, comes with a basic puzzle associated with his particular character board. On this board, scarab beetles that begin partially randomised (but always on the opposite side of the pattern to where they need to be) will have to be arranged just so before The Mummy can be defeated. Depending on how the game pans out though, The Mummy may flip these scarabs upside down, slowing the players progress.
To defeat the monsters, Horrified uses a very simple mechanism that translates beautifully from one monster to another. The game world is populated by item tokens that are drawn randomly from a bag. Each item has a colour (red, blue or yellow) and a value (two or three, for example) that will have a specific effect depending on which monster is being faced.
Take Frankenstein and The Bride again, for example. Each of these characters can be “civilised” by a certain number (as shown on an item) by yellow or blue items respectively. If a player is in the same space as either monster with an appropriate item, they may spend that item (as an action) to increase the monsters level. It’s that simple.
For The Mummy, players must head to the museum location and spend yellow items to move the scarabs I mentioned earlier (or to flip them face up.) Each item allows a number of scarab moves equal to its value, which is again, very simple. The other monsters all have similar requirements, with some being more about direct confrontation and others about either misdirection or manipulation of the game world.
What keeps Horrified ticking at an electric pace is the fact that each player will have (usually) four action points to spend, but must then draw an event card that will trigger one or more monsters, and potentially add NPC’s and/or items to the board. A pair of hapless security guards might arrive on the scene for example, whilst three random items might be drawn and placed on the locations indicated.
The monster activation is a bit more concerning, however. One monster will always be marked as the “frenzied” monster, whilst the others are denoted by their own symbol. Depending on which event card is drawn, the monsters shown will activate, causing them to move a set number of spaces towards the nearest NPC or player character and to then attack them.
NPC’s attacked this way are defeated immediately, increasing the terror level, whilst players attacked this way must discard an item or be defeated, which causes them to respawn and, you guessed it, increase the terror level. Thankfully, NPC’s can be saved if they reach a denoted safe space, and any player who escorts them will gain a bonus card that provides a powerful benefit such as additional actions, or increased item strength.
What drives this kind of game (which is, in all fairness, very much a Pandemic style experience) is the fact that the monsters will act after every player turn (regardless of player count) so there’s never any let-up. Two monsters can be fairly straightforward to defeat, three is tough, but four is a nightmare because there are never enough items anyway, not to mention the constant threat of attack.
Whilst slightly harrowing at times (but not in a scary way) this results in a challenging and exciting game that really fits the bill for family game nights. The theme may be based on monsters, but bearing in mind that most of these movies are very old, there’s little chance of really terrifying anyone. On the contrary, Horrified has the kind of gameplay that appropriate age (maybe eight and older) children will love to experience with their parents.
As long as the theme appeals to you as much as it does to me, then Horrified is a superb cooperative game that has broad appeal and a superb look. The miniatures that represent the monsters are nice, whilst the supporting artwork is bright and thematic, whilst the quality is top-notch. Horrified is a surprise hit that is already well inside the BoardGameGeek Top 100, and by my reckoning, it deserves all the praise it can get.
You can purchase Horrified on Amazon.