Horrified Review – Monsters and Mechanics
The Universal Studios monsters are icons in cinematic history. The Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride, Dracula, the Invisible Man, and the Mummy. Each has their own story, each retold hundreds of times over, each almost had their own movie in the Dark Universe before The Mummy kind of killed it, and each is a potential villain in the Prospero Hall game Horrified.
Prospero Hall have made ripples in the board game world over the past few years. Specialising in light strategy games that are suitable for the whole family, they have taken some truly fantastic intellectual properties and turned them into enjoyable games. Their repertoire contains Bob Ross: The Art of Chill, Jaws: The Board Game, Villainous (the Disney board game), Jurassic Park Danger!: The Board Game, and Horrified – the game we will be talking about today.
Horrified is an interesting game, and one that takes some well known concepts whilst weaving a narrative that is enjoyable and rewarding. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Horrified?
Horrified is a 1-5 player game in which players play the role of village heroes, looking to rid the village of monsters through completing various objectives. It is designed by the board game company Prospero Hall.
Horrified can be played at various difficulty levels – including two monsters for an easy game, three for a medium game, and four for a hard.
How is Horrified Played?
The game is split into rounds and each round is split into two phases. During each round, there will be a Hero phase and a Monster phase. During the Hero phase, they may perform 3-5 actions (depending on the character), whilst during the Monster phase they move and attack.
The game takes place on a board representing the village the Monsters are attacking. In the village are a whole series of icon horror style buildings, including the Manor, the Laboratory, the Theatre, and the Graveyard.
Horrified is very reminiscent of Pandemic as a game series. The actions that players can take include moving between points on the map. They can trade items between one another. Players can perform special abilities. They can take actions to advance a goal, they can defeat a monster, and they can guide villagers. Villagers can appear on the map during the Monster phase, and they must be escorted to a specific safe location to be removed from the board.
Monsters have special cards they draw on their turn. Items get placed on the board, monsters move, and they attack during their phase. Which monsters attack or move is determined by the specific card drawn – occasionally offering a safe haven and occasionally, thanks to a “frenzied” mechanic, meaning certain monsters attack twice.
If a hero is attacked, then a set number of die are rolled. For each hit, a player can discard an item to negate the hit. If they can’t then the overall terror (a tracker at the top of the board) goes up, and if terror ever gets to high, the game is lost. Likewise, if a villager is attacked they die instantly and terror goes up.
This means that, as well as being very Pandemic-esque, Horrified also has some video game qualities. Items are split into three types – physical, scientific, and spiritual (each with a value and location where they spawn) – with the main monsters often getting defeated by firstly using specific items to complete an objective before needing other items to defeat them. For instance, the Wolfman needs scientific items with values 1/2/3 on them. The Invisible Man needs items from specific locations. Dracula needs physical items to destroy his coffins, with spiritual items to defeat him. Frankenstein’s Monster needs to be shown his sanity with spiritual items, whilst his bride needs scientific items. The list goes on, giving the game a kind of fetch quest quality. Likewise, looking after the villagers is very similar to a video game style escort quests.
The game is over once all monsters are defeated or removed from the board. Alternatively, the heroes lose if they either (a) get all the way through the monster deck (once again – think outbreaks and the deck of cards in Pandemic) or (b) terror reaches the top of the track.
What is it like playing Horrified?
There is no doubt about it – Horrified is a quirky game. Sleek and stylish, beautiful and bizarre, Horrified has mechanics that are incredibly familiar whilst also doing something completely new.
Throughout the course of this review so far, whilst describing how the game is played, we’ve compared the gameplay to Pandemic – and you know what – if you like Pandemic (or even want something that is arguably slightly lighter) then Horrified uses a lot of the same mechanics. There is point-to-point movement and delivery. There is the same action system that has now been elaborated on, and there are similar losing conditions. What these mechanics do is form a skeletal structure to the game, a truss to hang something fantastic off.
At time of writing, we have played Horrified a few times, and think that there is a real gem of a game there. Where Horrified really comes to life is with the monsters. They each have their own goals and personalities. The monsters each present their own challenge, their own puzzle, and how you solve that puzzle can vary from game to game based on where specific items are.
What is more, Horrified is an accessible and thematic game with a lot of variety. The rules are easy to learn, with a well written/produced rulebook. There are six monsters, with the options to play with 2/3/4 monsters at any one time. On top of that, there are a host of different player characters – from the Mayor to the Archaeologist, meaning that the game change a lot from playthrough to playthrough.
There is no doubt about it though, the best thing about Horrified are the monsters. Each monster has their own thematic conditions. You need to cure the Wolfman, you need to provide evidence to the police that the Invisible Man exists. You need to destroy Dracula’s coffins before staking him out (see what I did there?), and you need to solve the Mummy’s curse. You have to find the lair of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. My absolute favourite though is that you need to keep Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride apart until they have discovered what it means to be human.
It is this asymmetry between the monsters that really makes Horrified special.
So, what can be said about Horrified? Well, mechanically speaking, like with the phases, the game is in two parts. Within the hero phase lies the familiar territory of point-to-point movement and set collection, so much so that it can easily be compared to other games. There is nothing hugely new in the hero phase bar the special abilities of the characters being active abilities you choose to use, and the ability to order villagers around. Both of which are neat additions, but they are built on well known mechanics.
Then, there are the monsters and how they behave….and the monsters are…well…truly spectacularly awesome. Yes, they move and attack, and that is all well and good, but that isn’t what I mean. The monster movement and attacking is actually arguably relatively plain. Instead, they each come with their own puzzle, their own conditions for victory, and it is those that make the game what it is. They create a challenging, yet 100% thematic, puzzle that changes the game each time you play. The monsters are why the game is so interesting.
Now, there is a question that needs to be addressed. There are six monsters in the game, and only six at this moment in time. Does this limit the replayability of the game?
There has been an issue with games like Villainous in the past where there are six characters and, after you have seen all of them in play a few times, they can be a bit repetitive. That being said, Horrified goes a little bit beyond that. Not only are there the six monsters, there are different potential combinations of monsters in play. Beyond that, more or fewer monsters can come/go depending on the player count or difficulty. Finally, there is an additional dimension of there being different playable characters, each with their own ability. The presents a much larger matrix of potential games and, where eventually it will probably get a little bit old, the variety is there to keep it interesting for longer.
We have found an interesting quirk with Horrified when it comes to larger numbers of players. In our opinion, due to the size of the board, Horrified actually plays better either at a lower player count. It doesn’t scale in a way you might think, and with fewer spaces on the board like with games like Pandemic the game can end up getting incredibly difficult due to luck. In a five player game, the monsters will move 3x to 5x more than any individual player, and this makes the game seriously hard, especially with the Creature or the Frankenstein Monsters on the board due to movement benefits/dual monsters. This can place a far larger emphasis on luck. If that kind of luck doesn’t bother you then you will get on with Horrified anyway; however, if you don’t like games with a lot of luck then maybe play Horrified a lower player count or consider house ruling the monster movement.
All in all, we are really enjoying Horrified. It is unique and quirky and interesting. The majority of the core mechanics may not offer anything mind blowing, but the monsters add in a new dimension that makes Horrified a game to behold. We wholeheartedly recommend it.
TL;DR: The Good, The Bad, and The Invisible Man
Like with all games we can now look closer at Horrified to pick out some of points we found good, neutral, or points we did not enjoy.
- Horrified is a fantastically good-looking game, with miniatures for the monsters and a board that is visually stunning.
- The monsters are what really make Horrified something special. Each monster offers their own puzzle to be solved, and by mixing monsters that puzzle becomes more complex.
- Each monster has their own personality making how they change the game entirely unique to them.
- Horrified is easy to learn and pick up. The rulebook is well written, and the mechanics are able simple enough to get to grips with. This means that it is possible to get playing the game quickly after opening the box for the first time.
- Something that is nice about Horrified is that the base rules are so simple they allow for you to get lost in story the game weaves as you play.
- There are a lot of mechanics seen in other games. Where this means that the game is easy to pick up, it also means that the core way the village heroes work is incredibly familiar to other games. Where the game really shines though is with the monsters, and the hero play (as mentioned above) provides a structure for that.
- At high player counts Horrified can get incredibly difficult due to the monsters moving so frequently compared to the players. This can result in a game that is far more luck based.
- Although there is a potentially a lot of replayability, the combination of characters is limited and that could sway some gamers away from the game.
- In games with a high player count the game can be over quickly due to players dying before they can pick up enough items to protect themselves from the monsters.
Conclusion: Horrified Review
So how can we wrap up a review about the board game Horrified? Well, despite a few teething problems, the simple truth is that Horrified is a rare pleasure at low player counts. Occasionally a board game will come along, one that you don’t expect, and it becomes a classic. Horrified has that potential. It is simple at heart, has a fantastic theme, and offers an interesting puzzle each time it is played.
It is for this reason that we recommend Horrified. The core gameplay uses a lot of popular mechanics that are seen in other games, but that simply allows you (as the player) to get whisked away in the theme. What makes it is what Horrified special is what it does that no other game we have played does. The monster puzzles, how they change the game, is brilliant and something worth checking out. Yes, there are a few issues with a larger player count, but all-in-all it is a solid game that we have had a lot of fun playing.
That about brings this review to a conclusion. What are your thoughts? Have you played Horrified? If you have, what are your thoughts? If you haven’t then would you like to? Let me know in the comments below.
Sounds good and looks good to me! Hope you’re well in these times when pandemic is not just a boardgame! 😉
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Thanks John! Hope you’re well too!
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Indeed! I impulse bought it recently in the face of COVID-19 – which could be the next supplement – and tried it this past weekend. Except that’s life not a movie. The Blob would be a great add on. Anyway. On the “compare to Pandemic” front, it lets you pick up an entire item pile, which beats trying to get people to four different cities to cure the red plague. On the “asymmetrical fun” front, when the Creature moves the boat backwards? The table groans. I like it. I bet if you introduced it to folks who aren’t Pandemic veterans they would get a lot more out of it?
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Ooo yes – the Blob would be good. I was actually looking at the Universal Monsters online and the Phantom of the Opera could also be a good one.
Very fair points about Pandemic. They might get more – but to be honest, I think those monsters make it something the majority of people can get something out of. It is a very enjoyable game 🙂
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