As you strangers on the internet reading this with no context likely suspect, I have a lifelong love affair with Halloween. When the leaves start to change I come into bloom, my spooky starts to gestate, I grow an ovipositor and deposit my eggs inside of pumpkins. It is, of course the best of the seasons. One thing I always seek to do is have friends over for a night of silly horror themed boardgames. As is tradition, many offerings depart from the normal fair and are cheesy, classic or just straight up nostalgic. Be it Atmosfear (the DVD reiteration of Nightmare), Fury of Dracula, one of many of the zombie games in existence, or if I have to after a few bad choices, Halloween twister. After my experience at Origins however I think I’ve found my new favorite game for this festive occasion.
When I had seen the Monster Slaughter Kickstarter my interest was piqued. The theme, the artwork, the table presence, I watched the campaign roll out like Michael Myers standing outside a window. But I did not commit, it was expensive with shipping, I had other things on at the time, it meant my one in one out rule would be applied. The game looked dicey, was it a risk worth taking, I wasn’t sure it was mechanically going to be my jam. However having played Monster Slaughter at Origins, I immediately realized I’d made a mistake. The frenzy took hold like a werewolf bathed in a silvery moon. I have to say, this is perhaps the perfect game for that annual eve of Samhain revelry. Clearly, this is best played in a cabin in the woods like a group of oversexed teens under a canopy of dying leaves, but you gotta make due.
Monster Slaughter is essentially a board game rendition of the movie Cabin in The Wood which in itself is a spoof of Evil Dead tropes. It plays fast, is oozing with theme, has great bits, incredible table presence and is easy to teach. Each player begins with picking which family of monsters they desire to be. Players plot out at the start the order they intend to carry out the murder of a group of human meat bags in a 3D cabin.
Games that have this sort of board often have issues with the wall height I’ve found, but not here, everything functions perfectly and the circular board is laid out in a way to actually help with general table size to my surprise. Turns and choices are more engaging than I anticipated given what I’d seen early on during the Kickstarter campaign. Sure things can go by in a thoughtless massacre, but the real strategy comes from trying to manipulate the board state to have the victim die in the order you chose at the start of the game. Players do so by attacking victims, scaring victims away from other opponents into the claws of traps they have set up, using events to their advantage or with discussing with the other players which cards to play to have the victims defend themselves.
Earlier I mentioned the luck based nature of the game being a turn off to some. You’d be mistaken the game itself has a surprisingly depth of strategy for what appears to be a playful dice fest damage dealing romp. The dice themselves are a simple success and failure mechanism, each die is identical with 4 successes and 2 failures. This means that the odds are simple to understand and the luck element easily mitigated or manipulated by the players. Players vie to collect victory points through a few means, guessing the order mentioned earlier, dealing damage to the victims, killing the victim, killing their chosen “Favorite Meal” or through tearing down doors. In order to achieve this, you must rely on forethought and interacting with the other players at the table, this aspect came out of the blue given my expectations. Be it through bluffing, alliances, discussion and betrayal, the core of the game comes from being clever. In the last game two players repeatedly barricaded my teen wolf in an empty bathroom to consider his life choices… it was, in a way, beautiful. The much overlooked scare mechanic is also important as the game plays out like a blood thirsty cavort of hide and seek. Players can chase the victims they suspect the others are targeting back into hiding to be killed later or setting themselves up to kill that person in a subsequent round.
Not to mention the numerous monster families and victims present add some replayabliliy that is only shadowed by the included variants through the scenario book or the included toolshed. As we have must passed the summer solstice and the sun now sets, I’m delighted to give so many of these a crack with friends and family. I’m ever eager to get this to the table, so much so I retroactively shelled out the nose to get the Kickstarter goodies I’d missed.