Horrified - Universal Monsters is a fun strategy game that offers something for experienced board game players and lovers of Universal Studios' classic monster movies. Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe took over movie theaters, Universal Studios released a series of monster movies over a thirty year span featuring some of the most iconic monsters in history. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon each had their own film franchises that occasionally crossed over into one another. While there was no overarching plot, the Universal Classic Monsters series was the first shared cinematic universe and set the tone for multiple generations of monster movies. While the last of these movies came out in 1960, fans still love and recognize Universal's depictions of these classic monsters to this day.
Earlier this summer, Ravensburger published Horrified - Universal Monsters, a 1-5 player game that serves as the ultimate team-up for Universal Monsters. In the game, players randomly select up to 4 Universal Monsters that terrorize a small (generic) village filled with characters from different Universal movies. Players then take on the role of generic heroes, each of which has their own special ability. The players then sprint around the town, collecting items, protecting villagers, and avoiding the Universal Monsters in their quest to defeat or neutralize each monster. Ravensburger uses beautiful artwork to depict the monsters in their timeless glory. The whole game has a movie poster feel to it, ranging from the dynamic colors of the board to oversized monster cards that show off the monsters and their abilities.
Gameplay is split into two phases - the Hero Phase and the Monster Phase. During the Hero Phase, players can move around the board, activate their special ability, usher villagers through the town, and collect items. During the Monster Phase, a card is drawn that indicates how many items to add to the board, adds a random event (which usually involves either moving a monster or adding a villager that needs rescued), and then says which monster should move and attack players. Both the events and the monster move/attack portions of the card often specify a specific monster...meaning that some cards can serve as a reprieve for players if the monsters noted on the card aren't on the board.
Each monster has its own unique defeat conditions, all of which involve collecting one of three types of items and typically delivering them to a spot on the board. Red items are "physical" items that typically represent weapons of some kind, blue items are "intellectual" items that are almost always scientific equipment, and yellow items are "spiritual" items that include both crucifixes, stakes, and garlic. Each item has its own strength value, and certain defeat conditions can only be satisfied by collecting items that aggregately meets or exceed a specified strength value. For instance, players can only smash one of Dracula's four coffins by collecting red items that add to 6 or higher and then exchanging them at the coffin location. Only after all of the coffins are smash can players move on to confront Dracula by moving to his space and exchanging yellow items that aggregately total 6 or more.
The monsters are presented as nearly invincible during regular gameplay. If a monster successfully attacks a player, the player either discards one of the items in their collection or they're instantly defeated (and sent to the hospital until their next turn.) Players don't have any health bars or dodging capabilities - which makes avoiding the monsters a priority. If the monsters defeat the players (or villagers) a certain number of times, the monsters win and the players lose.
One of the fun things about Horrified is that while gameplay boils down to collecting items and then exchanging them, each monster's defeat conditions are totally different. Players may need to smash Dracula's coffins, but they'll need to collect evidence on the Invisible Man by collecting items from specific locations and then depositing them at the Precinct. The defeat conditions are tied to the monsters' original movie appearances, and don't always involve "vanquishing" a monster. Sure, you'll need to stake Dracula, but Frankenstein's Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein just need to be educated, while the Wolf Man needs a cure to his lycanthropy. In addition, each monster has its own unique miniature and game pieces, which helps keep gameplay feeling a little different depending on which monsters are in play.
The only real issue with Horrified is that it doesn't scale based on how many players are playing. Playing with three players against four monsters might be challenging, but playing with five players will usually result in one or more players feeling like they have nothing to do on certain turns. Since no more than three items get added to the board at one time, sometimes players can't do anything but run to the far side of the board and stay out of the monsters' way, especially once one or more monster has been defeated. I'd recommend keeping your Horrified monster hunting party small, or someone will probably feel like they have nothing to contribute as the game reaches its final stretch.0comments
Horrified - Universal Monsters is a light to mediumweight game that can be enjoyed by players of any experience level. The game offers enough strategy and decision-making to satisfy more avid board game players, but is simple enough for folks who can't tell Catan from Catalonia. If you know someone who is a classic monster movie buff or want a light and fun game to play during Halloween, you need to pick up Horrified - Universal Monsters today.
Horrified - Universal Monsters is available for $34.99.