Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fearless moster hunters

I first started looking at A Touch of Evil as a possible substitute for Arkham Horror. I was looking for a game with a similar cooperative "us vs. the monsters" feel to it, but maybe a bit simpler, with a shorter playing time. The early 19th century theme, clearly inspired by Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow as well as many of the old Hammer Horror vampire movies, was also appealing, as it is a setting that doesn't see much use in board games.

As it turns out, A Touch of Evil actually has more in common with Talisman than Arkham Horror, and plays like a combination of the two. Players have a choice of playing cooperatively or competitively, but the only real difference is that the competitive game is a race to see who can defeat the villain first, while in the cooperative game the players work together to defeat a villain that is much more difficult to kill.

Players choose from an assortment of fearless monster hunters such as the Soldier, the Noblewoman, or the Outlaw, each with different skills and abilities. The basic game play is similar to games like Talisman or Runeboundplayers move around the board and draw cards to see what happens, with the eventual goal of building up their strength so that they can face down the main villain, chosen from among such gothic horror staples as the Vampire, the Headless Horseman, or the Werewolf.

There are a few game elements that set A Touch of Evil apart from other, similar games, helping to reinforce the gothic horror theme. One is that, in addition to a general deck of Event cards that players draw at various times, there are also Mystery cards that are drawn at the end of each round, most of which benefit the villain and move the game's storyline and time limit forward. There are also separate decks for each of the board's major locations, so that visiting the Manor or the Windmill offers a different experience than a trip to the Olde Woods.

Another major game element is the Village Elders, six characters who are each given a Secret at the beginning of the game. Players can spend Investigation (the currency of the game) to peek at the Elder's secrets - some are harmless, some are positive and help the players, while others will reveal that the Elder in question is actually an Evil Elder, in league with the villain!

When a player is ready to face down the villain, they can choose two Elders to help out. But if they choose one that turns out to be evil, that elder helps the villain instead, making it more difficult to vanquish.

The game's photo artwork has been polarizing for a lot of players, but, just like with Fortune and Glory (by the same publisher), I think it contributes to the cinematic atmosphere, which emphasizes the fun and adventure as much as it does the gruesome horror. The included soundtrack CD of cheesy but fun music also helps with the gothic horror movie feeling.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) Part Arkham Horror and part Talisman, with a much shorter play time and options for cooperative or competitive games.

Date played: October 31, 2014 (that's right, we played it on Halloween!)

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