Updated: Oct 24, 2020
If you've ever seen the BBC children's TV sketch show Horrible Histories, you'll be familiar with the regular feature that has the Grim Reaper recount some of the stupid ways people in the past have died. It was the books of author Terry Deary that gave rise to the Horrible Histories franchise, but we guess that neither he nor the BBC have enforceable copyright on the idea of recounting Stupid Deaths. This game then from Paul Lamond Games and University Games does not lay claim to any tie in with Horrible Histories.
The Grim Reaper features nonetheless. In Stupid Deaths, 2–6 players place their pawns on the 6 o'clock position on a circular track. The Reaper starts at the 12 o'clock position. Players are racing to be the first to reach that 12 o'clock position and to avoid being caught by the steadily advancing Reaper.
The meat of the game is a deck of 300 Stupid Death cards. A player draws one of the cards, reads out the account on the card of a stupid death and the other players vote individually decide whether the story is true or false - signalling their choice using the coffin-shaped true/false voting cards. If a player chooses correctly, they advance their pawn one space. Players who choose incorrectly stay put but the Grim Reaper advances one space for each incorrect answer. The player reading the card doesn't advance unless all the players guess incorrectly, in which case he moves forward two spaces.
That's pretty much all there is to the game. Each player has an 'extra life' token that allows them to survive when they are initially caught by the Reaper but it only places them one space ahead of the Reaper on the board so its effect will often be merely to delay a player's elimination by just one or two turns. We'd have preferred instead tokens that allowed a player to double down on their guess, advancing two spaces rather than one if they played their token and guessed correctly. It's an idea you might consider house ruling if you are trying this game.
The board game element of the game may be ultra simple but that doesn't detract from the fun you can have with Stupid Deaths. As with any storytelling game, the more you put into Stupid Deaths the more you get out of it. The way in which you read out a card may help to trick other players into making the wrong choice. And many of the accounts, true as well as false, are so unlikely or absurd as to give rise to much humour.
In its macabre tombstone box, Stupid Deaths makes for a fun filler and party game that will definitely appeal to Horrible Histories fans.