Another game for the Halloween season, Ghoullotine is a light easy-to-play monster-themed card game designed by Vincent Baker and published by Vindicated Entertainment. It’s notionally for 2-10 players – tho’ it’s a game that’s best with at least three and probably no more than six.
The deck comprises 40 monster cards, charmingly illustrated by Abby Edwards. They mostly range in value from 0 to 7, with a preponderance of lower value cards, but there are also a few cards with negative values. Around half the cards have text on them that direct an action that will usually manipulate players’ hands.
Players take turns playing a card from their hand of initially 3 cards (5 when there are three or fewer players remaining in the game). The values played are cumulative and if you play a card that takes the total above 13, you are eliminated. Remaining players draw up to 3 or 5, depending on the number remaining, and play continues into a new round with the collective total reset to zero.
The rules are simple and pretty much intuitive, so this pocket-sized card game is as easy to teach as it is to carry around. The key rule to remember is that any text on cards is only activated if the player who laid that card is not eliminated. With a hand of only three cards, there’s a high luck factor but the text effects do give players some agency over play. We normally rail against cards with text that can’t easily be read in a fanned hand but that’s not an issue in this game because hand sizes are so small. Similarly, three- or at most five-card hands mean it’s not an issue that the numerical value of each card is printed at the top right corner – usually good news for left-handed players but a bind for the majority who are right-handed. Our one actual gripe is the perennial concern over black-backed cards that bleed to the edge, making them notoriously prone to showing the slightest nicks. We would always protect cards like this by sleeving them but, with Ghoullotine, sleeved cards would no longer fit into the tuckbox :-(
There’s player elimination but rounds are quick so even if you’re given the chop in the very first round, you probably won’t be sitting out for more than 10 minutes or so. We wouldn’t recommend taking the player count beyond five or six tho’, as that could mean too long a time out for those who make an early exit.
Ghoullotine makes for a snappy filler-length game that’s suitable for all the family: the 7+ on the box really just reflects the reading and comprehension requirement for the text on the cards. There’s a score card with tiddlywink counters for keeping track of the running total of cards played, but in our Board’s Eye View plays with even quite young players we didn’t find it necessary to use that to keep track of the tally. And with monsters on the cards that are cute rather than the stuff of nightmares, Ghoullotine is a game that’s likely to appeal to guys and ghouls of all ages.