Tho' the Victorian horror setting has an undeniably Lovecraftian echo, it's refreshing to see there isn't a Cthulhu in sight as 2–4 players (six with an expansion) race to be the first to collect the items they need to extricate themselves from a nightmare library.
Judging from the prototype shown here on Board's Eye View, publishers Blue Donut certainly haven't skimped in the production of this game. It's played on a modular board made up of room tiles placed out in either a 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 grid, depending on the number of players. A player's Move action can involve them moving their standee avatar or moving (rotating) a room tile. Rotating tiles in a game can often be a fiddly process but this game makes it super-easy by incorporating a handle in the centre of each tile. Rotating the tile you are on can be a boon because it repositions any open doors, enabling safe passage to a neighbouring room, but you can likewise rotate an adjacent tile to make things just that more difficult for other players. Tho' you are all on a similar mission to collect items, you are very much in competition with other players and this is most certainly a 'take that' game where players will try to trip up an opponent, steal items from them or have monsters set upon them. Cthulhu may not be lurking in the library but players can nonetheless 'summon creatures from the Other Realm'.
Players are moving their avatars around the library searching for the six unique items they need (one from each colour deck); tho' the rules allow for a short game where players each only need to collect three items. Searching a bookcase is easy: you just roll two conventional six-sided dice and use the results as a grid reference that tells you what colour deck you draw an item card from. Searching a drawer is more hazardous: you draw a token from a bag that will indicate whether you take a card from a Blessing deck or from a Curse deck. No prizes for guessing which of these is preferable. Whenever you search, you place out a token and can't return immediately to the same search location.
There's no Lovecraft insanity in Horror in the Library but designer Marcus Pullen does require players to keep track of their Fortitude. Players can't be eliminated but they are severely hampered by having negative Fortitude, including being unable to search bookcases or drawers. Aside from Curses, quite a few activities incur negative Fortitude, including movement through a locked door or through a mirror, and encountering a monster. Blessings can raise Fortitude, and you can also increase your Fortitude by expending an action to look at a picture. All of this means that success in Horror in the Library demands careful management of your Fortitude.
We've enjoyed our forays into library with the preview prototype so we're eager to see how this atmospheric game develops further. We're also looking forward to seeing how it plays with more players.