So, I'm a big fan of the 1987 film 'A Chinese Ghost Story' on which - I always assumed - Antoine Bauza's co-operative board game Ghost Stories (Repos) was based (no, really, they're pretty much identical). I liked the game play in the board game and loved it on the app. But now, Ghost Stories has been re-released as Last Bastion, giving it a fantasy skin with art by Nastya Lehn and Piero. You might think that the change of theme is a shame: the original Ghost Stories theme was strong, which is a rarity for most Euro-y co-ops. On the plus side, more than the theme has changed: there have been a lot of tweaks and a bit of streamlining going on. First things first, though...
In Last Bastion, 1–4 players are generic fantasy characters, each with a unique power, defending a 3x3 Bastion from 50 attacking monsters and 1-3 boss Warlords. Each turn a player can, in the order of their choosing, move and either combat adjacent foes with dice or trigger the Bastion tile's special ability. The Warlord sits atop eight cards in the deck and for the players to win, he must be defeated before the deck runs out. Players also lose if they all die, or if three 'Grasp of Evil' tokens are present on the Bastion Tiles. It's not an easy game, even on normal setting; but it is good.
Being able to move/act or act/move is a no-brainer improvement over Ghost Stories and can be easily retro-fitted to the original. Some tile powers have been amalgamated, allowing for new ones to add fresh options (I always found the 'push Haunters back' rarely used, but the 'remove two Grasp of Evil' has been well employed). The smaller deck is better, although there are now two fewer turns in which to dispatch the Warlord. The net (block Grasp of Evil), the mine cart (single Buddha) and totem (prayer circle) miniatures are good. Mix and matching the character powers among the colours is nice; there are still eight of them, but some - like the crossbowman - are new and others tweaked or merged. A new recurring ghost power (no White die) is a pleasantly unpleasant little addition.
Last Bastion is an obvious and well-refined update that mainly suffers from being comparatively bland in its theming: accessible yes, but dully generic. Like Ghost Stories, it is solo-able, though I'd strongly advise just playing all four characters yourself. Also, as with the original, bossy alpha-player syndrome is a threat to enjoyment as there can be 'best moves'. The minis that are included in the game are unpainted, tho' I understand that is a cost and price-point issue and, hey, some people enjoy painting. Pre-painted versions are available as an optional add-on.
In summary, Last Bastion is a mechanically precise co-operative game that will give you a run for your life more often than not. Ghost Stories was a super-solid game that, while it had expansions, I never felt it needed any; it was almost always a challenge. The one drawback - that it banged on a bit before Wu Feng's incarnation finally arrived - has been addressed. Along with unlocking the roles from the colours, the choice of order in player turns adds a good degree of agency to work within the framework of the game.
Last Bastion is an excellent and approachable co-op and its heritage should see it find favour although, as a diehard fan of the original game, I will always be left asking, 'Where did my theme go?'.
(Review by David Fox)