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The Horror Game Show

In The Horror Game Show, designer Sebastian Srebro has taken a look at the state of reality TV and projected it to the next level. In this tongue-in-cheek exploration and combat game, the 2-4 players are TV producers responsible for teams of contestants who will be fighting and killing each other in a Battle Royale for the entertainment and amusement of TV viewers. When one of your contestants makes a kill, it delights your fans and the boost to your ratings ultimately converts into dollars. Players each have dials on their individual boards to record the number of fans and to keep track of their haul in dollars.

Players begin by drafting their team of contestants, with each bringing additional cards to your starting hand. The contestants have their own boards to show their movement range, 'strength' (number of dice rolled in combat), their critical hit value (die roll that will deliver an automatic hit even if beaten by an opponent) and a track to record their hit points/life. When the track reaches zero, the contestant is dead. Their standee is taken by their killer as a trophy where it will score points at the end of the game...

The game is played on a modular board made up of four sectors. It's this board that contributes a key element of the game's dynamics and story arc because a quarter of the board is removed in rounds 3, 6 and 9 so the contestants' playing area is progressively reduced through the course of the game. Anything on a section of the board when it comes up for removal is similarly removed from play. You know at the start which sectors will be eliminated in which round so you'll want to migrate your contestants out of the danger zones. Of course as characters (the contestants and the 'Hunters' that players can recruit to add to their killing squad) all converge towards the same single quarter of the board so the scope for bloody interaction accelerates...

The Horror Game Show isn't just a bash-em-up combat game. You set up the game by seeding the board with face-down tokens, referred to inexplicably as 'blips'. These will include equipment, weapons and first aid kits. You'll want to find these because your contestants can each hold up to two of them (there are slots for them on the character boards) and they can significantly improve your contestants' stats. For example, the meat cleaver is a +2 weapon, which means it adds two dice to the number rolled in combat, and a pillow soaks up the first hit of each round of combat. The blips mean that in the early rounds of the game players will want to focus their attention on exploration: searching out and collecting the blips that will give their contestants a boost. But exploration is not without risk... some of the blips will be traps that will dish out damage to contestants that land on them. The blips also add a memory element to the game as there'll be circumstances where you can peek at blips without picking them up.

There's a set-up option to mix tokens for the contestants in with the blips so that no-one knows at the start where their own or their opponents' contestants are located. You'll want to try this out for its distinct dynamics but we generally preferred the option where we started each game by placing our contestant standees onto the board.

Action selection in The Horror Game Show is determined by players' hands of cards, with their decks made up of core cards plus the cards for each of their contestants and Hunters. You can play a card for its movement action or for the text effect at the bottom. You can play as many cards as you like provided they all have the 'play' icon on them but if you play any card with a 'pause' icon, you can't play any more cards until your next turn. It's important to note that the text effects on some of the cards can be played on another player's turn in response to one of their actions but you're prohibited from playing a response if you ended your turn with a 'pause' card.

Even if the game starts off as a relatively genteel blip exploration game, contestants and Hunters will inevitably come into combat. Encounters are always to the death - your bloodthirsty fans would accept nothing less. They are resolved by rolling dice, ordering each players' rolls from high to low, and comparing each die with your opponent's corresponding roll. It's a system you'll be familiar with from Risk (Hasbro). Here tho' you must factor in a character's critical hit stat. If a contestant has a critical hit figure of 5, they automatically hit their opponent for any roll of 5 or better even if that roll loses against the opponent's corresponding highest roll. So, for example, if my contestant's highest roll is 5 and my opponent's is 6, they would score a hit for beating me on that roll but my contestant would also score a hit for making their critical roll.

And it won't necessarily just be your opponents' contestants and Hunters you'll be killing. You can earn just as many fans by killing other members of your own team. The fans just want blood, they don't mind whose body it gushes out of. In our plays at Board's Eye View, we found it prudent to attack and kill a fellow team member if they'd already had their health badly reduced. If they had no immediate means of healing, we usually judged it better to take the kill ourselves rather than leave them easy prey as an opponent's 'trophy'.

The Horror Game Show is played over 12 rounds, and with an Event card revealed for each round just to shake things up a bit. Games can end sooner if there's just a single contestant left standing. In addition to dollars for each 'trophy' (in-game kill), there are dollars to be won for various achievement cards. At the start of the game, players will have taken 'contract' cards and these also give rewards for meeting their conditions. Several of these include scores and achievements won by an opponent!

There's a lot going on in The Horror Game Show but it's easy to play and the contracting board adds to the game's accelerating excitement. The copy we've been playing at Board's Eye View is a prototype ahead of the game's Kickstarter launch and it's already packed with enough varied cards and kit to ensure great replayability. The theme may be grindhouse schlock but it makes for an undeniably exciting game. And you don't have long to wait to back the game: Bored Games are launching the Kickstarter tomorrow! Click here for more.

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