The brain you stole, Fritz. Think of it. The brain of a dead man waiting to live again in a body I made with my own hands! Dr Frankenstein gave life to one of the all-time classic movie monsters in the 1931 version of Frankenstein. In Horrified, by Ravensburger, players have to work together to bring down the monster, along with his bride! And the Wolf Man, and Dracula, and the Mummy. Oh, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon… and the Invisible Man. Are they paying overtime for this?
Eric Hall’s famous catchphrase doesn’t really cover it when you look at the cast of Horrified. It reads like a Who’s Who of classic movie monsters, and it’s a nostalgic glance backwards into horror films that the game tries to capture. In the same way as many of Ravensburger’s themed games do, Horrified streamlines the formulas that many heavier boardgames use, to deliver a family-friendly box of tricks. Asynchronous player abilities, pick-up-and-deliver, action selection, spending action points – it’s all in there, but presented in a way that doesn’t feel as complex as the mechanisms might sound.
To put that into some kind of context, I was able to teach this game to my (then) eight-year-old son, who in turn taught it to my wife, who bounces hard off of games that come across as complicated. If you’re an experienced gamer, you might think that making games feel simpler would inherently shorten their potential lifetime, or speed up the time it takes you to tire of a game. To be honest, you’d be right to some extent with Horrified, too, but it does not go softly into that good night.
The beast must die
Co-operation is the order of the day in Horrified, and the players need to work together to take down whatever variety of abominations they’re up against. Monsters for each game can be picked at random, or by following recommendations from the rulebook. Each have their own specific way of moving, their own actions to try to take you down, and their own ways to be defeated. What this all adds up to is a game where people need to talk, and decide who’s best suited to do which thing.
It all leads to some interesting conversations you’ll never have had before. “Okay, you distract Bride of Frankenstein over there, I’m going to take this villager up here, then she can try to move the boat closer to the Creature from the Black Lagoon”. The actions you take are really easy, and the player aids help as visual reminders, but you shouldn’t need them once you get up-and-running. If you’re a fan of co-op games, this one falls somewhere between Forbidden Island and Pandemic in terms of complexity.
Horrified does a really good job of capturing the ‘us against them’ feeling you’d expect. You can tailor it to make it as easy or as difficult as you want, based on the number and choice of monsters you want to face. Each monster has a really different way it needs to be dealt with, and each player character is slightly different to the others, in the same way you’d expect from one of the Forbidden series. It means you can keep things fresh, and cater to all abilities.
In a game like Horrified, you’d hope for plenty of theme. You won’t be disappointed. The monster minis look great, especially if you have the skills (or know someone) to paint them up. The board is bright and colourful, a feat made all the more impressive when you consider it’s set at night. The designers have done a really good job of making it feel like each monster has its own personality. The Creature is evasive and slips along the river, Dracula uses his Transylvanian charm to lure a player to him. It’s nice, because it means each game feels interesting and different.
One of my favourite moments in the many games I played with my wife and son, was the point where I realised I no longer had to help him understand what the best moves would be for us to make. No, I wasn’t Quarterbacking, I was gently leading, there’s a difference, promise. I could see the cogs whirring in his head, and the strategising emerging. He started telling us what to do, taking a lead on the monster smashing, and it was a lovely moment.
Horrified is a really decent co-op game. The theme is fun, the monster minis are great, and it’s relatively easy to teach and play. The design house behind it – Prospero Hall – continue to put out really clever and engaging games. It’s gotten to the point now where I can play a Prosper Hall game, and it feels like a Prospero Hall game. That’s a compliment, not a negative, as they have a knack of taking the mechanisms from much heavier games, and tailoring them for a different audience. A wider audience.
There’s a ton of replayability, and I think families especially will get a lot of enjoyment from it. When the game arrived and I set it up for the first time, we sat down and played it. My son wanted to set it up immediately after for another game with different monsters. After that game was over, we had another. I think we played it something like five times over one weekend, which is unheard of for us.
I usually like to highlight any problems or shortcomings in my reviews, but there’s really not much to pick Horrified up on. It’s a great game, and like other recent games in Ravensburger’s range (e.g. Back to the Future: Dice Through Time, Villainous, Jaws), it’s a really good stepping stone between the really light games most families have, and the heavier, hobby games, that people like me enjoy. Would I always pick it off the shelf if asked to choose a game? Probably not, I like things a little more dense, but in the same breath, I’ll never turn down a game of Horrified. It’s monster magic.
Designers: Prospero Hall
Art: Prospero Hall
Playing time: 60 mins