Horrified: Universal Monsters Board Game Review

MB Updated August 22, 2019
 
4.5
 
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Horrified Board Game

Game Information

Publisher
There Will Be Games

Ravensburger and Prospero Hall strike again!

I don’t want to spoil it too much, but when you open Horrified, another great game from the Ravensburger/Prospero Hall team, it’s packaged in such a way that you get a fun little surprise that is about as on brand as possible for a game based on the classic stable of Universal Monsters. And I don’t want to give it away, but there is a famous comedy duo that kind-of-sort-of makes a cameo appearance. It will bring a smile to the face of any monster kid like me that revels in the vintage Hollywood horror of Karloff, Chaney, Whale, and Browning (but not Lugosi, thanks to a long-standing prohibition in using his likeness as Dracula). Indeed, Horrified is a super fun monster mash mashed into a simple, pick-up-and-deliver co-op design with an appropriate family-friendly level of rules weight and length.

But since this is one of those Ravensburger/Prospero Hall games, they had to go and get all clever on us. In Horrified, you effectively create a scenario by mixing and matching the monsters your wonderfully diverse and inclusive team of scientists, investigators, and other pro monster hunters must face while defending their village. Each monster has a couple of sequential requirements to defeat them, and each offer unique gameplay within the basic pick-up-and-deliver concept including specific activation cards that give each monster a unique flavor. You might find yourself delivering key evidence to the police to reveal the misdeeds of the Invisible Man. Or, you’ll have to commandeer an expedition to find the Gill-Man’s lair. Maybe you’ll be deciphering the Mummy’s riddle. My favorite is teaching Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride to be more human while preventing them from meeting.

This stuff is just absolutely adorable, and I love that the game’s difficulty is set by which monsters – and how many - you choose to square off against. It can get really tough with some of the more complex monsters and more of them, and in fact our last game ended with me apparently being singled out by Frankenstein’s Monster for punishment – the dude quite literally waited outside of the hospital to pummel me. If the monsters manage to kill the randomly generated, roaming villagers or the monster hunters too many times, it’s game over. The challenge is for the players to use their actions and abilities to defeat each monster while also keeping the villagers safe.

Horrified Universal Monsters

On a turn, each player gets four actions (except the Mayor, she gets five) and these are used to travel from point-to-point around an Arkham Horror-like board. Along the way, you can pick up three different categories of items, which in general need to be delivered to specific points on the board or to battle certain monsters. Villagers appear, and you will need to escort them to the safe locations printed on their standees. All of this makes me wonder if this design originated as a train game and in fact mechanically it feels like a very simple example of the genre.

When the monsters move, they will head toward a player or a villager and they execute a die roll to see if they do damage. If a player is attacked, they’ve got to discard an item to ward off damage. Otherwise, they go to the hospital. In my case, so that Frankenstein’s Monster could wait there to ambush me. In the event of a KO or a slain villager, the terror level increases and you are that much closer to losing.

This is not a complex game by any stretch of the word, and it is not a deep or meticulously detailed one. To this end, I believe that those who come into Horrified looking for an experience like one of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Files game are going to be disappointed. But to be blunt, that’s their own fault, not the fault of the game. I’ve played in one group where the sentiment was expressed that it was “boring” that each item didn’t have a specific game function, but my retort is that the item’s type (spiritual, scientific, or physical) is what matters – not if something gives a +1 to a roll or has some other setting-specific effect.

Like Jaws, Horrified is a highly streamlined, highly refined design that slices away bulk and filler and leaves behind the elements that matter the most. Yet, there is still room for the detail that each monster and their specific ways of attacking provide, as well as within the neat multi-piece scenario concept that is reminiscent of Donald X. Vaccarrino’s concepts regarding modular setup. The narrative elements rest atop, yet integrates into, a well-crafted chassis of solid game mechanisms.

I love the approach that Prospero Hall took with this game as it could have easily turned into the kind of morass of overcomplicated, overwrought hobby game tropes that “thematic” games tend toward. But this is a mass market game designed for maximum accessibility and appeal rather than something aimed at culty, initiates-only hobbyistas. Yet the designers, who are shamefully uncredited by name, are clearly aware of trends and successful ideas in the hobby gaming world and they’ve leveraged that knowledge to maximum effect. Horrified is a smart, spooky treat that should see plenty of table time with Halloween just around the corner.


Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

Editor review

1 reviews

Board Game Reviews 
 
4.5

Summary

Horrified: Universal Monsters
A wonderful family game with a killer setting- another winner from Ravensburger and Prospero Hall.
MB
Top 10 Reviewer 69 reviews

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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #301025 22 Aug 2019 09:24
I am looking forward to playing this.

I wish Prospero Hall was around when my daughter was younger.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #301026 22 Aug 2019 09:41
Between this and Jaws, this has been the clear winner in our house. We like them both but my wife has request Horrified more than any other game we’ve played recently. I’m too biased to offer an opinion.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #301032 22 Aug 2019 13:43
I stand by my early assessment from Gencon.
There ain't much here.
It seems only a little heavier in weight than Forbidden Island.

But my love for Universal Monsters is strong, and if spouses and children can appreciate them more because of this department store game - it's all good.

I just can't get over the production discrepancy. Great board and character standee illustrations. Perfectly fine minis. But the mix between the two is just sad.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #301033 22 Aug 2019 14:36

drewcula wrote: I just can't get over the production discrepancy. Great board and character standee illustrations. Perfectly fine minis. But the mix between the two is just sad.


What????? I don’t see what you’re getting at here whatsoever.

Production is the second best thing that Prospero Hall has been bringing to the table for the last few years, and they’re getting better at it all the time. There is so much charm to their stuff. THIS is how licensed games should look, and sorry to lift so heavily from Michael’s playbook that even I find tiring from time to time, not how $130+ Kickstarter projects handle them. There is legitimate love for the material in Horrified, in the game play and production, and in the minis, which I love. As a kid who grew up making the re-released Aurora kits in the 90s, I can’t help but love these “just-off-enough” versions of the monsters.

What Prospero Hall is doing best, without a question, is making games that pack pure FUN in the box without the weight of useless, overly complicated and ultimately unnecessary mechanics. More rules, more effects, and more overhead does not equal more fun. It doesn’t even equal more depth. Prospero Hall clearly gets this, and in a time in which more people are sitting down to tabletop games, what they’re doing is nothing short of important.

Horrified uses tried and true pick up and deliver mechanics and a clean AI deck to deliver a game that has just as much tension as other co-ops with rulebook that are twice the size or more of Horrifieds. The monsters still have spot-on personalities and follow story beats straight from the movies. I’m 8 plays in, it’s still hitting the right notes, it’s still exciting and it’s still got variety to be mined. I love this game.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #301034 22 Aug 2019 14:56
Did anyone sing Puttin' on the Ritz when you played? If not, you're dead to me.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #301039 23 Aug 2019 10:00

Josh Look wrote:

drewcula wrote: I just can't get over the production discrepancy. Great board and character standee illustrations. Perfectly fine minis. But the mix between the two is just sad.


What????? I don’t see what you’re getting at here whatsoever.


I don't see how I could have been any clearer. I'm not staking the game. It' fine. I'm pinning a silver bullet into the physical components.

This is what I wrote earlier in the month:

Ravensburger is certainly killing it with Jaws and Villainous. Good on them. Horrified? Mmmmm... I'm torn. I'm the biggest nut for Universal Monsters, but this game is just 'meh' for me. I left my demo thinking it was too light of a co-op for my tastes. Mind you, I don't like co-ops. On the positive, its lightweight approach and availability at Target may get it into kids' gaming rotation. And if the younger generation gets any exposure to some good looking Universal Monsters? I'm all for it.

My Horrified rub is ultimately a production rub. It seems Ravensburger wants it both ways, and the end result looks dumb as fuck. I've grown my hobby into a painting past time, so I was initially excited to see my favorites in plastic form. The minis look good. I think I'd like to paint them. Except there's 'only' seven of them. The big bads get the sculpts. Townsfolk and Players? They get standees. God damn do I hate that. Pick one, and commit. It looks like a kit bash, prototype product when bits are mingled. I honestly would have preferred the streamlined and sleek meeples treatment that Jaws received. All of the illustrations are handsome.

Regardless, I'll keep an eye out at Target. Once Horrified goes on sale, I may pull the trigger just to have a fun little painting project. Dracula is my spirit animal.
Vysetron's Avatar
Vysetron replied the topic: #301042 23 Aug 2019 10:12
Standees and minis together is some weird visual dissonance. Doesn't bother me personally, but I get why it could bug folks. I actually like the art on the standees more than the sculpts and would have been happier with oversized monster standees, but I'm not into plastic in general.

Horrified is fine. Above average for sure. It's not anything impactful, but it's well designed for its market/audience and it's really well produced. The art and presentation is fantastic and that goes a really long way.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #301043 23 Aug 2019 10:28
Yeah, that's kind of where I land on all of it. I'm such a nut for the Universal*, I really would have enjoyed painting an entire box of baddies, goodies, and NPCs. But then I still don't think I'd play it that often.

I have a hard time jiving with my copy of Gloomhaven for similar reasons. Plastic player minis, and the baddies are standees. I think Gloomhaven's 1st edition was more visually cohesive.

Meh. Co-ops aren't my favorite. Maybe I should do another cull.

* "Dark Universe" made me sad.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #301044 23 Aug 2019 10:46
I don't think the discrepancy between minis and standees would bother me, but if it did, I would just make wooden tokens for everything. Horrified isn't an auto-buy for me, it's one that I would need to try before I buy. Early reviews are positive, but the details about gameplay make it sound a bit thin to me. The short play time would make it easier to get on the table, but also makes it seem like there isn't enough depth to the game play.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #301045 23 Aug 2019 10:47

Vysetron wrote: ... but it's well designed for its market/audience ...


This is an important point. I think these games coming out from Ravensburger/Prospero Hall are great because they are interesting, well designed family games that kids can also play on their own. You can just hand the box over to a 10 year old who can read the rules, figure out how to play on their own and go play with their friends and siblings.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #301046 23 Aug 2019 10:57
I acknowledge that I need to distance myself as a hobby gamer at odds with a beloved franchise turned into a mass market, light weight co-op.

I just wonder how the production discussions developed.

Had they replaced the minis with more gorgeously illustrated standees, could costs have been significantly decreased? What if they chose meeples?

Family games and impulse purchases seem to have a price tag threshold. In 2019, Jaws seems to hit the sweet spot. But I don't know. I welcome input.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #301048 23 Aug 2019 11:24
Having a combination of standees and minis is fairly common in mass-marketed games. The standees keep the price point down, but including a couple of minis makes the game more appealing to kids and collectors.

It's a selling point - "Includes X number of toy figures!"



We have quite a few mass market kid/family games based on TV shows that do this.

ETA: Here's one. All the Power Puff girls are minis, but Mojo is a standee.

n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #301053 23 Aug 2019 14:43
- I know there’€™s no such person as Dracula. You know there’€™s no such person as Dracula!
- But does Dracula know it?