In my opinion, the best kids board game of all time is Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters!, a very thematic cooperative board game. Back in 2018, Mattel put out an expansion for this great cooperative kids game called Creepy Cellar. I finally got a chance to try this expansion out.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters! Creepy Cellar adds a number of new things to the kids game Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters! including a new cellar board, cursed treasures, secret passages, jinxed items and the undefeatable Ghost King.
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What do you get with the Creepy Cellar Expansion for Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters?
The Creepy Cellar expansion for Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters was designed by Brian Yu and features artwork from Pierô. This is the same pair that brought you the original game. This expansion was originally published in 2018 by Mattel and has been notoriously hard to find.
Interestingly, in 2017 there was a previous expansion called the Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters Expansion Pack. This was only available at game conventions and places like the Board Game Geek Geek Store. This new expansion, Creepy Cellar, includes everything that was in that expansion and more.
At one point, there was also a stand-alone Ghost King expansion that was only available via Board Game Geek. That is also included in the Creepy Cellar expansion. Even with having all of the contents of those two previous promos, this boxed expansion has even more content and new stuff that hadn’t been released before.
What this means is that even if you already have the Expansion Pack and the Ghost King, there’s a good chance you will want to pick up Creepy Cellar (even though that would make your original expansion pack useless).
What the Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters Creepy Cellar Expansion does is change up the gameplay in Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters in a number of ways. This isn’t a modular expansion with some new stuff that you can add to the base game but rather a totally new way to play the game. Due to this a lot of what you get in Creepy Cellar actually replaces what you have in the base game.
This expansion box includes a totally new deck of ghost cards that replaces the original. You also get twelve new Cursed Treasure tokens which replace the original eight Treasure Tokens from the base game. Along with that, you get some totally new things, like a whole new Cellar Game Board with two new rooms on it that fits at the side of the original game board.
You also get two new decks of cards with Creepy Cellar. One is for the Ghost King and the other is a deck of Cellar Cards. There is also a set of four new secret passages tiles that make it easier to move around the house. Finally, there is a set of Jinxed Items tokens that add a new challenge to Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters.
What does Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters Creepy Cellar add to the original award-winning kids’ game?
The goal in the original Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters! was for the kids to sneak into the house, grab a treasure, get back out of the house and drop it off, then repeat that for all eight treasures. This changes with the Creepy Cellar expansion.
Here the kids are locked into the house as soon as they enter and need to collect the twelve cursed treasures and deliver them to the twelve idols in the creepy cellar in order to unlock the front door from which they must then escape.
To play a game of Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters with the Creepy Cellar expansion you start by placing the new Cellar Board next to the original game board. It fits so that two of the hallways on the original board now lead to stairs going down to the cellar. You then randomly place one of the Cursed Treasure Tiles face down in every room of the main board.
Each of the three card decks get shuffled and placed on the boards where indicated. The Jinxed Item Tiles are also mixed up and placed beside the board. The Ghost King, a new type of ghost, is placed in room L and four regular ghosts are placed out onto the boards into four different rooms indicated by a circle in the rooms.
Turns play out similar to the original game with players rolling the ghost/movement die, drawing a ghost card if indicated on the die (on the 1-5 faces), doing what the card says, then moving their kid. If they end their turn in a square with a Treasure Token they can pick it up by putting it into the backpack on their miniature. If they end their turn carrying a treasure in the proper cellar room they drop it off. If they are in a room with a ghost or haunt they must fight that ghost or haunt at the end of their turn if able.
As noted earlier, Creepy Cellar has a new Ghost Deck so there are new things that can happen when drawing a Ghost Card. The most common type of card gives the letter of one of the rooms in the mansion, including the two new rooms in the cellar. When these come up you place a ghost in that room. If there are already two ghosts in the room, instead of playing a third ghost, the room becomes haunted and you replace the two ghosts with a haunt. If a room drawn is already haunted, the ghost goes into the next room in alphabetical order.
This new Ghost Deck still has green and blue locked door cards which work the same as in the original game. Similarly, there is still one draw two and shuffle card and one draw three and shuffle card. These also work the same as the base game but now also have you shuffle the Ghost King deck as well as the Ghost Deck.
If the Ghost King is ever in a room with two other ghosts they immediately turn into a Haunt and the Ghost King moves on to the next room alphabetically. This can lead to a cascading haunting effect. Another important rule regarding The Ghost King is that they can never be fought or defeated.
The final new Ghost Deck card type is Trap Door Cards. When you draw one of these your kid gets yanked through a trap door and comes out in another room. You draw a card from the Ghost King deck and move your kid to that room. Once there you can continue your turn as normal.
Fighting Ghosts and Haunts is the same as the original game, except for the fact that you cannot defeat the Ghost King.
A welcome new addition in this expansion are the Secret Passage tiles which are added to rooms A, F, G and K. These tiles indicate a connection between the room they are in and all other rooms with Secret Passage Tiles. For one movement point, you can move from any room with a secret passage to any other. This is a significant change to the game and something that makes it much easier to get around the board.
There is a downside though, each Secret Passage Tile can only be used once. If you go through a Secret Passage you discard the tile from your origin room. Note, there is a way to get these back (and we will get to that in a moment).
Next up we have the new Cursed Treasure Tiles. The Treasure Tiles in Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters didn’t really do anything. They are numbered 1 to 8 and in the Nightmare Mode of play you had to get them out of the house in order but that’s about it. Now each of the treasures is cursed and you get a penalty while holding one of them.
There is one Cursed Treasure Tile that reduces your movement by one, one that makes you draw two ghost cards each turn instead of one, one that requires you to have an ally with you when fighting, one that stops you from using the secret passages we just talked about, one terrible one that adds a ghost to the room you are in before moving and one that pins you if you are in a room with a ghost.
Earlier I noted that the new goal of Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters when using the Creepy Cellar expansion is to drop off the twelve Cursed Treasures at the idols in the cellar. The way you do that is by travelling to the appropriate room in the cellar while holding one of the treasures. Each room has six drop-off spots in it, with the right room having odd-numbered spots and the left room having even-numbered spots. Treasure has to be dropped off in order, filling the one spot in the right room, then the two spot in the left room etc.
When you draw one of these cards you might find a set of keys that unlocks all of the doors, you may run away and get a free move, you can capture a ghost letting you remove one from anywhere on the board, or if you are unlucky you could instead end up releasing a ghost and adding one to a random room, or finally, you could end up finding a Jinxed Item.
Jinxed Items get put into your kid’s backpack and fill it up until you are able to get rid of the item by moving to the room with the same letter on it as the token you just acquired. While your backpack is full you can’t pick up any Treasure Tiles. You also can’t leave the house with a Jinxed Item. In addition to freeing up your backpack to hold treasure and letting you leave the house, you also get one additional benefit for dropping off a Jinxed Item into the appropriate room: you get to place a discarded Secret Passage tile back into play.
Once all of the Cursed Treasures are safely placed in the cellar, all of the kids still have to escape the house. If the players manage to do that, they win.
If at any time all of the Haunts are on the board, the players lose. Note this expansion does add two new Haunts giving you a bit more breathing room than the original game.
All of that comprises the basic rules for Creepy Cellar. As stated, these rules are considered to be at the Nightmare Difficulty level. The expansion rules also include two variants to make the game easier.
The Basic Game has you use the original eight treasures from Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters and has you remove the Locked Doors and the Draw and Shuffle cards from the Ghost Deck.
There is also an Advanced Game that has you use the original tokens again but now they have to be delivered so that they are placed on the matching number in the cellar. With this, you still have to deliver them in numerical order as well. You also keep the Locked Door cards and Draw and Shuffle cards in the deck.
Is it worth picking up Creepy Cellar for Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters?
Before getting into the gameplay of Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters Creepy Cellar, I have to start by raving about the component quality here. It’s the same as Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters, which is to be expected, but I’m still very impressed by the quality here. You get a nice mounted board, great looking miniatures, pre-punched tokens and excellent quality cards that will stand up to many plays. My kids especially loved the new card art and got a kick out of what each ghost is doing in each room on the cards.
Another thing to note is that all of the cards and tokens are language independent and use artwork and iconography to get across what they mean. There are a lot more tokens in this game, all with symbols on them, and we were able to pick up what they meant after referencing the book just once for each. For example, the “draw two ghost cards” curse shows two cards, the “you can’t use trap doors” curse shows a trap door with your standard circle and a line symbol over it.
Also, I think it’s only fair to mention, before getting into details about Creepy Cellar, just how much I love the base game Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters. It’s the best kids’ game I’ve ever played, a game that’s just as much fun for kids as it is for adults. It’s not only a game my kids enjoy playing on their own as well as with us, but a game that I will happily break out without the kids. This is a game that I’ve brought out to public play game night (for grown-ups) and have greatly enjoyed just playing with my regular game group.
As for this expansion, I was actually a bit surprised by what you get with Creepy Cellar. I was expecting a bunch of modules that you could add to the base game, especially since some of the contents of this box were originally released as stand-alone content.
I thought you would be able to add the Secret Passages in order to make the base game a bit easier or you could add the Ghost King to up the challenge level or you could potentially add both, as well as mix and match that with the other new additions to the game. While, in all honestly, you probably could do that, that’s not how this expansion is written to be played. Instead of a bunch of modules, you get a totally new mode of play, something that, to me, actually feels more like Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters 2.0 rather than an expansion to the original game.
While reading the rules for Creepy Cellar I really expected it to make Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters feel like a different game, yet somehow it doesn’t. Everything that was added fits in very well with the theme and the general flow of the original game and it still very much feels like you are playing that original game but with more added to it. There are more options on each turn, more potential paths to take and more to worry about with the curses, jinxed items, and of course the Ghost King.
One aspect I like about all of these new options is that turns are more interesting. With the base game most turns boil down to placing a ghost then moving your kid. Now and then you draw extra cards or the doors lock making things more difficult. With Creepy Cellar, on your turn you may be placing a ghost, you may get yanked through a trap door, the Ghost King might move, or doors may become locked. Along with this, the Draw and Shuffle cards are much less punishing. Due to the fact that the game now has more “special” cards in it, the odds of drawing two or three ghosts after one of these cards is much lower than in the base game. I think this is a good thing as those cards were really punishing in the Advanced and Nightmare versions of the base game.
What all of this does to the difficulty in Creepy Cellar is interesting, for many reasons. The deck distribution makes the draw cards less punishing, but now all the treasure tokens are cursed and each has a rather nasty drawback, which really amps the difficulty up, but then you have the Secret Passages that make these new treasure tiles easier to deliver. The Jinxed Items make it harder to collect the treasure tokens, but then also give you a way to unlock used Secret Passages. The Ghost King has to be watched, as it’s easy to have a cascade of haunts, but then the game gives you two more Haunts that you need to place before you lose the game.
The end result is that when using the full expansion rules for Creepy Cellar, Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters becomes a much harder game requiring a lot more teamwork. On the other hand, the expansion version is still significantly easier than Nightmare mode from the original. In all the times I’ve played Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters, with numerous different groups (all with different mixes of kids and adults), we’ve never managed to beat the game on full Nightmare Mode. Meanwhile, my daughter Grace and I were able to beat Creepy Cellar on Nightmare mode within our first handful of plays.
Overall I was very impressed by Creepy Cellar. It makes Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters feel more balanced, polished and more of a game for hobby gamers and less of a mass-market kids game. The Creepy Cellar expansion feels to me like it completes Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters.
The game is more interesting and the difficulty seems to be better balanced with this expansion. Now that I finally own Creepy Cellar I can’t see playing Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters without it.
For my final thoughts, to start off, if you have kids and you don’t have Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters yet you should fix that mistake as soon as possible. The same goes for people without kids that enjoy cooperative board games. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters is a great example of a thematic cooperative game that isn’t just about placing and removing cubes on a map. While it may be marketed to kids, this game has more than enough meat on it for hobby board gamers to enjoy, especially when you play at the higher difficulty settings.
As for Creepy Cellar, if you already own Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters and like it, even just a little bit, this is a must purchase (assuming you can find it). This is a great expansion, for a great game, that just adds in more to love. I would go so far as to say that Creepy Cellar completes Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters, making it a deeper game with more player options and more replayability.
I would also say that if you’ve played Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters and thought it was merely okay, something you would play but probably wouldn’t suggest, this may just be the thing to turn your play experience from okay to good if not great.
I love it when a kids game is designed in a way that makes it fun not just for children. I love being able to enjoy and play engaging games with my kids that also keep myself and my wife, and any other adults playing, interested. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters is a great example of a game that does this and the Creepy Celler Expansion manages to make this fantastic game even more interesting and engaging.
Be sure to also check out my What are some less well-known cooperative kids board games? article for some more great kids’ game recommendations.