Horrified is a new cooperative horror-themed board game. In it, one to five players are battling the classic Universal Studios Monsters including Frankenstein’s Monster, his bride, The Wolf Man, Dracula, the Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and/or the Invisible Man.
Horrified plays differently depending on which monsters you face and features a sliding difficulty scale, making it accessible to a variety of gaming groups and experience levels.
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A look at what you get in the box for Horrified from Ravensburger:
Horrified was published in late 2019 by Ravensburger. It was designed by Prospero Hall. The artist isn’t credited, which is a shame because I really dig the art style in this game. It is a cooperative horror-themed game for one to five players with a playtime that can run from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the player count and the difficulty you choose to play at.
Immediately upon opening your copy of Horrified the first thing you are presented with is a warning. The type that was common during the trailers for classic horror movies. One that warns you that you may not want to continue. I’m not going to quote it here but I thought that it was a fantastic touch and a great way to put players into the right mindset. The warning is on the back of the board and when I put my game away after playing I try to always remember to put the board in last so that these words are the first thing people see when the box gets opened.
The board itself is three-fold and mounted. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a mounted board like this. They are less common nowadays, though there’s nothing wrong with them. The board itself depicts a town and a bunch of locations within it. You’ve got all of the horror movie favourites here like the Camp, the Docks, the Tower, the Museum, etc. There are also some water locations, which can only be used by The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The instructions are clearly written with nice large text and a ton of examples, featuring pictures of actual gameplay components. This is one of the better rulebooks I’ve read recently and written well enough that you could actually sit down with the game for the first time and be playing in under half an hour if not faster. Reading this book out loud wouldn’t be a terrible way to learn the game, though as I talked about on my blog post about teaching board games, avoid this if possible.
Cardboard punch boards for all of the items, the character and villager pawns, the character boards and various other tokens are of a really solid thickness. They were all cut well and punched easily. In the box, you will find a cardboard box insert, that while not fancy works well enough to separate out the components.
There are three custom dice included with the game. These feature three burst symbols representing a “hit”, an exclamation point that represents the monster being activated in some way, and two blank sides. The monsters themselves are represented by unpainted but colourful miniatures. These are decent miniatures. Nothing like the miniatures you will find in a CMON game like Cthulhu Death May Die, they aren’t that detailed, but still nice. They remind me a bit of something that would come out of a tube from a toy store versus your typical hobby board game miniatures.
There is a cloth bag for holding all of the item tiles in the game, this is a really well made and nice black bag. There is a large oversized card for each of the monsters. The cardstock for this is a little thinner than I would have liked. It’s that Terraforming Mars player board thickness that seems to be more and more common in games. Each of these cards has the specific rules for each monster (or pair of monsters in the case of Frankenstein’s Monster and The Bride). On the back of each card is the setup rules for all of the monsters.
Finally, there is a pack of cards. There are two separate decks. One is a monster deck that dictates how the monsters act each turn and the other is a set of perks that give the players some special advantages they can use and earn during play.
Overall I was very impressed by the quality and even more so the look of this game. The artwork is fantastic and features new unique hand drawn artwork for the town, the characters and all of the monsters. Everything is very clear to read and easy to see from across the table. The iconography used is extremely clear. Even the fact that each of the miniatures is in a different colour is tied in and is mechanically important during the game. For example, Dracula’s board is mostly red. Monster cards featuring Dracula are red. The chits you put on the board for his coffins are red. All of the Dracula Icons show up in red and the miniature for Dracula is Red.
For a good look at what comes in the box, check out our Horrified Unboxing Video.
How does Horrified play?
Though it may not be evident when reading the rulebook, the main thing players are doing in a game of Horrified is moving around the town board collecting item tokens from the various locations. These item tokens come in three colours, each representing a specific type of tool for battling the monsters. Red tokens represent weapons, blue tokens represent study, science and technology and yellow tokens represent religion and mysticism.
Players are trying to grab the right types of tools and use them in the right way while also trying to protect and save the innocent villagers. The way tools are used is dependant on which monsters are being featured in that game. This is the neatest part of Horrified, as each monster requires players to collect tools of different types or from different places and then use them in unique ways to both make the monsters vulnerable and to eventually drive them away.
The players win if they drive off the monsters. They lose if the terror level in the town gets too high. The main way this goes up is when a villager or character is defeated by a monster. Players can also lose if they run out of cards in the monster deck.
On a player’s turn, they will get a number of actions based on what character they are playing (these are determined randomly). Actions include moving around the board, guiding villagers around the board, picking up tools, trading tools with other players at the same location, activating tools to advance a monster’s task (these are unique to each monster), using a character’s special action (each character has a unique one) and finally defeating a monster (if they are eligible to be defeated).
After a player has taken their actions you draw one card from the monster deck. These cards indicate a number of new item tiles to place on the board, drawn randomly from the cloth bag. Then a special event will happen, but only if the monster shown on the card is in play or if it’s a town event. Town events mostly bring Villagers into play. Villagers have a starting location and place they want to get to on the map. If the players can lead the villagers to their destination they get a perk card. Perk cards give very powerful extra actions to the players.
At the bottom of each monster card is a list of icons that indicate which monsters will move and attack this turn. This could be anywhere from one to four monsters. During the game, there will always be one monster that is Frenzied. If the Frenzied icon shows on the bottom of the card the Frenzied monster will act this turn (and act for a second time if they have already activated). Monsters move towards the nearest hero or villager (preferring heroes) and attack if in or entering the same square with either. Hits on heroes can be cancelled out by discarding any item, but villagers have no defence against monsters.
If a player hero is defeated, it’s not a huge deal. There is no player elimination. Instead, the terror track moves up and the player starts their next turn from the hospital. Defeated villagers are removed from the game and also advance the terror track.
When attacking, if a monster rolls a “!” something special happens. What happens is based on which monster is acting. For example, Dracula uses his Hypnotic Gaze to draw the active character to his space. For the Invisible Man, he chases off after an innocent villager. Each monster is unique.
How you defeat each monster is also unique. Every monster is going to require you to collect tools. It’s what you do with them that changes. For the Invisible Man, you need to collect items from specific locations around the map and deliver them to the police precinct. Thematically this represents gathering evidence of the Invisible Man’s existence. Once you have enough evidence you help the police capture the Monster by using red weapon tools of sufficient strength. Every monster is like this, in that you need to do one thing to make them vulnerable and then do another thing to defeat them. What this does is make playing against every monster feel unique.
To show off this asymmetry, let’s talk about Dracula. To defeat him you first have to smash his four coffins that are scattered around the city. To smash a coffin you are going to need red (weapon) tools to get past his minions and get to the coffins. Once all four coffins are defeated, someone will need to collect mystical and religious items of sufficient strength and go and battle with Dracula himself (aka be in his space) to finally drive him away.
I’ll let you discover how to defeat the other monsters on your own.
If players manage to drive off enough monsters before they run out of cards in the monster, or the terror level maxes out, they win. The number of monsters to be defeated is set by the players at the start of the game. For the first game, the rules recommend you fight The Creature From the Black Lagoon and Dracula. For an easy game, it recommends playing against two randomly selected monsters. A normal game has the players facing off against three random monsters and a hard game features four classic Universal Studios Monsters.
Overall thoughts on Horrified the Universal Monsters board game from Ravensburger
I have to thank the tabletop gaming internet buzz for me knowing about Horrified. This is a game I wouldn’t have given a second look if it weren’t for the number of people in my social media feeds talking about how much fun they’d been having playing Horrified.
I had contacted Ravensburger to request a review copy of their new Minecraft: Builders and Biomes game, which I reviewed last week. When they agreed to send me that, they also asked if there were any other games of theirs I was interested in checking out and that’s when I remembered all of the good things I had been hearing about Horrified. So, I asked to check that out as well and was pleasantly surprised when they agreed.
I was even more surprised by how much I enjoyed playing Horrified. I first broke it out at our Windsor Extra Life charity gaming event. I actually punched the game and read the instructions for the first time at the event, just before playing. That’s how I know just how quick this game is to get to the table and how great the instructions are for helping you get it to the table quickly.
That first game we had four players with the two suggested starting monsters and it went really well. We should have lost the game except for the fact that we cheated. Cheating is something that we actually encourage at our charity gaming events. It’s one of the ways we raise money for charity through gaming, people pay $1 to re-roll a die, draw a card, etc. In this case, we raised a few bucks saving villagers from Dracula.
Since that time I’ve played at a few different player counts and with different sets of monsters and different monster counts. At this point, I would say that the two monster game is probably a bit too easy for most gaming groups. Sure, use two when first teaching the game but move on to three as soon as possible. Defeating four monsters seems somewhat impossible at this point but I do plan on trying to win at that setting someday.
What I really love about Horrified is how the overall feel of the game changes based on what monsters you face. The designer did a fantastic job of making each monster unique. I also really dig how well the theme is integrated. Sure you are just collecting red, yellow and blue chits, but it makes sense that you would need weapons to fight off Dracula’s minions and mystic items to finally drive him away. Even the names of the items match where they end up getting placed on the board. Torches and pitchforks are easy to pick up at the barn but one of the only places you are going to find a pistol is at the police precinct.
I’ve played Horrified with long time gamers and with a couple who’ve never seen a hobby board game in their life. It’s gone over well with gamers of all experience levels. There aren’t any really odd or unique mechanics here. Everything is stuff that people who play mass market games will be comfortable with, except maybe the cooperative aspect.
It’s the cooperative aspect of Horrified that leads me to the only real potential problem I see with this game. Due to the fact that all information is open and each turn every player can see all of the options open to every other player, this game very easily lends itself to quarterbacking. A player with a dominant personality can take over the group or end up playing the game for one or more other players. This isn’t a problem unique to Horrified, it’s very common in other cooperative games like Pandemic, but it is something I want people to be aware of before buying this game.
Other than the possibility of quarterbacking, I like pretty much everything else about Horrified. Sure the monster boards could have been a little thicker, but everything else in this box is so well produced, well made, and thematically appropriate, I can overlook it. At some point I may take the time to laminate those monster boards, just to make sure they last.
I have to say I’m very impressed by Horrified. I’ve had a great time playing it each time it hits the table. I love the asymmetric nature of the game and the way it changes both how the game feels and plays depending on what monsters are in play. While it may seem easy only facing two Universal Monsters the real tension and fun of the game comes out when facing three at once.
Horrified is a good licenced board game. Something that used to be rare in the gaming industry but that I am glad to see is becoming more and more common. If you are looking for a great one to five player co-op I don’t think you can go wrong with Horrified.
Have you battled the Universal Monsters in Horrified? What’s your favourite combination of monsters to face? Have you managed to defeat four at once yet? Let us know in the comments below!