Blockbuster Party Game

Blockbuster Party Game

The VHS styled cover for Blockbuster!

As Conan said about the best things in life,’ pick your movies, see them in the comfort of your home, and hear the amazing stereo sound!’… well, he said SOMETHING like that.

Tragically, the days of the video shop have passed, and I have to say, even though I prefer to buy my physical media rather than rent them, I do miss walking up and down the aisles of my local Videoezy, Videomonde, Blockbuster or even the good ol’ smaller solo video stores, though I was usually there to raid their ex-rentals.

Blockbuster is the name that everyone remembers more than any, I’m sure, and this game appears to be a trivia game, which can unfortunately squeeze out people who aren’t big movie fans, but it’s not.

The Blockbuster Party Game is a party game for 4 to 10 people, who in my family’s experience, plays best with 8, and it’s not a trivia game, but it is about movies.

The game is played in 2 teams, in 2 rounds. In the first round, a card is drawn from a deck titled ‘Head to Head’ and from each team, a representative is chosen to play in this round. On the face of each Head to Head card is a description of a movie, like ‘Movies with a Dragon’ or ‘Movies with a Dog’ or ‘Movies with a Giant Monster’ etc, and over the course of 15 seconds, timed with a supplied timer, each representative has to give an example of a movie that fits the description. For example, in that last example, King Kong, Godzilla, Gamera and their Kaiju comrades. The two go back and forth with titles, and the person who hasn’t answered when timer goes off is the loser.

Examples of the head to head cards

The winner of the round now draws 6 Movie cards, which are quite simply, coloured-coded by genre cards with the names of movies on them. The winner then picks the 3 cards that they think will be the easiest for them to communicate to their team, each card being picked to reveal in three different ways:

One Word – where you can only describe the film with a single word.

Quote It – describe the movie with a single quote from the film.

Act It – you have to perform a charade of the movie title.

Examples of the movie cards

The winner then has 30 seconds to perform those actions on the cards, flipping them over if the team guess correctly. If they do it in LESS than the 30 seconds, they can then attempt the opponents cards!

It’s then the opposing teams turn, and they have the same rules. If they finish quick enough and the opposing team still have face down movie titles, they can attempt to steal them.

There is also a special rule where once per turn, if one side has three of any colour genre, they can steal an opponents card for their collection.

These rounds continue back and forth until one side has collected a full set of the 8 coloured genre cards.

Ready to play!

The game is fun, and as it’s not a trivia game, an average to below average knowledge of movies is enough. The films picked are blockbusters (geddit) or well-known films so there’s very few opportunities of someone not knowing the answer.

The design of the game is quite thematic with the board being the car park outside a Blockbuster, there’s a street sign that performs no purpose other than to represent the theme more. The supplied timer is a clever gadget that runs for 15 seconds with a single touch, and 30 seconds when held down to activate.

The whole thing is quite gimmicky in its presentation but it also has problems. The replica video case doesn’t close completely, the car park board doesn’t lay completely flat and the cards are not great quality.

Also, it being a party game, it will sit in your games cupboard until you have enough people to play it, which is a minimum of 4! I consistently only have 3 players playing so it’s hard for me to get it to the table.

It’s a fun game and there are heaps of options (200 hundred movie cards!) so the game has quite a fair bit of longevity, especially if not played over and over with the same group. There is also two different music versions of the game: a UK version called Top of the Pops and a U.S. one called MTV: The Throwback Music Party Game. All three were published by Big Potato Games in 2020.

Score: ***

Psycho Killer Card Game

Psycho Killer

The amazing box for Psycho Killer

David Byrne from Talking Heads once said;’ Psycho Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est, fafafafa fafafafafa better, run, run, run, run run away.’ It doesn’t mean anything in regards to this card game review, but he did say it… on SEVERAL occasions!!

There’s nothing I love more than a tidy little card game that is easy to learn, and the teach can be taught in minutes. The reason I like this is that it’s nice for my wife to have a card game or two in her hand bag, and when at the pub, it can be whipped out for a quick few rounds.

Unfortunately Psycho Killer from Escape Tabletop Games doesn’t come in one of those little boxes, but to their credit, they have put the base game into a box that will eventually fit the expansions if you choose to buy them, and I guess if you want to, you can just throw the original deck into a smaller box for travel. Also, and I have to point this out before I go any further, the box is in an awesome replica of a VHS tape, which is very thematic for the game. It just proves that even though I think I’m nostalgia proof, I definitely am not!

(NB: the expansions to date are a zombie expansion, another called Gratuitous Violence and a drinking game addition called ‘Bloody Mary’.)

If one of these comes out of the deck, you’re all in trouble.

The game does fit that previous criteria though, as the short instructions take minutes to read, and the play explanation takes even less, so if you do decide to whip it out and introduce it to people who haven’t played it before, you’ll be up to your guts in no time. This game is a clear example of it not being the size that counts, but what you do with it instead.

In Psycho Killer, you play potential and eventual victims of a slasher who wants you dead. The winner is determined by who has the less injuries at the end of the game, which is determined by when the fifth psycho killer card is drawn from the draw pile.

The regular cards

Play is simple. To set up, take the cards with black backgrounds (these are the psycho killer and bad event cards) out of the deck and deal 7 cards to each player. Shuffle those black cards back into the deck and place that deck as a draw pile in the middle of the table.

Each turn, players play as many cards as they can from their hand, and finish their turn by drawing a card from the top of the deck to replenish their hand. If the card is a psycho killer card, they, and everyone else at the table have to play all their Injury cards, which determines how many points they have, and after the 5th psycho killer is drawn, the person with the lowest amount of injuries, wins!

Simple right? The curliness of the game comes from the fact that the other cards you play can see you moving your injuries to other players, checking the cards in the deck to see if you can avoid them, reversing the state of play and other such devious things that help you avoid injury. There is also a catch up mechanism too: if you have more than 10 injury points during the game, you are ‘left for dead’ and it gives you an advantage of being able to hold some of the black cards (not the psycho killer) in your hand until it’s strategically better for you to play.

I really like the theme of the game, and the fact that the design of it all fits well in with the VHS generation, and there is plenty of horror in-jokes or Easter eggs or whatever they are called these days for the big horror fan, and even the minor one. The good thing is that the theme doesn’t disturb the gameplay so if you aren’t a horror or movie fan, like my wife, it doesn’t get in the way of a fun game. I guess this also means the theme isn’t important, but I admit I did purchase this game because of it.

A game of Psycho Killer in progress

If I am to criticise this game for one thing, it’s the ‘when to play’ code on the cards. Thematically, using the emblems for ‘fast forward’, ‘play’, ‘eject’ etc to describe when each card has to be played is smart, but it’s not immediately accessible, and those casuals who aren’t big movie fans will ask on several occasions what it means, so be prepared for those questions!

All in all, Psycho Killer is a quick fun family game with a very non-family theme. Game length is random as you never know when those psycho killer cards are going to pop up, but the cards make it tactically fun as you cross and double cross your friends and family, allowing them to get more injuries than what you have, aiming towards that lower score at the end.

Score: ****

Jekyll Vs Hyde

Jekyll Vs Hyde

The cover of Jekyll Vs Hyde

Of ‘classic’ genre literature, it’s probably H. P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are the most represented in board games. For Doyle, it’s the puzzle aspect of Sherlock Holme’s stories that make for a good gaming cornerstone. As for Lovecraft, unfolding mysteries filled with bizarre aliens and maddening monsters make for a lot of fun too.

Sure, there and games revolving around Mary Shelly’s The Modern Prometheus (better known as Frankenstein) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but this little pocket-sized gem, Jekyll Vs Hyde is a card game based upon the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

This game is a tactical, trick-taking game and is about the internal turmoil that Dr. Jekyll constantly goes through every day, and how he has to maintain an even balance to retain control of his body, whereas Mr. Hyde just wants chaos.

A game set-up and ready to play

This game is played with a simple game board that represent the distance between insanity and sanity for Jekyll and Hyde, with a single miniature representing both of him, that starts on one side of the board, and through point scoring slowly moves across the board. Hyde’s mission is to get the token all the way to madness whereas Jekyll’s is to maintain balance. The game is played across three rounds.

The game starts with the Hyde player issuing ten cards to each player, and returning the other cards to the box. The cards come in three suites, greed (green), wrath (red) and pride (purple) and on each turn of the first round, the Jekyll player goes first, putting down one card, and then the Hyde player playing one.

The first colour that is put down sees a token put onto the board as the ‘weakest’ colour, and as other cards are played, each following colour becomes stronger.

Basically, the winner of each round is determined as such: if the Hyde player puts down the same colour, the highest of the two cards wins. If the Hyde player puts down a stronger colour, as determined above, the stronger colour wins. If someone puts down a potion card, the colour the other player put down activates the special abilities of the ‘strength’ tokens, which could be swapping hands, resetting the strength cards or taking one winning pair with the other player, and the highest number wins.

Each time a player wins a trick, they win the two cards and put them to one side. At the end of the full round, the amount of pairs are compared, and the marker moves along the board the amount of spaces that the difference is between the two scores. For example, if the Hyde player has 7 and the Jekyll player has 3, the marker will move 4 spaces.

The card art is absolutely fantastic

This is repeated 2 more times, with the Hyde player winning if the marker hits the other end of the board, and Jekyll wins if it does not.

From a tactical point of view, this is a quirky little thing as far as it’s gameplay is concerned. The Jekyll player wants there to be as little distance between the two scores, and so they may have to sacrifice winning hands to equalise the scores, but the Hyde player wants as much distance between the two scores as possible. This makes the game very much a game of concentration as you calculate how close or far your opponents score is.

The design is very thematic as well. The images of anguish and terror on the cards are thematically on point, and the board is low-key so as not to distract from its purpose. The marker, a bust of Jekyll on one side and Hyde on the other is a weighty little metal thing that makes the game a little more lux than it’s price may suggest.

The amazing metal mini-bust of Jekyll and Hyde

It’s a really fun game that is thematically on point, and not just a great addition to any gamer’s collection, but will also slip nicely into any coffin-shaped handbag, for a trip to the pub or a friend’s place.

Score: ****

Unspeakable Words

Unspeakable Words

The box art for Unspeakable Words

A horror literature fan who might not be aware of the love of horror in the board game community might casually ask,” Are there any games that feature the works of H. P. Lovecraft?”

Most board game fans would answer,” Shut up, sit down and buckle up because oh boy, are there board games based on the worlds of Mr. Lovecraft!!”

Games based on the works of Lovecraft are so common that I’d almost be inclined to say he’s more appreciated by board game fans than almost any other. I have a modest collection of board games (about 500) and I believe that in that pile of boxes, littered throughout my house, a good 50 of them are based, sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously on the works of Lovecraft!

These games range from Dungeons and Dragons styled Role Playing Games like Call of Cthulhu, to miniature storytelling games like Mansions of Madness or Cthulhu: Death May Die, to adaptations of other games like the Love Letter variant, Lovecraft Letter and small, quick to play card games, like this one, Unspeakable Worlds.

Unspeakable Words has a great objective, and I’ll quote the instruction manual,” Be the first to reach at least 100 points without going insane.”

How could one NOT want to play that?!?

Cthulhu tokens

At the start of the game, each player is given 5 Cthulhu tokens, which represents their mental state, i.e.: full sanity, and 7 letter cards, with the remainder of the cards forming a draw pile in the centre of the table.

The game is then quite simple: form a word from the cards in your hand, and then try to roll, on a 20-sided die, equal to or over the score that the cards add up to, which is known as a ‘sanity check’. The way the cards have their score made is by how many angles the letter has, for example, ‘O’ has no angles, so it’s 0 points, but a ‘Y’ has three angles, so its point score is 3.

Card art

Every time you make a word, that word can never be repeated in this game, and if, when you roll the D20, you roll under the score, you lose one sanity point… the little Cthulhu tokens I referred to earlier.

The player will score whether they lose a sanity token or not and will continue to do so until they run out of tokens. Here’s where the fun comes in though: a player who has lost all bar one of their tokens can make up words, because the almost insane might believe ANYTHING is a word and will score for whatever ever gibberish they create if they can roll over the score.

The person who wins the game is either the last one with a token left, or whomever makes a successful sanity check after breachi8ng the 100-point mark.

This game is a lot of fun for people who love word games, and luckily, me and my family do! If you DON’T like word games, this probably isn’t for you no matter how much of a Lovecraft fan you are, this is especially true as the theme is quite thinly laid over the game.

If you do love word games, then you will probably love this game as it is a lot of fun.

The Cthulhu pieces are very thematic, and the cards all refer to various creatures and characters from Lovecraft’s mythos (D is for Deep One, for example), and I should also mention there are several wild cards that make the game occasionally quite spicy! If I am to criticise this game on one thing it IS the art on the cards, which are not to my taste at all.

Once again, if you aren’t a word game type, then this probably will be frustrating and awful, but lovers of such fun will quite like it. Recommended.

Score: ***1/2

Uh-oh!

Board Game Review: Cthulhu Gloom

Cthulhu Gloom

Gloom is a card game created by Keith Baker and published in 2004; its an amusing game where the players have a tableau of cards, representing ‘their’ family, and require a desire to kill them, but not without making them suffer first… sound like your cup of poisoned tea? The general gaming populous must have also decided as it was their cup of tea as well, as it has five expansions, and three themed decks, Gloom in Space (a sci-fi version), Gloom of Thrones (a Game of Thrones version) and this one, Cthulhu Gloom, based very loosely on the work of horror/ sci-fi author Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

The way a person wins this game is by having the lowest, negative score possible, which is done by having awful events happen to your family of cards, and then killing them whilst at their lowest. A player cannot ‘kill’ one of their family members if they don’t have a negative score, so the other players must provide good events on their opponents families to stop them from being able to kill them off. The first person to kill their entire family wins.

Seriously, Gloom the movie would potentially be hilarious.

The rules of this game are very simple. In front of each player is a selection of cards representing members of a family, and each player has a hand of 5 cards and on each turn, can perform 2 actions: play cards to their or other’s families, following any or all instructions upon those cards, or discard cards, drawing more cards up to the starting hand of five at the end of each turn.

The cards you’ll mostly be playing are cards that add or subtract points from each character, which is how the game is won: by having the lowest possible score. You can also throw an ‘untimely death’ card onto a character, which is how you can either make points for yourself, or beat another player by stopping a character from ‘earning’ more misfortune, as there is nothing worse than death… right?

The really amazing thing about this game is that the cards are all transparent so when you are playing a card, the negative points act as an overlay, which means every negative or positive that can be seen accumulate to make your score, and you can drop the score of another player by giving fortune cards which have positive points which may cover the players negatives point score.

The most fun can be had with this game by actually reading aloud some of the misfortunes that happen, like ‘minced by Mi-Go’, will occasionally bring a smile to everyone’s faces, especially those who are familiar with Lovecraft’s work.

Atlas Games are obviously aware of some of the unfortunate opinions of when Lovecraft wrote his stories, and so some characters have been give Mad Magazine styled alter-egos so as not to offend.

All in all, Gloom is a fun game for a quick throw around or a games night party-starter, and those who love a Lovecraft theme (like me) this game is an entertaining distraction that can still be macabre fun in an Addam’s Family style for those who aren’t fans of his work.

Score: ***