Game: Ghost Stories
Publisher: Repos Productions
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Ghost Stories has a reputation as one of the hardest co-ops out there to win. We like to think we’re pretty good at co-operative games, having a resounding win in Pandemic Legacy, and really pushing the difficulty in Flash Point: Fire Rescue and Forbidden Desert, but Ghost Stories is a killer. We have won Ghost Stories twice and if I’m honest I think the first time we were let off because it was a teaching game, so that doesn’t count. I normally like to win, so how has this affected my opinion of Ghost Stories?
In Ghost Stories, your goal is to defend a village from a hoard of ghosts looking to haunt the village. Players play as Taoist monks who are defending the village. To win the game you must work together to defeat the individual ghosts and work your way through the deck until you find the ‘big bad’ who will take a lot of effort to defeat to win the game. More likely, you will lose the game, either by 3 village tiles becoming haunted or all of your characters dying with no hope of being restored to life.
Each player has a board with a special ability and 3 slots for ghost cards. On your turn you draw a ghost from a deck and place it on the player board of corresponding colour in a position where you think it is most easy to deal with. When the enter the game some ghosts have negative abilities, such as locking dice or making more ghosts appear, so these are also dealt with. Some cards will also come with a haunting ghost miniature who advances at the start of that players turn to try and haunt the village. The active player then chooses to move one square, orthogonally or diagonally within the village and either fight a ghost or activate the ability on the village tile.
|The game set up. The central 9 villager tiles are modular and their order is randomised at the beginning of the game. Each player board is double sided, giving a choice of two special abilities.|
Fighting ghosts is the only way to win, since when your player board is full you start to lose health and the whole team will soon die if ghost numbers are not controlled. In a standard fight you roll 3 dice and try and match the number and colour of symbols on the ghost. If the dice are not in your favour you do have a few back-ups of coloured tokens you’ve collected, but a failed fight with a ghost can be a wasted turn. Some of the abilities on the board will also help you to kill off ghosts or replenish your supplies of tokens to try and prepare you for future fights, but you have to balance this with your temptation to push your luck and take on ghosts.
|The variety of Incarnations of Wu-Feng. In the easy game one of these will be the boss that you encounter 10 cards before the game end. (Promo card of Steven Qi-Gal also pictured)|
It’s testament to how much we like the game, that it’s hit the table so many times, even though it’s definitely best with four players. We’ve tried the game with two and playing by the rules in the book with two dummy players just seems to up the difficulty too much. Playing simply with two characters each didn’t seem quite so fun either so now we play exclusively with 4 and it still gets table time because so many people enjoy it.
The game definitely beats you down and sometimes it does feel that no matter how well you pay there is no plausible path to victory. This is probably too, but those very rare victories, even on the game’s easiest setting do keep me coming back for more to try and taste victory again. The game is very strongly co-operative, especially when played with certain player powers which allow you to help other players. I can see that it could suffer from the alpha player dictating everyone’s actions but more often than not we’ve found it so hard to know which is the optimal move that Ghost Stories does promote a discussion of the options and a final decision by the active player.
Component quality is great with nice thick tiles making the modular board. All of the main pieces are miniatures and it’s a good sign for a game’s longevity in our collection when Amy starts to talk about painting them, like she has with Ghost Stories. For a truly co-operative game that provides a massive challenge, then you can’t go wrong with Ghost Stories, so long as you don’t need to play as though you can optimise the game to win. The Yellow Meeple gives Ghost Stories an 8/10.