Slaughterville… the town which attracts psychos like a moth to a flame. So, like any sane and completely normal person, lets go there for a day trip! Yaaaaay! I call dibs on the first nutcase! Slaughterville is that place we all know from crazy person lore; Camp Crystal Lake, Elm Street, Sleepy Hollow, or South London on a Saturday night. I think anyone who has ever enjoyed a horror movie and watched it screaming “No you idiot! Don’t go upstairs!” has secretly always wanted to be in a horror movie to do things differently and Slaughterville is their chance to do exactly that.
Before I go too much into how Slaughterville panned out for me, I have to put out a caveat. The copy I am using for the review was a Deluxe Version of the Kickstarter game and not a retail copy and as such there may be some bits I reference in it which aren’t available in retail copies. However, Rubio Games have already said that they will be releasing an expansion which will include some of the “missing” material and do sell a deluxe version which I believe has nearly all of the kickstarter content in it already. Also, for anyone who does get a copy and really likes it, they have announced a sequel already!
Killer content, or Recycled tripe?
Slaughterville is a horror style adventure card game for 1-6 players. The idea is to choose your cliché character and then choose your nemesis to start the countdown to your impending doom.
To stay true to the Horror theme you start off by choosing your character type. As you’d expect from the horror movie trope, you have plenty of choices of hero or heroine such as The Goth, The Jock, The Geek and of course The Stoner too. Each character has a different useful effect which can be activated by spending a clue you gain during gameplay for a quick advantage. For example the Goth has an action called “Ambivalence” which means you can ignore 1 D3’s worth of damage because of the vast amount of not caring… Whatever! The Nerd has a special action called “Nerd Rage” which for a clue being spent you can add +1 to any attack die rolls, and The Stoner has a special action called “Special Ingredient” which allows you to heal 1 D6 of damage (assuming you can remember where you are of course). To give you a vast amount of choice and replay value there are actually 32 separate player characters to choose from all with different play styles and advantages.
Once you have chosen your character you then have the choice of enemy that you would like to face (none of which breach any copyright whatsoever, honest). Some of the choices open to you are The Body Snatchers, The Headless Horseman and The Slasher,also, some of the characters you have to face in Slaughterville have a pre-requisite place that you must have in your “places to visit” guide to getting murdered. For example, if you’re facing off against the slasher you have to have the cabins in the woods or if you have the Headless Horseman you need to have Sleepy Hollow available to you. Each enemy also has an accompanying deck of cards which act as their life gauge.
Finally, each enemy has a different set of winning conditions for the Players to meet but also each have their own winning conditions. For example, The (slaughterville) Slasher wins when they kill all of the players and the players win once they kill The Slasher (nice and easy!), but the Serial Killer acts completely differently by being shrouded in mystery and operating in the shadows. Against him the players can win by uncovering clues to see if they can find a pattern in their movements and the Serial Killer wins if they can avoid detection and leave town before their deck of cards is depleted.
In the box there are 9 different enemies to face, all with different winning conditions and there are 13 different locations to visit all with their accompanying deck of cards which have events, allies and weapons to find in them so the replay value is immense.
What’s in the box!?! (says Brad Pitt)
The card stock which has been used for the player boards and the decks themselves is fantastic quality. As well as the literal mound of cards and boards you get, you also get 12 dice, 6 meeples, some dual sided tokens which are used for both clues and damage and a first player token. The meeples are of a good standard too with the 5 coloured meeples used to represent the players and the black one used to represent the ever present bad guy. The dice… well they’re dice. There’s nothing special about them but they’re well made and aside from hating me during rolls they seem pretty normal, if maybe a smidge lightweight. The only other thing I could moan about is that the back of one of my location boards had come loose but that was resolved with a small amount of Pritt Stick.
I think this is also the only place I got extras which were Kickstarter exclusive and is not offered in the deluxe version of Slaughtervill on the Rubio Games site. I got a fantastic quality metal first player token and a very solid quality D3 die. Sorry, I had to brag a little bit since I did back it and everything. So there! Nur nur nur!
No slaughter without Laughter
Now my childish outburst is out of the way I’ll tell you how Slaughterville plays. Whoever you decide to play as and whoever you’re playing against you are still limited to being able to perform 2 character actions in a turn. This can be moving, exploring/encountering the deck in a location, healing or spending a clue to use your special ability. Once all of the players have completed their turn, the enemy (which is controlled by the first player) then takes their turn. If the enemy encounters any of the poor hapless Slaughterville wanderers then a round of single combat begins. Once the enemy has moved, you then flip a card from the enemy deck and (in my experience) let out a universal groan from all of the players as something really bad happens. Once the enemy turn is complete, the first player marker moves to the player on the left and play commences again.
*Chris’ tip of the day* The first player token is exceptionally important in Slaughterville. There have been other games where it’s not made a jot of difference, but it does when you’re wandering around this town of doom. Some of the location interactions and several of the encounters in the enemy deck involve interactions with the first player, and if you forget (like I often do) to move the first player token around then you’re likely to be hit heavily and often. I also found it much more interesting when simulating the evil person to roll a die to govern where they move. It throws the element of randomness into the movement and also means that anybody could be targeted by the bad guy.
Slaughterville has a lot in common with similar adventure type games in the way combat and other tests are resolved. Each character has a score related to their different attributes. Attack, Agility, Sanity/Mental fortitude, perception and health. If called upon to make a check for any of them then you will need to roll the amount of dice equal to your score. So if you’re called to make a sanity check and you have an attribute of 3, then you roll 3 dice. If any of the 3 dice land on a 5 or 6 then this is classed as a success. Combat is resolved in a very similar way where the enemy will have an attack value on their card or board and you will need to roll the amount of dice for their attack values and compare successes to your own.
Doom, Gloom and a fistful of Boom
Despite how desolate things look, you do have items and other goodies to help you along in the location decks. It seemed for a little while that all I was going to find during my encounters were varying levels of evil in different forms and coupled with the fact that the dice wouldn’t roll in my favour it all started to look a bit deadly. I managed to get over my gloomy outlook in the end and came out swinging… a crowbar that is.
Some things which turn up in the deck help as opposed to hindering you and can be a ray of sunshine after losing some suspect dice rolls. My entire game has turned around after picking up a good old fashioned 12 gauge. You can also find cards in the deck called “Safe for now” which enable you to instantly escape combat if you don’t fancy dying on any specific turn. Lastly, you can pick up allies which can help you along. Whilst playing just last night I picked up 3 (you can have as many as you find) including an eagle eyed sewer rat which improved my perception.
Assuming you take damage (and trust me, you will take damage) and you don’t want to die, you’re able to heal yourself without being punished for it. You can head back to the entrance of Slaughterville and then roll a D3 to heal or you can spend a clue to heal 1 damage at any time as a free action.
Slaughterville 2: Die Harder
Is Slaughterville worth the investment? Hell yes it is.
The gameplay is hugely varied and really good fun. A game can run on average from 60 to 120 minutes depending on the win conditions and it has more replay value than a Blu-Ray disc loaded with cute kitten videos. Every single time I have played I have had a blast and that’s only with 2 players. I think if the player count increases then you’re going to have less difficult decisions and not be punished as the first player as often. I am still yet to work out actually how difficult Slaughterville is.
The first time we played against The Slasher I got killed because I was a little over zealous in trying to kill her before she killed me, however, the second time we played against her we had to quite literally wait the deck out to win. But hey, a win is a win right! I am going to plough through the rest of the enemies and see which I like best and that is definitely going to take some time, but I for one will eagerly anticipate the sequel that they’re planning.
I am really hoping for anyone that wants a go that there’s enough interest generated for a distributor to pick it up in the UK as I believe that people that don’t have a copy are missing out. Oh yeah, and my name is on the box too! 😀
If you want to pick up Slaughterville without a wait, you can find it here: http://rubio-games.com/products-page/
Here are some gameplay videos of Slaughterville if you want to see it in action: http://rubio-games.com/slaughterville-videos/
More info is also available on the Board Game Geek page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/169102/slaughterville
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.