You can’t have a horror-themed gaming night without scary monsters and villains. The designers seem to do better when the franchise is older, however, as cashing in on recent movies can produce a mediocre, rushed product.
If you’re going to make a monster-themed game, however, you might as well go back to the originals. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, etc. are often considered the beginning of popular horror movies.
Ravensburger was smart in nabbing the IP to all of the Universal Classic Monsters, and they managed to produce a game worthy of them all. Following in the footsteps of hits like Villainous and Jaws, I’m glad to have found Horrified: Universal Monsters.
Horrified is a cooperative game set in a large village plagued by multiple monsters. Players try to rescue townsfolk from the evils walking the night, while simultaneously figuring out how to defeat the creatures.
Dracula haunts the night, luring victims to him, while an ancient curse awakens the Mummy. The Wolfman is on the prowl until a cure is found, and Frankenstein’s monster rampages in search of his Bride.
Can the heroes of our story protect the villagers from the rampaging foes? Are they able to collect the resources necessary to defend themselves while defeating unnatural enemies?
Or will the heroes be lost to a horrifying tale, as the forces of darkness take over?
In Horrified, players portray Heroes, each with their traits, trying to collect Items, rescue Villagers, and defeat Monsters. They win if they beat all the Monsters present, but lose if the Terror becomes too high or they run out of time.
Each Hero has a number of Action Points and usually a Special Ability, through which they fulfill their goals. Examples range from the Explorer, who can move all over the board, to the Archaeologist, who can easily reach Items.
Items are divided into three Types (Physical, Intellectual, and Spiritual) and have a variable Strength. They’re used not only to defend against the Monsters but also to perform tasks that help defeat them.
Villagers spawn occasionally and need to be escorted to specific spaces, granting a Perk if successful. If a Monster hits a Villager, however, they’re lost, and the Terror level rises.
Monsters have their own cards, with the rules for how they behave and what it takes to defeat them. They’re activated by a deck of cards, which determine how they move (and attack) and if there are other effects.
Horrified is divided into two phases: the Hero Phase and the Monster Phase.
During the Hero Phase, the current player uses their Action Points to perform a variety of activities, including Moving themselves and Villagers, Picking Up or Sharing Items, using Special Actions, or Advancing tasks on a Monster’s card.
As mentioned, you want to collect Items that help you complete Monster-related tasks (as well as with which to defend yourself). You also want to try and keep Villagers as far away from the creatures as possible, hopefully returning them to their personal safe space.
During the Monster Phase, a single card is drawn from the deck. This card spawns new Items, causes specific Monsters to act (or Villagers to spawn), and shows which Monsters move (and possibly attack) that round.
Monsters always move toward the nearest Heroes or Villagers, and attack by rolling dice. Heroes can defend themselves by discarding Items, but lone Villagers are lost, so protecting them is essential.
Horrified continues until either all the Monsters are defeated, or one of two events happen.
If the Terror level rises to its maximum, through a variety of ways (but mostly lost Villagers), the players lose. Similarly, if the Monster deck ever runs out of cards, the Heroes took too long, and the village is lost.
Game difficulty is determined by how many Monsters are present, as well as how tough they are to defeat. Each Monster has a different Complexity level, so players can adjust numbers and combinations to create dozens of experiences.
Horrified’s difficulty also scales with the number of players, as the Monsters receive a single Phase per person.
Solo players may take longer to complete actions, but also have more time and less Monster activity. More massive games may have more Actions to save Villagers and defeat Monsters but will have more active enemies and burn through the deck faster.
Visually, Horrified is a beautiful game with bright colors and exciting artwork, created in the style of classic horror movies. The font is a little hard to read at times, due to size and style, but thematic and not a deal-breaker.
The rules are clear and provide plenty of excellent examples, including pages dedicated to the specifics about each Monster. I also appreciate the component quality, from the Monster miniatures to the thick cardboard.
If there’s one notable critique, it’s that, even with a variety of Monster combinations, there are still only six Monsters overall. With gameplay often remaining similar (moving, collection, and actions), this means the game might wear thin after a while.
This criticism was similar to Villainous, however, and they solved it by producing new expansions. Horrified may be able to do the same thing, bringing in new Universal monsters like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera.
Ravensburger has continued to publish quality games, and Horrified is one more to add to its list. It’s an excellent game for horror fans, dedicated gamers, or just a Halloween gathering.
The gameplay is easy to learn and provides an excellent variable difficulty, regardless of how many players you have. The design is also well done, from artwork to components, and it looks as fun as it plays.
Take a chance and see what horrifying tales you can spin place in a village plagued by the supernatural.
Horrified: Universal Monsters is on shelves now. 1-5 players, 60 minutes, Ages 10+.
I give Horrified a screaming 4 villagers out of 5.
(We’d like to thank Gamers-Corps in Ellicott City for providing us the space to playtest and demo this game!)