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[Review] Spooks: the Haunting Mystery Game

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

Spooks: the Haunting Mystery Game (Hootie Games, 2002 - Paul Koch) is a bad Clue rip-off with a terrible rule problem. That, my friends, is all I should have to type; but in the interest of being thorough, I’ll continue on. I must confess that I’m not a big fan of Clue; I find the game concept interesting but really don’t like the dice involved, etc. I’d much rather play a pure deduction game, such as Sleuth; or a slightly chaotic but tremendously fun game, like Mystery of the Abbey. So I’m sure that Mr. Koch wanted to improve upon Clue, which is a worthy idea.

Sadly, however, the play just falls short, and the game simply isn’t fun, with a high possibility of a languishing ending. While the theme (that of a haunted house) sounds interesting, the game simply becomes an exercise to endure, and I can’t recommend it at all.

A board is set up in the middle of the table, depicting the front view of a haunted mansion. There are thirteen rooms in the house, each on one of four floors. There is a pair of rooms that connect each set of floors, and a spot in front of the parlor labeled “Start”, which is where each player places a pawn of their color. Three decks of cards are shuffled: A “Spooks” deck of twelve cards (Ghost, Vampire, etc.); a “Hauntings” deck of twelve cards (“Felt a Chill”, “Scream”, etc.); and a “Rooms” deck of twenty-six cards (Parlor, Kitchen, etc.) Each deck has two of each card in it. One card from each deck is secretly put into “The Book of Spells”, and the rest are shuffled into a common deck to be completely dealt to all players. A small plastic coffin (the dead pile) is placed near the board. All players are given a sheet with a checklist of each card, and one player is chosen to start.

On a player’s turn, they roll the die and move their token that many spaces, following the layout of the house in any direction. The player will then play one card in front of them: either any Spook or Haunting card, or a Room card that matches the room they are currently in. The player then asks a two-part question: one part which must match the room, and the other the card played (unless the card played is a room card, in which place the player can ask about any Spook or Haunting.) Examples of questions are “Did any player see the Mummy in the Hall?” or “Did anyone smell an Odor Upstairs?” Each player then, in turn order, must show one and only one card from their hand that matches either part of the question. After all players have played any cards, any pairs of cards on the table are immediately discarded. Each player should mark off these possibilities, as well as any other possibility they might deduce. Play then passes to the next player. When someone feels that they know the answer to the mystery, they must move to the correct room on their turn and make a three-part statement. (I saw a Floating Mad Scientist in the Dining Room). They check the Book of Spells, and if right, win the game! Otherwise they are out and must reveal all their cards to the other players.

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The game components are about par for an independently produced game. The pawns are of generic quality, but the die is special made with a ghost picture instead of a six. The plastic coffin to hold the dead cards is a neat idea, and everything fits well inside a small, sturdy box (about the size of Cartagena). The three different kinds of cards have different colored borders and have “okay” artwork on them. They’re of decent quality, although constant shuffling (highly doubtful) would probably wear the borders away. The pad of checklists in the game is useful, although not as cool as the one in the game Clue.

2.) Component Problems: The die has a ghost on it, but what does that mean? The rules make no mention of it, so I just assumed it was a six. It was not intuitive, therefore annoying. But this is a minor quibble. My biggest problem with the components was the board. Not only was it a misuse of space - there is a lot of wasted room on it - but also none of the rooms are labeled. Yes, the pictures match those on the cards, but how am I supposed to know the name of each? Some of them are obvious, like the kitchen, but others aren’t quite so evident. A player can give away vital clues by not knowing all the names of the rooms.

3.) Rules: The components weren’t as bad as the rules. Surprisingly the rulebook, while six pages long, didn’t really do much to explain the game. I would just tell people, “It’s like Clue”; and they would know more than the rulebook. It was formatted well but has some crucial problems. The website, www.spooks.us, recommends that players drawing both cards of the same item discard it at the beginning of the game. Folks, this isn’t an optional rule; it’s downright necessary. The game is simply unplayable without it; because if a player gets both cards of a certain type, it’s almost impossible for other players to find out. The game can “lock up” as a result, forcing players to guess the final answer. This is inexcusable and poor designing; I can’t believe no one caught this in a play test.

4.) Clue: Well, at first I was pleased about the board and its differences from Clue, hoping to eliminate the die factor. But it’s still there! And the method of eliminating cards is different but doesn’t really accomplish anything new. The game is simply Clue, repackaged in an inferior format with a different theme.

5.) Theme: Okay, I like the horror theme. But it’s just not enough in this game. For one, the funny artwork of the monsters doesn’t really line up with the stark artwork of the house; they clash, leaving the player a little confused in just what to think - is it comedy or horror? Don’t let the theme fool you; this game is just Clue version 2.0

6.) Fun Factor: Sadly, I searched and used my deductive reasoning to find fun in this game but failed. I really don’t think it’s there.

Don’t buy this game. Even if you enjoy Clue, this game is an inferior version with some component and rule mistakes. I would be amiss if I told you this one was worth buying - not even the components are worth salvaging for other games. So I’ll use this space to recommend good games - Mystery of the Abbey and Sleuth. They, my friends, are good games. This one isn’t.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
[Review] Spooks: the Haunting Mystery Game

Ouch.

Johan
Johan's picture
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Joined: 10/05/2008
[Review] Spooks: the Haunting Mystery Game

Thanks Tom

That is a game that I never will play.

// Johan

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