Back in 2019 the original Horrified gave families a frightfully good time at Halloween as well as putting design house Prospero Hall on the collective board gaming map. Its recipe of players cooperating to send various monsters from classic Universal movies back to their graves was enough of a hit to spawn a sequel, Horrified: American Monsters. Now it’s back for a third scary season running, with a move to the ancient world with Horrified: Greek Monsters (see it at Target).
What’s in the Box
Like all Prospero Hall games, Horrified: Greek Monsters has a quote printed on the back of the board to greet players when they first open the box. It’s a lovely touch that hasn’t been spoiled through familiarity. For this game, it’s more a scene-setting exercise, explaining that you’ve been chosen by the gods to rid the world of mythological monsters.
Beneath the fold-out board are the rest of the components. These consist of several punch-out sprues of cardboard tokens and character sheets, tracking sheets, and plastic figures for each of the game’s six monsters in various lurid colors, some nice dice in marbled blue, plastic stands for the cardboard standee figures and two decks of cards. There’s also a bag to store and draw the item chips from which, in contrast to the usual drawstring pouch supplied for this purpose, is a much more utilitarian self-standing affair.
Art-wise, these are solid, with an interesting style that mixes the classical art of the game’s theme with a comic-book vibe that’s common to the whole series. It doesn’t always work: the Hoplite character in particular looks bizarre, an armored punk rocker with a mohawk in place of a crested helmet. And in terms of quality, the card decks and monster sheets are a real disappointment. They’re very thin and flimsy to the point of being hard to handle, and they won’t stand up to repeat plays without some plastic protection, although that is in line with previous entries in the series.
Rules and How it Plays
Horrified: Greek Monsters retains the core of its predecessor and will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played the original Horrified. Players must work together, spending actions to move across the board and collect items, in the hope of defeating monsters released from Pandora’s Box. Items can be spent either to protect yourself from monster attacks or to work toward banishing a monster from the board. One new addition in this version is the concept of lairs, four tokens you place face-down on the board and spend an item to flip face-up, and which are integral to defeating some of the foes.
The monsters all have very different methods required to destroy them, which are again different from those in the original, and this is where the game gets much of its charm. To defeat Medusa, for example, you must ensure that she sees her reflection in each of four mirrors placed on the board. You can force her to move by going to her location and spending an orange item, which lets you move her a number of spaces equal to the number printed on the item counter. After being reflected in all four mirrors, using further orange items to move her to her lair, she can then be defeated there by spending green items.
Monsters can also move after a player’s turn, which requires them to flip over the top card of the monster deck, place a specified number of items on the board, resolve an event, and move one or more monsters. They move toward the closest target, so as well as spending items to move Medusa, you can also try and lure her towards mirrors by offering a tempting target. This is typical of the way the game offers you interesting dilemmas to solve that revolve around the most efficient way to pick up and use items.
While that sounds like a rather dry exercise, in practice it’s anything but. The whole board hums with activity, not only monsters attacking but also legends, non-player standees that are introduced by event cards. Legends want to get back to their home space and can be moved with actions from adjacent players. They will reward you with a helpful card if you get them there. But in the meantime they’re defenseless monster meat that need protecting. Monsters attack players or legends via a die roll which can hit, miss, or trigger a special ability: Medusa sends players to the furthest temple space. Between rolls and cards, it’s a thrill-ride game that feels very much alive even without the cunning of a human opponent.
What makes things really interesting, however, is that you’re playing against multiple foes at once. This means you’ve got to prioritize a number of different threats, and each monster’s specific pathway to defeat can dovetail in all sorts of interesting ways. The Siren’s has a memory element. The Minotaur requires you to solve a simple puzzle. The others involve different combinations of item spending and dice rolls but, as an example, the Basilisk needs a lot of orange items so if you’re playing against it and the Medusa demands difficult trade-offs.
While none of the mechanical concepts behind the monsters are especially imaginative, they’re good examples of the way the game gets lots of variety out of simple mechanics. This isn’t a difficult game to learn — it plays in less than an hour, and it requires players to work together, making it fantastic family fare. Although it has the common issue in cooperative games that a particularly experienced, or loud, player can boss the others around, everyone has an independent character to control and their own hand of perk cards, so they can do their own thing.
Compared with the original, Horrified: Greek Monsters feels slightly more difficult to beat, largely because of the lairs. They suck actions and items out of the game while you hunt for the ones you need to defeat the enemies, which is a bit of a crapshoot. This adds some excitement, but it can make the difficulty a bit uneven, depending on whether you find what you need early on. It’s also hard not to feel that the monsters themselves are less interesting than the original foes, both thematically and mechanically. The puzzle to beat The Minotaur is just less interesting than the puzzle to beat The Mummy, for example. And there’s nothing like the cool double-header of Frankenstein and his Wife.