Published by MB Games
Designed by Marvin Glass
For 2-4 ghosts and goblins, aged 6-12 years
|Those kids on the box are having a great time.|
Sometimes in life, you are presented with a very narrow window of opportunity.
Sometimes, that window is so narrow, you're really only going to be able to take advantage of it if you are Tooms from The X-Files.
Sometimes, that window is so incredibly narrow, you wonder if it is really a window at all, or just a crack in the plasterboard, or maybe one of those squiggly lines you sometimes get in the corner of your eye.
Take, for example, the game of Ghost Castle (or Which Witch? if you ain't from round these here parts), a roll-and-move horror-themed board game with an age range so focused it could burn a hole through the box: 6 to 12 years.
I'm not sure why MB Games felt the need to make the age range so specific. It really doesn't need to be. Sure, the game has a spooky theme and small parts (most noticeably a glow in the dark plastic skull), but my three year old daughter loves this game. And sure, it is effectively a skill-free game of luck with nothing to keep older children particularly interested, but I still enjoy watching the misfortunes that befall my character as I move around the haunted castle as long as my daughter is there to enjoy those misfortunes with me.
So, yeah... I'm taking a sledgehammer to this window and busting it right open to allow all the ghosts and goblins to spill out. This is a family game.
Age restrictions be damned.
Having said all that, what is Ghost Castle actually about, and is it any good?
|The board in all its glorious gloriousness.|
Well, I was first introduced to this game when I was a wee lad, and it immediately gripped my imagination like a skeletal hand and refused to let go. It charts the misadventures of a group of young children who foolishly seek refuge in a haunted castle. Over the course of the game, they move around the gloriously illustrated, three-dimensional board, seeking to close the coffin at the top of the tower to lay the malevolent spirit to rest.
It is a great idea for a game, made greater still, of course, by that three-dimensional board loaded with awesome traps.
On each turn, players roll the dice to move along a fixed path. They then spin the spinner. They may get frozen with fear (in which case they get a groovy fear mask that clips over the top of the playing piece and they cannot move again until spinning a foot result on the spinner), or they may get to drop the spooky skull into the coffin at the top of the castle, activating one of four traps.
|You've got something on your face, Dude.|
In the first part of the board, there is a suit of armour with a battleaxe, and if the skull lands here, the axe falls, squashing anyone who is about to enter the castle.
In the second part of the board, there is a wobbly floor. If the skull lands here, players get shaken off their feet.
In the third section, there is a magic mirror behind a hanging skeleton. If the skull lands here, anyone in front of the mirror teleports through to the other side. Anyone already on the other side gets booted up the bum by the skeleton.
In the fourth section, there is a long staircase. If the skull lands here, it bounces down the stairs knocking everyone over.
In each case, falling foul of a trap sends you back along the path to a designated checkpoint. Just like in an old-school platform video game.
It's all very silly, and great fun.
|Mom! We found something in the garden!|
You see, there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid any of those tricks and traps. You roll and hope, spin and hope.
And you lose hope.
Games can be brutally quick, or agonisingly slow. There is no way to tell.
Honestly, as games go, it really isn't very good.
But it is so cool.
When I was a child, I spent hours playing this game, studying the fantastic artwork in each of the four zones.
At the start of the game, you are outside, in a haunted forest. There is a stream trickling into the distance beneath a baleful moon. The trees have faces. Wolves howl. Bats flutter.
|Have I ever told you trees creep me out?|
So the children run, terrified, entering the haunted hallway beyond the portcullis, where ghosts swirl like mist, and the corridor seems to go on forever.
|That isn't Casper.|
If they make it through there, they descend into the store room, where vampire bats swoop and chitter among the shelves of rotting books and poisons.
|I like big bats, and I can't deny.|
Then finally, they reach the basement with the staircase leading to the roof. Here, giant rats gnaw on bones, and a phantasmal hand gropes in the dark.
The art is creative, inventive, spooky, and an absolute joy.
It is just a shame it is tagged on a basic roll-and-move game, because the theme, and those skull-activated traps, deserve better.
|It looks like a spiders web!|
As it happens, Ghost Castle is not the only game to make use of the haunted, three-dimensional, trap-filled board. There are at least a couple of Scooby Doo games that work on the same principle, and Waddingtons made a nice Goosebumps game called Terror in the Graveyard; but they aren't quite the same.
Possibly because I never got to play them in that oh-so-narrow window of opportunity when I was an impressionable young child aged 6 to 12.
Possibly because I never got to play them when I sat in my darkening bedroom, rolled dice, and wished that the phantasmal hand reaching out of the crack in my plasterboard wall was nothing more than a squiggly line in the peripheral of my vision.