Drive yourself mad with Ghost Stories the Boardgame for iPad

Ghost Stories the Boardgame ($5.99) is one of the latest games to make the jump from the table to the iPad. It also claims the distinction of being the first of the new wave of popular cooperative games to grace the iOS. If you’re a lover of board games and don’t mind a dismal rate of victory, you might want to give Ghost Stories a try.

I’m constantly looking for new board games, and fortunately the iPad is becoming an inexpensive way to experience games that might or might not get a lot of play at the dining-room table. Ghost Stories was precisely the type of game I had a lot of interest in playing, but wasn’t sure I could justify 45 bucks if my family and friends didn’t care for it. (Cue the trumpet fanfare.) iOS to the rescue! For a fraction of the price, I was able to give the game a try, and am pleased to say that there is a true gem of a game here.

You control one or two out of four different Taoist monks who are charged with protecting a nondescript Chinese village from the powerful Wu-Feng and a horde of his minions. During the Yin phase, the monsters attack, and in the Yang phase, the monk will move on the board and then either attempts to banish a ghost or gain help from the villager tile he is currently placed on. Each of the ghosts is unique and will have different ways to attack the monks or village. The monks have their own unique powers, though. For instance, the green monk may use four dice instead of the usual three when trying to exorcise a ghost, and the red monk may move two tiles instead of just one on his turn.

To win the game, the monk(s) must defeat the incarnation(s) of Wu-Feng before all the ghost cards have been uncovered. This will not be a very common occurrence. Even the easiest of four levels will challenge hardened gamers. I personally have never seen the victory screen after a dozen tries. To make defeat somewhat easier to swallow, a tally of detailed pluses and negatives regarding how the game went are given to you at the end of the game. With this tool, it’s possible to see whether or not you are progressing (or sometimes regressing) as you try new board setups and Taoist combinations.

That ever-so-elusive win screen keeps me coming back for more. A negative-9 score truly does feel better that a negative-34! Also, the artwork is lavish, and the help menu does a great job of explaining the game.

Alas, the app is not perfect, and a few details keep me from giving it the highest rating. The most glaring change from the box version, is that one can only play with one or two monks, whereas the board game allows for three and four to play cooperatively. I would hope this feature gets updated soon, as I think the majority of time it would be preferable to have all four monks on the board. Also, the game does feature contextual help during each turn, but even a basic tutorial would go a long way toward helping those who are unfamiliar with the game mechanics get a handle on how to play.

Ghost Stories the Boardgame probably isn’t for everyone. The insane level of difficulty would be enough to keep a lot of casual gamers away. However, for those willing to take a virtual beating, and do a bit of research on tips and strategy, there is a quite rewarding board game experience to be had here.

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