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Many fell putting an end to the reign of terror of Wu-Feng, Lord of the Nine Hells. The funerary urn housing his ashes was buried in the cemetery of a village in the Middle Empire.
Years have passed, and the cursed legacy has been forgotten by the living. Hidden away in Hell, Wu-Feng has forgotten nothing. His incessant research allowed him to locate the receptacle. The shadow of his former incarnation already extends to the villagers, who are unaware of the danger threatening them.
Fortunately, the Fat-Si (Taoist priests) keep watch, guarding the border between the dead and the living. Armed with their courage, their faith, and their powers, they will try to return the reincarnation of Wu-Feng to Hell.
Ghost Stories is a cooperative game. The players play as a team against the game. Either they share a common victory, or suffer the same defeat. Ghost Stories provides 4 levels of difficulty: Initiation, Normal, Nightmare, and Hell.
Lately it seems that cooperative games are all the rage with Shadows Over Camelot, Pandemic, and Battlestar Galactica easily coming to mind. Horror style games have always understood cooperation with such "defeat the evil" titles as Arkham Horror, Fury of Dracula, and the old (now out of print) favorite Betrayal at House on the Hill. Ghost Stories takes that horror tradition and gives it a more cooperative twist by having all of the players working together against a common plague of evil, almost like a supernatural Pandemic.
Each player has a unique ability and the "board" (a collection of tiles that make up different locations and helpers in a village) changes in configuration through random selection each time you play. Your job, as a group, is to fight off the haunting hordes of specters that are attempting to locate the funerary urn of Wu-Feng, Lord of the Nine Hells. To combat the onslaught of demons, players use Taoist symbols and different powers depending on the brand of spirit they are battling. Sending these powers back to hell can be pretty taxing and the game is a fairly hard one win, but some elements are on your side.
For example, you can negate the power of many attacks with a well-placed Buddha figurine or you can even call upon the aid of a village mystic to bring one of your dead partners back life. The problem (as is the case in most cooperative games) is that there are more ways you can lose than ways you can win. Your job is to keep the ghosts away and still save your energy for the big battle with one of 10 different incarnations of Wu-Feng who are much harder to defeat. If you can defeat the incarnation before all the players die, or the village has at least four of its nine tiles haunted, or the stack of ghost cards is depleted, then you can call it a victory. Granted, the entire village will probably need years of spiritual healing and therapy after such a horrific encounter, but at least you defeated Wu-Feng's forces one more time.
The elements in the game are very well made with some cool-looking Taoist figurines with swords drawn and ready to counter the looming black haunting figurines. The ghost cards and the entire appearance of the game owes much to the old Chinese horror spirits with names like Walking Corpse, Fallen Monk, Sharp-Nailed Mistress, Great Putrid, and Soul Eater. The game is as intense as the stylized artwork that illustrates it and, like the stories its name suggests, can be brief and deadly or more of a drawn-out nightmare. No haunting episode lasts longer than an hour and each exorcism gives you more courage and more knowledge of how to play more efficiently in the future. A scoring log (included) allows you to record your progress as you work from an initiation level game and on into Normal, Nightmare, and finally the almost impossible Hell level where sacrificing yoursef may be the only way to save the village.
It is a neat game that fills a new game niche. For those who are unable to haunt up enough people to play a full four-player game, the game can easily be customized for three, two, and even one player. The solitaire mode is a great way to learn the game before teaching it to others, and it also helps you hone your ghost-busting abilities.
Be warned: the odds are against you as you are hopelessly outnumbered. But it wouldn't be a good ghost story unless someone died!