Ghost Stories is a cooperative 1-4 player game where all players are working together as Taoist priests to rid the village of ghosts sent to haunt the townspeople by the reincarnation of Wu-Feng. Each turn a different ghost is brought onto the board and your goal as a team is to defeat each ghost until the final “boss” ghost Wu-Feng arrives as one of his many reincarnations.
Ghost Stories has a poorly written set of rules, after reading through them multiple times and watching multiple videos there are still questions that arise during gameplay that are not specifically mentioned or easy to find in the rules. Other than the rules being difficult to sort out on your own, the rest of the presentation is pretty amazing. The backstory to the game and artwork is fun and fitting of the gameplay. The miniatures provided with the game are very well done, the ghosts that haunt the town tiles, the mini Bhudda statues, and the monks themselves are good sculpts. Although the monks would have been better if they were designed differently for each color, but you can’t win everything.
The artwork on the ghost cards is really unique and haunting. Each ghost has a different name and picture, and seeing a new creepy image every turn adds a feeling of dread that enhances the theme more than if the images were recycled over multiple cards. The player boards are a thick cardstock, double sided with different abilities on each side, which makes the game organized and are color coded to the monk/player they belong to.
The color sided dice are kind of boring, but they get the job done. The spots are painted on and after multiple games are starting to chip. Overall the pieces are well made, the art is good, and everything fits the theme well.
The only thing that fills me with more dread than Ghost Stories’ rulebook is playing the game itself, except it’s a good dread this time. If you find yourself doing well you’re either playing it incorrectly (which isn’t improbable), or you’re right around the corner from death and you don’t even realize it. Bad events always domino in this game: you fail to kill a ghost with 4 strength because you didn’t roll enough dice in its color, then on the next players turn a ghost comes out that locks down one of your 3 dice and forces you to draw another ghost, that ghost removes your ability to use any of the tokens you received that makes ghosts easier to kill, and now 1/4 of the spots ghosts can spawn are occupied and you’re in a horrible position. When you lose 2 rounds later, you realize that you never should have tried to kill that 4 stength Ghost with dice. Relying on dice in this game is a rookie mistake. It’s tempting to fight ghosts head on every time, but it’s almost always better to use support actions.
While the main ghosts that come out every turn are used every game, there are 10 incarnations of Wu-Feng. Only 1 reincarnation (in the easy setting) is chosen at random and placed near the bottom of the deck. Each one presents a different challenge and makes each game different, assuming you even get to Wu-Feng and haven’t been killed by his minions.
The game is mainly an optimization puzzle. After playing the game 15-20 times it feels like we usually know the best strategy to use, but sometimes it ultimately comes down to luck and can feel unfair. We’ve only played it on the easiest setting and have only been able to beat it a handful of times. When we have won, it was by the skin of our teeth and because we got really lucky when we needed it. Wins often result in cheering and high-fives among everyone playing while losses usually have us resetting the game and playing again.
- Artwork fits the theme and is really well done.
- Presents a great puzzle for a wide audience, both gamers and non-gamers. In our experience even people who don’t enjoy strategy games have liked working together to beat Wu-Feng.
- It’s exciting to play, every game is different because you never know which reincarnation of Wu-Feng you’re going to face.
- The rules are poorly written and confusing to figure out on your own.
- Poor quality color sided dice.
- Can feel unfair at times.
Final Thoughts and Rating
Ghost Stories is one of our favorites and is played often at our table. If you can figure out the rules and endure the difficult nature of the game you’re like to have a good time.
Final Rating: [star rating=”9″ max=”10″ numeric=”yes”]