About a year ago, I was with my BFF and his son-in-law, also a friend of mine, but not nearly as much so as my BFF. This kid was telling me how cool it was to hang out with us, and how we’re like the Three Musketeers, or some such kiss-assy nonsense. I looked him in the eye and said, “Buddy, I like you just fine, but I’d throw you in front of a gunman if I thought your father in law was about to be shot.” The look on his face was both priceless and pathetic in equal measure; it was definitely a teachable moment. City of Horror, from Repos Productions, is exactly like that exchange: You’re going to have your people tossed to the zombie horde, head first, if it will help your opponents win, and it’s worth double points if they manage to toss your pregnant woman into the awaiting arms of the ravenous filth.
To no small degree, City of Horrors reminds me a great deal of Survive! Escape From Atlantis, because it’s basically a game about trying to take out the opponents’ best people while retaining yours. However, unlike Survive!, this game is a medium weight design that has much less focus on simple movement and much more about controlling a majority of occupants of spaces. You see, during a round, items are airdropped for the survivors onto random spaces, and the person whose characters are more numerous on a space gets to choose who gets what. More importantly, when there’s a zombie attack that isn’t mitigated by players’ card play, someone has to die, and the character who dies is chosen by the characters on the space where the attack happened; each character gets a vote, and therefore, the person with the most characters on a space will have more votes, most of the time.
Thanks to this voting mechanic, the game is far less about the movement of the characters as much as it is about the bribery, begging, and chicanery that surrounds zombie attacks and the handing out of items. You see, winning in City of Horror is more than just about not being voted to your death; to win, your surviving characters must each have an antidote token to score, which are some of the aforementioned loot items airdropped to the characters. Each character has a value, in points, and if they survive, their player scores the points.
Additionally, each character has a one-time use, unique ability they can use to change the game in their favor, but doing so lowers the value of the character by a value commensurate with the strength of the power the character has. An example is the aforementioned pregnant chick, whose ability to give birth, grants the character two votes for the balance of the game, but exponentially lowers her value. To be honest, I am positive that she was designed with a giant target on her back, because getting two votes is no joke. All of the powers make sense thematically, which keeps you in a state of pseudo-roleplaying the entire time.
I’d say that the biggest strength of City of Horror is its ability to keep players engaged, involved and, dare I say, riveted on the action. Suffice it to say that if you wanted to know anything about a culture and motivations of the people within that culture, have a sociologist watch this game being played with five players. It’s like a pack of wild dogs, waiting to see which in the pack is weakest, then devouring it in front of its puppies. It’s a brutal, but exceptionally well-designed and enjoyable game. Personally, it is one of my all-time favorites, and it has made Settlers of Catan pretty much obsolete for me with regard to games involving negotiation, although I’m not sure that it’s better than Cosmic Encounter.
All I know is that the art is great, the bits are great, and despite it having standies instead of a sea of wonderful plastic toys, it is an outstanding production all the way around. We all really enjoyed it, and ideally, we will continue to enjoy it. As long as you can handle a very rules-light game where the “game” is in the interactions more than the mechanics, you should really dig this very, very nasty game of sticking it to your neighbors hard and deep.
What Makes My Kind Of City:
– The game adheres to its theme of backstabbery incredibly well
– Tense, fast turns make this game both fast and furious
– The art and bits are outstanding; it even has a 3D water tower
– Rules light, but game-heavy is the best description
Why This Game Is Horrorble:
– The rules are clear, but some spots are easy to miss
– It may be a little to dark and grim for some people
This is a remarkably fun game, filled with deal-making, double-dealing, and outright fuckery. If any of those things appeal to you and your group, then this is a game that should definitely be at your clubhouse. Its a fantastic game for four or five, but it’s not so hot with three, to be fair. For the price, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a game that does those things better. Or at double the price, for that matter.
Learn more about this tremendous game by reading its rules: